I almost want to tag this blog post as an international trip… Does it count if you drove over to another country and then visited an international park? What about if it’s the second international park you have visited in the past two days? How about if you have better Canadian cell phone service at your American campsite than you have AT&T? Does that count?
Our visit to far Downeast Maine and our trip to Campobello Island, Canada has been a study in contrasts. For example: how is it we have better cell phone coverage on a Canadian island than we do on mainland US? Why is it the “park rangers” at the Roosevelt Campobello International Park wear suits and ties? Is that specific to that particular site or that all of Canada’s parks? Are all American tourists grilled so throughly by steely-eyed Canadian customs, or just us?
I digress. On to today’s blog post! We arrived yesterday afternoon to a very pleasant and aptly-named Hilltop Campground in Robbinston, Me. There’s not much here, but at least there are a couple of decent towns nearby.
It is centrally-located to the two park sites we are here to visit: St.Croix Island International Historic Site and Campobello Roosevelt International Park.
We drove to see St. Croix Island IHS yesterday. It tells the story of the first French settlement in the New World, predating Jamestown by three years. The site was abandoned after one year following a winter of privation and disease and they relocated to a larger island in what is now Canada. There was a small visitor center and an interpretive walk, but not much else. The island itself is not quite off limits, but the Park Service does not operate tours there, so you are stuck on the shore looking at the island in the distance.
After a brief trip to Calais (pronounced Callas) for supplies, we adjourned to our campsite.
The campground itself is nice, even if it could use a little love in the bathroom department. The sites are nice and almost have a view of the water. What it lacks in refinement, the owners, Marshall and Donna, more than make up for in hospitality and we more than enjoyed spending happy hour with them yesterday evening.
We also purchased some firewood and finally had a campfire, with the mandatory s’mores as well. For a lot of camping newbies, you would think we would just bring plenty of firewood with us, but most places ban outside wood because it spreads tree diseases.
Today, we got international on this trip! First, we headed south to Lubec, where we walked out to the West Quoddy Head lighthouse, the easternmost point in the continental US. Then we headed across the bridge into Canada to Campobello Island.
Roosevelt Campobello International Park
Campobello Island was once the site of several resort hotels where the wealthy of New York and New England would go to escape the heat of the summer. It was here James Roosevelt and his wife, Sara, brought their young son Franklin and continued coming here every summer while he was growing up.
Franklin later returned to Campobello with Eleanor to a cottage which was a wedding gift from his mother. He continued coming to Campobello with his family until he contracted and became symptomatic with polio. He returned a few times as president, leading up to the war, and each time he did, he had to sail up on a US Navy destroyer so he would have communications.
The house is a large seaside cottage, which almost looks barn-like, with a great view of the water. It was certainly less ostentatious than Roosevelt’s Hyde Park, N.Y. home, but still fairly large, with many rooms for servants and guests.
One major difference between the Canadian park service and the National Park Service was the tour of the home. There were no guided tours of the home, instead various interpreters were posted about the house and allowed visitors to explore the house on their own.
Following our tour of the grounds, we headed to one of the top-rated establishments on the island, Jocie’s Porch, for lunch. It’s a great coffee shop with an outstanding view of the bay, along with some very tasty sandwiches. The menu is very limited, but we knew we wanted something light since we were planning on taking a hike following lunch.
The best park of the park, for me at least, was the five-mile hike we took along the coast. It took us just above the very rugged coast and then through a very pretty forest. It was worth the trip into Canada just for the hike!
On the way back, we stopped into the Lubec Brewing Company for a couple beers and a bite and were pleasantly surprised to find both nice beer and pretty good food. It made for a nice snack on the way back to the campground.