acadia overlook

Today’s story is both hard and good, both terrifying and beautiful. It’s about what we did last Sunday, after blueberry pancakes at Jeannie’s in Bar Harbor, when we visited Acadia National Park, hiking and climbing and struggling; and it’s about what we didn’t do, never reaching Thunder Hole, which we’d come to see. It even includes two recipes at the end. I feel grateful to be able to tell it, and grateful that you are reading, and, mostly, grateful it didn’t become the last thing I lived to do.

Things started off well: After breakfast, we’d driven to the park and stopped at an overlook to take photos of the European-like landscape of hills and water and unique houses, at which I said, Isn’t this beautiful? Look at the views! I love nature!, and then continued to the visitors’ center to pick up a map.

At that same visitors’ center, I pointed out a sign that warned most injuries have occurred from falling off steep cliffs while hiking or biking, and we both shrugged it off, not planning to head towards any steep cliffs, just hike a little through the forest, and, though a little hot, wasn’t this a beautiful day?

On our way to Thunder Hole, a popular site for watching powerful waves that we’d had recommended to us, a forest ranger stopped traffic, one car at a time, to divert us to another path; Thunder Hole was closed because of a rescue mission (which I’d later learn related to a tragedy involving the death of a seven-year-old girl).

bubble pond

So we started instead near a place called Bubble Pond, taking a path that hugged the water, smelling fresh air and hearing the wind rustle through the trees, crunching on a leaf-strewn, muddy path. I remember feeling so happy right there, enjoying the natural beauty of Maine, not just the commercialization or the businesses or the flashy attractions, but the pure honesty of what has been preserved, and I said something about the trees growing on the mountain across the water: Crazy that no one waters them, right? And Adam said, Just God, and I said, Yeah.

fall leaf

We linked up with what’s called a carriage trail, designed for horses and bikers to go through, wide and cleared and lined with forests. It had rained earlier, I guess, because there were puddles here and there, some with colorful autumn-like leaves that reminded me of October and I had to take pictures of, for being as quick to embrace fall as I am.

leaves

And then something changed: we hooked back up with the hiking trail, one that would loop around back to the parking lot we’d come from and, which, according to the map, would take us by a mountain. As soon as we joined it, the landscape switched from paved paths and surrounding forests to smooth stones leading to a series of small blue markers and uniquely arranged rocks. I still had my camera in my hand, and I said something about the forest doing such a good job of creating a path on the mountain! It was almost like they’d made steps out of trees and rocks!

And that’s when things really changed.

me and mountain

I will spare you an hour’s worth of hands gripping jagged rocks and legs scraping against sharp stones, in which I said, more than once, I really don’t think I can do this, but I knew I had no choice, and tell you that we made it to the top—or what seemed like the top but was really a large plateau with open views, very near the top—of the mountain. By this point, my camera was tucked into Adam’s bag as I’d needed both hands to hoist myself onto boulders and snake through crevices, and we were both dripping with sweat, breathing heavily, and I had streams of blood dripping down my left leg.

A very sweet lady who looked to be in her sixties or seventies popped up from a different path at this plateau, accompanied by a friend with a cane and a small dog (!), all smiling and friendly, offering to take our photo before we had time to process what we were seeing. I told her, Wow, this was a workout! And she said, You’re not to the top yet! and continued along with her company like they were skipping down a sidewalk in the middle of a town.

Despite how it may seem in the picture she took, it’s hard to explain to you how I felt then, how completely and deeply terrified and, well, spent—thirst and heat (and an already small fear of heights) compounded by the unknowns of getting back down the mountain. I knew there was no one I could call to rescue me, no backup plan for an emergency exit. I was going to have to get back down, likely along a steep, rock-shaped path like the one we’d climbed, and I couldn’t imagine myself doing it.

My brother told me we’d just follow the same blue markers that had led us up, and I tried to follow him, quiet the way I am when I am really scared, thinking one foot at a time, but just steps from the top, I slipped on a damp space, falling for the fourth or fifth time, and cut open my left hand. That’s when I started crying. Adam laughed (I do, too, looking back, although not at all at the time) to try and calm me down, and I took off my top tank top to tie around my hand and stop its bleeding.

One step in front of another, just one at a time, I started saying this out loud, which also made Adam laugh, and, slowly, very slowly, we descended back to ground level.

sign

In so many ways, the story of me and this mountain is an easy metaphor for the rest of life, and I don’t just mean that there are highs and lows, or that there are difficulties, or that sometimes you can do things you never thought possible.

I do mean all those things, because they’re true, and they raced through my mind, several times mid-mountain, as I was grabbing onto a rock with bleeding hands or hoisting myself down a crevice I thought impassable (you know, whenever I wasn’t praying, Please, God, let me see normal ground again). But I don’t mean only those things.

There’s something about coming face to face with an enormous mountain, one that no human created, filled with trees that no people water, surrounded by wildlife that survives through summer heat and rainy days and long winters that is good.

It humbles you as it terrifies you, reminding you of how incredibly small you are, even compared to just one mountain in one park in one state that is just part of one nation in one planet in a universe. I’ve been thinking about it in the days since I got home again, realizing Maine—and that mountain—are still going on without me, that someone’s climbing right now, gripping those same rocks, looking at the same incredible views; that other travelers are staying at our inns and eating at our restaurants, and that millions of people, that you, are living lives irrespective of mine, which seems so small. It’s awe-inspiring. It’s also freeing, to see that you could have died, easily, but didn’t. And it’s something I’ll be thinking (and probably talking) about for a long time; I’m thankful I can.

The Joy of Frying
And in the spirit of embracing that which is foreign and frightening: I have learned to fry things only recently, and now there is no turning back. It started with fried [red] tomatoes (thank you, Jacqui!), then moved to fried zucchini based on a favorite appetizer at Maggiano’s, then culminated in homemade corn fritters after I’d spent an afternoon in the country and brought six cobs back to my kitchen. I’ve been meaning to give you these recipes anyway, and I can’t think of a better time than now.

zucchini

Fried Zucchini
Adapted from Maggiano’s, as seen at LeannSchmid.com

I should tell you that I love (LOVE) fried zucchini, and this recipe makes a version as good as the kind we ordered for dinner on my birthday Tuesday night. This is the best way to eat zucchini, trust me, and it’s really simple, once you tell yourself frying is no big deal (and it isn’t!).

Ingredients:
1-2 zucchini
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups corn starch
2 1/2 cups soda water
1/2 Tablespoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Bread crumbs

Citrus Sauce
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon orange juice
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (or 2 t. dried)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1 Tablespoon olive oil

Directions:
Wash and remove stems of zucchini. Cut zucchini into thin, round pieces.

Make batter: measure soda water in bowl; combine dry ingredients and add them to the soda water, mixing with whisk. Should be like thin pancake batter.

Dip each zucchini slice in batter and allow to drip off slice. Dip zucchini into breadcrumbs, pressing crumbs to coat well.

Carefully place these on tray to wait for frying. Do not overlap.

Fry breaded strips in 350 degree oil until crisp and golden; drain on napkin lined with paper towel. Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt.

Serve with Citrus Sauce: To make citrus sauce: Combine all ingredients but olive oil and whisk together; let chill for about an hour. Add olive oil to thin as needed.

corn fritters

Corn Fritters
Adapted from Pioneer Woman Cooks

Big thank you to Hannah who suggested this recipe to me via Twitter. I gave these corn fritters to other people who are known to tell me when something is just so-so, and they raved, popping one soft, hot, sweet fritter after another into their mouths.

Ingredients:
4 generous cups corn kernels (I used fresh, but you could also use frozen or canned)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
1/2 cup skim milk (more to thin, if desired)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Vegetable oil, for frying
Powdered Sugar

Directions:
Mix flour, sugar and baking powder in a bowl, and add eggs, milk, salt and cayenne pepper. Stir this all together and fold in corn. Batter will be goopy and chunked with corn.

In a pot or skillet (I used my Lucy Le Creuset), heat about an inch of oil to 365 degrees. When it’s ready, drop spoonfuls of batter into the pot and cook, flipping them when they are golden brown on the bottom, cooking both sides.

Remove them from the pot with a slotted spoon and place them on a plate lined with a paper towel. Sprinkle with lots of powdered sugar and enjoy!

Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 18 Comments

  1. Laura

    You’re so lucky to have spent time in Acadia! Thunder Hole is one of my favorite places in the world, and although it’s a shame you missed it, it seems you still got to experience some of Acadia’s breathtaking beauty. I’m so jealous of your recent trip! (Doesn’t Acadia just smell SO wonderful??)

    P.S. The next time you go (you’ll go back, right? there are so many more mountains to climb…) you MUST eat in 2 Cats in Bar Harbor, where I’ve had the best breakfast I’ve ever eaten in my life.

  2. Lan

    oh wow, what a hike! so glad you made it out safely and all the more stronger and wiser. i find moments like this in life, sometimes perilous & terrifying, to be the ones that teach you the most about yourself and just how far your limits are. i hope you’re not turned off by hiking forest/mountain trails.

  3. Jacqui

    i’ve told you this before and i’m telling you again because i’m just in awe: you have this insane gift of turning everything into a deep, beautiful life lesson. everything comes full circle and everything has a meaning and everything, big and small, from climbing a mountain to frying a zucchini, presents a whole new way of looking at the world, people, and food. and they’re all connected, of course, and you show us that with every post.

    now i’m going to have that song “climb every mountain” from the sound of music stuck in my head all day.

  4. Jennifer

    Oh lady, my palms are sweating from this read. I would have reacted similarly in such a situation as I’m not a fan of heights (I blame San Fran streets). I admire how you trekked onward despite fear and agony. Thanks for sharing this (as well as these recipes) with us. Your account is vivid and moving.

  5. Caitlin

    Oh wow – I have a small fear of heights as well, so rockclimbing = TERRIFYING! What an amazing experience to look back on though, right? And those corn fritters? Yep, you just picked what I’m having for dinner tonight :)

  6. Kim

    I think you can rightfully call yourself a badass now, for the record. My life motto is “You have to do the best you can with what you have,” and I think that sometimes that means pushing yourself a little bit further. Just to see.

    Also, I am all about frying, but lately I am all about BAKING (aka faux-frying), to make things a little healthier. See: http://kimskitchensink.blogspot.com/2009/05/chicken-parm.html – and ALSO also, since you like goat cheese now, you should stuff some squash blossoms with goat cheese (mix with a little olive oil and fresh herbs, and pipe into the blossoms with a ziplock bag with the tip cut off) and batter ‘em up and fry ‘em! Mmmmmm (these can be baked too of course)

  7. carolyn

    i’ve been to Bubble Pond and probably on that same trail you hiked, too (years ago)! tell me you got tea and popovers at Jordan Pond. even though i did that when i was about 12, it’s one of my best memories of vacationing in maine! —carolyn

  8. Kristilyn (Domestic Goddess)

    Wow – kudos to you for finishing that mountain! I know I probably would have broken down in tears and demanded to be carried the rest of the way if I was covered in blood.

    And yum … corn fritters are my favourite! With powdered sugar? Mmm. Never had fried zucchini before but I might have to attempt it. Thanks!

    K

  9. TJ

    The place looks beautiful. I saw the story about the little girl on the news. It was really sad. We have spots like that out here in our coastal forests, too. I’ve seen a lot of mountains in almost decade out here, but they still inspire that same sense of awe and wonder and humility.

  10. Alicia

    Wow, this is by far my favorite post EVER. First of all, I was totally cracking up (sorry) picturing this whole scenario. You really are a great writer! I even read my mom some parts, showed her the pics, and then said I wanted to go to Maine.

    Second, everything you said about nature is exactly what I say all the time! I love love love nature so much, and it’s because no human created it and it’s so much bigger than we are. People are so revolved in their own lives, but it’s so true that we’re such a small part of this world! It made me so happy to hear someone else say the things that I feel.

  11. Shannalee

    Laura, Would you believe we almost ate at 2 Cats instead? The line was long, and I was hungry, so I voted for Jeannie’s, but my brother wanted 2 Cats, and now with your further endorsement, I’m sorry we listened to me! (Although those blueberry pancakes were great!)

    Lan, I’ve been thinking a lot about whether I would do this again, and maybe. But I’d want to bring supplies and I’d want to be mentally prepared ahead of time for what we are going to do. I’m heading to Colorado next month with some friends, and I already told them the easy paths are the way to go. You can call me chicken.

    Antonietta, Thank you! It’s funny how far you’ll stretch yourself when YOU HAVE NO CHOICE! Ha!

    Jacqui, That may be the sweetest comment I’ve ever gotten here. Thank you, friend. I love that you just get it, you know? Always. Thank you.

    Jennifer, You are so kind. It’s nice to look back at this event, a week later, but at the time I was anything but courageous, I promise! PS – my palms still sweat when I remember the hike!

    Emily, I have never tried that! Is there anything that isn’t good fried? I submit not.

    Caitlin, Looking back is fantastic, no doubt about it. Looking ahead? so scary I cannot even talk about it. Did you make the corn fritters!? I’d love to hear what you think!

    Kim, Fun! I love new recipe ideas. And I love baking, but that goes without saying. So now I need to cook with goat cheese – that’s the next step!

    Carolyn, That’s incredible that you were in the same place! Now I want tea and popovers from Jordan Pond! Is this a restaurant? Something in Acadia? So sorry to have missed it!

    Kristilyn, My brother and I talked about it later, post-climb, and he said when I started crying, he was just thinking he had to get me to calm down because there’s was no way he could carry me or help me, really. It was the craziest feeling to know there was no way out but the scariest one. I still can’t believe we did it.

    TJ, I know, it was so sad! I guess 20 or so people got swept away by the wave, which is so insane to even imagine – and so humbling, yes.

    JessieV, You’re welcome, and I hope you try them!

    Alicia, You’re sweet. And tell your mom, See, she reads it! (even if it’s read to her, that counts) Glad to know you have the same thoughts and glad to know you because of it. Really.

  12. kickpleat

    We just breezed through Maine, though we did stop at a great brewery for beers & bbq in Bar Harbour, along with a stop at Red’s for a lobster roll and a great breakfast in Portland. I wish we would have had more time for a hike. Sounds amazing! Too funny we were there at the same time!

  13. Shannalee

    Hey! I was JUST thinking about you because I’m making your super-easy strawberry cake—it’s baking as I type. And I! know! about us being in Maine at the same time—so funny! I loved reading your Twitter updates because I was cruising around the state at the same time. I hope you’ll be posting about it (and everywhere else you went)? Can’t wait to read about it!

  14. sue

    Wow- what a frightening trip! Isn’t it crazy how something like that will haunt you for a while? The times I’ve had something like that happen, I have such a hard time getting my thoughts to drift AWAY from the event! I’m glad you’re on level ground again! :)

  15. Pingback: Cheeseless Crustless Quiche (Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free) | Food Loves Writing

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