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.
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.
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.
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?)
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.
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.