Monday, February 19, 2018

Nothing Could Burst Her Bubble

Thursday dawned even more beautiful than the previous three days in Bar Harbor. Kate awoke easily looking forward to the adventures their last full day in Acadia National Park would bring her family.

She softly nudged Adam's shoulder. "Wake up, sleepy head. We've got to get moving. The parking lot at the trailhead of the Bubbles was full yesterday morning when we drove by at ten."

Adam groaned and mumbled that he was awake, but Kate was already in the bathroom washing up and getting dressed. By the time she emerged, ready for the day, the girls were both awake as well and searching through their suitcases for the perfect outfits.

Within a half an hour the family of four was enjoying their continental breakfast and within another half hour, they were loaded into the Expedition and once again on the short drive into Acadia National Park. Roughly 2 miles past the turnoff for Cadillac Mountain, Adam signaled and turned into the small roadside parking lot. As expected, it was already crowded, but they were able to find a spot, and everyone piled out ready for another adventure, hoping it would be as marvelous as the previous days.

The well-maintained trail was a continuous, gradual ascent through a seemingly ethereal forest. It was a fun, relaxing hike, only about one mile to the summit, and along the way they had to scramble a couple times over large rocks.

 The time spent together on the moderately trafficked trail with her husband, daughter, and step-daughter made Kate wish this vacation would never end. Gone were the everyday demands of chores and errands. Gone were the temptations of technology. Kate used her cell phone as a camera, not as a device to keep her connected to the rest of the world. In place of the monotonous language of typical daily life, there was laughter and meaningful conversations. Not that Kate never laughed with or talked to her husband or kids when they were at home. On the contrary, Kate thought they lived a very happy life together, but just very predictable and highly demanding with Adam's coaching schedule and the girls' extracurricular activities.

Before long, Kate, Adam, Madeline and Chloe were standing on the top of South Bubble Mountain, their eyes taking in an incredible view of Jordan Pond on one side . . .

 And the Atlantic Ocean in the far off distance in the other direction.

"Wow," Kate exhaled. "You can hardly tell where the sky stops and the ocean begins."

"It's an amazing view," Adam agreed.

Kate enjoyed the majestic views while examining the exposed edges of the steep mountainsides, suddenly very thankful her children weren't fearless and curious toddlers.

"Come on, Mom!" Madeline exclaimed. "Let's get our picture with Bubble Rock." She was referring to the famous tourist attraction which was basically an elephant-sized boulder that had been carried by glaciers many, many years ago and deposited at the very edge of the cliff. To read about it, it seemed like just an average sight until Kate actually laid her eyes on it.

"Look at it! It's just balanced right there on the edge of the cliff! How does it not fall?" Kate shook her head in awe.

Chloe looked at Kate matter-of-factly. "The rock is big, but God is bigger. That's how."

Somehow in the eight years that Kate had been this girl's step-mother, Chloe had grown from a shy, awkward preteen to a stunningly beautiful and wise young lady. How had Kate missed it? She blinked, that's how.

Pulling Chloe to her, Kate kissed the teen's temple. "You're right."

They all took turns posing for pictures with Bubble Rock, pretending to push the giant rock off the side of the mountain, and spent several more minutes marveling at the God-drawn tapestry.

They climbed the last little stretch to the summit of South Bubble Mountain, and then slowly began their return descent to the trailhead. Kate, however, remained high on pure joy. She had no intentions of coming down anytime soon and she knew, after this wonderful vacation with the most precious people on the planet, nothing could ever burst her bubble. 

Monday, January 8, 2018

Worth the Wait

After such an early morning, they returned to the hotel, were four of the first diners at the continental breakfast, and then easily took a two-hour nap back in their room. When Kate slowly woke, she reached for her phone, still in camera mode, looking through the stunning pictures from their amazing experience that morning. Exhaling, part of her felt like it was just a dream and she was relieved that it was very real.

Adam rolled toward her. "What's on the agenda for this afternoon?"

"I don't know that anything can compare to this morning."

"Doesn't mean we shouldn't go try and see what adventures we can find, does it?" Patting her hip, Adam crawled out of bed. "I'm going to shower."

"Alright. I'll get the girls up and around." Setting her phone on the bedside table, Kate reluctantly parted with her pictures for the time being and went to the adjoining room in their family suit to rouse Madeline and Chloe.

Within the hour, the family of four made the short drive from their hotel to Jordan Pond, a crystal clear mountain lake. Adam and the girls, ever the adventurers, were eager to hike the 3.6-mile perimeter. Kate, on the other hand, was anticipating the famous Jordan Pond House popovers.

Right off the bat, however, Kate thoroughly enjoyed the hike. It proved to be challenging and the views were incredible. The trail they started out on had several stretches which were narrow boardwalks, and they each had to watch their steps. A turned ankle would've been an easy injury on that section. That gave way to a stretch through and over rocks. They had to be sure-footed during this section as well. The last and longest stretch was relaxing, a mostly dirt or pea gravel trail, and they stopped many times during this section to marvel at the beauty of their surroundings. They discovered on their hike that Jordan Pond had an average visibility depth of 46ft.

"I wonder why it's so clear," Madeline mused gazing over a bridge at a frog and several minnows easily visible in the water.

"It said on the sign back where we started that there is no swimming or motorized watercraft allowed, which means nothing is polluting it," Adam stated.

"I see a kayaker, though. That's okay?" Chloe asked.

"Kayaks and canoes don't use gas or oil which could leak into the water." He smiled. "It looks fun, doesn't it?" All three ladies nodded and they continued on their hike, which was over way too soon.

Turning back one last time at the end of their hike, Kate snapped a few pictures and gazed at the pretty mountain-bordered lake. "I could just stare at this view all day long."

Slipping an arm around her waist, Adam nuzzled his wife's neck. "I get an even prettier view every single morning and evening."

"I love you, handsome." She kissed his cheek. "Now let's go check out those popovers in the restaurant. I'm feeling that hike!"

Jordan Pond House was an extremely popular full-service restaurant and the only one inside Acadia National Park. It was just a short distance from the Jordan Pond trail and the scenery out the huge windows as they enjoyed a fancy coffee or hot chocolate drink and popovers was every bit worth their decent wait.

Kate smiled. Just like life. Seems like all the best things take time and patience, but it's always worth the wait. That night Kate fell asleep early, exhausted but absolutely satisfied.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

A New Beginning

At 3 o'clock the next morning, Kate's alarm sounded, summoning her from heavenly sleep. She was only annoyed for a breath of a second until she remembered why she was crazy enough to set her alarm for such an ungodly hour in the first place.

Moaning, Adam stirred beside her. "Whose idea was it to go see the sunrise on Cadillac Mountain?"

Kate playfully swatted him with the pillow as she rolled out of bed. "I believe all of us agreed to it. Now get up. I don't want to miss it."  She roused Madeline and Chloe and went into the bathroom to wash her face and brush her teeth.

On the short drive from the hotel to Acadia National Park, the family of four chatted about the facts they'd learned regarding Cadillac Mountain. 

"Hey, Mom, did you know that Cadillac Mountain is the highest point on the North Atlantic seaboard?" Madeline questioned. 

"I believe it." Kate gazed out the windshield in awe of the lightening violet sky as they turned onto Summitt Road, the steep, winding road leading to the top of Cadillac Mountain. "The world looks so different in the dark, doesn't it?" 

"Yeah, but from October to March it's the first place in the United States to see the sunrise," Chloe added.

"But it's June." Adam, ever the competitor, feigned disappointment.

Kate grinned, watching the scenery out her window, still shadowy in the dim light, but mysterious and majestic in the chilly early morning hours. "I'm pretty sure it'll be ok if just this once you aren't first. I think you'll be just fine."

Adam chuckled, and Kate once again fell in love with his fun-loving spirit. After everything he'd been through in his previous relationship, it was a miracle to Kate that he didn't have a chip on his shoulder. Or maybe, she thought, because of all he'd been through, he appreciates the relationship we share a little more.

"Bet you didn't know Cadillac Mountain wasn't named after a car," Madeline challenged as they pulled into the parking lot near the summit of the mountain. "It was named after a French explorer in 1918. Before that, it was just called Green Mountain. How boring is that? Cadillac Mountain is a much cooler name."

"Yeah, well, all the grooves and scratches in the granite were caused by glaciers, and scientists think the summit is actually one edge of a collapsed volcano," Chloe retorted as Adam pulled into a parking spot near the flat viewing area where a small crowd already gathered, each individual with a coffee in one hand and their camera in the other. 

Kate opened her door and immediately pulled on a hat. "Come on you two walking talking encyclopedias. Grab your blankets and let's go claim our spots." At a quarter past four that early June morning at the altitude of 1500 feet, the temperature was in the low forties, and Kate chuckled that though they were on summer vacation, they were dressed like they were ready for winter.

The family of four found a spot to sit on the ground against a short cement wall that bordered the sidewalk, which was fortunate because the wall helped block the frigid breeze. Huddled together, Kate, Adam, Madeline, and Chloe drink hot coffee or chocolate from their thermoses and snapped pictures as right before their eyes the sky changed from one thin pink and yellow ribbon across the horizon to great splashes or orange and red as if someone had thrown a whole can of paint across the blue canvas. 

And then, at approximately ten minutes until five in the morning, a brilliant thumbnail of light poked up above the horizon. Everyone cheered. It was a stunningly spiritual moment for Kate as she understood all too well the value and importance of new beginnings. It didn't seem like that long ago that she and Madeline left their house in Tennessee to move home to Harvest Bay, Ohio. It was the exact sunrise they had needed following the many dark and lonely days after the unexpected passing of Ryan, her first husband and Madeline's father. That's not to say that it was easy, but it was what they had needed, and looking back now, as Adam slipped his arm around her shoulders and pulled her closer to his side, Kate saw how remarkably beautiful it was.

They sat there for several more moments watching the dazzling ball of light climb higher into the sky. Madeline and Chloe walked down the path a short distance to snap some more pictures. By a little after five in the morning, Adam pushed to his feet and helped his bride to hers. 

"Let's hike to the summit," he suggested. "We can't come this far and not reach the summit."

As much as Kate fancied the idea of going back to the hotel and crawling into her bed, she knew they might not get this moment again, and a few extra z-z-z's could never compare to this amazing experience she shared with her husband, daughter, and stepdaughter. The half-mile hike was only slightly uphill since they drove the steepest part. Standing on the summit of the highest point on the North Atlantic seaboard, with the most precious people in her life nearby, Kate thanked God for all of the sunrises in her life, for the anticipation of each new beginning, and the way they shed light on all the important parts of life. 

At that moment, on that mountain, she became stronger and her spirit soared.


Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The Tides

The second full day they spent in Bar Harbor promised cool temps and a chance of drizzle. While Kate and Adam didn't mind hiking in that kind of weather (After all, a bad day of hiking is better than a good day at work, right?) they were certain the Chloe and Madeline would have been pretty miserable the entire time. Since the forecast showed improving conditions in the days ahead, Kate and Adam decided to forgo one day in the wilderness and spend the day in town instead, visiting the gift shops and boutiques.

The town was busy but not crowded on this early June day as Kate, Adam, Chloe, and Madeline made their way in and out of dozens of stores specializing in everything from outdoor apparel and equipment to Bar Harbor labeled sweatshirts and gifts to merchandise for your pets. They sampled lobster-flavored ice cream (and then got a different flavor to enjoy) and spent far too long in the bookstore.     

By early afternoon, the family of four and wandered their way down to the waterfront.

"Hey, the rangers at the Visitor Center yesterday said the tide would be well on its way out by now. Let's go check out the land bridge just up ahead," Adam suggested, after seeing the sign, and they all agreed it sounded cool.

When they got there, "cool" was an understatement. Magnificent seemed more appropriate.

"Wow," Kate breathed, taking in the sight. At one-thirty in the afternoon, the water had parted just enough for people to cross to the tiny island on the other side. Along the short walk, Chloe and Madeline searched the residual pools for sea creatures and shells. Kate picked up an ordinary pebble, still damp from the departing water. The flat, smooth, and heavy stone reminded her of the faith David showed when he faced Goliath, and even though she knew you aren't supposed to take anything from the natural environment, she slipped the pebble into her pocket, just a simple memento for whenever life's different Goliaths may rise up.

 On the other side of the land bridge, the rocky shore gave way to lush, green trees and plants. Kate, Adam and the girls followed the short trail through a field of wildflowers, up a rocky incline, and finally stopped on the island lookout. Kate must have taken a dozen photos of the view of the Maine coast and the Atlantic Ocean beyond that. This was a view, and a time spent with her family, she never wanted to forget. 

Upon reaching the shores of the mainland once again, Kate glanced back. The tide had gone out even further. Now enough land was exposed, trucks could actually drive out to Bar Island! Kate grabbed Adam's hand. He was her anchor, her support and help through all kinds of weather. He was there for her when her beloved Grandpa Clayton died. He taught her how to love again. She gazed up at him, her eyes brimming with affection.

"It's kind of like life, isn't it? Some days are low tide where it's easy to get from point A to point B. Some days are high tide where it seems you have to struggle to stay afloat."

Adam leaned down and kissed Kate on the bridge of her nose. "Sure, but it's all about perspective. Low tide is for enjoying. High tide is for growing."

There was so much truth in his words. And right now, Kate enjoyed everything about her life, but she knew just like how in a few hours, the tide would return and this magical bridge would once again be under water, she would have a difficult day here and there . . . until it was time for the tide to go out again.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

The Loop Road

Light filtered through their hotel window earlier than Kate was used to in Harvest Bay. She cracked an eye but, feeling the weariness of spending many long hours in the vehicle, she rolled over and pulled the pillow over her head.

"Are you awake?" Adam murmured. He was accustomed to waking up early, even on summer break, because of facilitating early morning football practices. Kate, on the other hand, wanted no part of being awake before half-past five on her first week of vacation.

"No," came her muffled response.

Adam chuckled. "Okay, but there's a National Park nearby just waiting for us to explore."

"Not before 5:30." Her grumbling response only awakened her more, and soon she and Adam tiptoed to the hotel lobby for breakfast while the girls continued to sleep in.

The forecast indicated the day would be cloudy and cool, not unusual for the first part of June in Maine. Adam and Kate decided over their continental breakfast that it would be a good day to take a drive on Park Loop Road and become familiar with the lay of the land.

By eight o'clock, the family of four had loaded back up into the Expedition and began the short drive to Acadia National Park. They stopped briefly at the Visitor Center, where Adam and Kate gained valuable information from a park ranger regarding family-friendly hikes and other points of interest, as well as the times for the tides, sunrise, and sunset. Adam grabbed a few maps of the park, Kate bought a couple souvenirs, and they climbed back into their vehicle ready for the day's adventures.

There were many, many pull-offs along Park Loop Road where tourists could get out and take in the stunning scenery, and Kate and Adam took advantage of a handful of them. Even with the cloudy weather, the landscape seemed magical to Kate. The rugged beauty - the contrast between lush, green plants and jagged rocks, mountains and valleys, calm lakes and the wild Atlantic Ocean - took her breath away. It never became monotonous. Every turn they took on Park Loop Road, there was something new to see.

Around one of those turns was a sign for Sand Beach. Even though the weather was definitely not ideal for swimming, and they didn't bring their bathing suits, they decided to make the stop and check it out. Sand Beach was a little, inconspicuous gem, hidden between the rocky landscape on both sides. Kate had to walk to the water's edge, bend down, and touch the ocean. Chloe and Madeline each drew their name and the year in the sand while Kate snapped pictures of them. All four of them cautiously climbed on the slippery rocks off to the side of the beach, searching the tide pools for little sea creatures. Before they left, Adam spotted and pointed out a small pod of dolphins just offshore splashing and playing in the frigid water. It was the perfect way to end the experience at Sand Beach.

Not far down Park Loop Road, Adam pulled off again. The park ranger at the visitor center had suggested seeing Thunder Hole.
The conditions at that particular moment weren't right for the "big show" - a thunderous clap of water hitting the narrow cave-like hole in the rocks gouged out by many years of erosion, followed by an extreme spray of the water onto the observation deck - but it was still an amazing sight. Kate and Adam learned that the right time to visit to experience the boom and spray was about 2 hours before high tide and on a day when the ocean waves weren't too calm.

After a quick bite for lunch, Adam and Kate decided to drive up to the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard, Cadillac Mountain. It turned out there was a right time to visit the mountain, too. On such a chilly, cloudy afternoon, standing on Cadillac Mountain was downright cold and the winds were brutal. Kate pulled on a winter hat and gloves she had thought to pack just in case she got cold, as reviews had warned of chilly temperatures at the beginning of June. Standing on top of Cadillac Mountain, the wind literally took her breath away, but the views warmed her heart. Kate struggled for words to describe the way this beautiful sight made her feel, but when Adam came up behind her and wrapped his strong arms around her, and Madeline and Chole stood nearby happily snapping pictures on their phones, only one word came to her mind: perfect.