The Maine Attraction Part I: the Coast
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 view of the surrounding bay from Mount Battie, a 780-foot verdant outcropping that gently rises behind Camden’s pleasing avenues.
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.
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.
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.”
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.