Mt. Megunticook – Camden State Park

We’ve had a beautiful mild Fall this year and even into mid October we are still in shorts some days!   Crazy as we’ve had snow in October in years past.   I won’t complain though as I’m not a fan of the winter and in Maine it’s a very long season.  This year I’m hopefully it’s going to be shorter than usual!

For the first weekend in months we had a free day.  Kids soccer has taken up most of the Fall weekends.

We opted to take a drive up to Camden Maine for hike up Mt Megunticook.   We did this hike around 6 years ago and really enjoyed it.  I’d always wanted to go back and today we did.

The drive is just 1.5 hours from Freeport Maine.  Heading up the coast on US Route 1 to midcoast Maine.   The drive is scenic in places and being Fall, lots of lovely foliage to take in along the way.

Camden itself is beautiful.  Nestled in Penobscot Bay, it’s a wealthy midcoast town with a beautiful harbor and quaint main street.   A tourist destination but with it being somewhat off season not too busy and many of the beautiful shops still open.

We headed straight to Camden Hills State Park where trail access to Mt Megunticook is.   The park offers a wide array of amenities with many hikes.  Camping is still open and the park was busy!

Mt Megunticook has an elevation of 1385feet.  The highest elevation in the park.   It’s a 3.5 mile round trip and I’d say we spent around 3 hours on the walk.  Note the Camden Hills State Park website states the trail is 1 mile and takes an hour.  On the trail, it is marked as 1.8 miles….

It’s an easy/ moderate hike – rocky and rooty throughout.   Our ageing dog (9.5 Golden Retriever) managed it but he will certainly sleep well tonight 🙂

While we reached the summit, its not really necessary.  Just before the summit is ‘ocean lookout’  at 1300ft.  That’s the best place to stop, take in the view before you head back down.  Views of Camden town, the harbor and neighboring Mt Battie and the auto road to the top.

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The summit is a little further up but has no view.  We followed the same route up and down but the map does show some alternate paths to take if you want to change things up!

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After reaching the base car park, we headed into Camden town for a stroll and treats.  We stopped in at Camden Deli which I highly recommend!  The treats we delicious and great coffee!  We strolled to the harbor to see the sun setting.  So serene and pretty…

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After a lovely day, we got back on the road South….

Portsmouth, New Hampshire

This last weekend, certain States in the USA were lucky enough to have a 3 day weekend.  Monday was Presidents Day – so a public Holiday or Maine and New Hampshire at the very least.

Presidents Day this year was met with some reluctance…with the state of the US Presidency and many rejecting Mr Trump as their president, folks seemed to take the day off but not really embracing the roots of the day.

For us, we opted to get out and about and explore a little.  Something we did a lot of in England but not so much since being back in the US.   So, after 50 inches of snow over the last week, Monday – the sun came out and we were ready to roll.

We headed to New Hampshire.  A State South and West of Maine.   When we first moved to the USA, NH is where we initially settled and even now, we consider it as our US ‘home’. For us, Portsmouth NH is just one hour drive from our current hometown in Maine so an easy straight run down the highway.   NH, the Granite State, is a funny state in that it has just 17 miles of coastline as its sandwiched between Maine and Massachusetts.  But those 17 miles are beautiful to explore and very scenic.  This general area of NH is generally known as the Seacoast.

Portsmouth is a major town in the Seacoast area.  Established in 1623, Portsmouth claims to be the nation’s third-oldest city and there is certainly history a plenty here with many of the old houses clearly marked as places of historical interest together with many museums such as Strawberry Banke and Moffatt Ladd House and Gardens.

For this trip, we wanted to be outdoors so we headed to a couple of coastal areas to stroll with the dog and take in the sea air.

First stop was Newcastle Beach/ Great Island Common.  Newcastle being a tiny coastal town connected to Portsmouth.  They have a small Beach/ park (32 acres)which is usually full during the summer months.  This weekend though, just a few families were strolling through and taking in the view.

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Cute artist/ frame to take photos with

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Kids being ‘painted’

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Newcastle Park

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Views from the park

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Dog enjoying his walk

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Happy dog

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View of Beach

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Views out into the ocean

Its only a small park so then we headed up to Odiorne State Park – just a few more miles down the coast.  A pretty drive along the coast and we always love looking at the palatial hpuses along the way!  This is another lovely coastal park and explored a number of trails.  Snow was pretty deep in places but we pushed our way through and had a snowball fight in the process.    This State Park is also connected to the Seacoast Science Center.  We haven’t visited there in years but in the past, its been a great place to take the kids.  Likely still aimed at 3-10 year olds with hands on activities such as shellfish touch tanks etc.

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Trails at Odiorne State Park

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Trails at Odiorne State Park

After a few hours of walking, the kids were ready for food.  We headed back into downtown Portsmouth to check out the huge array of restaurants in town – from casual to fine dining, there is something for everyone and some are highly rated.

We opted for the Friendly Toast.  Its been in the town for many years and its a place we used to frequent when we lived nearby.  We thought it would be fun for the kids as it has a great Breakfast (all day) and lunch menu together with fun quirky decor that makes the place really casual and relaxed.

Between us, we selected items from both the Breakfast and lunch ments – yum!

After lunch, we opted to hit the town and browse the shops.  A great range of shops downtown ranging from high end to affordable fashions, jewelry and locally made products.  Also it has 2 great toy stores for the kids to browse in!

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Section of Downtown Portsmouth

All in all – a great day to get out, shake off that New England Winter cabin fever and relax!

 

 

Lights Aglow, Maine Botanical Gardens, Boothbay

Thought I’d share some festive photos of a recent trip to Maine Botanical Gardens to visit their Holiday Light display – Lights Aglow.

Maine Botanical Gardens are a stunning collection of gardens covering 270 acres of coastal land.  It is a relatively new addition to Maine, opening in 2007 and has become a very popular attraction to both locals and visitors.   We first visited in 2006 as it was under construction but didn’t actually visit properly until 2014.   We were blown away with the beauty of the gardens and promptly purchased an annual family pass.  We have visited every season and its worth it!  This is the first time we have made a Winter visit. Mostly in part to the Lights Aglow exhibit only opened last winter – while we were living in England.

So we headed to the Gardens for the light show we had heard a lot about.

If planning to attend, plan in advance.  Buy tickets online as it gets very crowded.  This year they seem to be doing a good job with crowd control.  Additionally, parking seemed straightforward even as we had opted not to take the shuttle bus.

Tickets are inexpensive.  $36 for a family of 5 (purchased in advance).   Great value in comparison to other events around the holiday period.

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Trying to stay warm!

The display boasts over 360,000 lights together with specially crafted fairy houses for the kids to view, a model railway display, warming stations with hot chocolate and some hot food trucks.  Additionally, there is a restaurant and gift shop.

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Lights Aglow

The lights were very impressive.   The event has many paths leading through parts of the gardens so you can see the lights from many vantage points.  While the lights were a plenty and very pretty, i think for my slightly older kids, it wasnt so exciting.   Plenty of little ones running about though having fun.   Additionally, we happened to have tickets for the first bitterly cold night of the season.   It was well be low the freezing mark and it certainly affected our visit…..It was just too cold to truly take it all in.  A shame really as we could have spent more time there getting a little more festive.

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Number of fairy houses on display

With the crowds this is attracting, the chances of getting a table in the restaurant were slim so we opted for food trucks and ate inside at a warming station.  As I said, it was cold so eating was a challenge as you really need to get indoors!

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Play areas also lit up

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Lights Aglow

Not to be overlooked on our evening out is the actual town of Boothbay Harbor.  In some respects, the lights in the town are more impressive that the ones at Lights Aglow.   Our drive in to Boothbay (from the South) was equally impressive.   We understand that this year, the town had a competition on for best lights (at home), with lights sold at cost to local folk encouraging them to particpate.  So for the few miles leading up to Boothbay and the town itself, there is a complete additional light show to be had.  This was huge fun as the lights were very inventive.  It was a christmassy version of Blackpool 🙂

So with that said, Lights Aglow was a good, low cost Festive experience.   As you need to book ahead to secure entry, its hard to work with the weather but my suggestion is to go before the cold really sets in.  Since then, temps have dropped to -23C of which would be miserable (and dangerous) to be out in.    Make sure you take time to head into the town too.  Even if it just to drive around and view the lights.  They are equally as good and make the town look beautiful.

I made the mistake of telling the kids we had some light up reindeer somewhere in the basement….they were aghast they had never seen them (they not been out for 10+ years).  We’ve since dragged them out and they sit on the porch…..they are not worth a drive by….but Boothbay is 🙂

Lights AGlow runs to Dec 31st Thurs-Sun only!  Enjoy!

 

Tumbledown Mountain

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One thing Maine is loved for is the plethora of mountains to hike.   As you head North, there are plenty to choose from.   As the Fall is coming to a close, and mother nature gave us a reminder with 12″ of snow in the mountains this week, we opted to get outside for possibly the last hike this year.

We headed to Tumbledown Mountain.  Just near the town of Weld.

As we headed North, we began to notice a temperature drop…hoping we were going to be warm as we walked!   The access road to the trail is closed as of Nov 1st for the winter so we were just in time but another reminder that old man winter is too close for comfort!

The mountain itself is not huge.  An elevation of 3068ft (935m) but the views are gorgeous and worth the climb.   A novelty to the mountain is the pond that is almost at the summit. I’ve heard that in the summer, those that make the climb reward themselves with a swim in the pond.  Not for us today though.  By the time we reached the top, it was bitterly cold.  Before we reached the top, we encountered snow…more as we gained elevation.  Made for a challenging ascent and subsequent descent.

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The trail is very rocky…initially easily passable but soon became boulders and streams. Steep ascent and strenuous climb.  The kids took it in their stride but glad we didn’t take the dog…it would have been too much for his ageing joints….almost too much for mine!

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We tackled only the Brook Trail.  The easiest but still classed as moderate.  I would agree…some banged up knees as we scrambled up to the pond.   The pond is at 1600ft elevation from our starting point.  Not quite the top but due to the length of climb and 5 kids in tow, we opted not to go further.   We stopped for a snack and to enjoy the view before we took the trail back down.

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Lake en route to the summit

Fall in Maine

So we are lucky to live in a beautiful part of the world.  New England is beautiful in places and its famed for its Fall season and its stunning foliage.

This year is a particularly good year and the colors are spectacular.  We’ve taken a number of walks and today we ventured up Bradbury Mountain Sate park to take in the view.  Hope you enjoy as much as we did!

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I used a little filter here to pop the color but not too far from the truth

 

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No filter.  The water tower you can see is actually where our home is situated.

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Splendid color – no filter!

 

‘Home’ again

To follow up on my post on Leaving ‘Home‘, we are Home again!

We did it!  We did something different and had an adventure.  Many memories made and treasured and very lucky to have 2 homes…

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We cant really complain about being home, we do live in a beautiful part of the world – Maine.  Freeport to be exact.

Re-entry has been pretty smooth.  The actual day of travel ran like clockwork (I’d like to think that was due to my amazing organizational kills :-P)….travel to airports, pet check-in, people check in arrival in US and so on.   As we had rented our home in the US for the last year, friends had kindly been in to manage any needs at the house before we arrived….also, some friends were under instruction to make beds, stock fridge and get pet food in for our return late that evening.  Thankful for this as we rolled in late and could tumble straight into bed.   Also thankful for the numerous friends willing to stay up late to collect us with our baggage.  As mentioned previously, Icelandair has a generous baggage allowance.  2 x 23kg bags per person….so in all, we had 460KG of luggage (excluding ‘packed to the gills’ hand luggage x5!).

Despite my sadness of leaving England, its always good to be home.  Nice to have your things around you and that settled feeling.  The kids were excited to begin pulling their things out of storage.  It wasn’t long before toys and books were unpacked.

I was anxious to get the kitchen unpacked.  I had missed these items the most.  Managing with just essential kitchen items in the UK had become frustrating at times.  In addition to these, having appliances back!  Dishwasher!!  We’d been without one for 14 months. Obviously, a material luxury but the kids were thrilled to throw away that washing up roster 🙂   Fridge!!  We struggled with a miniscule British fridge for about the first 5 months.  I ended up buying another fridge in the UK as for a family of 5, the coolbox we had just wasn’t cutting it.  Also having to get onto my knees to peek inside was getting old (just like my knees!)   The UK is awash with charity shops so picking up a used fridge (Bosch no less) was easy and resale was even easier!  Last, but not least, a tumble dryer!  We didn’t invest in one on the UK (mostly as there was no place to put one in the house) and with it being one of the wettest years on record (2015), we missed the ease of drying the laundry.  The days became a battle with the weather.  Getting any laundry outside in the dry moments and dragging it all back inside for the wet moments.   I could never get anything completely dry and I couldn’t stand laundry on all the radiators!

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Ahhh….how I missed you 🙂

A non kitchen item I was pleased to see was my closet (wardrobe!).  In fact, all our closets.  The UK house had NO storage space whatsoever.   What pieces of furniture we had, we packed full. In fact, we little storage in our bedroom, opting for some plastic totes to hold our items.   Not ideal, but again, wasn’t worth investing a lot of money.  Coming back to a huge walk-in closet was bliss.  But now, we debated do we even need it?  As you see in the photos below, the clothes shown is all we took to the UK.  And then, we only wore half of them.  So do we really need any more clothes? Or storage for any more?.  As I write this piece, clothes we left in storage have been unpacked….and most have gone to charity.   We have learned to live with so much less and its refreshing and liberating.  Which makes us wonder…do we need all this stuff – clothes, things, anything?   Life takes over and you accumulate and settle.  We were happy and enriched with less and on the move.   Time will tell if we ever fill these closets again!

Our home withstood renters well.  We were lucky…..but the garden not so much.   I didn’t take any ‘before’ photos but here’s a shot of one of the twins holding a weed she pulled up.   Thankfully now we have it restored back to its former glory allowing us to enjoy the final days of summer and into the Fall.

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For everyone in the household, they’ve slipped back to their old lives easily.  Kids back in schools with all their old friends.  Husband back in the office, pets back to their favorite resting spots in the sunny garden.   What we do know is that despite being away, nothing really changed….except for us.   Everything and everyone around us has remained constant.   Reassuring and easy in some respects but I wonder if we will long for more change in our own lives.   In this journey, we taught the kids that change is good and not to be feared.  I hope they hold onto that as they grow into adulthood.   For now, I need to live by my own words and be comfortable with the fact that  I have not returned to the life I had prior. For me, the adjustment back home is greater.  I no longer have an office to go to, colleagues to socialise with.  Nor do we have the big trip to plan for.   So what next?  I’m not sure but happy to be home and so is Chester…

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One year on…

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We embarked on this move with a one year time frame in mind.    To take a break, connect with family and do something different.

The kids signed up for ‘just a year’ and have seized every moment based on just that.

So now what?  We have had an amazing 12 months.  We’ve done a lot and the kids have grown in so many ways.   Daily we point out their achievements, big or small, and even tomorrow we will attend an awards ceremony where our oldest will be honored by her school…bearing in mind she has only been there for a year she has so much to be proud of.

Its been a gut wrenching decision but we will be leaving the UK and moving back to the USA.  Its complicated so its the easiest path at this time….but every single one of us has a heavy heart….:-(

Seven one way flights are booked (5 people, 2 furbabies), we are beginning to pack up the cottage and have begun to say our goodbyes.

We have a few more weeks left on the island so we will surely be making the most of it.   Look out for final UK posts and then more about our life back in the USA!

What we do know – we are ‘Always Home’ on either continent.

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Maine Botanical Gardens 2014

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Corfu June 2016