By Barbara Crooker

The condo that was donated was the nicest place we’ve ever had on vacation—water views (Passamaquoddy Bay and Campobello Island) out the whole back (which had a deck) and side—we could even see whales, porpoises, and seals, once we learned how to spot them! It had two bedrooms (one we didn’t use at all) and two bathrooms—having a “girl’s bathroom” I could call my own was a fabulous luxury! The Caregifted Organization was founded by poet Heather McHugh, who used to live in Eastport, and she is clearly loved by everyone there. The people we met, many of whom knew her, couldn’t have been nicer.


  • Lobsters (in some form, every day!). I cooked them at home once; on the day of the puffin adventure (more on that below). Leslie, our host, got shedders and four of us had six lobsters (plus herbed carrots and home-made potato salad), yum! And blueberries (muffins, pancakes, ice cream, pie). Food is a high-interest item, partially because I’m tired of gluten-free/dairy-free cooking. So we ate out a lot, nothing fancy, either take-out from the Quoddy Bay Lobster folks, or we went to the diner next door (the Waco Diner, with a short a—it stands for WAshington COunty).
  • Photo by Barbara CrookerThe whale watch. We went out on a two-masted schooner and saw some minkes (small whales), seals (harbor and gray), porpoises, and the first finback of the season (a larger whale, with a blow hole).
  • Our day in Campobello (Roosevelt’s summer retreat). There was interesting commentary by Canadian Park Rangers in the two summer “cottages” that were open to the public, plus we lucked out and got tickets for “tea with Eleanor”—homemade lemon and ginger cookies and tea (English bone china tea cups and cloth napkins!) with two rangers who told really lovely and interesting stories about Eleanor and her life. Learning all over again about what FDR did for the country made me proud to be a lifelong Democrat. Photo by Barbara Crooker
  • The puffin trip. This was the overall highlight—the Caregifted folks had asked if there was something special I’d like to do, and I said I’d like to see puffins. I thought you just needed someone local to take you to a rocky outcropping or something. But no, this was a trip that had to be reserved months ago; only 30 people a day are allowed to land on the island. It was pretty pricey, and if the weather was bad and the boat can’t go out, you’re out of luck. (I think you’d get your money back, but you couldn’t go on another trip, as they’re fully booked.) Plus the boats can’t always land on the island, as it’s tricky. I was thrilled by the approach, with tons of birds flying around, and thought it would be okay if we didn’t land. We were on the first dinghy to try the landing. This is an area that drains into the Bay of Fundy; highest tides in the world. Here, they were 18′ at flood, which this was (full moon). The tide was out too far, past the cement steps, so only seaweed-covered rocks were exposed. So our boat went back out to the main ship, and we rode around the island for a while, saw some seals (even closer than on the whale boat), then came back, and this time, we made it! We were told to quietly walk to a meeting point where, after 4-5 more trips out/in, we were all dispersed in groups of 4 or 5 to little blinds, where we opened small, slitted windows to look at the birds, up close and personal (some were just inches away).Photo by Barbara CrookerPuffins are the personification of cuteness; every inch of them, including their red-orange feet, is adorable. Other birds were razorbills (auks) that looked like something the Northwest Native Americans would have carved, long black bills with white lines “etched” on them, and murres (who are more penguin-like). We got to stay for and 1½ hours or so; it was amazing. The ride back out was tricky (our boat almost capsized), as the sea had gotten rougher. But we all made it. Coming back in to the harbor, we saw two bald eagles and some guillemots (another bird in the Alcid family), making it a perfect trip.

I could go on and on—we did some other neat stuff, too. But the best part, really, was the light—either on the sunny days, sitting on our deck or at the diner’s deck next door under an umbrella or the two days of rain and fog, staying in, drinking coffee and reading. Or watching the full moon rise at night out our windows. It was all just breathtaking.


If you’re interested in learning more about the Caregifted Organization and their vacations, visit http://www.caregifted.org/.


About the Author

 Barbara Crooker’s books of poetry are Radiance, winner of the Word Press First Book Award and finalist for the Paterson Poetry Prize; Line Dance, winner of the Paterson Award for Literary Excellence; More; and Gold. She was a finalist for the 2012 Pablo Neruda Poetry Prize, and her work appears in The Bedford Introduction to Literature. Barbara is the mother of a 29-year-old son with autism who lives with her at home. Learn more at www.barbaracrooker.com


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