Keeping Maine On The Brain

We’re back from an all-too-brief trip to Maine.  We ate lots of seafood, hiked around, got out on the water, and gulped down as much of the salty, energizing shoreline air as our lungs could stand.  We enjoyed temperatures that never got above the 70s and evenings where the thermometer dipped down into the 50s, windshirts and hoodies were required attire, and windows were kept open for optimal sleeping conditions.

When I get back from a vacation, I always try to hang on to the relaxed vacation mindset as long as possible.  I hope to retain some Maine on the brain — for a few days, at least.

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Aboard The Frenchboro Ferry

I’m a fan of the Maine State Ferry Service.  That’s because the MSFS provides regular ferry runs from points along the mainland to the islands found up and down the Maine coastline.  If you’re a landlubber like me and just want to get out on the water, you don’t need to charter a boat — you can just hop on a ferry and move from point A to point B the same way the locals do.


Yesterday morning Kish and I took a ride on the Bass Harbor to Frenchboro ferry. For a mere $10 a person, the ferry takes you away from the harbor, past islands and working lobster boats, to the tiny island town of Frenchboro.  If you’re just along for the ride, like we were, it’s a pleasant two-hour trip.  And if you see a porpoise, as we did, it’s an even better deal.


When the left the dock at 8 a.m. sharp, some morning fog was still hugging the islands, wrapping them like a moist gray blanket, as shown in the photo above.  On the open water, though, it was a brilliant, blue sky day, with lots of activity from the lobster-catching contingent.  


After we cruised into the snug harbor at Frenchboro, a gaggle of locals came on board.  For them, the ferry is routine stuff, and they sat up front, chatting away without a second glance at the no doubt familiar scenery.  Kish and I, on the other hand, sat in the back, the better to get unimpeded views of everything going on around us.  How often do flatlanders from the Midwest get a dockside view of a real working harbor and fishermen who think nothing of knocking back a can of beer at 9 a.m., the better to kick start their trip to the mainland?


When we looked into taking a ferry ride, the woman behind the desk at the ferry office recommended the Frenchboro ferry as more scenic than the Swan Island ferry, which uses a much bigger boat that also carries cars and trucks.  It was good advice.

Climbing Mt. Cadillac 

Yesterday we ventured over to Acadia National Park to hike up Mount Cadillac — the towering peak situated right on the coastline that is the first place in America struck by the rays of the rising sun.  It’s a popular destination that offers staggering views of the jagged Maine coast.  Most people drive up to the top — but heck, anybody can do that.  Hiking up is more fun and a bit of a challenge, besides.


We chose the south ridge trail, which begins along a road and, for the first mile of so, takes you through a dense, almost primeval forest.  At that point you emerge above the tree line and are exposed to the first of the sweeping vistas that this hike affords — with views that just get better and better as you gain altitude.  You follow blue trailblazing signs painted on trees and then on the granite of the mountain itself, as well as rock cairns that also mark the way.


The trail takes you along the granite spine of the mountain, shown in the first picture above, and you actually feel like you are moving from knob to knob on the gigantic backbone of a huge, hunched-over creature.  Eventually you are treated to a commanding view in all directions and can see dozens of miles to faraway peaks in the Appalachian chain.  You also pass a beautiful pond that is covered with velvety, impossibly green shoots, shown toward the middle of the photo below, and you wonder:  “what is that doing way up here?”


It’s not a difficult climb, but it’s a rewarding one nevertheless.  When you reach the top, having clambered up the last few rock faces, you can stare slack jawed in any direction.  The rocks at the top are covered with people, and no wonder — the scenery is spectacular.  It’s one of those spots that simply can’t be captured in a photograph.  But I’ll always remember it.

Maine On The Vane

You’ve got to keep your eyes skyward in Maine, or you’re missing half the show.  Everybody seems to have some kind of nautically themed weathervane or cupola ornament atop their house.

Ships, whales, and mermaids seem to be the most popular options, but occasionally you’ll see an octopus or — heaven forbid! — a moose.

At The Community Boat Dock

There’s a community boat dock in Southwest Harbor, Maine.  And when they say “community,” they mean community — every square inch of mooring space is taken, and then some.

I found this completely engaged community dock curiously encouraging.  Obviously, the boaters of Southwest Harbor, with diverse crafts of all shapes, sizes, and conditions, can get together and make accommodations tthat permit their mutual use of, and benefit from, this single dock.

Who knows? Maybe there’s hope that the rest of us can do likewise.

Harbor Sunset

The day began with a sense of awesome quiet along the waterfront and ended the same way — with a beautiful color show from Mother Nature thrown in for good measure.  Peaceful, calm, tranquil — choose the synonym of your preference to describe a placid setting, add boats and salt water and wonderfully fresh seafood and locals who speak with a charming accent to the mix, and you have largely captured coastal Maine outside of Bar Harbor.  It’s a great place for a getaway vacation.

Guardian Of The Coastline

Today we checked out the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse.  It’s one of dozens of lighthouses that are found along the rockbound Maine coastline — each of which has it distinctive combination of light color and lighting sequence, so experienced mariners who are at sea at night can both steer clear of the rocks and determine exactly where they are, even in the darkest hours.

At the lighthouse, you can follow a path and a steep set of wooden stairs that take you down to sea level, where intrepid tourists (like me) can climb out onto the rocky coastline to position themselves for the best photographic vantage point that will allow them to snap a seaside shot of the iconic white lighthouse.  It’s comical to see people of all ages scrambling out onto the rocks — with no guard rails or identified path — and of course many of the visitors were taking selfies, apparently oblivious to the risk they might slip as they were positioning themselves and go plunging into the ocean below.  Fortunately, no one was injured while we were there.

I appreciate the fact that the Coast Guard, which operates the lighthouse and its grounds, has left the coastline in its natural state and trusts visitors to fend for themselves.  It was fun to let the inner mountain goat out for a rocky adventure.