Grape Island, Boston Harbor

On the return drive from Maine we camped on an island in the Boston Harbor.

The view to Boston

Grape Island is one of the smaller islands accessible by ferry in the Boston Harbor Islands park. At one time a hay farm, the island is low and covered mostly in sumac and fruit trees, with plenty of wildlife, a surprising number of moonflowers along the shoreline, and yes a few grape-covered arbors. The grass-covered paths cut through the 40 acres of the island’s interior reminded us almost of an English garden, so quiet, neat, and full of life.

You must carry in and out everything you need on the island, our one night stay only needed some water and the makings for a cheese and sausage platter dinner. We took the ferry from Hingham, a 10 minute ride and the first stop among the islands from this direction. There are 10 campsites on the island, only 4 were occupied for our stay, and for the most part we seemed to have the island to ourselves. The majority of our time between setup and dark was spent exploring the entire perimeter of the island, enjoying the fine gravel beach and the full transition from low to high tide.

Looking for rocks
Boulders revealed by low tide
The isthmus nearly gone
Sunset is coming

In the evening a thunderstorm rolled by, a refreshing shower on the rocks for a few minutes and beautiful lightning in the distance. After a few minutes it had passed and the sun returned. A rare perfect moment in life.

Stormclouds
Rain on a tidepool
Embracing the rain

Deer Isle, Maine

At the start of August, before leaving Philadelphia, we took one more trip to see New England. Our planned destination: Acadia NP, and a nearby sustainable homestead hostel on Deer Isle.

Untitled

I first discovered this project in a writeup a year ago about the timber-framed colonial-era construction of the hostel building, and then followed Anneli’s blog for their perspective on running an off-grid hospitality venture. Dennis would later in the weekend show us his axe collection: his father was a champion lumberjack and passed on a deep caring for tools that shape wood. Each axe had a story, a purpose, and a very sharp edge.

Untitled

We spent two nights with the hostelers, the experience was superb in part for the foggy wooded island setting, in part for the ways it reflected the best of hosteling and encountering unexpectedly like-minded fellow travelers, and mostly for the surprising ways Dennis and Anneli have made a rustic experience reflect the grace of their caring attention. The hostel is well-run, well-crafted, and well-thought-out.

Our first night there we hiked off towards the coast a ¼-mile through the woods by a trail into the next-door Edgar M. Tennis Preserve.

Untitled
Untitled

Dinner each night at the hostel is a collective effort with the hosts asking for specific non-staple/non-garden needs, which they then prepare and share with everyone at the common table in the downstairs of the hostel building, and ask that guests share the dishes duty afterwards. An advantage of the small size of the hostel – max guests at this time is ~14: everyone can reasonably sit at dinner and join in the conversation. That first night we were joined by a Seattle yoga instructor staying the week, and a family (parents and early-20s kids) returning to Maine for a family vacation after several years away at school and first jobs. The second night we shared stories with a couple of librarians down from New Brunswick and an older single woman from Massachusetts – the hostel was closer to full that night, but several guests either chose to spend the evening in Stonington or arrived quite late.

There is a pump on property but no running water or electricity in the hostel building – solar-charged lamps provide evening lighting, a gas stove heats water hauled up in five-gallon containers, and a composting toilet with ample sawdust and a sink and mirror is situated out the back door. There is an ingenious open-roofed showering room off in the woods, with a spigot run through a coil in the midst of a compost pile – hot water a short lift away. In each case, these potentially off-putting off-grid inconveniences were introduced by our hosts in happy tones and showed a detailed craft and accomodation that made them welcoming and inspiring. (Of course, not as foreign or off-putting for me as for an imagined average guest?)

Untitled

Untitled

On our second day we drove up and around to Acadia National Park, including a quick hike in the foggy rain to the top of Flying Mountain and fresh crab at a roadside stand. The drive along the sounds and inlets was idyllic, the hike vertical with great views south to the mouth of Somes Sound, and the crab a perfect taste of the sea. We returned to the hostel refreshed and with plenty of time for relaxing, reading, and a sun-filled shower.

Untitled
Untitled

Untitled
As we left at 8am the next morning, Stephanie wished for coffee and muffins. And suddenly there it was, a muffin shop in the backroom of an old couple’s home, the blueberry and rhubarb muffins steaming out of the centrally placed ceramic oven and the coffee just being brewed as we waited chatting with the owners. “Oh, we’ve heard good things about that hostel up there, glad you had a good time on Deer Isle.” Thank you, we had a lovely weekend in Maine.

Untitled