Travel: The Coast of Maine
New Sights and Sounds
My husband and I take a vacation most years. Where we go depends on whether our businesses are thriving, failing, or somewhere in between. In 2008, I had just sold a business I'd had for 15 years. It was a time of change, and those times are always stressful. There's a saying that change is not good or bad; it is just change. That may be true, but it is also stressful. That year, because of a limited budget, we decided a short trip in the states would be best. Living in New Orleans and enduring some incredibly hot summers, we opted for Maine. Our trip would be in August and we thought it would be a pleasant change, which it truly was.
Whale Watching in Casco Bay
We flew into Portland, slept well and were ready to go whale watching at 9:00 the next morning. We woke to overcast skies and a very cool breeze. After leaving New Orleans, which is a virtual sauna during the summer, the weather was perfect for us, even the cloudy skies. We got to the harbor and found our whale-watching boat. The crew let us board early and we found a wonderful spot and were ready to make hundreds of photos of the whales we were going to see.
Well, the whales didn't come out during out boat ride. I suppose they just didn't feel like showing themselves to us that day. However, we had a wonderful time. Everything was different and fun and we enjoyed our ride out into Casco Bay. The boat ride lasted a couple of hours and while some of the others on board took naps, etc., we had fun sighting birds we'd never seen and making photos of the lighthouses. The captain of our boat was apologetic about our whaleless whale-watching trip, but we knew he couldn't control the whales and everyone was quite good-natured about it.
We had a wonderful lunch at an outdoor restaurant over the bay. The flowers are spectacular in Maine. I've found that to be true in Canada also. I suppose because the growing season is so short, they take special care of the flowers for the short period they have them. They are exquisite and it was a treat, eating seafood surrounded by such bright splashes of color.
We decided to revisit a couple of places we had frequented in years past when we stayed with a family member in the area. We had a memorable time on that earlier trip, walking along Goose Rock Bay and eating at the local restaurants. So after lunch overlooking Casco Bay, we took a ride to that area and even located the cottage where we stayed on the earlier trip, although it had long since been sold. Goose Rock Bay has a starkly beautiful shoreline and it is lined with beach cottages, some lavish two- and three-story affairs, many more of them modest and with more quaintness, if there is such a word, than the larger models. We also wanted to go back to a wonderful lobster house where we dined with family members on the earlier trip. It's called Noonan's, and the food was just as amazing as we remembered it. After prowling around Goose Rock Bay and overeating at Noonan's, we were ready for early bed that night.
The next day, we were up early and went back to the area around the bay. There was a summer festival and all the shops had their merchandise displayed on the street. It was sunny that day and we realized that Portland could get a bit warm, too, although it did in no way rival New Orleans in that respect. We spent a leisurely time that day, shopping and napping and eating. The next morning, our first stop was at the Maine Wildlife Park. We are both great animal lovers. This is a park where animals are rehabilitated to be put back into the wild. We could have easily stayed there all day. It was a wonderful setting, surrounded by trees, and the cages and fenced areas were all spacious and clean. Of course, the animals were lovable and sweet and it made your heart hurt to see them with their broken legs, blind eyes, splotchy coats of hair, etc.
Rehabilitate Wounded Animals
Maine Wildlife Park
We stayed in the park for a long time, just walking from cage to cage and then out to the fenced areas where the deer and other larger animals were. Our favorite little creature was an albino porcupine. We'd never seen anything like him before, and he entertained us as though he believed we were there to see him and him alone. We finally left, reluctantly, and began our drive north along the Maine Coast. We drove until we were tired. We found a perfect little motel in a town called Belfast. The coast is dotted with small older motels. The two we chose were nicely remodeled inside and the personnel were friendly and helpful. There was a restaurant within walking distance of our room and we enjoyed a gourmet dinner, sitting in an outdoor section overlooking a bay. We were in bed early, anticipating the next day.
Acadia National Park
Our first stop the next morning was Acadia National Park. We happened to be going through the park at the same time that Hurricane Bob, which had followed us from New Orleans, was sending in some of the tallest waves many of the natives had ever seen. The sight was spectacular. I had never seen anything quite like it before and haven't since. Thousands of people lined the rocks, holding on and watching the waves just as I'm certain they had many times in the past. I'm sure they felt comfortable because they had gone on those same rocks many times before, but several of them underestimated the strength of the waves and were pulled off into the water. One child lost her life and there were several broken bones where people were ripped from the rocks by the waves, then back on to them again. Seeing the power of nature up close like that was truly an amazing thing. We made hundreds of pictures of the surging water. Some of them were forceful and portrayed the sight of the waves, but none of them captured those moments because the roar of the water is missing. The power of nature was spectacular and dangerous.
Power of Nature
We stayed and watched the waves for a long time, getting caught up, along with everyone else, in the drama of the people being pulled off the rocks. We took off our shoes and walked in the sand with large groups of people, enjoying nature's show. Then we got back on the road again and on our way north, up the Maine Coast. Having read several books about hauntings along the coast, although I didn't tell my husband, I really didn't want to get caught after dark on that roadway.
We drove until we came to a town called East Machias. There, we chose a motel and went to collect our key card. We realized how old the place was when we were actually given a key -- a real key. We laughed because it was so bizarre, but although the place was old, it was modern and attractive inside. We had no desire to go out for dinner that night and ate crackers and cheese and drank wine instead. We sat on our patio where we happened to spot a young eagle in a tree across the bay from us. We drank coffee and talked and laughed, watching the eagle until time for sleep. It was still there the next morning when we left.
Canada: Campobello Island
We drove farther along the coast, heading northeast until we came to Cobscook Bay, which is the official end of the United States. We then had to go through customs because we were entering New Brunswick, Canada. Campobello Island was the summer home of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Many other wealthy Americans had summer places there during Roosevelt's day. The park itself is beautifully kept, although it has retained a feel of the wild to some degree, full of trees and thick undergrowth and an occasional eagle or other unusual bird. We discovered a lighthouse that seemed a bit too isolated for our taste and gave us both an eerie feeling. We let it be without exploring further. We spent a couple of hours riding through the park, then made our way to the actual cottage where Roosevelt and his family stayed. Although the island is strictly Canadian, the cottage is a joint project between the United States and Canada.
The cottage itself is very attractive inside and out. The inside held many personal belongings of the Roosevelt family and one could feel their presence still in the house, hear the doors slamming and children running in and out on bright summer days, perhaps playing with the croquet set left in the cottage. The grounds are immaculate and filled with incredible beds of flowers. After a self-guided tour with someone always available to answer questions, we were shown a film about Roosevelt and his summer home, his presidency, his experience with polio, and other aspects of his life. We walked around the grounds and admired the spectacular flowers.
FDR's Summer Home
As we walked back to the car, we were both quiet. We were beginning to get that end of vacation sort of sadness and nostalgia I suppose most people get when something good ends. We have not traveled extensively, but although we've visited probably three-fourths of the states, have gone to Europe twice and Canada numerous times, this trip to Maine was one of our very favorite trips. As we drove away from the cottage, I was thinking about the adventures we'd had, from riding in the choppy Casco Bay with a chilly breeze blowing, to the sweetness of the recovering animals, especially the antics of the white porcupine. Then the most dramatic event of all was the amazing show Mother Nature gave us at Acadia National Park. Campobello Island was almost like being in a different world for a little while, cut off from reality and wandering about, lost in the past, in the years of FDR's presidency. These are the things we'll think of when we recall this trip. And when the sweltering heat and humidity engulfs New Orleans, we'll long for the cool breezes and the beauty of the Maine Coast.