Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Back In The Mid-Coast Again

This WAS home. Mid-Coast Maine. Rockland, Thomaston, Owls Head, Camden, Warren, Cushing, Port Clyde, Tenants Harbor, Pemaquid Point and Belfast (if you wish to give them the benefit of the doubt). It was an active and caring community. It was loaded with the independence of its inhabitants and the rugged beauty of its coast. It was far enough from "cities" to be rural, but close enough to Portland, even to Boston some 3 1/2 hours drive away, to be able to get that big city fix if you needed it. Anyone could make a living here if they chose to do so and were willing to work hard- teach, fish, build, log, craft, write, paint, sail, boat-build- all viable for those with a talent or the willingness to learn a skill. Our base for this stay was the Saltwater Farm Campground just over the Cushing line and on the St. George River. My old house here had a water view of the river- if you stood at the front window on the second floor of the house on your tip toes and the leaves were already off the trees for the season. I fished the river, clammed the river, boated the river, swam in the river, ran a bait shop along the river for a year or two and once or twice got totally lost in the fog on the river. It's tidal, beautiful, occasionally dangerous. Below is the view of the river from the farm.

You say Mid Coast Maine to some people and Andrew Wyeth comes to mind pretty fast. He was a customer of my art supply store and frame shop. On rare occasion we had a piece or two of his in the gallery we ran. We considered the entire family to be good friends. His sister Ann Wyeth McCoy even named her little bulldog "Gundy." Whether you are visiting the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland or the Olsen farm in Cushing (below), site of the world famous Wyeth painting called "Christina's World" - if you know the Wyeth imagery, it won't take you long to figure out you are in Wyeth country here.

It's the beginning of August. Most of the visitors here are on summer vacation. But August is the beginning of Fall here. Lift a wet finger to the wind and feel the chill in the breeze and watch for the first leaf to start to yellow. Might be warm in the daytime, but you will NOT need the "air" on to get a good night's sleep. We used to joke that Maine had two seasons: Winter and The Fourth of July. Now you know we have Fall too. Just a look at the growing wood-aging piles stacked in the fields after the hay has been cut will tell you the truth. Clean the chimneys- time to light the fires....

Above, this is typical "down on the point" scenery and below, a nice place to eat some seafood and watch the fog roll in... Lobster is the main (make that Maine) attraction.

A nice bath is different here. And not just for Saturday night. And "hot tub" has a whole new meaning as well. The dock at Port Clyde is not quaint so the tourists can enjoy it after shopping in the Port Clyde General Store. This is life the way we like it on the coast of Maine.

At Duck Trap, the Creek by the same name flows into Penobscot Bay. This spot is "powerful beautiful". The local kids and their dogs swim here, even in the harshest of tidal flows. Stripers run in and out of the lagoon on the coming tide and Atlantic salmon run up the river late in the Fall to spawn...Alaskan salmon run it ain't, but noteworthy none-the-less.

The waves wash large round rocks on the beach and some of the largest driftwood specimens you will find on this coast wash in here regularly...

Don't wanna fish or swim or collect.... just look, or maybe have a picnic.

Most folks will know something about cans, buoys, and bells. They are all navigational aids and the lives of Maine boaters at all levels depend on their proper positioning and use. The US Coast Guard is in charge of that aspect of things. But even after their active life is over, they are turned into works of art or shoreline decoration of one sort or another. The state motto: Use it up, Wear it out, Make it do, goes right to work.

This "dragger" was in dry dock for repairs at Journey's End Marina, where I used to keep my boat docked. Interesting perspective, don't you think?...the last thing that a scallop or a fish ever sees!!!
This is the Owl's Head Light. It's a state park so you can walk right up to the tower. Take the ear plugs if it's foggy; that horn is some loud.

Rockland Breakwater Light: it protects the areas largest and most viable harbor. The breakwater runs (or should I say "walks") for a full mile from the shore to the light house. You can walk out to the light whenever you wish, although in rough weather the waves crash on, and occasionally wash over the mighty granite rocks. The safe harbor behind the breakwater is home to commercial enterprises, recreational activities, the Maine Lobster Festival (on whose board I served for many a year), and the largest windjammer fleet in the world. I don't know the exact numbers to justify that claim any more, but though Camden used to lay claim to the title, in fact Rockland had twice as many ships moored or docked in the harbor as Camden did for quite a while now. Yes, Camden is beautiful - the small-by-comparison Camden Harbor produces the illusion that there are many more vessels there. Not so. The competition between the CITY of Rockland and the TOWN of Camden was raging even before I relocated to Maine in 1972. It will probably go on for much longer. At times it turned nasty, but mostly it was a friendly rivalry as the two locales compliment each other nicely. And as long as we all understand that I'm a Rockland guy- and that I say that's the place to be- well that's just all well and good!

Of all the Windjammers sailing out of Rockland, my favorite always was, and still is, the Schooner Heritage, captained by the husband and wife team (both captains) of Doug and Linda Lee. All of the captains that you could sail with from Rockland will do an excellent job- there's not a bad apple in the barrel. But Captains Lee eat, sleep and breathe what they do for a living and the history of not only their ship but the entire sailing industry. For my money, they would be the captains of choice. Captains courageous. Dashing and bold as well. Incredibly personable. And with an in depth understanding of what it takes to give their customers and passengers the best experience possible. On the day we sat on the end of the breakwater to watch the fleet sail out of the harbor for a week on Penobscot Bay, the other jammers all stayed well off the tip of the breakwater; it made for nice, not great pictures, either for on lookers or passengers. But Heritage sailed right on by within spitting distance of the light. Close enough for a thrill, but safe enough too. Great for snapping a picture of the light from on board, or to feel like you were on board even if you could not be. Close enough to greet the captains and for Captain Doug to say clearly to the lot of us on the end of the breakwater, "It's gonna be a beautiful day on Penobscot Bay" without so much as needing to raise his voice.

The Rockland fleet are all beautiful, but the majesty of Heritage speaks volumes for itself....

Show over- back to fishing. Most will try for mackerel which dash back and forth in large schools and make for great fun. Some will drop a small hand line down through the granite blocks to the deep water under the breakwater to try for "cunners," a small rockfish like sea bass. A few will have no clue what they are fishing for and will just sit there all day anyway wetting a line. No matter; it's still a great place and a great way to spend a day.

If you want to duck inland just a bit, you can take a drive to Lake Megunticook and the Maiden Cliffs. It's a popular rock climb in mild weather and in winter it becomes a thick sheet of ice that is an even more popular ice climbing spot.

It's a great and (relatively) warmer water spot for family swimming and water sports.

Breakfast at Tiffany's- no. In Maine we do breakfast at Moodys. Always did; and I hope we always will. The sign along Route 1 in Waldoboro is a non-land landmark in its own right.

My pal, Mr. Entertainment, Chuck Kruger, and his adorable wife Linda joined us for coffee and dessert at the coach. There are a lot of musical personalities and groups I have favored over the years. But I guess with Chuck I would need to place myself in the "groupy" category. His magical music and lyrics, the perfect blend of the rugged life of Maine and the low key laid back rhythms of the Caribbean registers perfectly in my life lived in relative parallel to his, at least in some regards. He is, by all standards, a great human being. And now what's up with Chuck? Running for Maine State Legislature. If ever any government at any level could find room for someone who could actually make a difference and make change for the better, then surely he should be the people's choice. I'm a believer! Vote Kruger, Maine!

OK. Moodys for breakfast. Kruger for Legislature. Reds Eats for lunch. Other than Moodys, this is the single most popular eatery in Maine- maybe even the world. Who really knows? Everything is fried. Ain't no broiled codfish at this establishment, mister man. But good. Gracious sakes. If you're gonna go off the diet for even a moment, then this Rt 1 establishment in Damariscotta is the place to be. If they are open, then the line is already formed- so no line, keep driving, Reds is closed.

The roughest coastal scenery in the mid-coast is to be found down Pemaquid way. This working light house is open to the public; you can climb the narrow winding stairs to the light for an incredible view...

...of the bowling alley. No pins and balls- just lanes and big rocks. They call it the bowling alley because at low tide in a monster storm the mighty waves roll giant rocks up the granite troughs, only to have them rumble and roll back down. On a normal day, there is no such action. But if you are ever here in a big storm, this is a sight and an experience not to be missed.

From halfway up the light, the glass of the old window makes for a splendid photo. Andy, grab those paints - you gotta see this.

With a wedge out of the back, this light house light allows a peak inside. When in place, the solid wedge protects the land view from the bright light. For island lights, the lense is 360 degrees 'round.

Coming to Maine for an aerial view? Most people think of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park. That is numero uno to be sure, but the view of pretty (little, he said, tongue in cheek) Camden harbor from Mount Battie is pretty spectacular as well. It wasn't a clear day, when you can see forever, but the fog and the haze have a beauty all their own.
Then, like our visit with my old pal Steve a while back, things wrapped up with Chris' reading the Cremation of Sam McGee around the fire after we shared a meal of mussels steamed in garlic and white wine back at the Saltwater Farm before heading north. Or is that East. DownEast.

Here's a sign you won't see anywhere else...

We simply ran out of time in the mid-coast before I could visit and photograph everything I thought you might be interested in. There is oh so much to do here. But there are several more
places I'd like to provide a link to for those of you who would like to visit here. These are places for special interests and maybe something that will appeal to you....

Owls Head Transportation Museum: perhaps the most unique museum I have ever visited. It houses a collection of antique and specialty vehicles of all types. You like old cars, fancy cars? This is your place. Airplanes? They got 'em. Motorcycles. All kinds of cool stuff...and everything, yes everything is fully operational. The planes fly, the cars ride real good- you get the idea.

Shore Village Museum- the Lighthouse Museum of Maine, was conceived, collected, directed, and built into a second to none, world class lighthouse museum-now located on the waterfront in Rockland Harbor and known as Maine Lighthouse Museum- by my dear friend and former fellow Rockland Rotary Club President, Ken Black. Ken's drive to develop the museum was legendary not only in "these here parts", but nationally and even internationally. He was simply a magnificent gentleman, and as he has now gone on to the great light in the sky, I will never ever see a lighthouse without recalling the many hours spent chatting and working on any number of projects with him. People of his caliber leave a mighty hole when they depart this world.

Samoset Resort: Formerly THE U.S. resort of the British Royalty, it is now established as one of the finest resorts anywhere in the world. I mention it specifically for those of you who love the game of golf. Their course is built out along the ocean with magnificent water, breakwater, and lighthouse vistas. It is often referred to as "The Pebble Beach of the East." I guess for very good reason- not that I golf. Marcel Lacasse, who set the resort on the path to what it has become today, and for whom the best of the best dining room is named, was another dearly departed friend of mine, and a giant of the community.

Where have all the good men gone? Long time passing....

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