Maine Autumn Tour

Yesterday we took a bit of fall tour, driving from Stonington over to Castine. It’s a roundabout trip that takes you on winding roads that skirt the bays and coves and inlets of the craggy Maine coast. Along the way you see some beautiful scenery — like the view above of the Eggemoggin Reach in the distance and some colorful trees from the commanding heights of Caterpillar Hill.

Castine is a charming town that is the home of the Maine Maritime Academy. It has a long history that dates back to the 1600s. If you walk away from the downtown area you’ll find streets that look like movie sets, with tidy federal-style homes and white picket fences and trees sporting their blazing fall colors. Many of the houses feature signs in front that tell of the history of the area, and the intermittent clashes between the French, the Dutch, the Mohawks, the British, and finally the Americans who fought over this strategic spot on the shoreline from the 1600s until the War of 1812.

As is always the case with coastal Maine, it all comes down to the water. There aren’t many tourist here in October, which makes it a quiet, peaceful time to visit. You’ll get a chance to experience some beautiful colors, but also the serenity of the solitary sailboat moored on the quiet waters of Penobscot Bay.

The Swirling Retirement Mists Of Castine

IMG_4548One of the places we visited on our recent trip to Maine was Castine, a pretty little seaside town on the Blue Hill peninsula that is home to the terrific Castine Inn.  During a stop at a local tavern, we heard an interesting tale from a local.

He reported that some years ago a magazine identified Castine as the best retirement community option in Maine — scenic, affordable, friendly.  Locals were happy, and retirees responded to the article by visiting, deciding that the article was onto something, and buying up the houses in the community.  Over time, the influx of retirees affected the Castine community in a number of ways.

The increased demand made housing prices rise.  It was good for the sellers, but it also meant that houses were priced out of the range of workers who would otherwise live in the community.  Because the retirees didn’t have children, school enrollments fell and schools struggled to survive.  And, because many of the retirees were “snowbirds” who love Maine during summers, where temperatures typically stay below the 80s and 90s, but don’t want to endure the tough Maine winters, Castine became a kind of part-time community that shrank greatly during the fall and winter months — which made it difficult for local businesses, like grocery stores, restaurants, and bars, to survive on a year-round basis.

IMG_4537The local said that if it weren’t for the student body and teachers of the Maine Maritime Academy, a school that trains students to serve as engineers and in other capacities aboard ships — and which takes students out on training missions on the State of Maine, the formidable ship pictured above and anchored in Castine’s harbor area, side by side with the school tugboat — Castine might not be able to survive.

For Castine, good publicity about its advantages as a retirement community apparently turned out to be a double-edged sword.  When we left Castine, the fog still shrouded the harbor and the mists swirled around the State of Maine.  It seems to mirror the hazy uncertainty that one local sees about his community’s future.