family road trip: coastal Maine

After lunch, we drove four hours north, up through Portland and Freeport (where we stopped to do some browsing at LL Bean headquarters), to my friend Mavis’s house where we’d be staying for the next several nights. 

She had these shirts waiting for us on our pillows.

When I, worried about abusing their hospitality, had emailed Mavis a few days before we left regarding bedding — did we need to air mattresses? bedding and towels? — this was her response (summarized):

Dear Mrs. Murch, 

Thank you for reaching out. Here at Camp Butterfield we are a full service facility. In addition to the double twin room, we have 2 queen air mattresses with organic cotton sheets and new pillows for your enjoyment. We also supply all our guests with 1 cotton organic towel each. All our bathrooms come equipped with shampoo, conditioner, body wash, hand soap and toilet paper. Also available on request are toiletries such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, cough drops, q-tips and sunscreen. If you have any other questions about your upcoming stay here at Camp Butterfield, please don’t hesitate to drop us a line. We are here to help 24/7.

Mavis Butterfield
Co-Owner / Operator Camp Butterfield

I’d burst out laughing and quickly typed back: Point made, message received: WE ARE ON VACATION. Camp Butterfield, here we come!!!!! 

photo credit: my younger daughter

After a quick tour of their new (to them) home, and a visit to the dock, we gathered around the table for a pickety bits extravaganza. Unsure of our arrival time, I’d told my friend not to count on us for supper and then, like my sister-in-law, she went all out anyway. Do I see a pattern here? 

Not that I was fussing! The feast was vast, varied, and very delicious. My favorite thing was super simple, too: the cream cheese topped with a sweet hot pepper jelly. I couldn’t stop eating it. 

The next day, we breakfasted on the deck and then took off with the kids for a little exploring. We went first to a lighthouse located nearly a mile out at the end of a breakerwater.

The wind was fierce, but it was gloriously sunny. We meandered, staring at the seagulls, walking down to the little side docks (on one, I layed down, shut my eyes, and savoured the rocking dock and warm sun), and waving at the passing boats. 

At a nearby town, we stopped for coffee and pastries…

the one nanosecond in which they weren’t fighting

And then we headed back to the house to go kayaking. (My son had already gone out early that morning with Mavis: while they were on the water, the tide went out and they had to hike back in through the thick mud. He loved it.)

photo credit: my younger daughter

Being out on the water was slightly freaky. I couldn’t see the bottom and I kept worrying I’d run aground on rocks or tip right over. Plus, I was terribly clumsy with the oars: my hands kept knocking against the side of the kayak and I dripped water all over my legs. Gradually, though, I got a little better at turning and stopping and going straight (the hardest part, I thought). I even got brave enough to intentionally run the kayak aground on a little island and explore it. There was lots of poop on it — not runny bird poop, but actual turds. Do seagulls poop turds? Hmm.

photo credit: my younger daughter

While the tide was still out, Mavis took me and my younger two (my husband and older daughter stayed behind to work on insurance stuff, lucky them) out in the little dinghy to get fresh lobster. Traveling by boat to get your food, tying up the boat at the dock (after first crashing into it, ha), picking lobster from cages that the farmer just hauled dripping from the water —- can it get anymore quintessential Maine? I think not.

The farmer, in his thick New England accent, showed us the difference between males and females, soft shelled and hard. I didn’t absorb much of what he said though — I was in “newness overload.” Also, lobsters are disturbingly similar to scorpions. Whoever thought to eat them? 

demonstrating how they measure them to make sure they’re big enough

The lobsters purchased — three soft shelled and three hard for 70 dollars total — we plunked them into the bucket we’d brought and headed back onto the water, this time to go to town to check out a general store, on our way passing the infamous Forrest Gump lighthouse.

And then then the waves picked up and so did our speed and soon we were skimming across the tops, which is akin to repeatedly slamming into five-foot deep potholes. The kids and I held on for dear life and screamed with laughter while Mavis dodged lobster buoys and focused on not-capsizing us. (Or maybe that was just luck?)

We poked our heads in the store (my son bought a whoopie pie) and coffee shop, and used the public portapotties (because wave jumping and full bladders do not a happy seafaring team make). 

On the way back, Mavis let my daughter drive, and I got to see what a gifted teacher she is: her instructions were calm and clear, and she was both trusting and hands-off, just letting my daughter get a feel for the dinghy, giving verbal direction only when necessary. It was impressive; my daughter was thrilled.

Back home, we did the whole lobster meal experience thing: boiled lobster dipped in butter, potatoes, rolls, corn-on-the-cob. (Except for my younger daughter who’d sprouted a migraine and spent the next day-plus in bed.) The lobster was good, but seeing as it was the first fresh lobster I’d ever had, I’m not really qualified to really say more than that. 

Well, except this: considering how much work it takes, and how messy it is — squirting brine! runny guts! drippy butter! — I can not imagine eating lobster in a restaurant with any sort of dignity. How do people do it? And why?

This same time, years previous: the quotidian (6.24.19), fruit-filled coffee cake, better iced coffee, my ethical scapegoat, the quotidian (6.25.12), two bad things, beef empanadas, one whole year.


  • SB

    So fun!! We went on a road trip a few years back to the SouthWest and stopped by and stayed with a couple friends along the way. I was so not prepared for their amazing hospitality: meals, sleeping spaces, taking time off work, planning excursions, etc. I mean, when people stay at my place, I try to show them a good time, but our various friends made us feel so special that it made me want to “up” my hosting game.

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