Maine – Part 5 (August 19 – September 9, 2019)

On Monday, August 19th, we drove 73 miles to Biddeford, ME where we spent three weeks at Homestead by the River Family Campground. The campground’s website had cautioned not to follow our GPS so Phil had written down their suggested directions. He missed one of the turns but managed to find our way to the campground without too much excitement. Upon checking in, the campground owner told Phil that the GPS would have taken us through the town of Saco, a route that she said would have been “horrendous.” Our site was in a large grassy field, under several very large trees. The trees made it unlikely that our satellite would get a signal but we tried moving the rig a couple of times before giving up on satellite. We had a clear view of the Saco River from our living room window. The owners operate a small farm with livestock including horses, sheep, goat, llama, chickens, turkeys and even a pig.

The high temperature on Monday was 85 degrees and Tuesday was almost as hot. We decided to head to the shore on Tuesday to beat the heat. We arrived in Old Orchard Beach, known by locals as ‘OOB,’ at noon and headed down to the beach. The beach was quite busy and became even more congested as the high tide approached, shrinking the amount of available sand. The beach, pier and nearby attractions reminded Phil of his childhood visits to the Jersey shore.

Wednesday brought heavy rainfall so we headed to the movies in the afternoon. We saw “Blinded by the Light,” the true life story of a Pakistani teenager living in Luton, England in 1987 who writes poetry as a way to escape the racial and economic struggles of his town and the traditionalist views of his father. He discovers power in the lyrics of Bruce Springsteen and this gives him the strength to follow his own dreams. The movie was quite enjoyable and provided a good way for us to escape the rain.

The forecast for Thursday called for highs in the mid-80s so we took refuge in the air conditioning of the stores in Freeport, ME. The town was first settled in 1700 and had a history as a center for shipbuilding, lumber, fishing and canning. Its current status as a major tourist attraction is attributable to L.L. Bean. In 1912, Leon Leonwood Bean opened a store in the basement of his brother’s apparel shop, selling the “Bean Boot.” The store became so popular that in 1951 it started staying open 24 hours a day. Its retail and mail order catalog facilities expanded into Freeport’s principal business. The L.L. Bean flagship store is now the anchor to a retail mecca of 140 stores, as well as many restaurants, drawing about 3.5 million visitors a year. In addition to visiting many of the retail outlets, we ate whoopie pies at Wicked Whoopies and had lunch at Linda Bean’s Maine Kitchen (established by the granddaughter of L.L. Bean).

On Saturday, August 24th, we hiked the 2.2-mile Saco Heath Preserve Trail. The preserve was only a couple of miles from our campground. The first .75 mile was through the heath, most of which was on a multi-colored boardwalk. At the end of the boardwalk, we did a short loop through the forest before returning to the trailhead on the boardwalk. Much of the boardwalk was lined by blueberry bushes. We managed to harvest a snack of blueberries but most of the bushes within arms-length of the boardwalk had been picked over already.

On Sunday we drove to Scarborough, ME and hiked the Fuller Farms Trails. Fuller Farms consists of 180 acres of fields and woodlands protected by the Scarborough Land Conservation Trust. We combined several of the trails into a figure-eight hike that totaled 3.1 miles.

On Monday we spent the day in Portland, ME. Despite only having a population of 66,000, Portland is the largest city in Maine and was much bigger than any town we’d visited this summer. The Greater Portland area has a population of 270,000, which represents one-fifth of Maine’s total population. We spent most of the day exploring Old Port, a quaint historic district near the waterfront with cobblestone streets and brick buildings housing boutiques, gourmet food stores, and souvenir shops. The biggest challenge we had was in deciding where to eat. Bon Appetit magazine named Portland the 2018 Restaurant City of the Year. We ended up having potato donuts, a Maine specialty, at The Holy Donut and lobster rolls at DiMillo’s on the Water. There was much too much to do in Portland for a single day so we plan to return.

On Wednesday we visited “The Kennebunks,” the side-by-side villages of Kennebunk and Kennebunkport. The region was first settled in the 1600s and flourished after the American Revolution, when ship captains, boat builders and prosperous merchants built large homes. After a brief stop at the Kennebunk Chamber of Commerce office, we drove by many of these beautifully-maintained manors. One of the more notable was the Wedding Cake House, which locals claim was built by a guilt-ridden ship captain who left for sea before his bride could enjoy a proper wedding cake.

We next visited Gooch’s Beach and Middle Beach, two of the three expansive, sandy beaches in Kennebunk. Parking at the beaches requires a $25 permit for the day but we were able to find a free parking spot on a side street.

Our next stop was at St. Anthony’s Franciscan Monastery. We spent a long time exploring the walking trails along the Kennebunk River.

We then continued on to Dock Square, Kennebunkport’s shopping district, where we visited a number of shops and ate a late lunch at Alisson’s Restaurant.

We next drove along Ocean Avenue where we admired the multi-million dollar oceanfront homes, including Walker’s Point, the summer home of George H. W. and Barbara Bush which is still used by the Bush children. Jan was prepared to make offers on many of these homes but, with rain being forecast for later in the afternoon, we didn’t have time to stop.

Summer home of George H. W. and Barbara Bush at Walker’s Point in Kennebunkport

Our final stop was the fishing village of Cape Porpoise where we viewed lobster boats in the harbor and the lighthouse on Goat Island. For a time during the George H. W. Bush presidency, secret service agents lived on Goat Island, which provides a good vantage point of Bush’s estate at Walker’s Point.

We began Friday, August 30th, with a visit to Cape Elizabeth, ME. Our first stop was at the Cape Elizabeth Light. The lighthouse itself is now on private property so it was not accessible. However, we were able to view it from the rocks across the cove. We had arrived at the peak of high tide and the highlight of this stop was watching the waves crash onto the rocky coast.

Next we visited Two Lights State Park. This was the site of one of the many gun batteries that were built along the coast during World War II to defend the Portland Harbor and Casco Bay. A fire control tower, built nearby, was used to aim the guns at approaching enemy ships. We hiked a mile-long trail around the park that took us along the coast and through the forest. The views of the waves on the rocks were spectacular.

We then drove to see the Portland Head Light and Fort Williams. The Portland Head Light, first lit in1791, is the oldest, and most photographed, lighthouse in Maine. Fort Williams, begun in 1873, served as headquarters for harbor defense and contained gun batteries that were manned during World War I and the early years of World War II. We ate lunch at a picnic table overlooking Casco Bay.

After lunch, we drove to Portland. Our first stop was a tour of the Victoria Mansion. The mansion was built in 1858-1860 as a summer home for New Orleans hotelier Ruggles Morse and his wife Olive, both Maine natives. The house was built with the latest technology and featured gas lights, hot and cold running water, flush toilets, central heat, wall-to-wall carpets, and a servant call system. Ruggles and Olive lived in the house until 1893 when Ruggles passed away and Olive sold it, fully furnished, to the Libby family. The last of the Libby family moved out in 1929 and the house sat vacant during the Depression. It was saved from demolition in 1940 and has been open as a museum since 1941. Because of this history, it still has 90% of its original interiors. We did a self-guided tour but there were docents in each room to tell us about the furnishings and to answer our questions.

We then drove by the boyhood home of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the famed 19th-century poet and educator.

Boyhood home of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Our final stop of the day was at the Portland Museum of Art, where they have free admission on Fridays from 4-8 p.m. We strolled through the exhibits on all four floors.

On Saturday we hiked the 1.5-mile out-and-back East Point Audubon Sanctuary trail in Biddeford Pool, a large tidal pool off of Saco Bay, approximately six miles southeast of downtown Biddeford. It was a mostly sunny day and most of the trail was along the ocean front. The Wood Island Lighthouse was visible across the bay. After our hike, we relaxed on the rocks above the shore.  On our drive home, we passed several oceanfront properties that would made been nice summer homes. That evening, Phil researched some of them and discovered one was a 1,100 square foot, 3 bedroom, 1 bath home that was listed for $2.4 million. The house next door was 1,800 square foot and listed for $4 million. We will keep looking!

On Sunday we returned to the Biddeford Pool area and hiked the 1.5-mile out-and-back Timber Point trail. The trail took us through woods and meadows, with the Little River on one side and a cattail marsh on the other. A short distance past the tip of Timber Point is Timber Island, a 13-acre landmass accessible by land bridge at low tide. Unfortunately we were there at 2 pm and low tide was at 7:30 pm. Timber Point was purchased in 1929 by Louise Ewing. Her husband, Charles, was a master architect who had studied in Paris in the late 1880s. The Ewing house, which is still intact, was his last major architectural project. Louise Ewing had a love of nature and wild things and it was largely due to her influence that Timber Point has remained relatively unchanged. Timber Point is now part of the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge and is used as a resting spot by migratory birds in the spring and fall.

After a rainy Labor Day, the weather on Tuesday was ideal. We started the day with a 2-mile loop hike at Wonder Brook Preserve, part of the Kennebunk Land Trust. We then drove to the Franciscan Monastery and ate a picnic lunch. On our way out, we stopped to see a sculpture that had adorned the façade of the Vatican Pavilion at the World’s Fair in New York City (1964-65).

We then drove to Dock Square in Kennebunk and rented a tandem kayak for three hours. We were told that we had arrived at the perfect time. Since it was an hour before high tide, we could paddle up the Kennebunk River with the current’s assistance. Then, when the tide started going out, our return trip would also be assisted. Departing the marina required paddling under a bridge with only a couple of inches clearance. However, when we returned, the water level was even higher and we had to lie back in our kayak and push our way along under the bridge.

With rain in the forecast for Wednesday afternoon, we limited our outdoor activities to a 2.5-mile hike at Horton Woods in the morning. This 100-acre wildlife preserve in Saco, ME includes diverse ecological habitats, including forests, marshes, streams, bogs and fields. It was one of the few moderate-rated trails in this area and we could feel the difference in the effort required to climb the hills.

That evening Phil observed the neighborhood cat tormenting a baby chipmunk again. Phil had intervened Tuesday afternoon and the baby chipmunk had managed to find refuge in one of our tire covers. On Wednesday night, Phil managed to get between the cat and the chipmunk. As he bent over to pet the cat, he felt the chipmunk run up his pant leg and onto the back of his shirt. When Phil called Jan to get the chipmunk off his back, her first instinct was to grab her camera. However, by the time Jan looked outside, the chipmunk was gone and Phil was left having to try to convince her that it had really happened.

On Thursday we headed north to Brunswick, ME. Brunswick’s main attraction, Bowdoin College, was founded in 1794 and has an impressive list of alumni, including Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, President Franklin Pierce and arctic explorer Robert E. Peary. Our first stop was at the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum. Admiral Peary (class of 1897) led the first expedition to reach the North Pole in 1909. Donald MacMillan (class of 1898) also was an accomplished arctic explorer. When they returned from their respective polar travels, they donated many items they collected to their alma mater, including many mounted animals. After the museum, we strolled the campus green and peaked inside the chapel.

Our next stop was at Cabot Mills Antiques, located in a restored textile mill. In the 16,000 square-foot showroom, more than 160 dealers display a wide variety of furniture, books, art, china and porcelains. We explored the entire showroom but left empty-handed.

We had received a promotional email from KOA for 20%-off at L.L. Bean so we returned to Freeport on our drive south. When Jan used the discount to purchase a shirt, we received an additional $10-off coupon so Phil had to buy some socks.

Finally, we drove farther south to Portland and did a 4-mile harborside stroll along the Eastern Promenade Trail. It was a beautiful day and there were lots of sailboats out on Casco Bay.

On Friday we drove to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. For the past 3 centuries, Plymouth has been the hub of the coastal Maine/New Hampshire region’s maritime trade. The west bank of the harbor was settled by English colonists in 1630 and named Strawberry Banke. It was renamed Portsmouth when the town was incorporated in 1653. Portsmouth grew to be one of the nation’s busiest ports and shipbuilding cities. The town expressed its wealth in fine architecture with many fine examples of Colonial, Georgian and Federal style houses, many of which are still lived in today and some are now museums. We walked by many of these houses, including the following:

  • John Paul Jones House, built in 1758. John Paul Jones, American Revolutionary War Naval hero was a resident in 1781-82 when it was operated as a boarding house.
  • Tobias Lear House – Built c. 1750 by Tobias Lear, a merchant and ship’s captain.
  • Wentworth-Gardner House – Built in 1760 by one of New Hampshire’s wealthiest merchants and landowners as a wedding gift for his son.
  • Warner House – Built in 1716-18 by a sea captain, it is one of the oldest, urban brick houses in northern New England and served as the governor’s mansion for 20 years.
  • Governor John Langdon House – Built in 1784 by John Langdon, a merchant, shipbuilder, American Revolutionary general and 3-term governor of New Hampshire.

We also visited Prescott Park, a beautiful public park along the Piscataqua River and across from the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (established in 1800).

After lunch, we drove past the many factory outlet malls in Kittery, ME and continued on to Fort Foster at Kittery Point. During World War II, approximately 100 men were stationed at Fort Foster (built in 1897) to protect the coastline and the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, where submarines were built for the war effort. The fort’s primary role was to protect the harbor’s intricate underwater minefield from sabotage and enemy minesweepers and torpedo boats. The Wood Island Life Saving Station, visible from the Fort Foster pier, was used as a strategic observation post to watch for German U-boats. Fort Foster was closed after World War II and was turned over to the Town of Kittery in 1961 for public use.

Our drive home took us through a series of beautiful beach communities, including York Harbor, Ogunquit, Wells Beach, Kennebunkport and Cape Porpoise.

Shoreline at York Harbor

On Saturday we drove to Wells, ME and attended the 32nd annual Laudholm Nature Crafts Festival. This prestigious event brings 120 of New England’s finest craftspeople and artisans, selected by jury, to exhibit their wares. We strolled through the grounds, visiting all of the booths and making several purchases. The temperature was in the upper 50s when we arrived but did warm up somewhat in the afternoon.

The festival was held at the Wells Reserve at Laudholm. This site had been farmed for over 300 years before being turned over for public use in 1986. The Wells Reserve uses this historical site as a platform for education, conservation, and research, maintaining more than a dozen historic structures. The property has many trails, including one leading to Laudholm Beach. We hiked to the beach and enjoyed strolling up and down the shore. The weather forecasters had issued a High Surf Advisory and the wave action was quite strong.

Sunday was spent preparing to travel again. It was difficult to say goodbye to the Maine coast after a wonderful three months.

Maine – Part 4 (August 14 – 19, 2019)

On Wednesday, August 14th, we returned to the USA from St. Andrews, NB. We drove 233 miles to Boothbay, ME where we spent five nights at Shore Hills Campground. When we went through Customs to re-enter the U.S., the Border Guard asked Phil if he had any fruits or vegetables on board. When Phil replied that we only had some that we’d brought into Canada with us, the Border Guard asked to inspect the inside of the fifth wheel. Once inside, he only looked inside the refrigerator and confiscated two lemons that we had bought in the US. Apparently citrus fruits can’t be brought into the US from Canada, even if they originated in the US. The rest of the drive was uneventful but was quite slow, taking over five hours. We passed through a number of small towns including Camden, ME, where the traffic was bumper-to-bumper for quite a while. Our campsite in Boothbay was quite long and we had a lot more space between us and our neighbors than we had had at our last two campgrounds. For dinner, we got takeout seafood from Karen’s Hideaway.

Jan’s view following Phil through Camden, ME in bumper-to-bumper traffic

Thursday was spent addressing a number of domestic needs. We drove to Augusta, Maine’s state capital, to get some routine maintenance on the Mazda. We took advantage of being in a big town by stocking up on groceries at Sam’s Club, Wal-Mart and Shaw’s. On our return trip, we drove to Bath, ME to pick up a prescription at Walgreens.

We spent Friday in Camden, ME, an hour’s drive from Boothbay. Camden is an affluent coastal village on Penobscot Bay, in Maine’s MidCoast region. We had intended to begin the day with a hike in the Camden Hills State Park but, since it was raining, we spent the first couple of hours exploring downtown Camden instead. We parked at the Visitors’ Center by the picturesque harbor, visited a number of stores along Main Street, and then walked along the High Street Historic District where there are many 19th-century homes that have been beautifully maintained. At noon, we began our hike on the Mt. Megunticook Trail. The hike was a 5-mile out-and-back trek to Zeke’s Overlook. It was of moderate difficulty and included an elevation rise of over 1,000’. It was a good workout but was somewhat disappointing in the limited number of scenic viewpoints. By the completion of our hike, our legs were exhausted. We returned to Karen’s Hideaway for takeout seafood again, as we were too tired to cook dinner.

On Saturday we visited two nearby seaport towns, Bath and Wiscasset. Both have long histories, dating back to their exploration by Samuel de Champlain in 1605. Both towns have been long-time centers for shipbuilding and lumber. Tourists are attracted to these towns by their large collections of 19th-century architecture. We visited Bath first and strolled along the historic shopping district on Front Street, just a block from the Kennebec River. We had a late lunch at Bruno’s Pizza. Then, while Jan did some shopping, Phil visited the Linwood E. Temple Waterfront Park. As we left Bath, we passed a giant lobster on the roof of the Taste of Maine restaurant. We next did a quick visit to Wiscasset, which proclaims itself as the “Prettiest Village in Maine.” We drove by a large number of beautifully-restored homes from the 1800s.

On Sunday we visited Boothbay Harbor, at the end of the peninsula. Boothbay Harbor was just another fishing village until it was discovered by wealthy city folks who built imposing seaside homes there. Since then, it has emerged as a premiere tourist destination. A popular attraction is the long, narrow footbridge across the harbor, built in 1901. We wandered around on the piers, stopped for ice cream, and visited a few of the many souvenir shops.

St. Andrews, NB (August 5 – 14, 2019)

On Monday, August 5th, we left Lubec, ME and drove 70 miles to St. Andrews, NB (a.k.a. St. Andrews By-the-Sea). The village of St. Andrews traces its roots to the days of the Loyalists. After the American Revolution, New Englanders who had supported the British were made to feel unwelcome and moved a short sail away to the peninsula of St. Andrews.

Crossing the border into Canada took us about 30 minutes and Phil was asked a lot of questions by Canadian Border Services. Jan was in the car right behind Phil so she got less questions. Monday was New Brunswick Day so, when Phil’s GPS directed him to drive down the street one block away from downtown St. Andrews, he encountered cars parked on both sides of the narrow street. Fortunately, the few cars that had been trying to drive in his direction pulled over to the curb and allowed Phil to get by.

We will spend nine nights at Kiwanis Oceanfront Camping. The campground is at Indian Point, the easternmost part of St. Andrews, on the edge of Passamaquoddy Bay which connects to the Atlantic Ocean. We had reserved an oceanview pull-through site. However, these pull-through sites were different from the usual ones. Rather than leave the truck parked in front of the fifth wheel, we were required, after disconnecting, to move the truck to behind the trailer. The sites were quite narrow and, after disconnecting the trailer the first time, we discovered that there was not enough room to open our off-door living room slide. We had to reconnect and move the trailer a few inches forward. The next challenge was to squeeze the truck and car in behind the trailer. We managed to get them both parked, with the Mazda slightly intruding on the neighbor’s site. However, due to the tight fit, we had to walk sideways to get between the vehicles.

After getting set up, we enjoyed sitting outside with a strong breeze coming off the bay. That evening, we went for a walk across the road to the beach access.

Panorama of Passamaquoddy Bay at low tide

On Tuesday morning we walked downtown along Water Street and visited many of the shops. We also strolled out on the wharf where the whale watching and sport fishing cruises depart. We then ate lunch on the patio at Water Street Diner and enjoyed people watching while we waited for our food.

We returned to the beach after dinner and experienced it at high tide for a change.

On Wednesday, the weather had turned quite a bit cooler. We went for a 4.4-mile hike along the Van Horne Trail which was an easy path that took us from Water Street, near the campground, to Katy’s Cove. At the beginning of the hike, we spotted a nearly all-white fawn along with a group of does. We detoured along the way for a hike through Pagan Point Nature Preserve to the beach.

That evening we went for a long walk along the coast and up Prince of Wales Road. There were lots of deer grazing in the fields and neighborhood yards. The deer obviously felt quite safe as they allowed us to walk very close to them. We visited the Kingbrae Garden, a 24-acre public garden on the grounds of a long-gone estate. Although the gardens were closed, the café was still open so we were able to explore the plants and sculptures in the parking lot.

On Thursday morning we went downtown to the St. Andrews Farmers’ Market. We strolled past the many stands and purchased some produce and snacks.

That afternoon we strolled the beach at low tide and walked out on the point nearly to the end. We only stopped when the footing became too slippery. This long stretch of land is completely submerged at high tide.

On Friday we drove 30 minutes to the neighboring town of St. Stephen. Our first stop was at the weekly Community Market where we only bought some snacks. We strolled along the downtown district and stopped at the Chocolate Museum. St. Stephen hails itself as “Canada’s Chocolate Town.” We had intended to take a tour of the museum but the next tour was going to be in French. We visited the gift shop and admired a sculpture that had been carved out of a 500-pound of chocolate. Ultimately, we decided not to wait for the next tour in English and opted, instead, to visit the local covered bridge. The Maxwell Crossing covered bridge, built in 1910, was not as interesting as the ones we had seen in Iowa last fall. That evening we walked around St. Andrews again. We visited the Pendlebury Lighthouse that was built in 1833 and operated until 1933.

On Saturday we returned to the Van Horne Trail. This time we hiked from Water Street to the eastern side of Katy’s Cove, then returned via the shoreline until we reached the Pagan Point Nature Preserve.

For dinner, we walked downtown and ate at The Gables Restaurant. This clapboard structure was named for the three-gabled roof line and built as a private residence in 1870. Since then, it has been a rooming house in the 40s, a guest house in the 50s & 60s, a rock and roll burger joint in the 70s & 80s, and as The Gables Restaurant since 1989. We sat outside on the patio overlooking the bay. It started to drizzle as we were finishing our meal but, fortunately, the rain didn’t last long.

On Sunday we visited Ministers Island. We drove across the bar and hiked five miles around the perimeter of the island and a loop near the mansion, Covenhoven.  The island is only accessible during a 5-hour window centered on low tide. During this time, cars can be driven to the island across a rocky bar that is underwater at other times.

Reverend Samuel Andrews bought the island for £250 pounds sterling in 1790, thus the name “Ministers Island.” The island remained in the Andrews family until 1891, when a large parcel was sold to Sir William Van Horne, president of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Van Horne built a 50-room mansion (Covenhoven), a circular bathhouse that led to a natural saltwater pool (when the tide was up), the largest heated greenhouses in Canada, and a 3-story state-of-the-art barn.

On Monday, Jan toured the Kingbrae Garden. This 27-acre public garden opened in 1998, using the former grounds of a long-gone estate that had a history of fine gardens. The Garden features a cedar maze, two ponds, streams, a wide array of birds, butterflies and insects, a woodland trail through an Acadian forest, animals, sculptures, and more. For lunch, we returned to the Water Street Diner and sat on the patio to people watch.

We spent much of Tuesday preparing for our return to the U.S. on Wednesday. In the afternoon, we visited the St. Andrews blockhouse and gun battery. This is the only remaining blockhouse in Canada from the War of 1812. When the war broke out, the citizens of St. Andrews had little fear of an invasion by their neighbors across the bay in Maine. The main threat was of privateering. In wartime, governments licensed private businesses and ships to seize enemy vessels and cargoes, as well as to loot homes and businesses. The battery consisted of three “18-pounder” guns (named after the weight of their shot) that overlooked the entrance to the harbor. These guns could fire as far as Navy Island, across the harbor. The blockhouse was constructed soon after. From inside, soldiers armed with muskets and a small cannon could defend the battery. The defense worked. Although privateers captured many ships at sea, they never attacked St. Andrews. After touring the blockhouse, we went down on the beach and watched lots of people digging for clams in the low tide.

It was with regret that we had to leave the Kiwanis Oceanfront Camping campground. Although it was an adjustment to our body clocks being in the Atlantic time zone (one hour later than Eastern time), we certainly enjoyed being able to sit outside every afternoon and enjoy the cool breezes coming off the Passamaquoddy Bay without having to deal with mosquitoes. Jan went outside early on Wednesday morning to capture a picture of the sun rising over the bay.