A delayed flight from Raleigh-Durham International led to a missed connecting flight in Washington D.C., and we wanted to climb a rock.
It’s midnight-thirty, and we find ourselves in a line behind a dozen others from our flight - calling loved ones, commiserating with each other and almost all of them on the verge of tears. We take turns leaning our weight onto our singular rolling suitcase as we stand in line, rubbing our eyes, rehearsing the details of what to tell the airline agent:
“Hi. Our flight was delayed. We’re trying to get into Bangor, but because of the situation we couldn’t make our connecting flight. Do you have anything for first thing tomorrow morning?”
The agent's response:
“I’d put you on the first one tomorrow at 8:00 a.m., but because it’s sold out and a holiday weekend, there’s pretty much no chance you’ll make it on board. The best chance you have is to rent a car and drive there.
We have two days to drive from D.C. to Maine, then come home. We could have cut our losses and gotten on the next flight home after a full night’s rest – but we don’t have a habit of cutting our losses. We have a habit of challenging them.
It’s 3 a.m., and we’re hauling tuchus up I-95 North outside of Newark, Delaware. We’ve had copious amounts of caffeine and are too delirious to have any useful thoughts. In the hour-and-a-half since picking up our car, getting lost in Downtown D.C. and booking it towards the turnpike, we decided to rest at the first place we could find for a few highly-needed hours of sleep.
Day one is complete, and we still have a little under seven hundred miles to go.
The next morning was more of the same: Traffic. Red Bull. Frustration. Note to the wise - never drive through Westchester County on Memorial Day Weekend. It’s not a shortcut to New England. It’s purgatory with wheels.
We were too tired to think about why we were carrying on with our journey. We now only had one full day to explore anything in Maine. Twelve hours spent with no radio, garbage food and a whole lot of doubt. Sometimes we would check to see which airport we were driving by to find a flight home. We’d ignore those opportunities to abandon ship with lines like, “I don’t want to fly out of Bridgeport.”; “We would get home at the same time as we would get to Maine.”; “We’re already this far, why not just finish the trip?”
Morale is hard to sustain when faced with the chance to get home while everything seems to be going wrong. But we wanted to climb a rock.
More quiet. More doubt. More Waiting.
We got into our destination at Bar Harbor at around 10 p.m. and were met by a very sweet couple who owned the bed and breakfast we had made reservations in – although they were quite surprised that we actually showed up. They pointed us toward where to get a decent meal at a late hour nearby, we dropped our luggage and went straight to the local pub.
Our moods immediately brightened the moment we stopped moving. Warm food not next to a freeway can do incredible things (of course, it was lobster). We started negotiating what our singular day not traveling would consist of.
Since we only had one day ahead of us to do anything indicative of an adventure - we had two options: One, rent a boat to take us to the ocean and see whales for the first time in our lives. Two, Acadia National Park. We had limited time for either, but we wanted to try tackle both in the same day.
It rained the rest of the evening into the morning, and we woke up to fog and mist. May in Bar Harbor is about 20 degrees cooler than North Carolina. When it rains you can be fooled into thinking it’s October. It smells like dead leaves and salt water, with an elderly pumpkin wilting away somewhere distant.
The weather cleared, and remained overcast and cool. We got word that the storm overnight had caused rough seas off Mt. Desert Island (which we were staying on), and our boat had to stay docked.
Option one was out. Considering the theme of our experience over the weekend, we were already jaded to news like this.
Acadia it is.
Foggy. Mysterious. Straight out of the exposition to a psychological thriller or zombie classic. It was time to climb a rock.
Fortunately, the Acadia National Park is only about 10 minutes from Bar Harbor. Considering it was a holiday weekend, the park had hundreds of visitors. But once we picked a trail – we started with Beehive – we quickly found our peace.
Beehive is only about 550 feet above sea level, but the climb is narrow, steep and jagged. There are a handful of cliffs and climbs where it feels like you could fall at any second. The fog below only added to the feeling of being higher than you actually are. Upon reaching the top, we saw nothing but the silhouettes of pine trees and a couple of lumpy shadows where the other hills sit. The mountain rewarded us with a perfectly chilled breeze, and an abundance of wild plants that aren’t seen back home.
We sat for a good while and took it in. Everything that seemed to have pushed us to the edge of sanity during the past 48 hours finally started to dissipate into the fog. We got away.
If there’s anything that remedies an exhausting journey, it’s feeling like you’re defying death and doing it with a camera. The ups and downs of any adventure are what stick with us the most, and sometimes the conveniences we’re given can distract from the values and lessons we gain along the way.
Even with the missed flights, traffic jams and most conveniences taken away – we often find ourselves repeating to each other a phrase we learned through the work of the late photojournalist and artist, Dan Eldon:
The journey is the destination.
This philosophy has kept us sane, driven and flexible for years. We don’t just appreciate this idea – we live by it. It keeps us moving and trying. It gets us to take risks and appreciate where we are in the moment.
Making it to Acadia could have gone in any direction. Call it fate, luck or the stars aligning – we got to experience every emotion on the spectrum and sights we never got to see. We made every moment count. Whether it was driving through Baltimore at 2 a.m. or scaling a cliff in the fog, the experience remains ours to appreciate and share.
Our next adventure is unknown, but we hope to know soon. Until then, from our lens to yours, thank you for reading this month’s long read.