Pacific Flyway: An outdoor connection

Road Journals Blog—Perhaps not surprising for someone who writes for VIA about topics such as West Coast bird migration, New England foliage, and the environmental issues surrounding China's Three Gorges Dam, I like the outdoors. I grew up in rural Connecticut, in the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains. Though my first love was sports—which helped lead me to a career as a writer and editor at Sports Illustrated—I spent hours in the woods with my father, Henry.


He was a city kid who, after marrying and moving to the country, became fascinated by nature. Dad is mechanically minded and likes to figure out how everything works. When puttering outdoors (his favorite pastime), he imitates birdcalls and studies animal habits and habitats.

Our bird feeder was a daily source of entertainment and education. When an unfamiliar species arrived, we would pull out our well-worn Peterson Field Guide and try to figure out what we'd seen.

Those experiences stayed with me. They explain in part why my wife and I took advantage of an opportunity to move to coastal Maine several years ago after more than a quarter century in New York City. Even as I continued to work for SI remotely, we did something crazy. We bought and renovated a dilapidated building in the village of Seal Harbor, a short walk from both the Atlantic Ocean and Acadia National Park, on Mount Desert Island. We turned it into a fun, quirky, one-of-a-kind store, educational center, and exploratorium called The Naturalist's Notebook.

The Notebook combines nature, science, art, and a sense of curiosity about the world. We were thrilled when the Bangor Daily News put our little shop on its list of 50 Things to Do In Maine last summer. Visitors' reaction to The Naturalist's Notebook has made clear to me how hungry modern Americans are for a connection to nature.

Craig Neff wrote the cover story for the September/October 2011 issue of Via about the Pacific Flyway bird migration route.

This blog post was first published in September 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.


If I'm ever in Bangor, Maine, I definitely plan to shop at The Naturalist's Notebook! Meanwhile if you're looking for quirky seaside shops on our own coast, one of my favorite areas is Pillar Point Harbor and Half Moon Bay, Calif.