Deer Isle is about a one hour drive west of Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. It is accessed by a bridge to Little Deer Isle, then a causeway to Deer Isle proper and the views as you approach are spectacular, even as (or because) I arrived in the drizzly fog. My AirBnB was in the town of Deer Isle, but the larger town is Stonington, at the south end of the island. DIS (Deer Isle/Stonington) is the lobster capital of Maine, producing more lobster pound for pound and dollar for dollar in the state. I love these foggy photos!
Church of the Morning After
After I settled in, Judith, my AirBnB hostess, told me about the Church of the Morning After - not really a church, but a Sunday morning jam session by the area lobstah-men (and women - there are alot of women lobster fisher-persons). They get together every Sunday from 7-9am (which is late for them, since their workdays usually start earlier!) and jam. The night I arrived they were giving a "concert" of sorts, at the Burnt Cove Community Center. It was your typical assortment of jammers - alot of guitars, a fiddle, mandolin, harmonica, ukulele, some percussion. There was a gal playing electric bass that was solid - she held the motley crew together. The music was variable, but the joy was consistent for all.
Castine is about a 45 minute drive from Deer Isle - Linda Murphy recommended I visit - thanks Linda! Super historic and charming town, it was capital of the French territory of Acadia in the 1670s. Known for the Maine Marine Academy and streets lined with beautiful elm trees, I did a walking tour of the historic waterfront district. The main downside was the bugs! I was unprepared for the assault, and left Castine with alot of welts!
El El Frijoles (play on L.L. Bean)
Heading back to Deer Isle I spot El El Frijoles! I have not had good Mexican since I left California. The owners of El El are Bay Area transplants and did a pretty good job with the food. I went with lobster tacos, and the tortillas were hand made from organic masa, and the salsa, beans and rice were fresh and tasty - muy rico! I didn't understand the El El (the the) of the name though. I found out is was a play on L.L. Bean - the well known Maine retailer. Pretty clever!
Isle au Haut (rhymes with Idaho)
I decided that the kids needed to have their first boat experience, a day trip to Isle au Haut (rhymes with Idaho), part of Acadia National Park. It was another drizzly day as we ferried to the main town pier, then did a 4 mile hike to the Duck Harbor pier to catch the ferry back to Stonington. The hike was a bit tricky, alot of roots and rocks. And those darn bugs. I was more prepared than Castine and had applied repellent, but those suckers still got me thru my clothes! While I love this area, the bugs are a bit too much for me.
More Stonington fog pics - just because!
Nervous Nellies Jams and Jellies
A visit to Deer Isle isn't complete without a stop at Nervous Nellies Jams and Jellies. Peter Beerits is a sculptor who started the jam business as a way to make money after grad school, but the jam business expanded to a sculpture garden of his work. It is pretty cool. He gives a tour a couple times a month and I was lucky to hit one of those dates. Funny bit of trivia - even though he is from the east coast, he got his MA at Long Beach State the same years I was there for undergrad! That was a fun coincidence.
Tennis - finally!
I have really been missing tennis - that (and the bugs) have been the one downside to my trip. But I found a round robin at the Island Country Club and FINALLY got to play some tennis. It was alot of fun - nice people and really fun to play on clay. Both guys in the picture live on Deer Island in the summers - Dave (standing) is from Palos Verdes, CA and Fred (seated) lives in Bangor Maine. It might be my only tennis this trip . . .
Haystack School of Crafts
Deer Isle is also home to Haystack School of Crafts - Jeanie from my encaustic studio had told me about it - thanks Jeanie! They do a weekly studio tour on Weds and it was a spectacular space for creativity. Each session is 2 weeks long, and they offer 6 options per session. The focus varies but when I was there the options were textiles, jewelry, instruments, ceramics, graphic design (including some pretty high tech equipment like 3-d printing), large metal work.
The highlight for me was the instrument workshop - the teacher takes old upright pianos, dismantles them and uses all the bits to repurpose into other instruments (like ukes, guitars, percussion) and other works of art. I saw piano pieces incorporated into metal sculptures, jewelry, etc. It was pretty creative. When we went to the graphic design studio they were doing Mind Mapping, a creative process I had learned in a writing course I took at Cabrillo Extension. It reminded me to revisit that process now that I am doing more writing and encaustic work. Funny aside - I looked up Mind Mapping on Wikipedia and the example they showed was a tennis mind-map - how ironic is that!
I love AirBnB
My AirBnB setup on Deer Isle has been perfect. Judith and her partner Linda moved to Deer Isle when they revived the Opera House in Stonington as a performing arts center in 1999 - more on that later. The home is charming, with a beautiful garden, meadow with firepit, and beachfront access. Really peaceful. And pet-friendly - Judith has Jack the doodle, Linda has Nellie the lab-mix, plus Olive the cat. Add my two beasts and there were more pets than people. They also have a separate AirBnB cottage - Brian and Lily were there for a week, visiting from Tucson (I told them about our tennis trip and how much we had enjoyed the Sabino Canyon hike - they hike there twice a week!)
The night of the solstice, around 10pm, Judith knocked to tell me to check out the meadow. The sky had cleared and was full of stars. And the meadow was full of fireflies!! It was absolute magic! She said it was unusual to have that many fireflies at once, so that was pretty special. I would have stayed out longer except that my friends the mosquitos were also out there enjoying the view!!
The other big industry in Stonington in the early 1900s was granite mining (thus the name: Stonington - like other towns named for granite - Rockport, Rockland, etc). The Old Settlement quarry was still active until 1980. The views from the quarry are phenomenal!
Stonington Opera House
My last night on Deer Island was alot of fun. I went to dinner with Brian and Lily at Lily's House restaurant. My tour guide at Haystack was also named Lily - a virtual Lily trifecta! This restaurant is only open on Thursdays as the owners have other projects (furniture building, interior design) so they chose to limit their restaurant hours. Boy is it worth planning your week around. Delish! Then we went to the Boghat (play on the band name Foghat) celtic music concert at the Opera House, a spectacular performance space. David and Marilyn - a couple from Massachusetts - were also at the concert. Our paths kept crossing as they seemed to have the same itinerary as me (Nellies, Haystack, Boghat).
Founded in 1999 by my AirBnB hosts, the Opera House is a thriving venue with first run movies on the weekends, concerts and plays during the week. Cool architectural design. Judith retired a couple years ago to focus on writing, and Linda still works in non-profit development. Lovely people - I was lucky to spend a chunk of time with them.
Although I think Bar Harbor is lovely (I stopped there for a day in October), when I passed thru it was too crazy with tourists so I passed straight through. I found a sweet little farm restaurant and had a fabulous salmon salad, and a great chat with the owner Christian while sitting at the counter. He and his wife just opened the place in the past year - it was between Maine (his birthplace) and Tucson (his wife's birthplace) but they settled on Maine. It is a refreshing change from all the lobster shacks and I wish them great success!
Then I headed into Acadia National Park - I spent a chunk of time there in 1992 and it is still beautiful. I particularly love the miles of old carriage roads - built by John D Rockefeller who vacationed there with his family in the early 1900s (around the same time the Roosevelts were on Campobello). The roads are now perfect for hikers, bikers and equestrians. Lovely.
Back "home" to Eastport
I sure loved Deer Isle - the one thing that would keep me from living there - the bugs! They unfortunately loved me . . . Back home to Eastport.