Heaven to Hell

In the two and a half days we’re at Acadia National Park we hike eighteen miles. The skies are clear and the temperature is perfect. In Bar Harbor we enjoy our wonderful hotel and the touristy shopping. Every meal we have is delicious and one evening we’re entertained by ancient Celtic tunes played on an acoustic guitar. We’re sad to leave the area. I highly recommend a visit to Acadia and Bar Harbor.

Our next lodging turns out to be more adventurous than I prefer. Following the rather frantic voice in our phone, we drive four hours southwest, to Huttopia, a cluster of canvas covered frames with wooden floors on a serene lake in the White Mountains. When we arrive it’s so hot and humid that my clothes stick to me. The apathetic receptionist tells us that we can’t drink the water and that we’re to recycle. She knows nothing about the area, though she’s heard talk of hikes. Unhelpful as she is, she tells me I have beautiful eyes so she’ll always have a place in my heart.

I try to be a good sport about things, but our new temporary home is a huge disappointment. The information on Huttopia’s website touts space to sleep five, indoor and outdoor dining areas, a stovetop and refrigerator, and a full bathroom. And on the surface, all this is true; except that what they’re calling a stovetop is actually a crappy burner on the porch, and the two and a half beds could only sleep five if they’re talking about four-year-olds. Most dismaying is that there’s no storage room anywhere, which means the suitcases take up the table. And the bathroom is the size of a closet. Not only do we have to put the sheets on the beds, but we’re expected to strip them and deliver them somewhere when we depart. I know I sound spoiled, but this place is costly. 

Also, we’re asked to wash our dishes before we leave, which in my mind means we’ll be eating off dishes that were (or weren’t) cleaned by the previous tenant. I thoroughly scrub the dishes before we eat off of them. As I’ve stated in previous write-ups, this trusting the guests to prepare for the next guests is a stupid and careless concept. 

The next morning it’s so cold that neither of us can get warm. We huddle in three layers beneath blankets, muttering that surely it’ll warm up later in the day. There’s a heater that’s on a thirty-minute timer. It puts out little heat, though the glow creates the illusion. 

Even worse, though, is the hike that claims to be four miles long but is closer to seven. And it’s not a hike, it’s a climb, a steep one. I’m horrible at going both up and down. Five hours in I’m so exhausted that I’m fighting tears. And shamefully, my every stumbling step is accompanied by a bitter expletive. Complaining is probably the best and worst thing I do. 

“Come and look at this view,” David says when we reach the peak. He stands right on the edge of a granite shelf looking down over a beautiful valley. 

“You think I haven’t heard myself for the last two hours? If I were to stand there nobody on the planet would blame you for giving me a push.”

He shrugs and takes a few pictures. It takes us longer to get down than it did to get up, altogether five-and-a-half hours of misery. I’m so bone-weary that I can’t lift my feet and I hurt everywhere. I tell David that if he asks what’s for lunch when we get back I’m hitting him with my walking stick. He chuckles. He’s a much better sport than I am. 

The next morning I’m appalled to see that, though we left it clean the night before, our tiny food prep counter is covered with mouse turds. I fondly recall how, before we moved to our country home outside Marble Falls, I didn’t know what a mouse turd looked like. Shuddering in revulsion, I wipe the mousy surface with the same sponge I used earlier for washing dishes; and will use again when I wash up before we go. It is what it is.

After this episode, we drive an hour to catch the Cog Train to the summit of Mount Washington. If you’re ever in this area you should definitely do this. A particularly arduous segment of the Appalachian Trail, Mount Washington is the tallest peak in New England. When we reach the top it’s twenty-eight degrees and we’re consumed by a cloud. I buy a pair of gloves in the gift shop. 

On the way back to our frigid tent/hut we stop for lunch in Conway, at a nondescript restaurant called The Lobster Trap. And indeed, there is a splintered lobster trap by the entrance. David orders baked halibut and I have clam chowder; and believe me, a person doesn’t lose weight by ordering clam chowder for lunch every day. A couple of hours later David gets sick. Traveling can be hard on the system.

 The view from the top of the White Ledge Loop, a hellish climb.

The view from the top of the White Ledge Loop, a hellish climb.

 The two of us in front of the cog train at the bottom of Mount Washington. This was a fun and interesting excursion.

The two of us in front of the cog train at the bottom of Mount Washington. This was a fun and interesting excursion.

 From the top of Mount Washington. The mountain is in the clouds three hundred days a year. If you catch it on a clear day you can see a hundred miles in every direction.

From the top of Mount Washington. The mountain is in the clouds three hundred days a year. If you catch it on a clear day you can see a hundred miles in every direction.

 Our bathroom at Huttopia. I bumped my knees when I sat on the toilet. Also on this entire trip there have been no lids on toilets, which is disgusting, and only the cheapest toilet paper.

Our bathroom at Huttopia. I bumped my knees when I sat on the toilet. Also on this entire trip there have been no lids on toilets, which is disgusting, and only the cheapest toilet paper.