Organically Inspired. . .
Organically Inspired. . .
We’ve recently returned from a much-needed vacation. This time around our choice was coastal Maine, and it did not disappoint. Maine served us seven days of extreme weather, from a heat wave to foggy mist to cold driving rains. We made the best of each day, and along the way, we began to feel at home with the rugged coast that’s so very foreign to a couple of Floridian flat-landers.
We started with an afternoon in Ogunquit, which is a sweet little seaside village. The masses of tourists flocked to the shops and restaurants, or toasted themselves on the beach, but we were here for The Marginal Way. This oddly named walking path hugs the rocky shoreline and delights the senses with beautiful wild roses that smell like heaven mixed with the ocean air. After a satisfying stroll, we gorged on our first lobster of the trip before heading on up the road.
We spent two days exploring the Portland are, including a climb up the Portland Observatory. This 86 foot tower was built on Portland’s Munjoy Hill in 1807, and was used as a signal towner to communicate with incoming vessels and observe the weather patterns. Today, you can walk up the 103 steps to the observation deck, learning more about the history of Portland and the tower along the way. We were lucky to come on a clear day, so the views were fantastic from the top. Portland is a great walking city, and we trekked through one distinct area after another, discovering funky shops, local eateries, public art, war memorials and a seaside park along the way. We took the Downeast Duck, a quirky tour which covers the city’s highlights by both land and water in a custom-built amphibious vehicle. It was a hoot, or should I say, a “quack”! Nearby, we checked out the Portland Head Lighthouse on Cape Elizabeth, an iconic and much-photographed landmark. Portland was lovely, but we could have done without the 90 degree temperatures each day. It was painful to check the weather and see that it was actually cooler in Orlando. We slathered on the sunscreen and soldiered on in spite of the blazing sun.
Along the mid-coast of Maine is a series of peninsulas and inlets dotted with charming little towns and villages. It was here that we experienced the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, one of my personal highlights of the trip. The main part of this attraction closest to the visitors center is all that a great botanical garden should be, with plants, water features, stone work and sculptures expertly arranged in a way that invites you to find a bench (in the shade) and take it all in. In the five senses garden, visitors are encouraged to experience the sight, smell, feel, sound and taste of various planting areas. While we didn’t actually get to taste, the kitchen garden section of this garden was really intriguing with creative approaches to growing food in small spaces. Beyond the manicured plantings we discovered an extensive wooded trail system that seemed to be made just for us, and provided a shaded and private connector to the farther reaching sections of the gardens.
Our final destination was Bar Harbor and the Acadia National Forest. I was nearly quivering with excitement as we approached the Hulls Cove Visitors Center to gather information, purchase a trail guide and get our bearings for the days ahead. The weather was cold and misty, but armed with our rain gear, we were still able to get in a good bit of hiking on our only full day in the park. We checked out the Ocean trail, where the pink granite cliffs and rock-strewn coast meet the crashing waves of the Atlantic. The Jordon Pond Shore trail took us around the enchanting “pond”, which certainly looked like a sizeable lake to me. From here, the views of the Jordon Cliffs and the North and South Bubbles, two iconic mounded hills were perfect. The next morning, we took the Bar Island trail, which is only accessible for about 3 hours at low tide. It seemed like half the town turned out for the surreal experience of walking across a sandbar to Bar Island. The receding waters reveal barnacle crusted rocks and provide a feast of mussels, crabs and snails for the resident seagulls. A walk up to the summit of Bar Island provides a unique overlook of Bar Harbor, or at least it does if the fog and mist do not obscure the view.
On our second, and sadly final day in Bar Harbor, shortly after our Bar Island hike, the skies opened up and the rain started in earnest. Our exploration of downtown was cut short when the rain actually soaked through our “waterproof” jackets and we found ourselves wet and chilled to the bone. After a quick change to dry clothes we decided to take this opportunity to explore the less-traveled western half of Mount Desert Island by car. This allowed a pilgrimage to Thurston’s Lobster Pound near Southeast Harbor. This out-of-the-way destination was one of the culinary highlights of our vacation. We chose our live lobsters from the tank right at the counter and saw them dropped into mesh bags destined for the giant steamer on the back deck. OMG, this was the most tender, delicious lobster I’ve ever tasted, and by far the cheapest! We devoured our lunch on an enclosed deck overlooking huge stacks of lobster traps right at the edge of the harbor. No wonder that lobster tasted so fresh!
So now we’ve come back to reality. If I had it to do over again, I would allow at least one more day in Bar Harbor. I feel like the very best version of myself when I’m out on a wooded trail scrambling over rocks and tree roots, making my way to another amazing view. We got in loads of walking every day, but I would have liked more time in the woods of Acadia National Park. That corner of the world has a special kind of magic for me where I can feel my stress slip away and a sense of calm settle into my soul. I suggest you start making plans now to visit coastal Maine. You won’t be disappointed!