Sunday, July 20, 2008

Chalking Up Maine

A side trip into the interior of the state of Maine found us just north of Mexico- not the country, the town- which is near Rumford. Even without a GPS you know when you are getting close to Rumford. The paper mills put out a particularly distinctive, pungent odor. It's really not that bad, and it's a smell you get used to and becomes unnoticeable in short order. Other than the tall stacks billowing white smoke it is the most prominent feature of the industry here. And the smell has the reputation, yes. But much more important are the products produced here and the jobs provided to this rural area. Rumford and Mexico are the gateway, though, to one of the most scenic areas of the state. Beautiful lakes and streams, excellent hunting and fishing are all to be found in abundance here.
And speaking of "found in abundance,", we'd heard through the grape vine that the local streams are harboring placer gold, and so this was our day to check that out. From our Cushing on the coast camp, 3 hours up, 5 hours running the dredge, then 3 hours back - all just to prove to ourselves there is gold to be found in Maine.

We worked an area just north of Coos Canyon, at the confluence of the Welch and Swift Rivers. The scenery alone was worth the long day of travel. The work, if you can call it that, was a joy in and of itself.

The small but enthusiastic Maine Chapter of the GPAA had corresponded with us leading up to their July outing, and issued up a hearty invitation to join them for the day. Following their instructions for finding the location and a few strategically placed yellow ribbons along the logging road that led us in, we arrived just in time for a briefing and the "start your engines" horn that calls their meetings to order. In too short a time to do this under most other circumstances, we made some excellent new friends, and set off to work.

Phil, here, tells us it's a rotator cup injury; but club members (me included) are thinking the guy was just panning too much with one hand and it plum wore out. As they say in Maine- makes it "wicked hard" to sleep with that thing on....

But injury or no- here's what he had to show for his efforts. many others had the same good fortune!

But would we? Would we have a banner day on the gold stream? Well. Yes and No. We did have a marvelous excursion, plenty of beautiful panoramas, fresh air, healthy exercise. But as Marilyn summed it up on the ride home.

"There IS gold in Maine....and we found ONE!"

Happy Birthday to my "gold-digger" of a wife. Life is one big gold field; always carry your pan.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Magical "History" Tour Continues...

We continued the cruise up the coast on the land yacht, stopping next at Freeport, ME. World famous outdoor outfitter LL BEAN has been here darn near forever and continues to grow in this thriving community. Like any "port" that has a great "anchor", all kinds of activity springs up around it- so the shopping here is excellent. Plenty of fine dining establishments are within an easy walk of Beans and the town has placed so much emphasis on managing the growth in a constructive way that even the local McDonald's is a classy looking piece of architecture that fits right into the character of the town. The classic boot, perhaps the most recognized icon in the outfitting world marks your arrival to their store. It's a big sucker! Think maybe the old woman who lived in a shoe must have lived in this neighborhood somewhere...

Marilyn's sister Julie and husband Jay drove up from PA and we joined them for dinner at one of the Inns in Freeport. Then a few days later we all traveled up to Belgrade Lakes where we met her other sister Elisabeth and her husband David for first in a long time get together of all the sisters for some fun together. Village Inn is THE place to go for a duck dinner. They sell more duck than any other restaurant in the country and have done so for many many years. It so happened that it was Jimmy Buffet night at the outdoor lounge at the Village Inn, and the live band playing on the banks of the river attracted a large (and loud) crowd of land-lubbers and also a host of boaters who pulled up and dropped the hook to take a swim and groove on the tunes. Go Parrot Heads! I really enjoyed the image that presented itself in this picture. In Maine, we don't have swimming pools! Well, maybe a few- but it's unusual; we swim in the rivers and the lakes. You can bring the kids and the dog. No rules. This is typical Maine/summertime activity.

Back at Bet's house, the sisters laughed it up with a computerized version of the distorting mirror you might have seen in the fun house at the Fair when you were a kid. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

I'm thinking they'll beat me up if I don't offer up a more presentable memento of the occasion so here it is...

Boothbay Harbor is a beautiful coastal town and home to some of Marilyn's nearest and dearest friends. Ron is a director at the Boothbay Railroad Museum where he currently is masterminding and directing the construction of a miniature train exhibit that will fill an entire building at the museum. Having seen his set up at his house, I know this exhibit will be world class when it is finished. It's already a fascinating study of the time and work that goes into such an exhibit and is a must see if you are in town.
The museum has a lot of steam trains to climb aboard and take a close look at, and this one you can take a ride on all around the museum - getting off and on to see the various displays, which actually reproduces an entire village along the old railway system.
Below, Marilyn looks on as the engineers take on coal and water at the old station. The train refuels three or four times a day depending on the number of cars it pulls to handle the crowd visiting the museum. The old steam whistle is a nice sound and can be heard for a long distance.

The "gut" where the swing bridge crossing takes you from Boothbay to Southport where Ron and Nancy live is a most beautiful spot.

It's loaded with lobster pot markers which makes navigating the waters in the swift tidal current more challenging, but the deal is this: in Maine, the more challenging the passage, the more spectacular the scenery. The pleasure boaters occasionally grumble that there are too many pots and too close to the channel. The lobstermen occasionally grumble that the pleasure boaters are tangling or cutting their gear. But in the end, the pleasure boaters help provide a healthy market for the catch of the day- lobster- and once it gets dipped in butter and slides across the tongue, all the tension goes away and everyone winds up happy. A cold beer or a chilled glass of white wine at the end of the day doesn't hurt either.

Originally , lobster pots, or "traps" were made of wooden slats. Nowadays most of them are made of wire. They last longer, fish with less weight in them, have less resistance to the strong currents, and are faster to build and get ready for fishing.
They don't have quite as much eye appeal, but they still make a pretty picture sitting on the shore, waiting to hit the water.

It wouldn't be Maine without boats. And because most boats are kept on moorings to keep them off the rocky and rough coast line, there wouldn't be boating without dingys which ferry you back and forth from shore to boat. Often, as I've pointed out before, they are every bit as picturesque as the boats they tend- maybe more so.

In this next series of shots, enjoy the beauty that happens where land meets sea, man meets boat....

Floats! Some mark lobster pots. But take a close look at the floating seaweed. Tiny air pockets along the "tentacles" of the vegetation cause the seaweed to float and wash back and worth with the wind, the current, and the tide. It's beautiful- and a handful of this type, thrown into the pot that you boil your lobster in adds tons of flavor to the finished product.
Some sail. Some power boat. In Maine, they do both. Everyone has a preference. Perhaps it says something about those on board. You be the judge. In a hurry? Or no? Want to go in a straight line or an indirect path to reach your goal. Hate diesel; love wind? Hate heeling (the way a sail boat leans over in order to move forward in the wind) or prefer to stand upright? have all day...or just an hour? Sailing for pleasure? Working for a living? There's something that works for everyone.

The pot marker, or buoy, is distinctly colored (and numbered) for each fisherman. Collectively they sure do make a nice wall hanging. especially against the side of a naturally grayed and wood shingled building.

Some wooden traps are still used. Some are piled as a reminder of what went before, and some are used as an architectural point of interest along the coast.

Ron, Marilyn, David, Susan, Nancy ( and me too) enjoy a night of dining and reminiscing at David and Susan's new house on the water. The dock above is their dock. It's a beautiful home and they are all great friends and it has really been good to spend time with them again. The bunch of them go way back together. School. Work. Boating. Socializing. Great crew!
Well that's it for this post. All aboard for the next leg of the trip? It's the moose's caboose. The end! See you next time....Off we go!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Wild Duck, Lobster Rolls, and The Old Orchard

When I was a little tyke, wild duck was what floated around in the bathtub or the inflatable vinyl swimming pool in the back yard. When I was a young man, wild duck was what Dave Allen and I used to go hunting for in Maine on the weekends, wearing camouflage rain gear. When I was able to afford it quite a few years later, Wild Duck was a good, but not a "budget busting,"champagne. Come to think of it, I guess that was Cold Duck, but it was probably Cold WILD Duck- so that's my story and I'm stickin' to it. And now that I'm doing what I'm doing, regardless of age (mind your own business please) Wild Duck is a campground on the Salt Marsh at Scarborough, Maine. Besides the marsh, we have a lovely little pond which stays full of ducks of one kind or another pretty much constantly (hence the name) and instead of asking us not to feed the ducks, the owner actually encourages it and even provides a giant trash can full of help-yourself crushed corn for that purpose. Neato! There are no kids here; it's an adults only park. Also neato. Not that I (we) have anything against kids, but once and a while it is nice to have nothing but quiet reign supreme. And it does that here. This is perhaps the most hassle free camp I think we have ever stayed at. First class! Quiet. Pastoral scenery. Close to the beach. How can you beat that?

So our most recent excursion found us heading for the beach. There are lots of beaches in Maine; but this really is THE beach. Old Orchard Beach is the biggest, baddest, stretch of white sand (no rock here) that Maine has to offer. Part of the atmosphere is very Maine. But some is very Florida! So I thought I might use a bunch of photos to provide a glimpse of what makes Old Orchard Beach both very different from....and very similar to... popular beaches everywhere. I'm shooting with a new camera so I got carried away and took a whole lot of "test" shots. Actually, I was just having fun snapping pictures, so deciding what to use and what to save for another day was a bit of a chore, but fun none-the-less.

At the northernmost extension of the beach you still find a lot of boats on moorings, tidal marshes, fishing piers- that sort of thing. But the more you work your way south on the beach, the more populated of a beach it becomes and the more the scenery shifts from "fully dressed" water activities to those that necessitate being a bit more scantily clad.

Clam digging is hard, backbreaking work, but someone's gotta do it! I did it summers for years when I was a teacher in Rockland, part because it was fun and in part because I could make more money clamming than I could teaching and "the ends had to meet!" These diggers were across the channel and even the telephoto couldn't reach them for a proper photo, but I am reasonably certain there will be better opportunities for that later.

No! It's not a sailboat. And no it isn't a shark with a feathered fin! This little shore bird was diving into a school of small fish and coming up with a bit of a taste treat on nearly every dive. I thought the pose was unique, so here it is....

Not a particularly great sand beach where it starts off, kids still love to come here to catch hermit crabs and other small creatures that are easy prey at low tide. And skipping stones or shells is still as popular as ever.

Fishing is good at the boat ramp and restaurant pier. It was the wrong tide, but the right time, for the Stripers to be running.

Old Orchard has a little bit of everything, and cool cars are no exception. Lots of motorcycles, too, but they didn't make the cut. Yea, this is what I do- drive my Mercedes to the beach...

where a bunch of seagulls sit waiting for flyover bombing exercises at the fish market (not that I have had or ever did have or ever will have a Mercedes.) They'll just have to dive bomb the Honda for now!

Sandy beaches have long provided a special way of bringing advertising messages to sunbathers who are working up a thirst or an appetite or a special hankering of some type or another while they are basking in the sun and wind, and the "little plane who could" was out towing messages up and down the beach this day.

NOT typical of Maine in any sense of the word, high rise buildings have found their way to portions of the main beach at Old Orchard. When real estate becomes as valuable as it has become here, buildings go UP and not OUT, so a touch of the Florida thing going on here.

Bury my heart at Wounded Knee? Maybe. But this young man has buried the knee itself and left the heart above ground to fend for itself.
The "Always Running" amusement park at Old Orchard has drawn locals and tourists for as long as I can remember, and then some. Nothing too big or too scary, but "colorful and fun" seems to keep them coming back year after year.

Nice, soft, smooth sand. Good surf most of the time and really good surf on occasion. It's a big stretch of beach good for exercising or strutting your stuff...

or just "taking it all in and taking a chill.

Boogie boards and surf skimmers are the surf board of choice here.

That water sure looks inviting to the young ones, but not all of them are so sure they should venture too far from mom or dad- and this is a family type beach town. Besides, being in the water in Maine, while it may LOOK the same as being in the water in Florida or even New Jersey for that matter, is a whole different matter. Can you say COLD?

End of year school trips to the park seem like a great way to welcome summer at the beach.

" Hey, pass me that machine gun for the Vintage photo shoot, would ya?" Quick! Like a blur!

Near the end of the big pier, kids stand on their tippy-toes and bob up and down with the passing waves...

while up on the pier, older brother reloads his marshmallow shooter at the arcade as little brother takes another shot. If you eat a few in the process, "No problem," says the owner, "They're low carb mallows."

All that salt air made us pretty hungry so we stopped at the end of the pier for one of the world famous lobster rolls they offer. Served on a platter with chips and accompanied by either a big Coke or a cold beer, and consumed at a seaside table with a view miles and miles down the beach made for a fantastic lunch. The service was every bit as good as the surroundings!

On Main Street, plenty of beach shops to find whatever you need for that day or week or summer at the beach. There are rental cottages, B&B's, hotels, motels, everywhere.

And tattoos! And piercings. If you need it, this just may be the place to get it! The "Master Piercer" (I didn't even know there was such a title) at Professional Piercers of Maine volunteered to have his picture taken. Personally, I'm thinkin' that's got to hurt!

Ice cream sounds a whole lot better to me and that stand was close by. Maybe if you don't cry when you get a piercing, they buy you an ice cream???

And as we so often do, we found an interesting sign- this one outside one of the sidewalk lounges. In a town where parking is the toughest chore of the day, I thought this seemed only reasonable: