By Hannah Matranga
On the morning of Thursday, June 9, we hiked out of Seawall Campground on Mount Desert Island, the place we had called home for the past three days. For most, this would be a rather insignificant moment, but for myself and Ryan Raphael this was the beginning of a grand adventure.
After graduating from Roanoke College in May, we decided to take an alternative path to the “recommended routes” of a full-time career or graduate school. Instead, we set out to truly experience our beautiful country by foot. We sold everything, drove to Massachusetts and ditched the car, then made our way to Acadia National Park, the official starting point of our journey.
Our trip consists of very little planning, so our only goal at the moment we walked out of Seawall was to get to Portland by the next night. Unsure of how to get off the island, we were informed by a kind park ranger that we could catch a bus from Bar Harbor to Ellsworth at 3:45. Looking at the map, we realized the 18-mile trek to Bar Harbor would be impossible by then unless we hitched a ride, so we headed out, thumbs in the air.
It took us the better part of two hours to hike the four miles up Route 102 into Southwest Harbor, leaving us less than optimistic about making the bus with 14 miles still looming before us. Just outside of town, a rusty little truck pulled over and we skipped with joy up to the window. “Where are you headed?” asked the bearded character in the driver’s seat. “To Portland!” as he grimaced in response, “or at least to Bar Harbor to catch a bus off the island.” At that he smiled, “Now Bar Harbor I can do, hop in!” So we lumbered into the bed of his truck, arriving in plenty of time to both make our bus and explore the darling town of Bar Harbor.
Boarding the Downeast Transportation bus, we found the hospitality and kindness had only begun with our ride. Despite our oversized backpacks and complete ignorance of where we were headed, the bus driver was extremely patient and even offered to make an extra stop for us. Still unsure of where to go, we ungracefully unloaded from the bus at the old Lowe’s and began our search for a place to stay.
After much debate, we decided to try our luck at a local church, setting our sights on St. Andrew Lutheran. Our original plan to set up camp subtly was foiled when we found the parking lot filled with cars. We decided instead to stop and ask, and stumbled on to something far better than we could have imagined.
Our knock was rewarded with the appearance of a smiling face in the entryway. “Can I help you?” “Yes…Well, maybe,” I said. “We are walking across the U.S. and having a bit of a hard time finding a place to stay here in Ellsworth, so we thought we’d stop and ask to set up camp on your lawn.” A brief moment of puzzlement crossed her face before she answered, “That shouldn’t be a problem, but why don’t you come in first, we’re having dinner.”
We were directed down a hallway and greeted by a room filled with lilting laughter and a spread of food fit for a king. As we shared our plans over dinner, a couple at the end of the table nonchalantly slipped in to the conversation that we should stay at their house and oh, we were going to Portland? Well, that was no problem because they were headed to New York, so they could just drop us off on their way! We were astounded. These people, who were essentially total strangers, had allowed us to dine with them, taken us into their home, provided us with laundry, showers and anything else we could need, and were even now offering to drive us three hours to our next destination.
I read somewhere that “Maine made” was a term that encapsulated the ideas of quality and integrity; I can say from experience that this is true. Not only are your sprawling forests, mystical beaches and infinite views made in Maine, not only are your scrumptious blueberry muffins, delectable maple syrup and hand-carved treasures made in Maine, but as we discovered through our travels, hospitality is also made in Maine.
We would like to extend a special thank you to the owners of Little Notch Cafe in Southwest Harbor, Acadia National Park ranger Karen and trail crew workers Jason and Jed, Pastor Priscilla and the congregation of St. Andrew Lutheran Church, Aaron Brown and Rachel Nobel for going above and beyond any expectations to help us.
Thank you Acadia National Park, the city of Ellsworth and the great state of Maine for treating us like family, making us feel at home and giving us the absolute perfect start to our epic adventure. We are forever grateful to you.
You can follow our adventures at www.somewhereepic.com.
Hannah Matranga and her boyfriend and are recent graduates of Roanoke College in Salem, Va.