Mount Dessert Campground

Deja view. That is the only thing I can think to describe how I feel about Mount Dessert Campground.

A bit of history is in order. When I was a kid my family spent several weeks in the summers at Hermit Island Campground outside of Bath, Maine. I was so enamored with Hermit Island that I begged my parents to let me work there if they would have a 13 year old kid. Fortunately for me they would have me and I started out that summer as an area boy, cleaning campsites, picking up trash and cleaning bathrooms for $25 a week plus room and board. Over the years I graduated from an area boy to outside the store, cooking lobsters, selling clams and ice. Then I graduated to the reservations desk, greeting campers, taking phone calls, making reservations and taking turns cashing up at the end of the day. Finally I graduated to general manager, responsible for day to operations of the campground.

Hermit Island was one of the first campgrounds you could call an ecological resort before we knew what ecological resorts were. The campground specialized in “primitive” camping: no electric, no RV’s, pit toilets, no hot showers. Just beautiful, natural campsites on the coast of Maine, many overlooking the ocean with gorgeous views, others right down on the beach. People camping at Hermit Island came back to the same site year after year, generation after generation.

For a kid like me it was an education. I learned many of my interpersonal and business skills at Hermit Island. I also learned the value of the natural world, nature unspoiled by commercialization. Hermit Island still holds fast to many of those values all these 50 plus years later. There are more rules, the prices have gone up and there are flush toilets and hot showers. But the commitment to nature, family and quiet primitive camping continues.

Mount Dessert Campground is like a trip back 50 years for me. The commitment to natural, peaceful family camping is obvious from my conversations with Owen, one of the family owners of this campground. His history is much like mine. He grew up camping here and when the opportunity arose, his family purchased the campground with a commitment to keep it as it is today – a gorgeous, natural place with beautiful campsites and spotless facilities. Their commitment to their campers is obvious in the care they take of the campground and in the positive, friendly staff that greet you everywhere you go.

And much like Hermit Island, the same people come back year after year, to the same site. In fact we met one couple who were here for their 20th year on the same site. And according to the owners this is pretty common. And the best sites are already booked for the summer season – reserve early or take your chances.

This campground is adjacent to Acadia National Park so access to the park hiking and biking is easy. Cell service here is excellent (but get your nose out of your phone and enjoy the natural beauty all around you).

So if you want a taste of real camping – no RV’s invited – then give Mount Dessert Campground a try. They are one of the finest private campgrounds I have stayed at. Beware, once the summer season starts dogs are prohibited but if you come early before the vacation season or after Labor Day dogs are still welcome. And an added bonus is their rates are very reasonable. Highly recommended.

Mount Dessert Island, Maine

After a bit of ruminating about where to go from Kennebunk we decided north was a good choice. After making a couple of phone calls we decided on Mount Desert Island Campground, near Acadia National Park. The choice was made relatively easy because when we called the National Park about campsites at Sewall they were unable to tell us what might be available. Not wanting to take a chance on having to backtrack to some unknown destination we selected a nice wooded site near the water that had the advantage of have 20 amp electric service and water. We have solar but it is always a treat to have water and power, especially since the forecast is unfortunately for overcast and rain for the next two days. Solar is great when the sun shines but it can be tough staying powered up on cloudy days.

We arrived at Mount Desert and were greeted by the most friendly staff who gave us a map and sent us off to our site. We arrived to a level and wooded site just a few steps from the shore and the bath house. They chose well. Our truck and slide in camper are 21 feet long but when we made our reservation we told them our size and they said not to worry, they had sites we could fit into.

Another great benefit of this location is excellent cell service. We have an elderly parent at home and several management and construction projects to keep track of so being able to keep in touch is both a blessing and a curse. I have had several calls about our church restoration project while on the road so keeping in touch can be handy even if it takes away from “vacation” time.

We have had Acadia on our bucket list for a while so getting here has been a treat. While we are not in the national park, we are close by. We chose not to dismount the camper because we planned to be here for just a couple of nights but after arriving we have decided to extend for 3 more days because it is so pleasant and so accessible. But because we only reserved this site for a couple of days we will have to move to another site on Friday. We will be making a list of sites we like for future reference. This is a place we could come back to annually, as long as we arrive before “peak season”, when our dogs would no longer be welcome. According to management most of the best sites are already booked for the summer but because we are here in “off season” we and our dogs are welcome and there are many wonderful and vacant sites to be had.

A sample of campsites – and this is just a sample. Many sit on bluffs looking over the water.

Kennebunk, Maine

We left Vermont Sunday, June 2 for Kennebunk, Maine. We have an old friend there we wanted to spend some time with. She is 93 years young and sharp as a tack. It also was my birthday so we celebrated with one of my two must have meals when we are in Maine – whole belly fried clams at Alissons Restaurant.

My clams and Helen’s fish tacos at Alissons. A very nice restaurant.

The next day we spent three hours visiting with Muriel. Such a sharp and inquiring mind is rarely found in someone 93 years old. We talked about family, both alive and dead, politics, technology, morality, books, life – the changes she has seen over almost a century. It was a delightful way to spend the morning and part of the afternoon.

We stopped for lunch at Rogers Pond in Kennebunk. The pond sits next to the Mousam River and is down a side street, out of the way so if you didn’t know it was there you’d pass on by. There is a road around the pond, a perfect place to walk Ginger and Finn. After a sandwich we again walked around the pond and chatted with a fellow Vermonter who happened to be there.

Rogers Pond is a hidden gem in Kennebunk
If you have a license you can catch eels (or elvers) in the Mousan River.

He told us that he came upon people with nets out in the Mousan River some time ago and asked what they were trying to catch. To his surprise (and to ours) they said they were after eels. Being the inquisitive type I had to Google eels in Maine and to my surprise I discovered it is big business. Last year eels were selling for $2,300 a pound. They are prized by Asians in sushi, called unagi (unagi is actually one of my favorite sushi dishes too). For more information on Maine eel fishing you can go here:

After our visit to Rogers Pond we took a spin down to Goose Rocks beach where dogs are welcome in the “off” season. Once things pick up during later in June dogs are excluded but we were well ahead of the June 22 dog-less date. Finn, the border collie has never been to the ocean so this was a first for him. He didn’t waste any time getting wet. Ginger is an old hand and has traveled everywhere with us so the ocean was just one more thing she has seen before.

Finn’s first exposure to the ocean.

We returned to the Red Apple Campground late in the afternoon. This campground is spectacularly nice. It is expensive ($70/night) but it comes with every conceivable amenity (dog park, pickle ball courts, shuffleboard, horseshoe pits, heated pool, water, sewer, electric and cable TV, etc). One amenity is unique – order a lobster by ten AM and they will bring it, cooked, to your campsite for supper. And the price is far more reasonable than going to a restaurant to eat. So for $20 I got my other must have meal – a pound and a half hard shell lobster cooked perfectly.

The weather was perfect for our two days in Kennebunk, our camp site was perfect, I got my two Maine must have meals and we had a great visit. The only glitch was the tick infestation but that is going to be the norm this summer according to all the experts. The wet rainy weather this spring and a relatively warm (but snowy) winter has meant the ticks survived and have multiplied beyond all expectations. We have them at home and I suspect we will find them wherever we travel.