You could tell the raccoons were coming when the sound of garbage cans clanging to the ground echoed through the night. So when Alice Kidd of Andover, N.J., heard her young daughter yelling from the pop-up tent next to her cabin, she knew the masked scavengers were back.
“Campers from all around came running when they heard this little girl screaming,” Kidd said.
The raccoons ran off, leaving a trail of cereal boxes, but her two kids still laugh about the experience about 30 years later.
“I know they pestered everyone, but we sort of miss the raccoons because they were fun,” Kidd said.
The raccoons are long gone from Smuggler’s Den campground in Southwest Harbor, but the welcoming atmosphere hasn’t changed a bit, the mother said. She and her family have camped there since 1976.
“We’ve seen changes over the years — they’ve added a pool, they’ve got a playground, they’ve added cabins — but it still remains a family campground and a place you can feel safe,” Kidd said.
It’s a family business, too. Manager Rain Holbrook’s great-grandfather, Ben Worcester, owned the 60-acre property, which borders Acadia National Park. Her grandfather, Ben Worcester, Jr., established the campground with a partner in 1969. Her dad, aunt and uncle own the property now, but she said her brothers, sisters and cousins all have a rock or two to their names.
Smuggler’s Den is an old family tradition, but new features expand the campground every year. A few deluxe cabins that Holbrook’s husband, Todd, built last fall overlook Beech Mountain and Western Mountain. A heated pool is situated across the road from the campground office with a four-acre recreation field right next door.
“The infrastructure of today’s campground is far different — it used to just be a campground with a tent,” Holbrook said.
Guests choose from tent and pop-up sites with or without electricity, RV sites, rustic cabins or deluxe cabins.
Wherever they stay, campers can walk to a whole system of hiking trails and “fire roads” from the property. Great for walking and biking, the fire roads are a calmer, less populated alternative to Acadia’s carriage roads, Holbrook said. The site is about a 20-minute walk from Echo Lake.
Kidd has upgraded over the years from a tent site to a deluxe cabin. Every summer, she and her husband go rock scrambling around the ocean, hiking and kayaking. One of her kids now lives in Arizona, but Smuggler’s Den is still their family destination.
“The kids are grown and we have grandchildren and they all come to this campground,” Kidd said.
Smuggler’s Den will host the Garlic Festival on Sept. 13 and Oktoberfest from Oct. 10 to 11. The campground is open from Memorial Day weekend to Columbus Day every year.