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Black Friday Next Friday

Posted on November 24th, 2017

Dave!Preparations for my pending vacation have been insanely expensive. I thought I was making it less painful by buying clothes for my journey ahead of time (I started nearly a year-and-a-half ago), but then I went and lost 17 pounds, so all that did was add more expense as I had to replace clothes I'm now swimming in.

But the harder pill to swallow is that I have no money left over for Black Friday clothes shopping, which is one of my favorite things. I loathe having to spend money on clothes (and good quality clothes are pricey), but today is when all my favorite brands go on sale and I can chop 60% or more off my budget for the year. Oh well, just my luck I'd buy a bunch of stuff, lose more weight, then have saved money on clothes I can't wear.

But it's hard to feel sad when next Friday this time I will be in Argentina awaiting the start of my trip.

Though, to be honest, I am a little sad. I just got home to my cats... who were so happy to see me after a week gone... and I'm going to be leaving them again...

Pretty Jenny

Handsome Jake

Yeah, if there's a downside for being 8,000 miles away from home... this would be it.

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Maps And The Stories They Tell

Posted on November 23rd, 2017

Dave!As I've probably mentioned at least a dozen times on my blog, I love maps. I used to buy maps of places I never intended on going just to look at them. I would buy guidebooks for the same reason. Maps allow you to travel without ever leaving your home.

Then online maps came along with technologies like "Google Street View" and everything changed. Suddenly maps were a hundred times more useful for armchair travelers because you could actually drop yourself into a map and look around...

Google Maps Street View

Google Maps Street View

Talk about an armchair traveler's dream come true!

I mean, yes, there's nothing like visiting Paris, wandering the city streets, and seeing the Eiffel Tower in person... but, if that's out of reach for whatever reason, isn't this the coolest possible alternative? You can go most anywhere in the world this way!

Yes, even Antarctica...

Google Maps Street View

Google Maps Street View

Google Maps Street View

Having access to satellite imagery is also very cool.

While driving around Acadia and Mount Dessert Island, I was driving Route 204 when all of a sudden it jags way out, then resumes course...

Google Maps Street View

Wonder what THAT'S all about? Somebody didn't want to sell their farm? Well, thanks to Google Satellite View, it looks like somebody didn't want to sell their store...

Google Maps Satellite View

And Google Maps isn't resting on their laurels... oh no... they're always adding cool new features. As I was leaving the US "Eastern Most Point" at West Quoddy Head Light, I noticed that Google noted I parked there. I'm guessing so if I walk away, I can find my car if I forgot where I parked it?

Google Maps Parking Spot

It was miles and miles before It dropped off, so I guess it's good if you're hiking or something...

Google Maps Parking Spot

Or wanting to vandalize a McDonalds and not wanting to forget where your getaway car is parked...

McVandals!

McVandals!

   
I'd imagine that the advent of VR (Virtual Reality) is going to be a huge game changer in map technology. At least I hope it will. Being able to more "literally" drop into a map would be an incredible thing.

Not incredible enough to stop be from traveling.

Probably.

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Two Different Colors On The Map

Posted on November 21st, 2017

Dave!That was one busy weekend.

The main road through Acadia National Park is "Park Loop Road"... which is one-way for a big chunk. This can make planning a travel itinerary tricky because there's no backtracking if you miss a turn or blow past an exit.

Fortunately Google Maps makes it easy to enter a bunch of stops then rearrange them until you have a simple plan instead of having to take multiple loops around the island trying to see everything. With the exception of not finding "Boulder Beach" the first time around, Acadia was relatively painless to navigate.

And now, because I am definitely returning one day, I'm going to post my maps so I can remember how I saw what I saw...

FRIDAY...
Portland to Bar Harbor to Bass Harbor Sunset...

Acadia Friday map

SATURDAY...
Bar Harbor to Sand Beach to Jordan Pond to Bubble Mountains...

Acadia Friday map

SUNDAY...
Bar Harbor to West Quoddy Head Light...

Acadia Friday map

MONDAY...
Bar Harbor to Cadillac Mountain Sunrise to Schooner Head to Thunder Hole to Boulder Beach to Somesville to Portland...

Acadia Friday map

   
And that's that.

Interesting to note... when I line up all the maps and multiply them all together, you can see how I hit most every major road in the park... with the exception of Route 102 up the West Coast and a couple chunks of Route 3 in spots. Not sure what I missed, but it might be worth finding out for next time...

Acadia Friday map

Thanks, Google Maps!

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Cadillac Thunder Boulder Bridge

Posted on November 20th, 2017

Dave!Today I was going to sleep in and get some work done before heading South to my job-site. But when the heavy rains blew my schedule apart yesterday, I had to move all the things I had planned for then to today. Everything worked out pretty great though, because the weather was beautiful.

My day started with a 5:30 wakeup and a drive up Cadillac Mountain. Six months out of the year (including this month) this is the place which sees the first rays of run in the whole USA. And so, if you're in the USA... there's a pretty good chance I saw the sunrise before you did!

The park has been surprisingly vacant since I got here. I rarely see other people. But there was quite a crowd for the sunrise show... 25... maybe 30 people. And here's the bizarre part. Many of them... at least half... left the minute the clouds started to glow like this...

Sunrise from Cadillac Mountain in Acadia

Now, granted, it was bitter, freezing, awful cold up there. I was numb from my head to my toes despite wearing two shirts, a hoodie, and a winter jacket. It was so bad that I couldn't even feel my fingers after ten minutes.

And yet... what's the point in getting up early and driving up a mountain to see the sunrise if you don't wait for the sun to actually... uhhh... rise? That's when the good stuff starts to happen. We had cool clouds that obscured the sun nicely, so the sky was changing from minute to minute as the sun made its journey. Here we are as the clouds start to catch on fire...

Sunrise from Cadillac Mountain in Acadia

And here we are when the sun had finally hit the sky. Amazing. But most people missed it, because there were only about four people around me by this point...

Sunrise from Cadillac Mountain in Acadia

SOLAR-FUN-TIME-SUPER-SUN-ZOOM-CAM IMAGE...

Sunrise from Cadillac Mountain in Acadia

As if that wasn't enough awesomeness, the islands off-shore looked fantastic as they all lit up with the rising sun...

Sunrise from Cadillac Mountain in Acadia

And yet... by this point, there was only me and one other person to see it. What a shame.

After driving back down Cadillac Mountain, I headed to Schooner Head Overlook. There is a cool feature called "Anemone Cave" down below, but it's a sea cave and can only be accessed at low tide. Since that was at 5:30am this morning, and it was already 8:00 by the time I arrived, that experience was not meant to be. But I did get to see some cool (and, assumably, very expensive) houses. The one of the right is almost invisible because it looks like rocks...

Schooner Head Overlook Acadia

A quick drive later and I was at "Thunder Hole." This is a really cool coastal feature that is more impressive the less close you get to it.

Let me explain...

There's a narrow inlet in the rocks where waves crash in, causing a huge plume of water and a crashing noise that sounds like thunder. Apparently, the plume can go up to 40-feet high. But, at that volume of water, the park closes off access so you have to watch (and listen) from afar. They close off access in four stages depending on how much water is heading in. When I visited, stage one was closed off, so I had to watch from up at stage two...

Thunder Hole Acadia

Alas, stage two doesn't sound a lot like thunder... but it's still fun to look at...

Thunder Hole Acadia

Thunder Hole Acadia

My last stop within Acadia National Park was "Boulder Beach."

I actually tried to find it when I was here on Saturday, but couldn't. Last night I read up on it and found that I just hadn't gone far enough down the path (the lovely, lovely pine-tree path that smells incredible!). You have to keep walking until you spot it from the trail like this...

Boulder Beach Acadia

Now, admittedly, I was a bit disappointed when I saw this. "It's just a bunch of rocks!" I said.

Turns out that to truly appreciate this for the marvel of nature it is, you have to climb down and make your way across the large rocky stones at see it up close and personal.

All the stones have been worn smooth over the eons by the pounding surf, then deposited on the shore...

Boulder Beach Acadia

It's looks like something out of the movie Alien. Smooth egg-shaped stones on both directions...

Boulder Beach Acadia

Boulder Beach Acadia

Many of them are bizarrely smooth and egg-shaped... or even round. Amazing, amazing stuff. And impossible to wrap your head around how many thousands of years it took for them to turn out like this...

Boulder Beach Acadia

Almost as cool as how it looks? How it sounds. Every time the waves recede, the rocks are sucked out with it... then rolled back onto shore. If you turn the volume way up when you watch the movie I recorded below, you can kind of get an idea how awesome it sounds in person. It's very deep... kind of like the thunder I was expecting to hear at Thunder Hole...

And... the end.

The bad news? My time at Acadia National Park had come to a close. The good news is that I get to check off another park from my Big List of National Parks I've Visited! Sixteen down... 43 to go!

After packing up my stuff and checking out of my hotel, I stopped by Somesville on my way off Mount Desert Island. It's home to a pretty wooden bridge that's a popular tourist spot...

The Somesville Bridge in Acadia

The Somesville Bridge in Acadia

The Somesville Bridge in Acadia

   
Now that's really the end because I've got work waiting for me.

   

Up the Down to East the West

Posted on November 19th, 2017

Dave!Since this was a work trip and my work is indoors, I didn't really equip myself for outdoor adventures. So when I woke up to pouring rain and realized neither my jacket nor my hoodie were waterproof, hiking in Acadia had to be scrapped and I needed new plans for my Sunday.

I didn't want to stay in my room all day so I decided to drive somewhere interesting. But where? Someplace far away so most of my time would be in a dry car instead of the wet outdoors. At first I thought I'd head inland in hopes of better weather. But the weather service said it was raining there as well. Bar Harbor is the furthest north I've been in Maine... so maybe up the coast? I decided to Google the area, which is known collectively as "Down-East" (or "Downeast") to see what's there.

And that's when I saw it.

Two hours and twenty-one minutes north of here is the USA's easternmost point... West Quoddy Head Light (lighthouse). I've already been to the southernmost point of the Continental USA in Key West, Florida, so why not?

I decided to head UP* the DOWNeast to go to the EASTern most point in WEST Quoddy.

That's more than a little confusing, but okay. Off I went. The drive isn't that bad, but the gusting wind and driving rain meant it was slow-going. And when I finally got to West Quoddy Head Light? I don't know what "gale force winds" means**, but this is probably what they are talking about. There were times I was almost blown over while trying to walk it was so bad. The rain was relentless, which meant I had to seek cover to wipe off my camera lens ever 60 seconds. Plus? The sun was blotted out, so it was dark.

All in all? Probably not the greatest idea I've ever had, but I made it. Achievement unlocked. Apologies for the blurry photos but... rain and all that...

West Quoddy Head Light Lighthouse

West Quoddy Head Light Lighthouse

In case there was any doubt as to your standing in the easternmost point in the USA, they have a gravestone(?!) to make it official...

West Quoddy Head Light Easternmost Point

Interesting to note that the door to the lighthouse was open. I thought that maybe somebody was working there so I was going to shout "Hello?" but decided it'd be best not to scare anybody if they were up there. Which seemed doubtful because mine was the only car around. One thing was for sure... I was not going to go climbing up for a look when the lighthouse tower is not open to the public. Something tells me that's an invitation to getting shot...

West Quoddy Head Light Lighthouse

I tried to photograph the ocean, which was not looking friendly at all, but the wind kept knocking me off balance. Only one photo really turned out (rain splotches and all). Alas it's not that interesting to look at...

West Quoddy Head Light Lighthouse Ocean

With nothing else to do, I got back in my car and headed back down (up?) to Acadia. Guess my day was over.

My room back in Bar Harbor overlooks a brook. A brook where ducks like to hang out at all hours. For the most part they're quiet, but every once in a while a fight will erupt and much quacking will ensue. When I got back, there were far more ducks than usual with far more quacking going on...

Ducks!

Ducks!

Ducks!

Annnnnd... the end.

I suppose now I should plan a trip to Northwest Angle, Minnesota so I can check off the Contintental US northernmost point. Then I need to take a hike to Cape Alava in my home state of Washington so I can check off the Continental US westernmost point. It seems the completist thing to do, doesn't it?

   

*People in Maine would never say they were going "up the coast" like this. To them, up is down because Downeast is up. I found this out when people at my work kept saying things like "You came down from Boston today or yesterday?" and "When are you headed back up to Boston?"

**Turns out these were probably not "gale force winds" after all because Wikipedia says that a "gale" is 39 to 54 mile-per-hour winds. Well, whatever. They were very strong winds, that's for sure.

   

Squirrels, Beaches, Baubles, and Bubbles

Posted on November 18th, 2017

Dave!"Hey, you're half-way there!" I said.
"Ugh. Is it worth it?" he replied.
"You get to see a giant rock hanging over the edge of a cliff and a glorious view of Jordan Pond, so I'd say it's worth it." I said, trying to sound enthusiastic.
"Hmph. Okay..." he huffed, as he walked past.

Yesterday I shot everything on "Full Auto" because I was tired. Today I thought I'd get creative and use my own camera settings. It's a decision that would come back to bite me in the ass* but dems da breaks. Still. I did play around with HDR** a bit, so that was fun.

But before we get to all that... first a word about squirrels.

I love the little guys. They're industrious, clever, cute, and move like magic. And they're everywhere in Acadia. I took tons of photos of them all day long, which is easier said than done given how skittish they are and how quickly they move...

SQUIRREL!!!

SQUIRREL!!!

SQUIRREL!!!

SQUIRREL!!!

SQUIRREL!!!

SQUIRREL!!!

Needless to say, photographing squirrels through the underbrush is a manual-focus affair.

My first stop this morning was Sand Beach. You know that sand beaches are rare in Maine when they are inevitably called "Sand Beach." Sure enough, as advertised, there's sand...

Sand Beach!

From shortly after Sand Beach there's a trail that wanders along the coast for two miles. I did a walk-drive kind of thing. Sure the rocky coast is pretty, but it looks much the same as the rest of Maine's coast, which I've seen a lot of. Occasionally there's a a small difference. Like a seagull wandering into the shot...

Acadia Coast Trail!

Another thing that was different? Something... I don't know what to call it. I was wandering along the rocks when I spotted what I thought was a tiara or some kind of jewelry bauble glinting in the sun...

Pearl Ice!

Turns out it was ice. Weird ice that had somehow formed to look like pearls! Crazy stuff I've never seen before...

Pearl Ice!

Another animal (other than squirrels) there's a lot of in Acadia right now? Deer. I know this because they kept bolting in front of my rental car. Not just once, but three times. I was driving 35mph (the speed limit) which is probably too fast given that these creatures would have had to have been scraped off my grill if my reflexes were any slower...

Deer!

My next stop was Jordan Pond. It's home of the Jordan Pond Restaurant, which is famous for popovers that are apparently more addictive than cocaine. I wouldn't know, because the restaurant was closed for the season (like most things in Acadia just now). The pond, however, was open...

Jordan Pond!

Jordan Pond is so pure and clear that it's used as a drinking water source. Which means you can't swim in it or have pets near it. The sun was not at an optimal angle for me to photograph the clarity, but I gave it my best shot...

Jordan Pond Clear Water!

Jordan Pond Clear Water!

An interesting feature of Jordan Pond is the sea-foam (pond-foam?) that had frozen at the water's edge...

Jordan Pond Frozen Foam!

Jordan Pond Frozen Foam!

After goofing around at the pond photographing a lot of squirrels, I headed to the Big Event of the day... a hike up the Bubble Mountains.

If you scroll back up to the first photo of Jordan Pond I posted, you'll see two twin "mountains" in the background. Those are the "Bubble Mountains" and are easily hike-able. The trail is tricky in parts and has a bit of a rise, but pretty simple overall. The trees along the way had lost all their leaves but were still pretty to look at. I can't fathom how beautiful they must be in the Fall...

Bubble Trail!

The trail itself was interesting for two reasons. First, water forms around the rocks embedded in the trail, which then freezes, expands, pushes the dirt away, then melts. Leaving all the rocks in little holes...

Bubble Rocks!

Second of all, water also freezes in crystalline shapes all along the trail. You see it everywhere, and it's really cool to look at...

Bubble Trail Ice Crystals!

I decided to hike the "South Bubble Mountain" because it has a feature that's entirely too cool. "Bubble Rock" (also known as "Balanced Rock"). When you cross the crest of the trail, the rock isn't that impressive. Looks kind of like a massive baked potato...

Bubble Rock!

But then you climb around to look at it from a different angle, and it's a different story...

Bubble Rock!

Uh. Wow. Definitely worth setting up an HDR photo so I could shoot into the sun and still see it...

Bubble Rock!

If you keep going past Bubble Rock, there's a great view back down to Jordan Pond. That's where I met the ladies from the blog Love Maine Adventures who were soaking up the view and taking photos. They asked me to take a photo of them with their camera, which I did. Then I decided since I was shooting HDR that I would ask to experiment with them and shoot some "people HDR" photos, which are tricky because everybody has to stand perfectly still. They were nice enough to grant my crazy request and did a great job...

Love Maine Adventures Ladies!

Love Maine Adventures Ladies!

I was going to call it a day because the trail down to the Jordan Pond overlook had CAUTION signs on it. But Love Maine Adventures encouraged me to risk my life and give it a try because they said it really wasn't that dangerous. Turns out they were right, it wasn't. And the view was great...

Jordan Pond Overlook Trail!

Jordan Pond Overlook Trail!

Jordan Pond Overlook!

As I headed back down the mountain, I took once last look at Bubble Rock as I passed... and saw something strange. Right beneath the rock was my rental car all the way down in the parking lot! If you scroll back up to the second Bubble Rock photo I posted, you can actually see it there... I just hadn't noticed! Here's that same photo, but zoomed in...

My car from Bubble Rock!

When I got back down to my car, I looked back up and took a reverse-angle shot. You can just make out Bubble Rock through the trees. It's smack-dab in the middle of this shot...

Bubble Rock from my car!

Curious to see if I could see Bubble Rock around the trees, I hopped in my car to backtrack so I could take a look. Sure enough, when I zoom in on maximum...

Bubble Rock from the bottom!

And, hey... if you zoom in even further, there's people there!

Bubble Rock People!

And thus ended my second day in Acadia. Time for a nap!

   

*The last time I used my camera, it was so I could photograph the eclipse back in August. In order to do that, I had to cover the lens with a piece of plastic that blocks out much of the light, then shoot at an ISO of 64,000. In a rookie mistake, I never reset my camera, and I didn't notice until I was half-way through my adventures today. Luckily, I shot some of the photos on "Full Auto," because a nice chunk of the photos from today where I tried to get creative were ruined because they were shot at grainy 64,000 ISO. Keep that in mind as you pour through all the photos in this entry. There could have been a lot more of them!

**High Dynamic Range... a photo technique where you blend photos together so that bits that are too dark and bits that are too light are evened out. I talked about it here.

   

Bass Harbor Head Light

Posted on November 17th, 2017

Dave!My work, which was supposed to start on Saturday was moved to Tuesday. So much for trying to catch an early flight home. Which is actually not such a terrible thing, because it gave me a chance to check another U.S. National Park off my list... Acadia*.

I wasn't able to leave Portland until 11:00am so I didn't make it to Bar Harbor until 2:00pm... three hours later. It's a boring but easy drive that goes by in a 70mph blur. Once I got to the park and checked into my super-cheap lodging (it is off-off season here now, so everything is either closed or cheap) I only had two hours of daylight left so I made a run for the Bass Harbor Head Light (or "lighthouse" to non-natives).

So far as lighthouses go, it's not a very impressive one. But it's at a killer location.

I decided to bypass the lighthouse keeper's quarters and head down to the shore before the sun set. A very rocky beach is not something you want to be navigating in the dark...

Bass Harbor Head Light Visit

I passed this poor tree which has seen better days. He fell over and cracked in two over another equally unlucky tree...

Bass Harbor Head Light Visit

The area is kind of like a real-life game of Myst, with cool wooden stairs leading down the cliffside...

Bass Harbor Head Light Visit

Good thing I wore my hiking boots. The rocks would be a lot tougher to climb over in tennis shoes. That being said, they sure are some beautiful rocks with the fading sun kissing them...

Bass Harbor Head Light Visit

On the right-hand side there you can spot a buoy bobbing in the water. It has a bell on it that dings softly as the wind blows. This adds a kind of nice atmosphere to the whole scene.

And then there she is... the Bass Harbor Head Light...

Bass Harbor Head Light Visit

After goofing around the rocks for a while, I made my way back up and around the keeper's quarters to get up close and personal with the actual lighthouse. As I said, it's not particularly impressive, so far as Maine lighthouses go...

Bass Harbor Head Light Visit

And yet... such a pretty location...

Bass Harbor Head Light Visit

Unless you need to use the bathroom...

Bass Harbor Head Light Visit

Pretty high on my bucket list is to come back to Acadia when the leaves are changing. If the trees are this pretty without them, they must be amazing in the Fall...

Bass Harbor Head Light Visit

The drive back to my hotel was replete with quaint photo opportunities of coastal Maine living. I could only nab one of them before the sun was gone...

Bass Harbor Head Light Visit

Not bad for my first two hours in the park!

Hopefully the weather tomorrow is as accommodating (and rain-free) as it was for me today.

   

*Acadia which, to my horror, I keep hearing pronounced outside of Maine as "Arrrcadia" for some reason. "Arcadia" was the Duran Duran splinter group. If you want to talk about one of the most beautiful parts of Maine, you have to drop the "R" when you say it.

   

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