101 Acadian Nights: Sleeping Outdoors in Acadia National Park*

bedroom in the woods

The summer bedroom by day

I’d like to say I sleep within spitting distance of the park, but it is about 25 feet from my bed to the border of Acadia National Park, and my spit barely clears my shoes. I can hear the park’s sounds, though, and smell its scents, and the moist drops from the park’s trees find their way through the screened walls of my summer bedroom to settle on my face and bedding.

I spend five or six months a year sleeping outside, in a screened-in box with a clear corrugated ceiling. There is a futon on a raised platform, and that is it. Spare, minimal, heavenly.

I started sleeping out about a year after I bought this house. That was a long time ago and the sleeping place was a bit more primitive then. I had pounded four wooden posts into the ground, draped them with mosquito netting, hauled in an old Victorian metal bed frame, and added a cushy inflatable mattress. A bin kept clean sheets, pillows and blankets, and I made the bed up when I used it. It was dreamy, but I could not sleep out if it was raining, at least not enjoyably.

bedroom at night

Summer bedroom at night

My husband, then boyfriend, liked the concept, but not stepping out of bed barefoot onto grass with possible crawling things. For my birthday one year he had a platform built. That got the bed off the ground, and it started a forward motion. I took it another next step, adding walls, a sliding screen door, and a clear plastic roof. I painted the floor and trim a bold Mediterranean turquoise, stained the wood a dark walnut color, and surrounded it with pine needles, rocks and flowers.

It is simple, and I resist all thoughts to add side tables, hooks, shelves, or art. I have plenty of clutter elsewhere in my life; here I do not allow it to intrude. Things are basic. I am not distracted by a wall that needs to be repainted, or laundry calling to be to be cleaned. Nothing needs to be dusted or vacuumed. Life is pared to essentials

I do not bring music, but there are always night sounds. Some I recognize, others have me wondering. I may need to allow some night vision binoculars in. Every night, and every morning, is different. Now the sun is coming up far to the left through the trees, but it has been moving south with each sunrise. At times I wake to fog. The king in 1001 Arabian Nights postpones Scheherazade’s death so he can hear the end of her story, I return every night to my wooded bower, to see what the night will bring.

I am in the summer bedroom now, it is 10 pm, and dark. The only light is my laptop, and some distant tiny white lights in the grape vines and woven through the branches of a large fir. The little sparkling lights are on timers and will go off soon.

Sleeping outside is not camping. The house with all its amenities is only 50 yards away, even though I cannot see the house lights from here. I know it is there, but once I enter my hillside bedroom I do not go back. The bed is comfortable, a glass of well water is at my side, and I begin to tune in to the night world. It is overcast and there is a new moon. A nighthawk keens. I might not realize this if I was sleeping inside. I hear the breeze rustle the trembling aspen leaves overhead, then a few minutes later it is shushing through the cedars on the hill. This lullaby is lulling, my eyes become heavy, and sweet cool air plays across my face. What a way to fall into sleep.

Good night from Otter Creek.

* Ok, surrounded by Acadia, not actually in it.

sunrise through the trees

Sunrise from the summer bedroom






Karen O. Zimmermann

About Karen O. Zimmermann

Karen O. Zimmermann savors chance encounters with people throughout the state of Maine, and is endlessly delighted with the tales they have to share.