The Student Becomes the Teacher: 3 Days in Acadia National Park

Article by Holly Leone

The Student Becomes the Teacher: 3 Days in Acadia National Park

Like a Thanksgiving meal or themed birthday party, camping is one of those things that's fun to attend but an undertaking to execute.

I’ve been fortunate enough to attend many camping trips in my life. As a child and certified Good Helper, I was typically part of the support crew — carrying, cleaning, and doing other minor tasks. As a young adult, I graduated to more independent responsibilities, like handling meals or cooler duty.

Last year, I joined the NEMO team as the Furniture Developer and although I’m an experienced camper at this point, I realized I had a lot to learn when my coworkers started teaching me new tips and tricks. I enthusiastically tagged along for new experiences and enjoyed my new home near the mountains, but was still never the leader, never the delegator, and never in charge of the show running smoothly.

Recently, that changed! After more than a year of living in New England, I still had not been to Acadia National Park, and neither had my friend Nick, so we planned a car camping trip for the end of the summer. Nick had a bit of experience camping, but after my camping crash-course at NEMO, I wanted to put my new knowledge to the test. 


Nick and I were ready for an adventure!


After locking in the dates, I told Nick to leave the planning to me. In addition to figuring out the itinerary, I had to fill some major gaps in my gear kit. I realized I had been relying on my previous camping companions for almost all kitchen items and quickly made some investments in a stove and other essentials. I checked my lists and checked again, filling my bins and bags with NEMO gear.

Nick lives in New York City and I was especially hopeful that the trip would go smoothly because I wanted to give him a much-needed reprieve from the stresses of NYC life. On top of that, I knew that the more planning and preparation I did ahead of time, the more I would be able to feel relaxed and enjoy my friend’s visit.

Packed in my car the day of Nick’s arrival was an Aurora™ 2P tent, a Dagger OSMO™ 2P tent, a Tensor™ sleeping pad, a Quasar™ sleeping pad, and two Tempo™ 35-degree sleeping bags. I also brought two Moonlite™ reclining camp chairs for hiking, and two Stargaze™ chairs for our campsite.

The four-hour journey from Dover, New Hampshire to Acadia National Park is beautiful. About two hours into the drive, just North of Portland, Maine, we stopped for a quick, rainy hike to break up the trip, and then continued on until it was time to stop for groceries. Groceries in hand, we walked out of the store and encountered our first hiccup: The sun had already set. We would be setting up camp in the dark.

We arrived at the campsite and strapped on our headlamps. Luckily, both the Aurora and Dagger OSMO were easy to pitch, even in the dark. This was Nick’s first time using any NEMO products and he was thoroughly impressed by the easy setup of the tents, especially the Dagger OSMO. (I heard squeals of delight coming from him as the corners of the rain fly snapped into place.) In no time at all, we were commemorating our arrival with a couple of celebratory beers, swinging in our Stargazes. I silently congratulated myself on getting to the campsite in good spirits and, so far, no major failings.


Our campsite, in daylight!


Day two, we had a leisurely wake-up and tested my new cooking gear for breakfast. I conjured up memories of my Dad lighting our double burner on camping trips and attempted to do the same (that’s right, folks: I hadn’t done a practice run). And… flame! Success!

Nick cooked eggs and veggies for breakfast burritos and it was then that I discovered another shortcoming of my execution: I forgot plates. We got creative and made due.


Getting creative with breakfast on the first morning after forgetting plates.


We packed up our daypacks with sandwiches and snacks and headed to Jordan Pond. Parking near the pond was a nightmare, and it took us almost an hour of stalking the lot until we got a spot. Around Jordan Pond there are several peaks and we strung together a few for a full day of hiking.


View of Jordan Pond.


Another hiccup came up when we pulled up to the showers near our campsite to find they had just closed 10 minutes before. Brilliantly, I had packed a NEMO Helio Pressure shower, which I used for a quick and cold shower. Lesson learned: Take the Acadia bus to the trailhead and look up the shower schedule ahead of time!

At the end of day two we prepared for what would be the pièce de résistance of the trip: a sunrise hike of Cadillac Mountain. From March to October, the peak of Cadillac Mountain is the first point on the continental U.S. to see the sunrise and, since ridiculously early wake-up calls with the promise of adventure are right up my alley, I was very excited. 

Day three started with a 3 a.m. wake-up and we arrived at the trailhead of the southern route soon after. It was thrilling! Pitch-black almost the entire way up, we saw only what was illuminated by our headlamps. Early in the hike, a man and his Husky passed us and the dog’s wet paws left the most adorable trail markers I’ve ever followed. 


Started the hike up Cadillac by headlamp.


We paused for some stargazing and spotted a few shooting stars. As we continued to climb up the mountain, hints of the sunrise light started to seep across the sky. Eventually we emerged from the woods to the peak of Cadillac Mountain, broad and spacious. We ventured far from the crowds and broke out two Moonlite chairs. I proudly set them up as Nick praised my preparedness. Another success!


Moonlite chairs are a must-have for summit sunrise enjoyment.


The sunrise was unbelievable. My favorite part was watching the light change over the next few hours as the sun rose and lit up new parts of the surrounding landscape. We stayed on the top of the mountain for the whole morning, people watching, bird watching, and boat watching. We moved spots several times to find an entirely new view to explore and delight in. As a notorious underpacker, let me say: bringing a Moonlite on a hike is worth it! I was so comfortable and content, I really could have stayed up there all day.


The sunrise was gorgeous!


It was a peaceful morning and we were in no rush to leave.


Soon enough, it was time to head down the way we came. This was our only planned activity of the day, so we took our time and indulged in every desire to stop and enjoy our surroundings. We crouched down to look at lichen and moss. We stood back to take in the enormity of the setting. We stopped to eat lunch, only to find vultures circling overhead. (Do vultures attack living humans? Not worth the risk; we moved on.)

We got back to the car filled with the satisfaction of what we had accomplished. Before returning to the campsite, we stopped to take showers (during business hours this time). Back at our spot, we lit a fire, grilled up some burgers, and relaxed. By this point in the trip I was ready to declare it a success.

Sure, setting up camp in the dark wasn’t ideal; I failed to look up the shower situation; and I forgot plates, but so what? I was proud of myself for knowing how to camp enough that I could do it myself. And I was overjoyed to be able to use those skills to help my friend enjoy the experience with me. I think I may have even taught him a few things!


We enjoyed our time in Acadia immensely.


On day four, we made breakfast and packed up camp. Then, it was time to say goodbye to Acadia and we set off for the Portland Airport. I dropped Nick off and headed home with sore legs, wonderful memories, and a victory over the daunting task of planning my first camping trip!

NEMO Gear List:

Dagger OSMO™ 2P Backpacking Tent: Lightweight, very spacious, and easy to set up. The OMSO fabric is quick drying and durable.

Aurora™ Backpacking Tent & Footprint: Offering tons of livable space in fun colors, Aurora™ is the perfect companion for backpacking and car camping alike.

Quasar™ 3D Sleeping Pad: Body-mapped 3D baffling gently cradles you and keep you centered on the pad during the night. 

Tempo™ Women's & Men's Synthetic Sleeping Bag: Roomy and soft, Tempo™ is the perfect sleeping bag for summer car camping. The blanket fold feels like wrapping a blanket under chin just like your comforter at home.

Chipper™ Foam Seat Pad: Perfect to bring along on a hike or use at the picnic table for a little extra cushion, Chipper™ is lightweight enough to bring along on any adventure.

Moonlite™ Reclining Camp Chair: Weighing under 2 pounds, Moonlite™ is fantastic for sunrise summit hikes with a quick set up and break down.

Stargaze™ Reclining Camp Chair: Now better than ever, our Stargaze™ Luxury reclining chair has been meticulously updated in the pursuit of camp comfort perfection. Generously curved upright poles make the seat wider and a improved pole design makes set up and break down a breeze.

The NEMO GO FAR (Get Outside For Adventure & Research) Program gears employees up and sends them out to spend time in interesting places in NEMO gear. We believe great design starts with real adventures, and are committed to making sure all NEMO employees get to experience it.

Holly Leone is a Product Developer at NEMO, working on our Furniture category. When she isn't digging into the design details of chairs and tables, you can find her coaching youth lacrosse, snowboarding, hiking, and watering her plants.