Mount Desert, ME

Home: Mount Desert Campground

Day 3

A dream snuck up on Rett during the night, and when it forced her awake, grief over her lost mother came crushing down on her, and brought on waves of sobbing, in those moments when it allowed her to breathe at all. It took nearly two hours for it to relent and allow a return to sleep, but that meant the night was far from restorative, and our idea to head out in the morning on our bikes to explore Acadia’s carriage roads no longer felt even partially interesting like it did yesterday.

And that was totally fine! As we learned from our multi-day camping stay on the Magdalen Islands, spending a day simply hanging out at the campground can be a lot better for our long-term health and life-enjoyment than spending every single day trying to see all of the cool/amazing/rare stuff.

Our campsite (E13) at Mount Desert Campground.

Plus, just like the Magdalen Islands campground, Mount Desert Campground on its own is pretty cool/amazing/rare. It’s not quite a tent-only campground, but it’s certainly tent-focused, not allowing any vehicles longer than 20 feet. Only about half the sites (not including ours) have electricity, and there is no dump station. You can frequently find that level of primitiveness at state/national park campgrounds, but it’s extremely rare at a private campground.

The trees at our campsite. We’re certainly a little early for peak fall color, but there are plenty of trees happy to give a preview.

But given how highly-rated and in-demand this place is, it’s a bit surprising that more places haven’t followed this model. People like it so much that the owners could seemingly charge whatever they’d like and there would still be a line of people willing to pay it; the $45/night that we paid (before tax!) is probably the most we’ve ever paid for a campsite, but they have “Premium Waterfront” sites that go up to $74/night during the off-season (that we’re lucky to be in now), and $94/night during the peak season! $94/night for a site without water, electric, a roof, or even an on-site parking spot for your car! That’s more than four times the price we paid for some hotels in Mexico!

And, it’s maybe worth it? The sites are beautiful, and the setup has helped create a culture here of quiet, nature-loving campers who all seem to be on the same page. Oh, and the bath houses! On top of their overall quality and cleanliness, they also have a unique structure: they’re built entirely of wood (mostly dimensional lumber), including the floors, which have half-inch gaps between the boards through which you can see the earth a couple feet below. At first, this seems crazy: won’t that let all sorts of bugs and other critters in, along with a ton of cold air? But then you remember, campground bathrooms with solid floors have no shortage of bugs inside, and this place doesn’t run through the winter, so in general the airflow is probably a net positive. And then, various crud can just flow easily out through the floor, rather than filling up a hermetically-sealed chamber; stepping out of the shower onto a damp 2-by-4 turns out to be much more pleasant than stepping out onto a grit-and-hair covered tile floor. In retrospect, it’s a design that should be replicated everywhere, though I’m not surprised that it hasn’t been, since it’s rather counterintuitive. The fact you that need to pay for those showers on top of your $94 stings a bit, but my guess is that they’ve chosen that route as a bit of resource/culture management as well, rather than a pure income-generator.

Walking to the end of the campground’s long and wobbly dock as part of our exploration.

And it’s not like the campground is without other amenities. They have a common building (“The Gathering Place”) that brings in pastries from a different local baker every morning to sell with coffee; we took advantage of the pastries, and, then this afternoon, used it as a bit of a warming shelter to do computing stuff with the power and WiFi. And we walked their “hiking trail” that runs through some pretty cool rocky landscape behind the campsites. But that was enough action for us on this day of recovery.

#FindRett the rock-scrambler at the campground’s hiking trail.

One final innovation that I’d love to see elsewhere (though one that requires their cultivated culture of non-assholes) is that everything can be “charged to your room”, er, “campsite”. The pastries, firewood, a National Park pass…just tell ’em your site and they’ll add it to your bill to settle up at checkout.

Unfortunately the firewood they sold us was super-wet and unburnable, but at least on a day like this I had the free time to spend an hour or two looking at it more like an entertaining and educational challenge, rather than the frustrating exercise of self-torture that I normally feel.



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