A Visit to Campobello Island and Tea with Eleanor

Campobello Island, a Canadian island located just off the coast of northern Maine, is a place I’ve wanted to visit for quite some time, both to explore the rocky coastline and to visit Roosevelt Campobello International Park, the summer home of the the family of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Franklin’s wife Eleanor, who happens to be one of my favorite historical figures, spent many summers there and had been quoted as saying that her time there helped her grow into an independent woman. The park, in addition to providing tours of the Roosevelt “cottage” (actually a large multi-story house) and grounds, also offers a daily program Tea With Eleanor, that recounts her lifelong public service and activism, independent of her role as the wife of the President.

The danger lies in refusing to face the fear, in not daring to come to grips with it…. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.

-Eleanor Roosevelt

Because the guides who narrate the program are encouraged to do their own research into Eleanor’s life and talk about whichever aspects of her personality and accomplishments they find most interesting, I found myself not only learning new things during the hour and half tea, but also becoming inspired all over again by the amazing person she was. It’s difficult to pin down what about her most impresses me: Her work ethic, her unwillingness to compromise her values, her resilience, her willingness to face her fears, and her tireless efforts in making the world a better place continue to affect me. After reading a few of her books over the past few years it seems as though she spent her most of her life actively working towards being a better person – asking herself tough questions about her beliefs,consistently examining those beliefs in the face of criticism or arguments, working to combat the injustice she saw around her, and trying to change the status quo in favor of more equity. Along the way she had to face her fears – which she describes as numerous – educate herself on countless issues, deal with continual change, and challenge herself to find solutions to address problems that were, at the time, overlooked.

One’s philospohy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes. In stopping to think through the meaning of what I have learned, there is much that I believe intensely, much I am unsure of. In the long run, we shape our lives and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And, the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.

-Eleanor Roosevelt

Needless to say we both thoroughly enjoyed the tea. As an amazing coincidence, we sat with a woman who actually had tea with Eleanor in 1958; she shared with us how affected she’d been by that one afternoon during which she and her fellow invitees found themselves being encouraged to find their inner strength and take action of behalf of what they believed in.

Roosevelt Cottage

Eleanor’s desk

Tea with a woman who actually had tea with Eleanor!

While spending the day on the island we also drove out to the northern tip to see the iconic East Quoddy Head Lighthouse (also known as the Head Harbor Light) – twice. Campobello Island, situated at the mouth of the Bay of Fundy where the most extreme tides in the world occur, sees a tide change between 24 and 28 feet every 13 hours which leads to some pretty dramatic changes in scenery. This is very apparent at the lighthouse which is connected to the mainland for only a few hours per day and is accessible only by walking across the ocean floor. When we visited early in the morning we could only barely see where the trail – marked with orange spray paint across the ocean floor – began; at the time we didn’t even know that the lighthouse was situated on an island beyond that island we could see!

Painted rocks underwater marking the trail to the lighthouse

East Quoddy Lighthouse at near high tide

The narrow road out to the lighthouse

When we returned in the afternoon we were astonished to find ourselves weaving through clumps of kelp-covered rocks on the seabed between climbing up and down steep metal stairs to access the islands. Abby was a trooper and successfully navigated the near-vertical stairs that turned away many of the humans; she was congratulated by each of the groups we encountered as we walked out and back to the lighthouse.

East Quoddy Head Lighthouse at near low tide

After our second trip to the lighthouse we made our way to Herring Cove Provincial Park where we walked a short trail down to a lake formed by the shifting barrier sands and then drove south along the shore on a dirt road that provided access to multiple sections of the cove. We made two stops here, walking a couple miles as we explored the beach and crossed one of the headlands.

Abby pretty much refuses to pose for selfies

View from the bridge back to Lubec, Maine from Campobello Island