President Barack Obama and family wrapped up their weekend getaway to Maine on Sunday morning after crisscrossing Mount Desert Island in a very public and yet somehow private vacation for the first family.
With a final smile and a wave, Obama boarded a waiting jet at Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport just before 10:30 a.m. Sunday as members of the media looked on.
Although in Maine for only two short days, the Obamas managed to cram seemingly a week’s worth of activities into their agenda as they hiked, biked, sailed and dined their way around the island. They even found time for private relaxation out of sight of the eager crowds and cameras, including a “date night” for the president and first lady.
“The first family enjoyed their visit to Maine and they’re thankful for the warm welcome they received from Mainers throughout the weekend,” Moira Mack, a White House spokeswoman, said in a statement Sunday night.
As expected, the family spent a fair amount of time in Acadia National Park beginning with a carriage road bike ride within an hour of landing in Maine.
They also strolled the summit of Cadillac Mountain, gazed out onto Blue Hill Bay and the Atlantic Ocean from atop Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse and played with the family dog, Bo, during a hike to Ship Harbor.
Along the way, the first family often stopped to talk with local residents and out-of-towners who happened to be visiting those areas when the Secret Service suddenly showed up in force.
Michael Fournier and Matthew Duggan had hiked the rocky shoreline below Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse many times but joked they never before had run into a president.
After Bo and Fournier’s dog, Natchez, amicably “acquainted themselves,” the two men talked for several minutes with the president, the first lady and the couple’s two daughters, 12-year-old Malia and 9-year-old Sasha. Both men said they were impressed by the entire family.
Fournier, who teaches on Swan’s Island, said Michelle Obama talked at length with him about his profession and even asked him to relay a personal message to his students: Remember to eat their vegetables.
“Talking to Michelle Obama was like talking to a neighbor,” Fournier, 27, said afterward, still stuck on the trail amid the tight security.
“She was very, very well-spoken,” added Duggan, 22, who works in Acadia.
The Obamas were greeted with large, enthusiastic crowds each time they entered downtown Bar Harbor, despite the fact that blockades caused congestion and inconvenienced some travelers. Intense security kept the public at a distance, although the president occasionally stopped to shake hands and pose for pictures with groups.
Even the roadsides in the less-traveled areas of MDI were clogged with onlookers waving and snapping pictures of the high-speed motorcade.
Perhaps the biggest crowd of the weekend began amassing Saturday night near the restaurant Havana before the guests of honor arrived. With Sasha and Malia presumably back at the hotel, the president and first lady spent more than 90 minutes inside the restaurant.
The massive crowd waiting patiently behind the barricades was disappointed, however, when the couple slipped out into the waiting SUV shortly before 9:30 p.m. and took a side street back toward the hotel.
Despite the excitement and crowds, the Obamas also had significant private time together: playing tennis and lounging at the pool at the high-end Bar Harbor Club; eating a seaside lunch at The Claremont, a 126-year-old hotel in Southwest Harbor; and back at the Bar Harbor Regency hotel.
The weather on MDI was sunny and in the 70s and 80s for much the first family’s stay. They returned to hot and sticky conditions in the nations’ capital, in terms of both temperature and political climate.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.