Acadia National Park has been on my travel bucket list for years (I mentioned it in my 2021 resolutions post) and I feel lucky as heck that we were able to sneak in a trip before we leave New England for good. 

 

Acadia is gorgeous. It's sections of Mount Desert Island that used to be a mining site before it was converted into a national park in the early 1900s. It has rocky coastline along the ocean and exposed mountaintops, hence the great views. It's also one of the easternmost parts of the Atlantic coast in the states. This combination makes the park famous for it's sunrises-- it's the first sunrise in the US and one of the most beautiful watching spots. 


The most popular place to watch is Cadillac Mountain-- it's an east-facing peak with a very convenient parking lot. It also requires tickets and we couldn't score any. We asked a parking ranger working the information tent for suggestions and she recommended the Otter Cliffs. We woke up at 3:50 am and drove from our KOA at the edge of Bar Harbor to the cliffs at the southeastern end of the park to catch the 4:30 sunrise.


It was chilly, stunning, and we had most of the view to ourselves. I've obviously never done the Cadillac mountain sunrise, but I think I'd prefer the less popular and therefore less crowded Otter Cliffs anyway.

I did three hikes with various permutations of my mama, brother, and Noah during the trip. My mama and I hiked Great Head, which was definitely the easiest of the three. It was about two miles with both beach and cliff views. Everything was beautiful (I feel like I'm saying that a lot in this post) but I especially loved some of the tidepools we found along the rocky shore.

See? So pretty. 

 

The second hike was with everyone and it was about six miles to summit Acadia mountain and St. Sauveur mountain. These peaks are on the less-popular western side of the park and I loved that we saw plenty of people on the trail but it didn't feel crowded. It was hot while we were there, even by our southern standards. We carried in eight liters of water for the four of us and still had to refill at a creek about two-thirds of the way through.

While we were hiking Great Neck, we saw a rescue helicopter drop into the woods and later learned they were responding to a heat-related emergency. Like I said, it was unusually hot by Maine standards. 

 

It's super SUPER important that you carry enough water and layers with you when you hike. The weather where you start walking may not be the same as the weather on the trail-- this one had two summits with no trees at the top and thin coverage on the upper third of the mountain so the sun was intense-- and you want to prepared to respond to changes in temperature or precipitation with appropriate layers and hydration.

 

A friend on instagram asked how we fill up our bottles and how we determine what's a safe water source. We've done most of our hiking on the east coast in the Appalachian range, so finding running water (creek, river, doesn't really matter) has never been hard and we use a sawyer squeeze filter to clean the water before we drink it. We've never had problems, but we also carry iodine tablets on us in case of emergency. I was grateful for both options on the Acadia/St. Sauveur trail. 

Our final hike was just Noah and I up the very popular beehive trail. This trail is not long or particularly challenging, once you get over the beginning section, which is straight up and has a ladder of railroad ties for you to scramble up. No big deal. 


Seriously, though. The beginning of the trail is not for the faint of heart, the inflexible, people who are afraid of heights or ledges, children, or animals. Once you get up the ladder sections though, it's downhill and pretty easy.

This hike was the one that felt most amusement park-ish. It was crowded and because of the ladder sections we had to wait in single-file lines to hike many sections. I'm glad we did it; it's a quintessentially Acadia experience, but if I had to cut one of these hikes from a future itinerary, it'd be this one. If I had to do it again, I'd get right on this trail after watching sunrise at the Otter Cliffs. The trailhead and the parking lot for the cliffs are not too far apart and it'd be an easy walk. 

 

Noah and Sam went on a half-day climb with a guide from Acadia Mountain Guides, who told us the best lobster rolls in town were at Side Street Cafe. The rolls (and the blueberry-mint-lemonade mocktails we drank with them!) did not disappoint. On our way out of town, we stopped at Choco-latte for some coffee and road trip provisions. Noah recommends the choco-latte. Bar Harbor-- the name of the town right outside the National Park-- is adorable. I'd love to spend more time there. 

 

I also loved our campground; it was super kid and family friendly; there was a basketball court and gaga pit for kids to play in. The campground staff would deliver firewood right to your site and the showers and bathrooms were about as clean as you could make a buggy, beach-side public shower and bathroom. We packed in most of our meals and cooked them over a camp stove or the fire. 


And there you have it! Three big, beautiful days in Acadia National Park. Five stars.






 

 



 Happy January! As I type this, it's gently snowing outside and Noah is rolling out the dough for our family pizza night. He's probably going to kick my butt at cards later (update: he did).  

 

I hope you've had an equally restful start to the new year. I am doing a spending freeze this January-- no spontaneous, un-budgeted purchases this month. Thinking about our budget has made reflect on the small (and big) things that we do save money and minimize the stuff we send to landfill. This was on my mind a lot two years ago when I began this blog; we had just moved to a very expensive new state and our apartment's trash room was constantly overflowing. I stumbled upon the zero-waste philosophy as a solution to both issues and with this budget freeze on my mind this January, I am revisiting a lot of the zero waste principles I learned then. I'm sharing ten here, but if you click back through the "low-waste" tab at the top of this page, you'll find more posts on this topic. 

 

Some of these are very specific suggestions and practices. Others are big ideas-- broader philosophies to guide your budgeting this year. I hope you find them useful as you craft your own budget and low waste practices.


1. Jar Method your groceries. The jar method is an online course that teaches you how to store your groceries (specifically produce) most effectively. Jar method-ing our grocery haul every Sunday takes about an hour of extra work, but makes our produce-- particularly things like herbs, leafy greens, and carrots-- last weeks longer than usual. The class paid for itself in probably two months of saved groceries. I rarely have ingredients go bad before I can use them now.


2. Replace disposable items with reusables. We use bar towels and cloth napkins rather than paper towels and napkins; reusable bags rather than paper or plastic; I use a menstrual cup and thinx rather than tampons or pads. I use a leaf shave razor rather than a disposable razor and Noah uses a safety razor. 

 

The start up cost may be higher, but the items last eons longer than their disposable counterparts. Since we've invested in all these reusables over the course of the last five years, we've never had to replace anything.

 

Well, except our travel mugs. Noah ran over his stainless steel Klean Kanteen with the car on our honeymoon and I gesticulated my glass Keep Cup into a wall a few years ago. But besides that, no replacements needed and no money spent on disposables. 

 


3. If you have a dog, save any soft plastics you acquire for poop bags. We keep a basket by the our front door with any soft plastic bags that we end up acquiring and use them to pick up poop on our dog walks. Soft plastic sneaks in-- wrapped around a Christmas present ordered online or holding the deli meat we need for a specific recipe-- and this gives the bags a second purpose before they go to landfill forever, along with preventing us from having to buy plastic bags solely for this purpose (which I find SO ANNOYING). 

 

If you don't have a dog, you likely have a neighbor or friend who has a furry friend and would love if you gave them your soft plastics!

 

4. Make purchasing decisions based on cost-per-use. This past year, I realized that a $27 bottle of Plaine Products conditioner is actually more affordable than the apple cider vinegar rinse I'd been using. A bottle of conditioner lasts us four months, whereas I was buying a new bottle of ACV every other week. It was a good reminder that just because something is cheaper up-front, doesn't mean it will be more affordable in the long run. 

 

Now, I have super short hair, so I only need the teeniest, tiniest bit of conditioner when I wash my hair daily. Noah has long hair, but it's curly and he doesn't need to wash it everyday. This specific example may not apply to you, but the principle likely does. Cheaper does not always mean more affordable.



5. Buy quality and repair as needed. When I first started teaching, I had major foot pain from standing in cheap shoes all day. At the time, on my budget, it was huge stretch to invest in really quality footwear, but I did. Now, one of my favorite seasonal chores is to take my winter/spring and my summer/fall shoes to be resoled or repaired at the end of every season. I've had most of my shoes for years now, they still look great, and my feet don't hurt at the end of the work day. 

 

I've learned this lesson over and over again-- from our hand-me-down cast iron skillet (which we "repair" by seasoning regularly and cleaning it only with water and this chain mail) to our down jackets (which we patch as needed and wash with a special detergent at the end of the season). 

 

Quality doesn't necessarily mean new or expensive, it simply means well-made. And yes, often well-made and ethically-made things have a price tag that honors the craftsmanship that went into the product, but I like to think of the items I purchase as a lifetime investment. Ideally, the item I am purchasing will never need to be replaced, so I want to buy something that will last. Again, it's that idea of cost-per-use. If it lasts a lifetime (or even a decade), then it's probably a better investment than the thing that will break in a few months and then spend the rest of eternity in a landfill.

6. Have one family meal per week specifically to eliminate stray ingredients and leftovers. We have a family brunch on Sunday where I rework stray ingredients and leftovers (usually by serving it with an egg) into a meal. Sometimes it works out perfectly-- beans, potatoes, and veg over eggs-- and other times it's a bit quirky-- soup and pancakes, but it's always delicious and uses up food that might otherwise go bad.

 

The meal feels extra special because neither of us are big breakfast eaters and we almost never eat breakfast together. We make it together, linger over our food, and before we clean up the dishes we usually plan our grocery list for the upcoming week. 


7. Use your local library's collection, for books, but also for other things, like streaming video or cake pans. Libraries are innovative places and you'll probably be surprised by what they have available for check-out. 


8. Don't treat consumption like a hobby. Shopping, eating out, scrolling social media... these things are not hobbies. When we treat them like hobbies, or mindlessly engage in them, we inevitably end up wasting money and resources on things we don't need. 

 


9. Eat less meat, more thoughtfully. Meat has a notoriously higher carbon footprint than any other food. It's also expensive and, for necessary sanitation reasons, comes vacuum-wrapped in plastic or wax paper. Reorienting a few meals a week-- or heck, even your entire diet-- to focus on plants is good for planet, budget and health. 

 

When you do use meat, consider how you can use all parts of the meat. When we buy a rotisserie chicken, we save the bones in bowl in the freezer to make stock with later. When we make bacon, we save the rendered fat for cooking with later. Also consider that the type of meat you buy matters-- my mama rarely makes beef burgers, instead her burger recipe calls for half lamb (a notoriously oily meat) and half venison (aka deer, a notorious lean, dry meat). They're not only delicious, they're better for the planet, as cow farming is a notorious pollutant. 


10.  Slow your purchases. Lots of purchases are necessary but not urgent. When you want something or need to replace something or run out of something that leads you to consider a new purchase, pause. Don't buy it right away. When you leave a gap between the impulse to buy and actually making the purchase, you may find that you have something on hand that serves just as well-- rather than shave cream, I just do a heavy lather with bar soap-- or that you don't need the thing at all-- we sold our second car and never replaced it. The gap between the want and purchase leaves space for ingenuity and reflection. Do you have something else on hand that could serve the same purpose as that thing? Or do you really need that thing at all?   



I hope you find these inspiring or useful. I hope you're taking care of yourself and the humans you love. 

 

-Madelyn