By the lovely sunrise gods I am woken in the shadow of night. I stumble on the path through the trees to the fluorescently lit restroom. Once my mission there is accomplished I am suddenly more alert and feel like the rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. I hurry back to the tent and shake my husband awake. I ask him to tell me the celestial hour, but he is unable to because of a malfunctioning cell phone device. We rush to the car to my dead cell and I turn the key into the ignition. The little clock on the dash shows the time to be 4:30 am. No time to waste – I throw the car in reverse.
The other vehicles on the road seem innocent at first, but then I start to notice that they are all headed in the same direction – to the top of Cadillac Mountain. Panic sets in as we near the climb and I start to see dawn. I wanted to be there already and some slow person is taking their sweet time driving me absolutely berserk, for a split second, and then we are in the parking lot. Where did all these cars come from? Once we find a spot on the rocks a guy turns to us to join in our awe and let us know that some crazy couple decided to ride their bikes up here – and they still beat us to the top.
It is only 5:00 am when the sky begins to turn different shades of gray. The crowd begins to grow as the orange in the distance brightens the sky and highlights the fog covering the islands below. Forty minutes later and people are still filing in. It’s only now that we realize this peak is larger than we thought (and we will find out the parking lot is too). There is another side crowded with people and cameras. Behind us a couple brought foldable chairs and all the ingredients for a bowl of cereal.
In front of us, the only child present starts to play some cellphone game until her mother realizes the annoying sound is coming from beside her. Peace is restored and we go back to scanning the horizon looking for the bright ball of light that is due to bring life, energy, heat, and reflections to the plants, water, and faces of earthlings. 5:50 am the sun is spotted in the clouds and six minutes later it will begin to peek at the clouds, islands, eyeballs, and lens’ staring back.
It’s so pretty – and not just because I’m on a mountain in a state for the second day or because I’m partial to sunrises. It’s so mesmerizing that even though my pupils are starting to burn I find it hard to turn away – must aim face and camera at sun – enjoy moment as much as possible before going blind. But ten minutes later and the moment is gone for most people which is good; it gives us the freedom to move around and not block others’ views. There is fog and shadow, pink and yellow, and sun-kissed rocks.
It’s moments like this that I feel our love grow (though it may also grow when we see an unhappy couple – good comparison point) and am glad I have found someone to share this morning with – even if he only has one good eye to see it, he has given his whole heart to me and to nurturing the simple pleasures in life, which for this occasion is: a sunrise, holding my hand, giggling in conversation, kissing my sun-touched lips, and laying on the ground with me to get a flower photo from a different angle.
Now 6:30 am and the sun is moving up in the thick clouds. The view has changed dramatically in the last hour and a half and I enjoyed every second of it. We are now one of the few left gazing around longingly and reading the plaques about the location, one of which tells about the Frenchman Antoine Cadillac for who the mountain is named for his possession of it in the late 1600s. He would later go on to found Detroit in 1701 and inspire the name of the luxury car company that was founded 201 years later.
The drive down the summit road was much more relaxing. I made a memory with my husband and am now able to cross something off my Before Eternal Planking list. And I can’t forget to get a passport stamp for another national park visit. At Sieur de Monts Spring: The Heart of Acadia National Park we get to walk around the same area that Mr. Dorr fell in love with and purchased in 1909. I like that the garden is divided into different areas – wetlands, forest, and Caleb’s favorite – the bog ‘of eternal stench’ based on what plants are found in those regions.
We haven’t forgotten about the dogs and go back south to pick them up. They were asleep in the tent when we got there. North of Bar Harbor is another visitor center – Hulls Cove. We stop in town first to see a guy repainting a building white; a giant lobster holding an ice cream cone; a schooner, the Margaret Todd, with four flags flying – American, Maine, New England, and Philippines; the rainbow of apartments above the shops below; and more offers for seafood and dessert. I can tell why fishermen love this place.
Somewhere near Saturday Cove we stop for sun, sand, shadows, splashing, seaweed, snapshots, and Sparky sprinting. We park by the road at the site of an apple tree, but the fallen ones and those within reach are rotten. We find a bakery, Borealis Breads, in Waldoboro where we get a garlic-hummus sandwich on rosemary bread, to split, a loaf of three-cheese focaccia and a cranberry-walnut log to go. Our next jaunt out of the car is at the Androscoggin Swinging Bridge connecting the towns of Brunswick and Topsham.
I saw a landmark sign and a parking lot big enough for five and turned around to get a look. The bridge was erected in 1892 of wire rope. It’s a good thing we didn’t get the dogs out of the car because Caleb wanted to test the bridge’s swinging ability. One side is a busy street with businesses and the other leads into a neighborhood with a walking path. Only six more rivers to cross, three other bodies of water, and we find ourselves accidentally on the toll road in New Hampshire.
We pay $4.00 for that mistake and take the Greenland Rd exit and follow that south to Historic Exeter where there are some nice two-story buildings: an old theatre, a curtain shop, a Szechuan restaurant, and an antique store. We don’t notice much more before entering Massachusetts where the border town has their Soles of Haverhill Shoe-labration on display. We see the ones in front of the firehouse and church. We admire the architecture of Lawrence before making our way to Lowell – our destination for today.
We park in front of the visitor center – or as close as the street will allow to the entrance – knowing that Lowell National Historic Park should be closed. We are in luck though as we catch an employee leaving work at 5:30 pm. She has forgotten her keys, but waits for security to let us in for a map and a stamp. We can still do the walking tour of the canal system, peek in the windows, and meet some of the locals.
There is a work dinner or birthday party going on in Market Mills Park where the Homage to Women sculpture is dedicated to the nineteenth century mill girls. There is a sign posted on the fence designating the area as a Busk Stop: Public Performance Space with rules available at Lowell.org. All the people nearby are too busy eating cake to entertain us. As we turn to leave we notice a kid in the street sitting on the handlebars of his bike and peddling backwards, perhaps because there is no tire on his rear wheel.
We walk through the UMass Lowell Inn like we own the place and find that the back door leads directly to the Lower Locks. I like how the build of a space, and the materials used, can give a different feel to a place. I’m standing in a state that helped build the U.S. to what it is today and in a city that once prospered with six miles of canals powering ten mill complexes with ten thousand looms. Working conditions might not have been great, but business was booming for a hundred years until competition closed the mills.
For someone visiting today, with a strong imagination, I can still hear the water powering the turbine, that generates electricity into the looms, and employs the workers for 12-14 hour days. I can hear the women in the windows and the men’s shoes on the street. I can see the smoke rising from the power house smoke stacks and the end of a man’s pipe. And in front of us, no fantasized imagery is necessary. We get to watch ‘the boys’ feed the ducks while the father and older brothers, uncles, or friends fish – a heartwarming scene.
I don’t know the uses of the Boarding House Park 150 years ago, but today people can be seen stretching, climbing stairs, riding bikes, drawing with chalk on the sidewalk, and admiring the layout, colors, and history integrated into this area. I also enjoyed looking at the contrasted skies, gray sculptures, Lowell Five Cent Savings Bank, and all the signs telling me what not to do – don’t enter this street, don’t park in front of this gate, and don’t use wheeled, non-motorized, transportation on the sidewalk – though I think it’s implied that I don’t drive on it either.
We drive halfway across the state to Erving State Forest where we will camp near Laurel Lake at campsite 4. The park seems a little empty – no ranger or other visitors in sight. It’s dark and a little moist while we are setting up for dinner and sleep. Caleb airs up the beds and I heat up the broccoli soup that we have with focaccia bread. Only in the Northeast can you drive across three states, watch the sunrise, visit a garden, play at the beach, walk around a historic district, and camp in seclusion.