Thursday, November 29, 2012

Planning Guide for a Maine (and NH) Vacation

new england covered bridge
Covered Bridges found all over New England
I got an email from a friend of my mom's who is thinking of spending two weeks in Maine this upcoming summer.  She had a list of questions and after answering them, I thought I'd repost them for others to peruse.  Please leave comments if you have other suggestions!

1.  Where are the best hikes?
Jordan Pond, Acadia National Park
Jordan Pond, Acadia National Park

It depends on your hiking ability and how far you want to drive.  In Maine, you'll have two main choices for hiking... either Coastal hiking or Mountains. If you are really into hiking, I'd say Acadia National Park or White Mountain National Forest in Northern New Hampshire (2 hours from Portland) are the places to go.  

Here are my recommendations for specific hikes:

Southern Coastal Maine
- Marginal Way, Ogunquit - Beach/Coastal Walk in Ogunquit, Maine (Easy)

Mid-Coast, Maine
- Bald Mountain or Mt. Battie, Camden - Small Mountain near quaint town of Camden (Easy-Moderate)
- Acadia National Park - Fav hikes are Gorham Mountain (Moderate - Challenging), Bubble Rock (Moderate), Jordan Pond (Easy), Acadia Mountain (Moderate - Challenging)

Cog Railroad can take you to the top of Mt. Washington
Cog Railroad can take you to the top of Mt. Washington
White Mountains, NH
- Mt. Willard (Easy - Moderate) access from Highland Center, Crawford Notch - 3 hrs
- South Moat Mountain - (Moderate - Difficult) - all day hike  accessed from the Kancamangus Hwy
- Mt. Chocura - (Moderate - Difficult) - all day hike access from the Kancamangus Highway
- Mt. Pierce - (Moderate - Difficult) - all day hike access from Highland Center, Rt 302
- Mt. Washington (Very Difficult) - all day access from AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center
- Mt. Lafayette/Mt. Lincoln (Very Difficult) - all day

2.  Where are the most quaint charming villages?

Many of the coastal Maine towns are very quaint and charming...Here are my recommendations...

Southern Maine:
- Ogunquit, Maine - Beaches, shopping, restaurants.  It is very touristy but fun and beautiful.

Boats in Bar Harbor, Maine
Bar Harbor, Maine
- Kennebunkport, Maine - This is where I live.  It is very charming and has great beaches, shopping and dining.

- Portland, Maine - Charming small city.  Excellent night life and unique dining.  Check out Portland Head Light in nearby Cape Elizabeth.

Mid Coast Maine:
- Camden, Maine - Small and regal fishing town.  Tourist friendly.

- Boothbay Harbor, Maine - Small Fishing town.  Cute shops, and places to eat.

- Bar Harbor - town near Acadia National Park.  Artistic, shopping, and nature

3.  Where should we stay (maybe 3 different places)?
If I were you and I had 2 weeks I'd do something like this...

Kennebunkport buildings
Kennebunkport, Maine
- Southen Maine 3-4 nights (see Kennebunkport, Ogunquit, Portland)

- Small Fishing town Camden or Boothbay Harbor - 1 night

- Acadia/Bar Harbor 2-3 nights

- White Mountain National Forest - Stay in North Conway area for 3-4 nights

- Return to Portland/Boston or whereever you are flying out of.

4.  Are there any inn to inn hikes available?
- There are well established "hut to hut" hiking systems.  These don't provide private rooms but in the summer would provide a hearty dinner and breakfast and bathrooms/ shared bunkroom.  The one I'm familiar with is run by the AMC and can be found out about at  There is also a hut system called Maine Huts and Trails but I've never used them.  You should know that the hiking is generally moderate-very difficult.

5.  Which part of the coast is the prettiest and most interesting?
- Southern Coast has sandy beaches and is more tourist friendly with a wide variety of restaurants, accommodations, and things to do.  

- Mid Coast is more rocky/rugged and a fisherman's land (less tourism).  I think one of the small towns like Camden or Boothbay Harbor would be a charming one night stop.
Boats in Kennebunkport
Boats in Kennebunkport, Maine 

- Acadia is gorgeous because it has mountains up against the ocean which provides many places for beautiful views.  Plus, Bar Harbor has a thriving scene for tourist looking for good food and shopping.  

6.  Any ferries to take us to Nova Scotia or outer islands?
- Nope.  Last year they ended ferry service to Nova Scotia.  
- If you want a short ferry trip - try the 20 min ferry from Portland to Peaks Island.  Check out my blog entry here for info on what do do on the island:  HERE.

7.  Any other tidbits you’d like to share?

lobster roll and fries
Lobster Roll 

- Bring Bug Spray

- Use a map and bring appropriate gear if hiking in the White Mountains.

- Use Trip Advisor Forums for quick questions.  There are some really knowledgeable people on there who love to answer questions.

- See the Portland Head Lighthouse in Portland, Try a Lobster Roll, Whoopie Pie, and Maine Maple Syrup, and get into nature.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Brisk Lighthouse Walk

Portland Head Light, Cape Elizabeth, Maine
If you want to experience gorgeous views of ocean and lighthouses, try visiting Portland Head Light at Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth, ME.

This is a must see for any visitor to Southern Maine, but it also is a great place for locals to frequent.  No matter how many times I visit this spot, I'm speechless by the beauty of the crashing waves, rugged coast, and regal lighthouse.

Matt and I visited the park this weekend.  If visiting in the fall and winter, make sure to bundle up as the winds make it a cold spot.

Here's how I enjoy my time at Ft. William's Park...

Rocky Beaches
Fort William's Park and Portland Head Light

Trail: Easy, Family Friendly, Dog Friendly, Picnic

Directions: Cross the bridge (77) from Portland into South Portland.  Once there, follow signs to the Portland Head Light on Shore Road.  Map provided at 

Parking: Once in the park, I follow the driveway in, and then take a right to the far gravel parking lot.  All parking in the park is free for visitors.  If you take a left, you can park in the smaller lot by the beach/playground.

Ram Island Ledge Light
Walk: Walk to the Portland Head Light, then take the trail North along the coastline.  Stop to enjoy views of the lighthouses.  You can also see views of Ram Island Ledge Light off the coast.  Continue down to the beach/playground area. Here you have a choice to go up to the right to see the abandoned fort or to the left where you can see the old Goddard mansion.  I enjoy walking back along the road and crossing up to the gazebo and covered picnic area.  There are some great interpretive signs here with information about the area.  The park is over 90 acres, so you can choose your own  challenge.  All trails are easy, graded, and gravel.  My little loop is probably about 1.5 miles.

Trail at Fort Williams Park

Other Activities:  The park offers great picnic facilities, many large fields for soccer or frisbee, and high winds which is excellent for kite flying.

This park is a New England treasure and a must see for anyone visiting Maine.  As a local Mainer, I never get sick of visiting this precious spot.

Feel free to comment and share what you enjoy about Ft. Williams Park

Goddard Mansion

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Kennebunk Beach Walk - Off Season Adventures

Kennebunk jetty
Kennebunk Beach Jetty

3.6 Miles of crashing waves, rocky shores, and sandy beach....

There are many wonderful beaches in Southern Maine.  For those who enjoy hiking, but don't want to drive the long distances to the Whites, try a nice long beach walk.

Middle Beach Kennebunk
Rocky Kenebunk Beach
A cool fall day or even blustery winter walk in the beaches of Southern Maine provides an intimate experience.  With few other beach goers, and rugged temperature, its easy to appreciate this pure nature experience.

I like to frequently walk to Kennebunk/Goochs Beach in Kennebunk, Maine.  Below are directions and mileage for this walk.

A Long Beach Walk
1.8 one way, 45 min one way
Terrain: Easy

- Leave from Kennebunkport's Dock Square and walking to Mother's Beach, Kennebunk.

- Park in the public parking next to Allison's restaurant in Dock Square, Kennebunkport (free in November-spring).

- Cross the bridge and walk on Western Ave toward the 4-way light (toward Kings Port Inn).

- Take a left on Beach Ave.  This part of the walk passes nice homes, the Franciscan Monastery, and the famous White Barn Inn.

- This road curves right after passing the river.  This is Goochs Beach - known for it's wide sandy beach, wide cement walkway, and summer surfing and suntanning.

Map to Kennebunk Beach
by Google Maps: A. Kennebunkport, B. Goochs, C. Middle, D. Mothers
- Continue along the shore and it will turn at "Middle Beach".  This is a rockier stretch of beach continues to Mother's Beach which is a small sandy stretch with a playground.

- I end my walk here, turn around and travel back.  All in all, this trip is 1.8 miles one way or 3.6 round trip - totaling about an hour and a half round trip.

This beach walk can be shortened by parking at Goochs Beach.  Street parking is easy to find and free in the winter months.  During peak season, parking can be hard to find and a parking pass is necessary.

I hope you enjoy the Kennebunk Beach scene and find away to get into nature without driving two hours from Southern Maine!

Gooches Beach
Beaches are empty in the off season

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A White Mountain Snowshoe

View from Lila's Ledge, White Mountains, NH
View from Lila's Ledge in Pinkham Notch

Old Jackson Road Trail Junction
Old Jackson Road trail junction
This is the perfect half day snowshoe/winter hike in Pinkham Notch, New Hampshire!

As the first projected Noreaster hits New England, it's time to think about places to snowshoe and winter hike.  Here is a great half day snowshoe that promises great views, cardiovascular workout and moderately difficult hiking. It can be done every season of the year.

This hike leaves from Pinkham Notch Visitor Center/AMC Joe Dodge Lodge on Rt. 16 in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  Use a map to guide your trek, but here are instructions on how I hike the loop...

1.  Leave from AMC Joe Dodge Lodge and hike up Old Jackson Rd. (AT).  This is a flairly flat section.
2.  Take a right onto the Crew Cut Trail right after the "bridge".
3.  Continue up the Crew Cut Trail to Lila's Ledge.  This ascends steeply to a nice overlook with gorgeous views.  Stop and enjoy the views of Wildcat Ski area and Tuckermans Ravine.
View of Pinkham Notch NH from Lila's Ledge
View of Pinkham Notch from Lila's Ledge
4.  Next, travel down Liebeskind's Loop trail.  This can be steep in heavy snow, but has beautiful rock views and forest.
5.  Take a left at the George's Gorge Trail and hike back until you reach the Old Jackson Road again.
6.  Take Old Jackson Road back to the AMC Jodge Lodge/Pinkham Notch visitor center.

Overall, I believe this loop to be about 4.5 miles.  In heavy snow, it will take 3-5 hours and shorter in less snow.

For this half day winter hike, remember to pack...

- Map and Compass
Snowshoe hike
Snowshoe and winter hiking in the White Mountains
- 2 Liters of water
- Snacks
- First Aid kit
- Extra warm layers including hat, gloves, scarf, fleece, and shell.
- Wear warm weather non-cotton clothing
- Wear winter boots and bring traction (Yaktrax, MicroSpikes, or Snowshoes)
- Treking poles or ski poles
- Head lamp

For a more complete list of things to pack refer to the previous post: Ten Things to Pack for a Fall Day Hike.

Jenny and I on our Pinkham Notch Snowshow
Jenny and I enjoy snowshoeing off Old Jackson Rd.

Ask the information desk at AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center if you have questions or concerns.

Please leave any questions of comments about this hike below!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Cooking without electicity - My favorite backcountry meals

camp cooking
Cooking without electricity
As I prepared for Hurricane Sandy, I realized that being an avid backpacker, I had some of the tools, skills, and experience to cook comfortably without the use of power.  I packed up my MSR Whisperlite stove, fuel bottle, extra fuel, and stocked up on a bunch of backcountry friendly foods in case I lost power for a week or more.

As it was, we were very lucky in my neck of the woods and I never had to rely on my back-country cooking.  My heart goes out to those without power, water, and major losses from this storm.  For those of you looking for delicious cooked meals that don't require regular refrigeration,  here are my favorite backcountry meals...

*Note: A backpacking stove should never be used indoors nor in a tent.  You should always cook in a well-ventilated outdoor space.  

Favorite Backcountry Meals

1.  Stir Fry - This dish proves that just because you aren't in your home kitchen, it doesn't mean you can't have a healthy and well-balanced meal.

- Stove (I use a MSR Whisperlite)
- Fry pan/Wok
- Sauce pan/pot for rice
stir fry on a whisperlite stove.
Healthy Stir Fry
- Spatula, knife, cutting board

- Tempeh (protein that's packaged and can go days without refrigeration.  Find it near tofu/vegetarian aisle.) Cut into 1 cm cubes.
- Veggies - You can use peppers, onion, garlic, canned beans, mushrooms, carrots or broccoli (fresh or frozen), etc - Cut them up!
- A seasoning sauce (Soy, Teriyaki, Stir Fry dressing)
- Boil-in-Bag brown rice (takes less time and no measuring required)
- Oil

Prep time: 20 min.  Cook time: 20 min.
- Marinate Tempeh with garlic and a little bit of sauce (Soy, Teriyaki, Stir Fry dressing)
- Brown Tempeh, sauce, and garlic in oil.
- Stir Fry veggies.  Add cooked Tempeh and more sauce and cook together.
- Boil water in sauce pan/pot (on second stove if you have it, otherwise do this after you make veg)
- Cook boil in bag rice as directions instruct
- Put rice in serving dish and stir fry over it.  Add more dressing if needed.
- Enjoy!

2.  Mac and Cheese Melody - This is a way to add flavor and nutrients to your typical mac n cheese dinner.

brocolli and onion
Add cooked broccoli and onion to your mac n cheese.
- Stove (I use a MSR Whisperlite)
- Fry pan
- Sauce pan
- Spatula, knife, cutting board

- Box of Mac n Cheese (I like either Kraft or Annies)
- Broccoli (fresh or frozen cut up),  Onion diced
- Oil
- Pepperoni Stick - cut into bite sized pieces
- Butter

Prep time: 8 min.  Cook time: 15 min.
- In fry pan, cook up broccoli and onion in a little oil. Set aside.
- Boil water in sauce pan.  Cook Mac n cheese as directed on box.  Instead of milk, leave a little extra water in noodles and add a little extra butter (if you don't have butter, you can use oil).
- Stir in cooked broccoli, onion. 
- Stir in cut- up pepperoni.
- Enjoy!

3. Pita Pizzas - These are fun and everyone can make their own. Great for kids and teens!

- Stove (I use a MSR Whisperlite)
- Fry pan with lid
- Spatula, knife, cutting board

- Pitas
- Cheese - shredded
- Can of tomato sauce
- Oil
- Toppings for pizza - pepperoni stick, veggies, olives, canned pineapple, etc

Prep time: 5 min.  Cook time: 5-10 min per pizza.
- Place pita in warm fry pan with a little bit of oil.  Flip pita after one side cooks.
- While in pan, add sauce cheese, and toppings to upright warmed side of pita.
- Turn heat to low and cover pan.  Monitor pizza so it doesn't burn.
- Remove from heat and enjoy!
*If you fold the pita you make a calazone- type pocket and this often helps the cheese to melt easier.

I hope you enjoy these recipes and use them on your camping adventures!  Please leave comments or questions below.  

backcountry cooking
Backcountry Cooking