Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A long awaited return to Maine

Sept. 26-Oct. 10, Bar Harbor and Camden, Maine

We crossed at the border from Quebec into Maine near a place called Moose River. The U.S. Customs experience was the antithesis of entering Canada. Again, the signs were confusing (especially mostly in French) and we ended up in the truck lane. No one was around to help us at first, then a man came out and said we had to back up and go through the car lane.  He obviously hadn’t considered our inability to back up with a car in tow. After explaining, he let us go through the truck lanes.  He came aboard to look at our papers and ask a few questions, then told us we would have to pull over for a more complete inspection.  I had not been totally honest about purchasing wine and liquor in Canada so immediately I felt uneasy.  They also asked a lot of questions about the dogs’ paperwork and if they were bought in Canada.  We were asked to step off as they did the inspection and after about ten minutes they came out with a bag full of produce (my beautiful red and orange peppers and some citrus fruits) that they explained were quarantined. Sad for us, but oh well.  At least they didn’t take the wine and cognac!
The trip through the Moose River area and south to Bangor was incredibly beautiful. The higher elevation near the Canadian border caused the leaves to be almost at peak color. Our route on Interstate 201 returned out to be a remote two lane road that was often bordered by whitewater rivers and an abundance of moose crossing signs. The autumn colors, the untamed rivers, and hilly elevation made for some stunning views as we dropped into the coastal area of Maine. (i later discovered this area is known as the Switzerland of Maine.)
Fall color along Moose River
Our first destination in Maine was Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor. I had been here 34 years ago and fondly remembered its stark beauty. The first challenge was finding a campground that was affordable and close enough to the park area. We chose to stay at an Encore park in Ellsworth, Maine (Patten Pond Camping Resort) that was advertised as a handy place from which to explore Acadia. It was at least 30 minutes away and tucked into a lake area that looked more like a swamp. The place just didn’t feel right, so after one short night we decided to move on to the Narrows Too RV Resort, another Encore park closer to Bar Harbor that had ocean front sites (for more $$$). Decided to splurge on a waterfront site for seven nights for which you would get one night free. The ocean front turned out to be more of a bay but we definitely had a water view and a good place for a campfire which I had been missing since McClain State Park in the UP.
Acadia Nat'l Park

On our first night in Bar Harbor we had to have live lobster. Several people recommended a lobster pound (outdoor picnic type place where you choose your lobster from a tank, buy it by the pound, and they cook it outdoors in sea water heated by a wood fire. Vic and I shared a 3 # lobster served to us in a large cake pan with melted butter of course. Another couple asked to join us at our picnic table and they helped us negotiate the best way to eat the lobster without having to use the metal cracker or tiny forks. It’s hard to believe how abundant this creature is in Maine. I don’t think I will tire of it.
Acadia National Park is phenomenal. We played tourists and went to the visitor center where we watched a short film on the history of the area. It is rare to see a national park set aside on the eastern shoreboard where real estate is so highly valued. The coast of Maine is quite rugged and notorious for the granite rock outcroppings everywhere which makes the land difficult to build on. The park is traversed with carriage roads which Rockefeller funded in the 1930s. These roads are now used mostly by hikers and mountain bikers. We hiked a loop around a well-known place called Jordan Pond. It is famous for the only restaurant in the park which serves popovers and high tea. It definitely seems incongruous to have such a genteel setting amidst backpackers, etc. The legacy of Jordan Pond fits better with the notion of taking a carriage ride in the countryside. I liked the indulgent side of enjoying tea and crumpets with cloth napkins at tables spread across a large hillside (on a day when, in my pre-retirement life, I would have been in the classroom!).
Vic and the pooches
on Acadia trail

Eating popovers at Jordan Pond,
Acadia Nat'l. Park

Bar Harbor, the town at the base of Acadia is another treasure of a place. We especially enjoyed walking the harbor side looking at the wide range of boats including major cruise ships. Most of the homes here are grand and yet were probably originally built as summer places. Vic was struck by the amazing number of white steeples in each town and the numerous old cemeteries dotting the hillsides. A shopping highlight for me was finding a pair of wool socks with lobsters on them (the nights are getting chilly here!) We also found a dog boutique that carried hooves stuffed with peanut butter or cheese spread. The dogs loved them!
Bar Harbor beach house

Staying a week in one place is a new phenomenon for us.  The weather turned a little rainy and we endured our first thunderstorm.  Used this time for catching up with laundry and downloading photos for the blog I am trying to create.  Had more trouble with the DISH network; finally had to call the Winegard company, maker of the dish, to find out how to change our settings to the Eastern satellites.  Found out what we needed to do and called a technician to come to the park to set it up for us.  I could have done what he did, but learned some other things along the way. He set up the remote so it would work from any place in the motor home and changed the sound system for DISH to work on our home stereo system—unexpected bonuses of his expensive visit.
We took a fairly long journey to Stonington, Maine, a place that once held for me the perfect notion of a Maine coastal community—a small rocky harbor with masts swaying in the sunshine, the sound of the bell buoys clanking in the distance, a white lighthouse perched on a cliff.  Not much had changed in 35 years—Stonington was still the same sleepy harbor town and a photographer’s dream come true.  Enjoyed some chowder at a little cafĂ©, walked the hilly streets, and imagined living in a simpler time. 
A view of the picturesque harbor in Stonington, Maine

Decided to visit the Farmer’s Market on Saturday in Bar Harbor and couldn’t believe how small it was.  Managed to find plenty of goodies though including grass-fed beef, locally made bacon, and artisan cheese.  Took another long walk on the Bar Harbor waterfront that led to a path in enough to be the front of historic private homes.  Tried to imagine the lives of successors of many generations of old money who built these impressive estates.

A week in Bar Harbor seemed enough as I was especially ready to head south to Camden where I lived in 1977. We decided to try the state park right in Camden. Most of the sites were heavily wooded but there were about 12 sites out in an open field which even included a view of the bay across Highway 1. The first night we were there, none of the sites in the field was available, but the next day one opened up and it turned out to be terrific. The cost was around $25 a night and the sites in the field had 50 amps. The state park was incredibly busy with “leaf peepers”—people coming to see the fall color. Also the park has the access road to a well-known lookout area on top of Mount Battie. Hikers, mountain bikers, or tourists in cars all paraded up the mountain to see the incredible views of the Maine coastline and fall colors.
View of Camden Harbor from Mt. Battie

A lucky double rainbow over Camden

The classic schooners of Camden harbor
One of the first things I wanted to do in Camden was go and find the old house where I used to live.  I knew the street was Megunticook, but it wasn’t until we were on it that the house# popped in my head: 39 Megunticook.  A small apartment on the second floor of a typical old New England house.  It used to be white with black shutters, but now it is yellow. It looked amazingly the same.  I have a photo of myself and Paul (first husband) where we are on the front porch drinking PBRs.  I closed my eyes and tried to bring back that young girl I was then with so many dreams and idealistic notions about how my life would go.  I wept a little for the lost dreams but also gave thanks for the unknown twists in the road that brought me back here 30+ years later.   
39 Megunticook where I lived in 1977 in the top right apt.

I convinced Vic that we should go for a sailing cruise on one of the famous Camden harbor schooners, the Appledore. We went for a two hour sail on a fairly warm Saturday morning. It was relaxing but the winds were still and that made the time go pretty slowly. They did serve tasty Bloody Marys which helped make the sail more interesting.  It felt great to be out on the water even if it wasn’t as adventurous as we had hoped.

Saturday morning--time to visit the Camden Farmer’s Market—three times the size of the one in Bar Harbor. Again, produce was not the main offering. Several booths had bakery, jams, pickles, meats, cheeses, and crafts such as hand-knit goods and pottery. I indulged in buying some homemade crab cakes and freshly butchered Muscovy duck breasts. (I so appreciate our big freezer drawer.) 
One of my favorite outings!

Time for a haircut and my prince of a husband was willing to drive me all the way to Portland (about 80 miles) where I found a Vidal Sassoon trained stylist to cut my hair (as my Oregon stylist, Clemente, recommended).  Seemed rather far to travel but I wanted to see how much the city had changed anyway and we were not going to be going this way on our way to Niagara Falls (our next big destination).  We brought the dogs and Vic had the good fortune of being able to wander around the old town area with them while I was getting my haircut by the owner, Sherri, at Ferricchia’s.  After my fantastic haircut, we explored the downtown streets and found a Thai place for lunch (yes, we were growing tired of clam chowdah and lobstah.)  We both agreed that Portland, Maine had a similar vibe to our Portland although the Oregon Portland is more heavily populated.

I noticed myself feeling sad as our time in Maine was coming to an end.  The fall colors at the coast were not peaking as predicted and the weather kept getting cooler, so we decided to pull up stakes at the park.  I felt quite at home in Maine and think my reluctance to leave had more to do with the timeless feeling Maine promotes.  My trip back to my former workplace, The Whitehall Inn, certainly amplified this feeling as it was exactly as I remembered it: the same chess sets in the main sitting room, the baby grand piano where Edna St. Vincent Millay played and recited her poetry, the rocking chairs on the porch—even the smells of the antiques and old tapestry rugs.  I was hired here as a prep chef and trained as a sous-chef  making my first lobster bisque and cooking eggs benedict for Chet Huntley, a well-known patron of the Inn.
My former workplace in 1977, The Whitehall Inn in Camden

Final days in Camden and a just a few more places I needed to see: Rockport, the Andrew Wyeth Museum, and Lake Megunticook. My best memory of Rockport (a small picturesque harbor just south of Camden) was taking the backroads there as it took you past a farm with the locally famous Belted Galloway cows.  I used to love seeing these cows in the meadow on the old country road that linked these two harbors. I also remember that if you were unlucky, the cows would be in the barn rather than in the field. The first time we drove this way, that was the case, but on the way back to Camden I insisted on giving it another try.  The photo below may be my favorite shot of the trip. I just love cows (almost as much as monkeys!).

The legendary Belted Galloway cows in Rockport, Maine

The famous Christina's World painting
(copied from internet)
After visiting Rockport Harbor, we continued on to Rockland, home of the Farnsworth Art Museum. Andrew Wyeth's most famous painting, Christina's World, has always been one of my favorites. I seemed to recall seeing it when I visited the Olson House (the backdrop and subject for many of his paintings). It was gratifying to see the museum thriving and to see a varied collection of his works--and Vic sincerely enjoyed it too!

Last fieldtrip--Lake Megunticook. This was the place where we would go to swim, drink wine, and howl at the moon when I lived here in the 70s.  It seemed much quieter now than I remembered it (imagine that).  We found the "beach" I used to visit and discovered it was one of the few places on the trip so far that allowed dogs off-leash. The colors were really starting to turn here and the sunlight on the leaves and water was perfect.  For some reason, other than knowing this was the last "must-see" place on my list, I felt a sense of completion in reliving my earlier days in this magical part of the country.
Barrett's Cove Park on Lake Megunticook

No comments:

Post a Comment

Don't be shy. We would love to hear your comments!