The Maine Attraction Part I: the Coast

Posted by on October 10, 2013 at 2:23 pm :: No Comments

The company that Jason works for pays for him and his family (i.e. me) to go on a vacation once a year. We had a hard time narrowing down where we wanted to go for 2013. In the end, we decided on a part of the United States that we had never visited but had always wanted to: Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire. New England’s charm, beautiful coastline and vibrant fall foliage was a salty recipe for retreat that we couldn’t resist taking a bite of.

Portland Head was commissioned in 1790 by George Washington. It's Maine's oldest lighthouse.

Portland Head was commissioned in 1790 by George Washington. It’s Maine’s oldest lighthouse.

The lobster shack by the Cape Elizabeth lighthouses had the best lobster I've ever eaten and probably ever will.

The lobster shack by the Cape Elizabeth lighthouses had the best lobster I’ve ever eaten and probably ever will.

New England is a big chunk of land with lots to keep your eyes and feet occupied so choosing where to spend our time was not easy. I read a 400-page travel book as I puzzled over this quandary and researched a whole lot on Trip Advisor. Our friends were no help as none of them have ever been to this region but I think I sorted out a pretty good itinerary for our excursion without the assistance of acquaintances.

Cape Elizabeth's twin lights weren't open to the public but they were still pretty from afar.

Cape Elizabeth’s twin lights weren’t open to the public but they were still pretty from afar.

I wish we could have spent more time at the Inn at Sunrise Point. It was a tranquil and pretty place.

I wish we could have spent more time at the Inn at Sunrise Point. It was a tranquil and pretty place.

We flew into Boston and began traveling up the coast, staying our first night in Portland, Maine. We found Portland, Maine’s only real city, quaint and historic. Whiffs of briny air hit us now and then as we wandered through the cobblestone streets of its Old Port district and took in the scenic shoreline from its Eastern Prom Trail. Delightful.

The "sand" on Sand Beach is mostly composed of the remains of marine life. Graveyards don't usually look this nice.

The “sand” on Sand Beach is mostly composed of the remains of marine life. Graveyards don’t usually look this nice.

The Ocean Path Trail wound through one gorgeous vista after another.

The Ocean Path Trail wound through one gorgeous vista after another.

While in that town we toured the magnificent Victoria Mansion, circa 1858, widely regarded as the most ornate dwelling from its time period left in the country. Beyond exploring that spectacular building, we couldn’t leave Portland without also checking out its famous lighthouses: Portland Head and the twins of Cape Elizabeth. Lighthouses in Maine? Funny you should ask. Maine’s shores are guarded by 66 lighthouses, 52 of which are still in working order. Why so many? The coast of this state is more hazardous than most. Rocks + fog = ship booboo = sad panda. It’s easier than algebra. Although somewhat antiquated with today’s newfangled technologies, lighthouses still service small watercraft and conjure romantic notions of a tough solitary existence. In short, when in Maine, visiting at least a few of these steadfast beacons is practically mandatory.

Just another candid moment.

Just another candid moment.

Thunder Hole, a naturally-formed inlet, was so named because of the roaring sound trapped air makes each time a wave crowds in.

Thunder Hole, a naturally-formed inlet, was so named because of the roaring sound trapped air makes each time a wave crowds in it.

After leaving Portland, we stopped in Freeport to visit L.L. Bean’s flagship store, a strange request of Jason’s, and check out a few other shops that featured local handmade pottery and jewelry. (Yes, I did purchase some. Do you really need to ask?) Then, we settled in for the evening near Camden at the Inn at Sunrise Point. Don’t let the “inn” in that name mislead you, we were really staying at a private cottage on the beach. Ahhhhh. Our “Rachel Carson” cottage was lovely: a giant wall of windows looking out over the ocean, a porch with wicker rockers to encourage relaxation, a gas fireplace and a monstrous jetted tub. Following our arrival, we walked along its rock-strewn beach under the dreamy light of the nearly-full moon and then cozied up by our fireplace with good books. After that thorough unwinding, we cracked our windows just enough that a refreshing ocean breeze drifted in as the rhythmic pulsing of the waves carried us off to sleep.

The red sun hitting the pink cliffs below Bass Harbor lighthouse created this blaze of color.

The red sun hitting the pink cliffs below Bass Harbor created this blaze of color.

Taking pictures was one of my favorite pastimes on this trip. The area's dramatic shorelines and cascading flows provided endless subjects matter.

Taking pictures was one of my favorite pastimes on this trip. The area’s dramatic shorelines and cascading flows provided endless subjects matter.

As for Camden, a classier and more charming New England village you will not find. Before we continued on our way north, we took a little time to stroll its picturesque streets and catch an aerial buy furosemide 20 mg uk view of the surrounding bay from Mount Battie, a 780-foot verdant outcropping that gently rises behind Camden’s pleasing avenues.

The fiddler on the roof? No, just Jason on the rocks below Bass Harbor Head Light in the near-night

The fiddler on the roof? No, just Jason on the rocks below Bass Harbor Head Light in the near-night.

Leave it to Jason to capture this moment of contemplative entrancement.

Leave it to Jason to capture this moment of contemplative entrancement.

Too soon we were moving north again or, as the locals put it, Down East. After a couple of detours to check out the Fort Point lighthouse and fatten ourselves further with lobster rolls from yet another waterside shack, we arrived at our last coastal destination: Bar Harbor. Bar Harbor, located on Mount Desert Island just outside Acadia National Park, has an outdoorsy touristy feel that caters to the wannabe-naturalist crowd but it’s still a cute town. In Bar Harbor we gobbled some of the best ice cream I’ve ever eaten, however, we spent most of our non-gorging hours inside Acadia, America’s second-most visited national park. With lush forests rimmed by cliffs of pink granite that plunge into the ocean, it’s easy to see why Acadia attracts 2 million visitors each year. Since our time was limited, we had to choose wisely which of its 125 miles of trail options to hit. It was difficult but I believe even that last knight of the Crusades would be proud of our decision.

The Bass Harbor lighthouse was truly a photographer's dream. I got over ten mosquito bites on my feel while trying to capture its descent into darkness but I didn't even notice.

The Bass Harbor lighthouse was truly a photographer’s dream. I got over ten mosquito bites on my feet while trying to capture its descent into darkness but I didn’t even notice.

The sun and I have a precarious relationship; no matter how much I love it, I always end up getting burned. Still, it felt right to welcome it to a new day from on top of Cadillac Mountain, it being the star and all.

The sun and I have a precarious relationship. No matter how much I love it, I always end up getting burned. Still, it felt right to welcome it to a new day from on top of Cadillac Mountain.

We walked the Ocean Path Trail, a 4.4-mile stroll along Acadia’s jagged coastline, our first day in the park. It was a mellow and beautiful meandering. The following morning we set sleep and mellow aside to embark on some sunrise madness. Cadillac Mountain, at a whopping 1,530 feet, is, oddly enough, the tallest peak on the Eastern Seaboard north of Brazil. (No snickering please Utahans.) Because of its eastern location and height, it’s the first place in the country to see the break of day each morning. It’s a longstanding tradition among tourists and locals alike to greet the rising sun from atop Cadillac’s rounded dome and, hence, be one of the first in the country to see a new dawn. Jason was a little reluctant to get up at 4:55 AM (2:55 back home) to greet anything but he gave in to my enthusiasm and, thus, we found ourselves out in 37 degrees with the wind hustling around us as we waited for the arrival of that glowing orb. It was bitterly cold but I’d like to think it was worth it…I’m pretty sure it was.

For how short the South Bubble is, climbing it supplied a surprising amount of exercise and adventure.

For how short the South Bubble is, climbing it supplied a surprising amount of exercise and adventure.

Scaling rungs and squeezing into crevices was required to reach the top of the South Bubble. Awesome!

Scaling rungs and squeezing into crevices was required to reach the top of the South Bubble. Awesome!

Since we were already up, I convinced Jason that we might as well hike to the top of another mountain. He was a little resistant to this plan but he eventually caved to my stubbornness. (Are you seeing a pattern here?) I only had to wear a beanie, gloves, a sweater and three jackets to stay marginally warm as we made our way up the South Bubble. You westerners might laugh a little about me even calling the South Bubble a “mountain” since its summit is only 766 feet above sea level but, apparently, that’s what it technically is. Our chilly jaunt was too early and frigid for all but the senseless and stupid so we saw absolutely no one on the Bubble and only ran into other wanderers as we neared the last curves of Jordan Pond, a deep glacier-made lake that we circled to reach our “mountain.”

Bubble Rock was dropped by a melting glacier 15,000 years ago.

Bubble Rock was dropped by a melting glacier 15,000 years ago.

Much to Jason's delight, I am always willing to be a photo's fool.

Much to Jason’s delight, I am always willing to be a photo’s fool.

And, thusly, we ended our time on the coast and began our trek inland. I will save our adventures in New England’s interior for next week. I wouldn’t want to add too much excitement or too many thoughts of lobster to your lives.

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