We have crossed another milestone. Two years ago today, on March 1, 2012, we embarked on our new lifestyle of living on the road. One of our many goals was to continue to exercise and be active. Building on what I began last year, and to commemorate our 2nd year of full timing, I have compiled our new set of favorite hike/walk trails. This top ten list covers the trails we explored between March 1, 2013 and Feb 28, 2014. It does not include the dozens of beach walks we took while on the east coast. Although we love long walks on the beach, they tend to be fairly similar and we decided not to try to rate them. Continue reading
We’ve been lingering in Maine a little longer than planned, and the primary reason – Lobstah! Of course it is Maine’s main crustacean, scientifically known as Homarus Americanus, or American Lobster. They come in several colors, but not red – except when they are cooked – then they are all red like the one pictured below. It takes an American lobster 6-7 years to get to an edible size. They are long-lived animals, thought to be capable of living over 100 years.
Lobstermen with their traps and lobsters seem to be the unique and distinctive tradition here in Maine.
In addition to the lobstermen, there are picturesque harbors, wharves and small coastal towns dotted with lobster boats, traps and buoys.
Lobsters are caught using baited, one-way traps with color-coded marker buoys that uniquely mark each one. These buoys decorate the surface of the ocean along many miles of the coastline.
Buying live lobsters direct from a lobsterman is the best option and you get to see their yard littered with traps, ropes and buoys – tools of the trade.
Being seafood lovers, we had a lobster feast almost every day while in Maine. And here is a fun fact – long before they became such a delicacy, lobsters were fed to prisoners and servants. It was considered “poor man’s food” during the colonial times. Well, we were able to buy it for as little as $3.99 per pound while staying near Bar Harbor – we didn’t want to leave!
Here’s the best part – lobster is highly nutritious. Despite its rich, buttery taste, it is a low-calorie, low-fat source of protein: 3.5 ounces of meat has only about 96 calories and less than 2 grams of fat. Succulent and a healthy food to boot! We ate them with gusto every day and not worry about gaining extra pounds.
Enough said about the favorite crustacean, how about Maine’s coastline? Get this, Maine’s convoluted coastline is 51 miles longer than California’s, at 3,478 miles – that’s if you count all the bays and tidal inlets. So, off we went to journey along the mid-coast area, driving to Penobscot Bay. It was being billed as the most scenic body of water on the eastern seaboard, with the “must see” towns of Rockland, Rockport and Camden. This area also includes many historic lighthouses and museums, plus lots of shopping and excellent restaurants.
Our first stop was in Rockland, where we walked across the mile-long granite Rockland Breakwater which was built in 1880. The breakwater is now on the National Register of Historic Places and at the end of the granite pier sits The Rockland Breakwater Light.
At Marine Park in Rockport we enjoyed the small but busy sheltered harbor. Here too are historic lime kilns used more than a century ago.
After paying an entrance fee to get into Camden Hills State Park, we hiked the overlapping Tablelands, Megunticook and Mt. Battie trails. It was a fairly strenuous 4-mile round trip with steep pitches, as it climbed steadily to the ocean lookout. At the top we were rewarded with a bird’s eye view of Camden Harbor, and the panorama of Penobscot Bay and its islands.
The southern coast of Maine is known for its beaches, dozens of lighthouses and endless boutiques, antique stores and museums. We stopped at Wells, Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Ogunquit.
At Perkins Cove, we followed a scenic cliff walk named Marginal Way for over a mile. It meanders along the ocean and connects Perkins Cove to the town of Qgunquit. It is a very popular trail and was crowded, even on a weekday.
For the lighthouse lovers out there, Maine has 68 lighthouses. We walked to and viewed a few of them. Each is unique with its own heroic rescues and romantic stories, and it seems we never get tired of checking them out. Most are automated now and some have been preserved as museums.
And with that, our Maine sojourn comes to an end. This was our first time staying in Maine, but it won’t be the last – we really enjoyed the atmosphere and already know we must come back. During our latest excursions here, our base camps were at Saltwater Farm Campground in Cushing, and at Moody Beach RV park in Wells. If interested in Steve’s campground reviews, click here.
Next up: The Freedom Trail, Boston MA
After experiencing and loving the natural beauty of Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park, we traveled only 20 miles south of our campground to be amazed by a man-made wonder and engineering feat. The Penobscot Narrows Bridge is a structural beauty spanning 2,120 feet over the Penobscot River. It connects the towns of Prospect and Verona Island, Maine, on highway 1. These are quaint, rural towns where you don’t expect to see a stunning structure such as this peeking out over the treetops.
The bridge is Maine’s first cable-stayed bridge, and one of only three bridges in the U.S. that are similarly constructed. The span consists of 181 segments like the one pictured below, suspended on cables from the 447-foot tall concrete pylons.
And the best part is we were able to enjoy a 360-degree view of the surrounding area from the Penobscot Narrows Bridge Observatory. It is the tallest bridge observatory in the world, and open to the public with access to the top deck, which sits 447 feet above the Penobscot River.
The observatory is accessible only through Fort Knox (not THE Fort Knox, more later), so after paying a very reasonable $7.00 per person to access the observatory AND the fort, up we went on our one-minute ride straight to the top. When the elevator doors slid open we were faced with a dizzying view of the Penobscot river. We climbed stairs two more levels and were faced with an awesome view of the surrounding countryside – mountains, hills and lots and lots of trees.
A beautiful inlaid bronze compass rose, taken from a 1613 map created by Samuel de Champlain, can be seen on the top deck floor of the observatory.
One last look at that bridge on the way across. We were surprised to learn that it took only 42 months from conception to opening day in 2006 to complete this bridge and observatory – practically unheard of these days! It had to be built quickly after it was discovered that the existing Waldo–Hancock Bridge was rapidly failing due to corrosion. The beautiful and graceful design also turned out to be the easiest and most economical to construct in a hurry, costing only $86 million. There’s not even a toll to cross this bridge – excellent!
After a dizzying time at the observatory, we swung by Fort Knox (not to be confused with the one in Kentucky storing all that gold) just a few hundred feet away. It is a military installation built in 1844 to protect the Penobscot Valley and one of the best preserved fortifications on the New England seacoast.
We’ve visited many forts during the past year and a half, yet we continue to enjoy checking out each one along our route. They all have their unique battery of cannon and neat architecture – this one is almost all solid granite, since the stone is plentiful in the nearby mountains. Of course, the story of each fort is different and interesting to learn.
The views were excellent despite the overcast sky, and in just a few hours we got to explore and be amazed by these man-made creations.
Next up: Hugging Maine’s coastline
Acadia National Park had been on our radar screen for several years, and the time finally came for us to explore it. We were not disappointed! We quickly learned that the park covers much of Mount Desert Island, the largest island off the coast of Maine. When visiting the park, one should also check out the various other busy little resort towns and harbors that are intertwined with national park land throughout Mount Desert Island.
Jeffrey, our campground host at Forest Ridge RV Park (you can see Steve’s park review here), provided us with detailed tips for exploring the island, the park and the surrounding towns and villages via less traveled roads. To do all he suggested we decided to extend our stay to 4 days, as there is much to see and experience here. We allowed two days to explore Acadia National Park, to include not only the “must see” but also to discover sceneries and hidden delights of the island. We were also excited to resume our much-needed exercise, since we had been getting rained out a few days earlier.
Acadia National Park is the jewel of Maine, and also the first national park east of the Mississippi. It includes mountains…
…woodlands, moss, evergreens…
…lakes and ponds…
…rocky ocean coastlines…
…and lichens-splotched granite, where I managed to blend in quite well!
All of the above and much more spectacular scenery were revealed and took our breath away, as we drove two scenic loops to cover the park. One was the 27-mile scenic loop at Mount Desert Island (the “main” part of the park that everyone visits), and the other is a 6-mile one-way loop at Schoodic Peninsula. Many people don’t make it to the Schoodic Peninsula, but it is at least as beautiful as Mount Desert Island. We just loved the short drive on the new road and took a great hike there, too. Don’t miss the Schoodic Peninsula if you come to this area.
We were also excited to hike the Cadillac Mountain South Ridge, which began at the summit and gave us an unimpeded view all the way to the ocean. This hike is a bit strenuous, as it requires some “scrambling” on the rocks near the beginning of the trail. It’s one of those hikes where each time you think you’ve reached the final rise, there’s always another one ahead. But the scenery is so worth it!
And at Schoodic Peninsula, which is about an hour’s drive from Bar Harbor, we combined the four trails that traverse the area for a great hike. We enjoyed spruce-fir forests and great views of Cadillac Mountain in the distance. At the end of the peninsula we were led to the wind-swept coast, where we noted dark diabase dykes intruding into pink granite ledges.
We saw several fascinating lichens that thrive on granite and rocks here.
Borders of the park are accented by picturesque harbor villages such as Southwest Harbor, known for its active waterfront. Also, the very popular Bar Harbor is a commercial center and tourist destination that even hosts cruise ships. We also visited Seal Harbor with its lovely beach, and more!
We think an interesting fact about Acadia National Park is that it is the first national park whose land was donated entirely by private citizens over many years. Although we missed the fall colors as we were here a couple of weeks too early, this park is high up on the list of our favorite stops so far.
Next up: The Penobscot Narrows and more Maine adventures!
When you think of Maine, lobsters probably come to mind along with ocean breezes – maybe even the sight of lobster boats trawling on the ocean. It may be difficult to imagine that among the rolling hills and just a few miles from the coast is a desert. We were not looking for this desert, but it just happened to be next door to our RV Park – Desert of Maine RV Park (reviewed here). We were so intrigued that as soon as we settled in we immediately caught a tour to see for ourselves what they are bragging about. And sure enough, there it was!
It is not really a true desert by weather standards, but is otherwise considered a desert. This tract of land is now covered with a sandy substance known as glacial silt (called “mica”), which has developed into dunes 80 ft deep. Centuries before, topsoil formed a cap concealing the desert, enabling a forest to grow. In 1797 Mr. Tuttle farmed this land, but poor crop rotation techniques and over-grazing resulted in soil erosion, and one day a patch of sand became exposed.
It continued growing until the sand claimed the farm, swallowing buildings and pastures. Because he could not contain it, Mr. Tuttle sold the 300 acres of land for $300. Mr Goldrup bought the farm and saw a potential, and in 1925 opened the area as a tourist attraction. So that is how the Tuttle Farm of 1783 to 1919 became a Desert of Maine since 1925.
After that excitement we ventured out and began the search for a good lobster roll, live fresh lobsters, lighthouses, boats and ships and oh, maybe some shopping too. A trip to Freeport would be incomplete without a stop at the mothership of shopaholics, L.L. Bean, which has had its headquarters here since 1917. We indulged in some needed clothing, and since lunchtime was approaching we searched for Derosier’s Cafe, recommended by the cashier at LLBean. We were told they serve the best lobster roll in the area for only $9.95, and it certainly was delicious! A great hole-in-the-wall restaurant among many fancy places.
We drove to Cape Elizabeth Light – also known as Two Lights – where two light towers, about 300 yards apart, are located. Built in 1828 and rebuilt in 1874, were sold several times and now sit on private property. Only the eastern tower of the two that made up the light station until 1924 is active. The western tower is deactivated, but it is still standing and is privately owned. We were disappointed that we couldn’t get all the way up to the structures and would not recommend driving too far our of your way to see them.
This area along the ocean coast is also known for its rocky outcroppings that jut out to the ocean.
One of the most popular landmarks along the shores of Maine is the Portland Head Light. It is the state’s oldest lighthouse built in 1791 and sits in Fort Williams Park, on a head of land at the entrance to the primary shipping channel into Portland Harbor. It is located within Casco Bay in the Gulf of Maine. An active lighthouse, it is now automated and the tower, beacon, and foghorn are maintained by the United States Coast Guard.
We followed a trail which gave us various views of the lighthouse as we explored the rocky shores.
Bath, Maine is known as the “City of Ships” for its shipbuilding history dating back 400 years. It is home to Bath Iron Works (BIW) where we joined a one-hour trolley tour that took us behind the gates of “The Works” to see how modern U.S. Navy destroyers are built. We learned why the phrase “Bath Built is Best Built” rings true at this ultra-modern facility. Photography is prohibited on the tour, so we sat in rapt attention as the guide narrated the various stages of shipbuilding which he likened to assembling lego blocks. The size and scope of work performed at this facility is staggering. They are just now building two of the Navy’s newest destroyers – the DDG 1000 Zumwalt, and the next Arleigh Burke class ships. Pulling alongside an 800+ ft. long destroyer in drydock is enough to take anyone’s breath away. Don’t miss this one!
The huge blue box in the picture is a floating dry dock, used for launching the ships after their hulls are complete. When ready for launch, a completed ship is moved into the dry dock by means of a hydraulic trolley system. There the vessel rests on temporary cradles and blocking until it can float away. The dry dock sinks by pumping river water into its tanks, and floats again by pumping water out.
Since admission to the Maine Maritime Museum next door is included in the ticket price ($35 per person), plan to spend several hours here if you can. The area’s nautical history is chronicled in detail, and there are several impressive displays. On the center of the grounds is the largest sculpture in New England, a life-size representation of the Wyoming. It was the largest wooden sailing ship ever built, at 426 feet from tip of bowsprit to stern rail. It had six masts, each 177 feet tall! My photo below can not convey the size of this sculpture, but believe me it is impressive.
The sculpture stands on the same spot where the schooner was built in 1909 and is of the same size as shown on the picture below.
Although we aren’t boat fanatics, we found the displays about boat building on this 20-acre campus to be quite interesting. The self-guided tour includes the history of the lobster industry and how it became a staple and symbol of Maine.
After touring and sightseeing, its time to go to the market and get some seafood…lobsters, that is!
After admiring lighthouses and the coastline (not to mention satisfying our lobster cravings), we moved to Bangor, Maine and stayed at Pumpkin Patch RV resort. We spent a couple of days trip planning and preparing Betsy for our border crossing into Canada.
We are now dependent on the internet offered at RV parks in Canada, which is really spotty. Hence my story telling may be somewhat delayed during the next few weeks. Oh the tribulations of international travel!
Up next: Betsy’s “ferry” tale! – St John, NB