Maine has been good to us. We were seeking some down time and we got it. The weather was the best New England has to offer, mostly sunny, breezy and warm, with little humidity. The food was amazing—summer garden vegetables at their peak, local meat and bread, and lobster and steamers straight from the ocean. And three campgrounds—with three slices of campground culture—all different, all good, all doggy.
We spent our first two weeks at Camden Hills State Park, a lovely temporary home. Years ago, on our only previous Maine camping trip, we arrived at a crowded hell-hole of a campground in Damariscotta where we had a reservation. Reservation be damned, we turned right around and continued on. We ended up finding Camden Hills, which was a serene sanctuary in contrast. On this trip, it lived up to my memory.
The campground is just outside of Camden. It has an open field with an old farmhouse fronting the road, but most of the campsites are in dense woods. It’s mostly filled with tents and tiny trailers, a wonderful mix of camping ingenuity, on large, larger, and immense campsites.
There were not many fifth-wheels or Class A RVs—it was tent country. Young, middle-aged, and ancient couples set up all manner of tent compounds, including one three room tent with little crawlways between each room. We watched a couple across from us set up tent, tarp, kitchen, clothesline, and wood pile with military precision. They were at least our age and undaunted by the impending rain. We felt almost soft and citified in our trailer. Well, not really.
In the West, our 22’ trailer is comparatively tiny. But, in Camden Hills, we were one of the big boys on the block. There were itsy-bitsy tear-drops, Casitas, Bambi-sized Airstreams, and several varieties of Roadtrek/Sprinter vans.
Not only was the campground beautiful and spacious, but it was backed by miles of hiking trails, of which we took full advantage. The only downside to the park was that it was so wooded and shady that I was afraid we would have moss on the roof by the time we left.
We emerged into the sun and headed up to Searsport Shores, our second Maine campground. I think of it as the drinking with dogs campground. The owners obviously have put a great deal of love into the place. They have gardens, goats, sheep, weekly lobster bakes, and whimsical ironwork and wood sculptures in paths through the woods. It is on the ocean and many of the waterfront sites have personal decks (although some look out on the Searsport chemical plant). It’s a bit crowded, but not too bad for a private park. When we arrived, George asked if dogs were allowed on the beach. The response was, “Of course, dogs are allowed everywhere here.” Almost everyone had at least one dog. Zoe loved it, with daily swims on the beach and tide-pooling at low tide.
She found a fetching stick that she carried back and forth from the campsite to the beach every day. We were bad and brought it to the next campground with us, even though there are dire warnings everywhere about transporting pests by bringing firewood from campground to campground. She still has the stick.
Every afternoon, people paraded around the campground conspicuously carrying large drinks. They didn’t seem to socialize much, so I never did figure out what the drink cruising was all about. It was fun to watch, though.
Maine seemed much more dog friendly than the rest of New England. For instance, you cannot have a dog at state park campgrounds in Connecticut or Rhode Island. In Maine, on the other hand, Zoe was welcomed everywhere we went (except for Miller’s Lobster). There were lots of places where she could swim and she ate with us outside at the Boatyard Grill in Blue Hill and at Young’s Lobster Pound in Belfast. She was a happy camper. And all the saltwater swimming has rusted her collar so much that it’s turning her neck fur orange.
Finally, there was Recompence. Our third Maine campground was utterly unique. Recompence Shore is part of a non-profit—Wolfe’s Neck Farm—an educational show farm on a peninsula in Casco Bay near Freeport.
It’s not designed for large RVs, but for us it was about perfect. The campsites form a necklace around the farm, which has sheep, cattle, hay fields, and gardens. They have a summer camp program, which looked absolutely wonderful, kayak rentals, a farm stand with meat and produce from the farm, and a small snack hut with locally-sourced food.
We loved it and hated to leave.