Moseying thru Maine

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Flag of United States  , Maine
Wednesday, September 22, 2010

We started the Maine portion of our trip just over the border in the southern coastal region called "the beaches" region. It extends northward along the coast until the Portland/Casco Bay region. Among its claim to fame is Kennebunkport.  Neither of us felt an overwhelming need to go there, especially since I'd seen it once before in 2008. 

Our idea was to take it easy through Maine, mostly to decompress from the congestion of the last two weeks in Cape Cod and around Boston.  We decided on moseying around the backcountry, avoiding expressways and just taking in the sights.  Our first full day in Maine was a sunny, mild day, so we tossed in the makings for a picnic and headed out to see the beaches and some lighthouses.

The area along the coast is fairly well developed.  Janet said that the beachfront in a town called Old Orchard Beach reminded her of Treasure Island in Florida.  We thought the beaches were just beyond the road, but since we could only see one motel after another, we couldn’t be sure.  This wasn’t what we’d planned, so we continued on out of town and found a gem of a state park just a few miles down the road.  Ferry Beach State Park (so named because a ferry used to run at the southern end of the park) had a wonderful beach (and even though it was mild, it was still in the upper 60’s with a breeze) that’s part of a single 7 – 8 mile stretch of white sand beaches.  We stayed on the beach enjoying the view, but there were some hiking trails that beckoned us and some interesting nature trails, so we did some hiking and exploring.

From there we drove north to another state park called Two Lights. Named for two lighthouses built in 1828 on a nearby point, this park also has the more familiar Maine rocky coast.  Also, to keep my traveling record intact of visiting at least one military fortification, this park has the remains of two gun emplacements, but the guns themselves were never actually placed there.  We did spend a little time here but couldn’t find the two lighthouses.  They turned out to be on another road that had little parking and no direct access.  We did manage to find a spot and get out for some pictures, though.

We then headed a little more to the north to see the Portland Head Light, our last lighthouse for the day.  This lighthouse was built at the direction of George Washington and is the first lighthouse built by the United States.  Built between 1787 and 1790, the lighthouse is one of four remaining colonial era lighthouses that have never been rebuilt.  The community of Cape Elizabeth owns the keeper’s building and grounds, but the tower, light, and foghorn are owned and operated by the U.S. Coast Guard as an active lighthouse 209 years after first being lit.  The lighthouse is located in Fort Williams Park, which was an active military base until 1962 and is yet another shore gun site.

We finished the day by driving aimlessly around the shoreline communities deciding which houses we’d like to buy, and taking turns choosing in what direction to turn.  We finally turned the GPS on after becoming thoroughly confused, and headed for our hotel.

The next day was a longer drive as we headed north of Portland, first to visit Booth Bay Harbor, and possibly (definitely) stop off in Freeport at the L.L. Bean flagship store.  Once again, I fell victim to the dreaded “as the crow flies” distances of the GPS, and put in the coordinates of the Fort William Henry historical site (this was the last one) that was only “4.6 miles” from Booth Bay Harbor.  It took nearly two hours to reach the fort, which had a nice little museum, and still had the remains of the original 1692 foundations.  The fort is one of the few built more like a castle than the usual frontier wooden palisades.  This one had 10 to 20’ walls, a turret, and 20 cannon.  Anyway, the museum had some nice information on the operation of the fort and the interaction of the various American Indian cultures with the French and English.  When we decided to head to Booth Bay Harbor is when we discovered that 4.6 miles was really 30 miles, as the fort was on one side of the bay and the town on the other!  Will I ever learn? (Note from Janet: I’m beginning to wonder. . .)

Booth Bay Harbor was the usual touristy town, so after some lunch right on the water (our favorite New England sandwich, the lobster roll) and a stroll around the town, we headed towards Freeport.  It was already after 3 PM because of the distance to the fort and the 30 - mile trek back to Booth Bay Harbor, so we didn’t get to Freeport until after 4.  But apparently that didn’t discourage us from each buying a new coat and a few other things.  The store in Freeport is open 24/7 all year.  The only day it’s been closed was the day Kennedy was shot.  It has everything in their catalogs and then some.  It even has an indoor archery range to test hunting bows. Considering we only live a half-hour from one of the Chicago-area Bean stores, it seems silly that we went there. But our store is small and lacks the vast array of stock, especially the coats we were looking for. (Good a reason as any to shop, right?)

Monday, the 20th, we moved north to Acadia NP and Bar Harbor.  We stayed in Bangor, which is about 1 1/2 hours from Acadia but has more reasonable room costs.  The drive over to the coast was time-consuming, but we accepted it as the price of being frugal.  We spent our first day in the park doing some hiking and a lot of picture taking.  We couldn’t seem to get enough of the surf crashing against the boulders when the tide was in. What a gorgeous sight! The park has a wonderful loop drive that skirts the coast and then winds inland to the top of Cadillac Mountain, the tallest mountain on the eastern U. S. coastline.  Much of the park’s development and expansion has been the result of support of the Rockefeller family.  Early in the park’s history, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. determined that he wanted the park to be auto free, and thus he financed, designed and directed a network of carriage trails over 50 miles in length.  Many of those trails are still in use today for hiking, biking, horseback rides, and yes, carriage rides.   Unlike the great national parks of the west, Acadia doesn’t awe you with spectacular geographic formations or size.  Its beauty is of a more subtle kind: the longer you’re in the park, the more you appreciate what is around you.

The next day we had tickets to take an offshore cruise along the coast of the park, and out to five different lighthouses in the area.  This was one of the first days on the trip that the weather wasn’t sunny.  It was cloudy and breezy with periods of light showers.  Although the ship didn’t venture too far out, the swells were still pretty substantial (in part, possibly, because of Hurricane Igor) and, in fact, were too rough for the boat to make the trip out to the furthest lighthouse (apparently the crew didn’t want to clean up after a bunch of landlubbers).  As it was, we saw more than enough, with the unique perspective of seeing Acadia from the sea, a sight most of us don’t get.  So even though the trip was a little rocking and rolling, we thoroughly enjoyed it.

That was our final day in Maine.  We had spent five days exploring the coastal areas of the state, but now we were ready to head inland and see if we would be lucky enough to find some of those fall colors in upstate New Hampshire and Vermont.
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Caryl Dierksen on

Scott, this travel blog is wonderful. I'm so enjoying "our" trip. Please keep the entries coming.

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