First Time Visiting Rally Friends at their Campsite

We’ve been hanging close to home this weekend…Saturday we had a house showing in the morning and I went to my friends funeral at 11:00.  The funeral was tough.  When someone is that young (42) and dies suddenly there are not many comforting things to say, but the priests did a full mass and overall I found it was good to be in a house of God as such a time .  I am not Catholic,  but appreciate the attention and care they spend at funerals and since Jim was baptized in that church the ceremony had extra meaning for his parents and family.  When I got home that afternoon Lee and I relaxed and spent time with Kay until she went to work.   Unfortunately,  in the evening we received a text that the morning visitor had not selected our house.  The selling process has pretty brutal.  The market is very slow here in Keene, and although our house is clean and as nice as we could make it, it’s not a showplace or anything.  It’s just a good solid house to raise kids in.  We’ve priced it very aggressively, but so far it’s either been “too much house” for younger couples or too dated (ie: not a new build) for folks who can afford something newer.  I get it…but it’s tough because we really want to get on with the next chapter of our lives and selling the house has to happen first.  Plus we have watched friend after friend from the rally sell their homes and now we are the last couple of our core group of friends to sell.  So the grief from the funeral and the disappointment from not being selected all rolled into together and I had a nice crying session.  I am not a cry at the drop of a hat person, but I certainly don’t think there is anything wrong with it and sometimes a good cry is totally called for.  After the crying I just went to bed and hoped tomorrow would be a better day.

When I woke up on Sunday I thought I have two choices.  I can lay here and feel depressed or I can get up and do something positive.  So I went downstairs and called my friend Jo and asked her if we could come visit her in Kennebunkport today.  She very graciously said “of course”  and I took a quick shower, got dressed and Lee and I jumped in the car.   The drive was good (it takes about 2-1/2 hours) and Lee and I talked a little and then listed to a very cool NPR podcast about the Gallipolis  Islands.  I was feeling more relaxed by the time we got to the campground, Hemlock Grove, and met Jo at the gate.  She drove us back to her site (76) which is at the very end of the campground and showed us where they are at.  Her site was really big with terrific views and I loved how she had total privacy on three sides.  It was pretty buggy though, the mosquitoes were huge, because the campground had some standing water behind some of the sites.  Still for Maine,  in season,  it was a great spot and Jo and Ben said several times how lucky they felt to have it because they had rented it for the season site unseen.

Jo and Ben's Trucks!!

Jo and Ben’s Trucks!!

Jo and her Arctic Fox

Jo and her Arctic Fox



Jo and Ben's view

Jo and Ben’s view

It was noon when we got there, so we decided to go down the road a bit and have lunch at this little lunch truck.  Generally I am a fan of these lunch trucks and this one did not disappoint.  Everything we ate, (lobster rolls, clam chowder, and 50/50 burgers (half burger half bacon) was really good and reasonable priced.  Plus they had a nice little picnic table area outside that was clean and shaded to eat under.

Lunch truck we ate at..lobster rolls, calma chowder, and a 50/50 burger half bacon half beef all yummy

Lunch truck we ate at..lobster rolls, clam chowder, and a 50/50 burger half bacon half beef all yummy









After lunch we drove around a bit and saw Kennebunkport (very touristy town that was packed with people but neat shops), and drove along the coast a bit to see the Senior Bushes summer home.  They live out on Walker Point in all things considered a modest compound that is closed off by a gate and a Secret Service guard-house.  Ben was walking on the beach the other day and saw Barbara Bush walking along the beach picking up shells (with her service agent in tow!!) and I guess they are really a part of the community here, which is nice.  Good for them.

Kennebunk Beach

Kennebunk Beach









Walker Point where the Senior Bush's summer

Walker Point where the Senior Bush’s summer

Walker Point

Walker Point

After the Bush compound, I pulled out my Roadside Attractions app (which I haven’t used all summer since we have been staying in one place) and saw there was a Wedding Cake House close by.  Ben was nice enough to re-route us a bit and I got to stop and take this picture.  I love looking at goofy stuff as we traveled and it cheered me immensely to see the house.


Wedding Cake House

Wedding Cake House

After the Wedding Cake house we went back to the camper and hung out inside.  It was nice to see it close up again and we got several little ideas we want to adopt in our camper.   We talked for a long time…the four of us never lack for conversation, and walked the dogs around the campground.  It’s small (with only 75 sites) and has lots of seasonals, but the seasonal sites are VERY nice, most are little cottages with permanent porches and lots of landscaping.  Jo said the seasonals have been pretty clicky and she hasn’t gotten to know people very well, but Ben made a friend Bob who is an avid fisherman and they have gone fishing a couple of times together.   I really liked was quiet with spacious roads and overly large sites for this area of the country.  Plus Jo said they have strong WiFi which works everywhere even in her site way in the back because the owners have boosters throughout the campground.  The sites closer to the road do have some traffic noise, but it’s reasonably close to the beach, grocery store, and Kennebunkport, and I think it would be a good place to stay to see the area.  Wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for a whole season, but a week or two would be good.


After chatting we decided to go eat dinner down by the water.  We knew it would be pricey (high season by the water in Maine is NOT cheap) but we decided to give ourselves a little treat.  The restaurant was cool, we at on the deck with lots of views of boats and the food was really good. Three of us had the stuffed halibut and Jo has the swordfish which was all very fresh.  Now let me warn you the kitchen was slow and the service was mediocre, but honestly I have come to expect that from New England restaurants.  But the food was great and the company as better so definitely glad we did it.


Ben, Lee, and Jo eating oceanside. The stuffed halibut was VERY good. On the pricey side but yummy and the view was awesome

Ben, Lee, and Jo eating ocean side. The stuffed halibut was VERY good. On the pricey side but yummy and the view was awesome


View from the restaurant

View from the restaurant

View from the restaurant

View from the restaurant

After eating we had to drive back,  but Jo and Ben took the dogs down to the beach and enjoyed the sunset.  Wish we could have stayed but definitely next time, and I am truly grateful for having such great friends to help cheer me up and give me a little glimpse into what our future trips will be like.  It’s not perfect, but what in life is, but it’s pretty darn great in comparison 🙂  Next weekend Ben’s going fishing in Mexico and Jo is going to come hang out with us, so hopefully I can return the favor and get her out into Keene a bit.

Ben, Peyton, and Anubis on the beach

Ben, Peyton, and Anubis on the beach









Hemlock Grove Campground, 1299 Portland Rd (Rte 1), Kennebunkport, ME  3 out of 5 pinecones

Small campground with 75 sites well spread apart and many can fit motorhomes or large fifth wheels,  Many seasonal campers in very nice sites.  Overly large sites and reasonably priced for the season.  close to ocean, shopping center, and Kennebunkport.  Strong Wifi thought the campground and gates to control access.  The couple who owns the campground is very nice.  Smallish campstore.  Clean bathrooms and laundry facilities, but they only have two washers and four dryers.  Pet friendly, with numerous pet poop depositories sprinkled throughout the campsite.  Some traffic noise from Rte 1 in the sites closer to the front but recommend Site 76 if it is available.  The people in the campground are not super friendly but not overly hostile (that sort of goes with the general attitude in Maine).  I wouldn’t recommend a super long stay but a great jumping off point to see numerous attractions along the Southern Maine Coast.


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Campfire Cooking, Fire Wood, and Magical Hikes in Maine

Acres of Wildlife Campground  sits near the small town of Steeple Falls, ME and is a three-mile drive on a dirt road (well maintained) just to get to the campground.  (A couple of times during that drive, which takes forever creeping along at 20 mph, I felt like there should be a sign saying “Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter”. It just seems to go on forever, and you wonder if you’ll ever get there. There are encouraging signs though, which was kind of fun. “Don’t Give Up, You’re Almost There”, and things like that. – Lee) Once you get there the place is huge, with its’ own stocked pond, a small lake with plenty of kayaks, rowboats, paddleboats, paddleboards and canoes for rent, and large wooded areas.  There are numerous cottages to rent, a lake beach… they even have a pretty nice RC car track.  There’s an incredibly well stocked camp store, the best I have seen with a massive hardware store style selection of pieces parts for RV’s and campers. They also have a small restaurant with a bar and fresh-baked bread and pies for sale.  The bread was $2.99 and absolutely delicious.    We picked the Sunflower campsite which was on the outer edge of the campground away from the water and the more densely packed campgrounds, but Site 63 (electric and water only) on the water would have worked for us and we also liked 48 and 49 which offered full water views and E/W/S services.   Tons of activities throughout the day and night, the place was really hopping.  On the negative side, definitely insufficient bathrooms for that volume of people and the one I went in although clean had no soap.  Trash cans are also few and far between. Also, the campers weren’t as friendly as we have seen in other places.  As Lee says more stares than smiles. (Lots and lots of hostile stares, as opposed to the friendly smile and waves we see at other places. – Lee) 

They also misrepresented their access to Sebago Lake.  It’s inferred that it is a short hike away with easy access which is not the case.  Overall I give it  2 out of 5 pine cones.   

So let me be honest here; I struggled this week with the cooking.  I don’t know if it was poor preparation or just trying to plan for a full week versus a weekend, but I had several mini disaster meals this week and overall felt more harried with cooking than in the past.  The good news is we solved our wood problem.  We have purchased Kiln Dried wood at Tree Hugger Farms in New Hampshire which burns long and hot, (much like myself. – Lee)  and are supplementing with local “Abundle” wood we find on the roadside.  The kiln dried wood is hardwood, and not easily split into smaller pieces, and isn’t great to get the fire started so we use local wood to get it going and then the kiln dried pieces to last longer when we are just sitting around the campfire.  I worried that we would be questioned about it, but we have a certificate from where we bought it and it’s clear from looking at it that it’s “clean” wood (ie. no bark and 100% insect free).   We like to supplement with local wood because in most places its slightly cheaper than kiln dried and it’s fun to treasure hunt for the cheapest wood while your out and about running errands. If you see a sign like below, you’ve found some good stuff.


(Abundle wood is an abundant species found in areas with campgrounds. It’s pronounced “abb-un-dell”, I guess, as you can see on the sign. It is not to be confused with a similar, but completely different species, Perbundle. So when you’re out looking for wood for your campfire, make sure you get the Abundle, or in a pinch, Perbundle. It burns well, and is pretty cheap.  You can usually find it for between $2-$4 for each small, easy to carry package. -Lee)

So now that the wood problem was solved, onto the cooking problems.  Part of the problem is spices.  You try to pick recipes with relatively few ingredients but it’s tough and I never seem to have spices like cumin on hand.  Finally we put all our spices in a plastic shoe box container (which I love because it’s out-of-the-way unless I am cooking) and I broke down and bought some spices that keep popping up in recipes that I never have.  We also worked out the logistics.  i was trying to manage the campfire cooking and the inside cooking at the same time which was driving me crazy and frankly a setup for failure because you truly cannot be in two places at once.  i know crazy, huh, but I’m a slow learner.  I prepared the sauces and food for cooking on the fire in advance, Lee cooked those items, while I finished up with setting the table and cooking the interior items.  Voila!!  Worked great and we had a wonderful meal of Honey Chipotle barbecued chicken (with hand- made sauce), lemon pepper potatoes with sour cream sauce, and lemony green beans.   Lee declared it a winner and I was waaaay less stressed. See below for the recipes.



It’s my birthday today and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend it!  We are going to try a 2 mile”magical hike” to Sebago Lake from the campground.  First time really getting out in the woods, so hope we don’t get lost 🙂  And Lee bought me a great birthday present, a beautiful spinning balloon to hang on the camper.  Life is really really good.


As a way to kick off my being 47 we decided to try a “magical hike”.  We started calling them magical hikes because Lee would talk about them and I (remembering the downside of hiking) once said , “Yes honey it would be magical.”  There was a teeny bit of sarcasm in that statement.  So we starting referring to the magical hikes we would take, but instead have spent a lot of time just bumming around the campsite.  Since I wanted to start the new birth year in a positive way we decided to walk the 2 miles to Sebago Lake.  I don’t mind walking, as long as I end up somewhere, just not crazy about walking for the sake of walking.  Same reason I liked soccer and not track in school.  There needs to be an end game.  We were warned that the trail was not clearly marked, but what they didn’t say is not marked at all.  Lee used apple Maps and GPS though so we felt reasonably confident we could get there.  Hard to miss that big of a body of water.  

When we set off I had a bottle of water, Carmex, and my camera.   I pre-sprayed with bug spray and decided against carrying the bottle with me.  BIG mistake.  The trail is also a ATV/Snowmobile trail and the ruts had led to a lot of standing water which attracted…you guessed it…mosquitoes.  We were swarmed lol…Lee more so than me apparently he is tastier. (This is what I’ve been told, I see no reason why people would lie to me. – Lee)  The trail was relatively flat at first, but it was rough with many stones and roots on it.  I am sure this makes for exciting ATV’ing… not so much with the walking.  And unfortunately we saw almost no signs of wildlife.  We did get very excited when we found a print in the mud.  It looked like a cat which led me to hey there are predators in Maine and you have no weapon of any kind.  This feeling was not lessened when Lee spotted a chipmunk carcass pretty near the trail.  So again thinking big cat, and thinking well they are mainly nocturnal, and looking around for a big stick to carry.  


All of the conversation was wasted however because when we got back to the campground and looked up the print it turned out it was a dog 🙂   (A giant ravenous man and chipmunk eating dog, don’t be fooled. A distant relative of the equally dangerous camper-eating rock. – Lee) Overall the walk really wasn’t that magical.  It was buggy and rough on the feet and the only interesting thing we saw was a ginormous rock.  It was amazingly big but other than that not magical.


It would have all been worth it though for a great view of the lake.  I was expecting the forest to end at a secluded spot where we could do a little smooching and dip our feet in the water.  Instead we came out on a road and looked right at tons of cottages all of which had signs saying do not trespass.  In order to get the picture below I had to ask permission and walk to the water’s edge which was a big disappointment.

(Allow me to elaborate. It’s a 2.5 mile hike, along a poorly maintained trail, which is really just an ATV/Snowmobile trail. Lots of jutting rocks and roots, some pretty steep climbs and drops, and huge sections that were full of standing water. I wouldn’t cal it a technical hike, but for a 45 and 47-year-old, who smoke and are slightly heavier than would be ideal, it ain’t no stroll. And millions of aggressive biting flies. I think they are the Maine relatives of the roving rock gangs found in New Hampshire. The hike was not pleasant, and at the end, it dumps into a neighborhood, and then to a street. Across the street are private houses on the lake, with no public access. So if you want to go to the lake, find another way. – Lee)


We did walk down to the local convenient store/bait shop and buy some bug spray for the walk back.  Well Lee got bug spray (Deep Woods Off) and I bought a PIC electronic device to hang on my shirt that emits a high pitch noise to chase off mosquitoes.  They both made the walk back much better, but I think mine actually worked better.  (It’s true, the spray worked, but made my lips numb, and I hallucinated a little bit. And when you sweat, and it runs into your eyes, you go blind a little. It also stops working after about 15 minutes of sweating, so I had to keep spraying it all over me. I would have bathed in it if there was enough in the can. I would like the outdoors a lot more if it weren’t for the animals, the sun, the bugs, and the walking. – Lee) The best thing about the hike (which ended up being 5 miles round trip)  was that it burned 1,000 calories!!!   Overall not the best but I am willing to try again, we just need to do better planning next time.  (I’m so thin I’m practically invisible. A stiff breeze would blow me off my feet, so I can’t really afford to lose that many calories in one magical hike. When we got back I had to immediately lie down and take a very snory nap to recuperate. – Lee)

 Lessons Learned

  • Buy kiln dried wood but supplement with local Abundle or Perbundle wood
  • When cooking a campfire dinner don’t try to do it alone.  Enlist your hubby for help and avoid making yourself crazy
  • Use granulated bouillon for all those recipes that require chicken broth to avoid buying cans and wasting excess
  • Break down and buy spices and then store them in a clear plastic container that can be easily accessed
  • Magical Hikes require bug spray and some planning or they aren’t so magical. (Alternatively, just watch TV-Lee)
  • Balloon wind catchers are the best birthday presents ever!!!


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First Time Camping with Friends

Some friends of ours from Columbus, Ohio (our original hometown) were on a two-week camping trip through New England and we met up with them.   The couple have two daughters aged 12 and 8 and camping with kids is fun but a totally different experience.  We ended up meeting them in Acadia, Maine at the KOA Bar Harbor Oceanside campsite.   Just through good luck we ended up getting to the campsite within minutes of each other, which was great, and we all proceeded to set up.  They are in an ultra-lite, which I thought was very nice but took them very little time to set up, mainly I think because they were in the camping mode already, plus we had a new mattress topper for the bed (down alternative because feathers make me sneeze and VERY comfortable) which I had to wrestle into place.  I don’t really notice the lack of space on either side of the mattress until I have to make the bed and wrestling the mattress topper into place was a challenge to say the least.  At one point I was kneeling on the mattress and trying to lift it at the same time to slip the cover sheet under.. pretty comical I am sure.   Anyway, my point is that apparently I have gotten pretty darn used to my setup routine because trying to quicken the pace, to hang out with friends sooner was stressing me out 🙂  All self-imposed but it’s funny how quickly we can become used to a routine.

The campsite is different from any we have been to before, wide open with RV’s as close to each other as you can possibly put them.  Our spot faces a little spot of the ocean bay, though, and is on a corner which is pretty great.  They have some great  sites right on the water if you don’t need sewer hookup, but really the whole point is to use the campground as a jumping off point for going to Acadia National Park, so it’s not designed to spend tons of time there.  My major disappointment was the lack of the sound of waves crashing, because it is a bay it’s pretty sheltered, but the kids enjoyed walking down to the shore and picking up shells and they saw some crabs.  The bathrooms were very clean, the family uses the campground showers instead of the tiny one in the camper which they have turned into an additional storage area.  Pretty ingenious 🙂  and unfortunately the showers routinely had no hot water.  There were several complaints from both cabin users and campers.  It wasn’t an issue for us though and I have to say we had a great site 105 which has a great view of a little sliver of ocean.  There were some other wonderful sites on the water, but I guess they book up really quick and lots of sites where folks are seriously on top of each other with no view whatsoever.  The view from our site is below which was great.


The people who run the campground were nice if a bit harried.  It was incredibly busy and because of the tight fits on the campground, every camper is escorted and helped to pull into the correct spot.  Lots of French Canadians at the site, and folks were incredibly polite.  Lots and lots of big dogs, we saw a couple beautiful huskies.  Overall I liked it. Don’t kid yourself, though, this is not ocean side camping like you are picturing in your mind, but for what it is (a place to use to visit Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park) it is a fair value.  The shower issue and extreme closeness of sites requires a downgrade though and I rate it at 3 out of 5 pine cones.

One of the best parts of camping with friends is getting to sit around the campfire with them. The 12-year-old and I spent a very entertaining hour trying to create the perfect toasted marshmallow  (she managed to pull it off; I was close but not quite) and we all chatted into the evening. For the first time I had to worry about when the quiet hours were, which was funny.  We never make any noise when it’s just the two of us.  This time we got to sit at the fun campsite!!

The next day Lee and I went to Acadia Park which although crowded was really fun.  This is a great place if you like biking as there are 42 miles of carriage paths which were changed into bike paths.  We also saw lots of little kids hiking with their parents as there are hundreds of miles of hiking trails.  Since we weren’t really into doing either, we drove to the top of Cadillac Mountain (which is free) and took some great pictures of the ocean.


Next we took the park loop road ($20 for a 7 day pass) and stopped at various scenic sites along the way.  Did you know that seniors 64 and older can purchase a lifetime National park pass for $10 that gains entry into all National Parks in the country??  Say what you want about our government but there are some things they do right.   My favorite part of the loop was when we stopped at Thunder Hole and got down on the rocks and watched the ocean come crashing in on the rocks.  It was great, and you could get as close to the water as you wanted.  All and all a lovely day.


We also visited Bar Harbor which was pretty touristy but fun as the harbor was fogged in and seeing all the boats amid the fog certainly added to the experience.  A great family style steak dinner at night and more time around the campfire capped off the experience.  Great time hanging out with friends and we are now e packing up and headed to inland Maine and they are branching off to Cape Cod.

Lessons Learned

  • Walkie talkies are a fun way to communicate when you have two vehicles and it’s great for kids
  • When camping with a group allow plenty of time for folks to do their own thing, but make sure you meet up at night for  campfire and adult beverages


Perfect Lemonade

(Taste tested by an 8-year-old and declared pretty good)

  • 5 cups of water, divided
  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • 3 lemons
  • 1 cup sugar or Splenda

1.  Combine 4 cups of water and lemon juice

2.  Chill 30 minutes

3.  Peel lemons leaving inner white pith on fruit (reserve lemons for another use)

4.  Cut lemon rinds into strips

5.  Combine rind, sugar, and 1 cup of water in a saucepan

6.  Stir over medium heat until sugar melts

7.  Bring to a boil and boil for 7 minutes; stir frequently

8.  Let cool

9.  Mix with lemon juice/water mixture and chill 2 hours before serving



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