On Sunday, July 14th, we left Trenton, ME and drove 44 miles to Sunset Point Campground in Harrington, ME where we will stay for two weeks. Although we moved northeast, in Maine this is referred to as Downeast Maine. The term Downeast comes from the days when ships were powered by sail. East Coast ships heading northeast along the coastline had strong prevailing winds at their backs, making it an easy “downhill” run to the farthest eastern ports. Sunset Point Campground is located on tidal shores in a rural environment near many small fishing villages. The largest nearby town, Machias, is 24 miles away and has a population of only 2,400. The 20 sites at the campground are fairly private and have covered picnic tables. The campground sits on the edge of a bay that leads out to the Atlantic Ocean. After getting set up, we strolled down the trail to the bay. We returned that evening to see the sunset.
On Monday we drove to South Addison, ME where we hiked the 3.8-mile Ingersoll Point Preserve Loop. The first 1.5 miles were an enjoyable hike through mossy forests and along coastal shores. However, after we reached Ingersoll Point, the trail became largely overgrown and was actually impassible in places due to the muck. We ended up blazing our own trail through the thick forest to bypass the swampy areas before reconnecting with the trail.
On Tuesday we drove to Beals, ME where we hiked the 5.8-mile loop at Great Wass Island Preserve. We had originally only planned to hike the 4-mile out-and-back Little Cape Point Trail but, when we reached Cape Cove, we decided to hike the entire loop. After hiking two miles on the Little Cape Point Trail, we reached the shore and then had over a 2-mile walk up the shoreline to the Mud Hole Trail. The walk on the shoreline was the hardest part of the hike. It required climbing over many large rocks and walking on beaches with many smaller rocks, with no protection from the sun. We were very happy when we returned to the forest for the 1.5-mile Mud Hole Trail. The entire loop took us a little more than 4 hours and gave us a great sense of accomplishment when we finished it.
On our return home, we stopped at Bayview Takeout, a highly recommended seafood stand. We ordered a small basket of fried clams, sweet potato fries and coleslaw. Everything was tasty but the fried clams were the best we’d ever had.
With sore muscles from Tuesday’s hike and a forecast for rain, we chose to visit the town of Machias on Wednesday, rather than do another hike.
Our first stop was at the Burnham Tavern, built in 1770 and deemed by the Department of the Interior as one of 21 homes having the most significance to the American Revolution. In early June 1775, the residents of the small settlement of Machias found themselves with a dilemma. Following the battles at Lexington and Concord, the settlers were informed by the British that their lumber was to be shipped to Boston to build barracks for the British soldiers. If they refused, they faced hunger and the wrath of Lieutenant Moore, commander of the armed British vessel Margaretta which sat in the harbor with its guns leveled at their homes. If they complied, they would have betrayed the American cause. A group of townsfolk gathered at Burnham Tavern and debated their options. Ultimately, a plan was adopted to capture Lt. Moore as he attended church the following day. However, Lt. Moore saw the men arriving with pitchforks and scythes and managed to escape back to the Margaretta. As soon as the commander was aboard, the Margaretta began to move down river toward open water. Forty settlers, armed largely with farm implements and a few muskets, followed in two merchant vessels, the Falmouth Packet and the Unity. In the ensuing battle Lt. Moore was shot and the Margaretta captured. Burnham Tavern then became a hospital to treat the injured from both sides. This “Battle of Machias” was the first naval battle of the Revolutionary War. Today, the Burnham Tavern is a museum and contains many furnishings circa 1780.
When the rain stopped, we continued on to visit Jasper Beach in Machiasport. Jasper Beach is a very unusual beach as it’s made up of billions of smooth rocks of varying colors. When the waves roll in and out of Howard Cove, the ocean makes a singing sound as the waves tumble the rocks. Getting to and from the water was quite challenging, as the dunes of small rocks were quite unstable and difficult to climb.
We next stopped at Fort O’Brien. Following the capture of the Margaretta, the Machias townspeople built this fort to protect the town from British attacks. Although the fort was not involved in any action during the Revolutionary War, it was overrun and burned down by the British in the War of 1812. The fort was rebuilt and manned in 1863 to protect the town from Confederate raids but saw no action during the Civil War.
Our next stop was at the Nathan Gates House, built in 1810. It is one of the few remaining seafaring houses left on the Machias River. The adjacent Cooper House was constructed in 1850. Today these homes are maintained by the Machiasport Historical Society. The Gates House contains an incredible collection of old photographs, period furniture, housewares and much more memorabilia. The Marine Room has models of vessels, artifacts and a fine marine library. There is also a large genealogical library on the second floor. The Cooper House houses recreations of an earlier Machiasport post office and one-room schoolhouse. There is an extensive collection of antique tools used in woodworking and local industries. For such a small town, this museum was truly impressive.
Our final stop was at Bad Little Falls Park in Machias. Apparently “Machias” is a native American word that means “bad little falls.” The small park is in the middle of town and contains a bridge and overlook above the churning Machias River.
On Thursday we drove to the Petit Manan National Wildlife Refuge in Steuben, ME and hiked the 2.5-mile Hollingsworth Trail. This loop trail starts with a hike through upland forest and cedar swamp before reaching the shore of Pigeon Hill Bay. We were able to see the Petit Manan Light in the distance. After relaxing in the chairs set up at the shoreline, we continued on the trail back through the forest to the parking lot. The recent rains had resulted in standing water in many places along the trail and these posed a challenge for us to get around. Despite that, it was an enjoyable and fairly easy hike.
On Friday, July 19th, we returned to the Schoodic Peninsula portion of Acadia National Park. Since there were no long hikes in that area that we hadn’t done previously, we decided to do two shorter hikes. We started with a 1.9-mile out-and-back hike of the Sundew Trail on the grounds of the Schoodic Institute. The trail included several outshoots to benches overlooking rocky cliffs above Frenchman Bay.
Our second hike was the Acadia East Trail, a 1.2-mile out-and-back hike that took us to the summit of Schoodic Head. We had hiked a different trail to this summit on June 17th when Jason was visiting. Although the East Trail was shorter, it was steep. The trail rose 374’ in the first half mile and had many switchbacks.
On Saturday we had intended to attend the Bold Coast Sea and Sky Festival in Machias. However, with temperatures that reached 92 degrees, we decided instead to stay indoors and enjoy the air conditioning. After dinner we did drive to Machias to listen to the live music. We watched a brother duo, Pitch Black Ribbons, perform for a couple of hours. We were surprised that the crowd was so small (less than 100).
Sunday was a very rainy day but the rain helped to lower the temperature somewhat. When the rain stopped around 4 pm, we decided to do a quick hike at a nature preserve five miles from our campground. The easy 2.8-mile loop was lovely and took us through a mossy forest and out to Alaska Cove. However, despite the temperature having dropped to 78 degrees, it was extremely humid and we sweated profusely throughout the hike.
On Monday we decided to do a more challenging hike. We drove to Cherryfield, ME and hiked the 4.8-mile Tunk Mountain Ridge Trail. The out-and-back hike took us past two lovely ponds and up to the mountain top where there were impressive vistas. The ascent of 889’ was the most we’d done this summer and our legs felt quite heavy by the end.
For dinner we ordered a couple of whole lobsters from the campground owner. They were delicious!
Tuesday was a rainy day so we took a break from hiking. We took the truck to a local tire dealer to get them to look at one of our dually tires that has had a slow leak for several months. They discovered a short screw in the tread, as well as a loose valve. They resolved both issues for $15. In the afternoon we visited Wild Blueberry Land in Columbia Falls. This store, shaped like a blueberry, sells everything imaginable made from Maine wild blueberries. Phil ordered a slice of blueberry pie. Jan got a needham, a Maine classic candy that combines coconut, sugar, chocolate and potato. We learned that Maine once harvested more potatoes than any other state.
On Wednesday we drove to Sullivan, ME and hiked 4.4 miles in the Long Ledges & Baker Hills Preserves. These preserves have numerous short trails but we managed to link them together to make a long loop. Although it was about three weeks prior to peak wild blueberry season in Maine, there were enough ripe blueberries on the bushes along the trail for us to have an enjoyable snack as we hiked.
On Thursday we visited Roque Bluffs State Park and hiked a 2.2-mile loop. After a picnic lunch, we relaxed on the sandy beach (a rarity in Maine) and enjoyed wading in the cold water.
On Friday we hiked the 3.2-mile Black Mountain East Peak loop near Franklin, ME. Initially, we had a very difficult time finding the trailhead. Our GPS first took us up a road that turned out to be a private drive. After other unsuccessful attempts to find our way, we ultimately ended up driving up an unpaved, single-lane road for two miles. Once we finally found the trailhead, we headed up the trail which rose 869’ in elevation, most of it in the first half mile. We faced some challenging rock climbing in places but managed to make our way to the summit. There were many beautiful vistas along the way.
Saturday was our final full day based in Harrington. We spent the morning in Machias. Our first stop was at the Machias Valley Farmers’ Market. The name was a misnomer as there were no farmers there. In reality, it was just a flea market where people had tables full of their old junk. We quickly walked past all the tables and then left. Our next stop was at the Machias River Preserve where we did a 3-mile out-and-back hike along the Machias River. It was an easy hike with only a few hills. The afternoon was spent preparing for our move to Lubec, ME on Sunday. We had whole lobsters for our last dinner in Harrington.