Thursday, October 14, 2010

Travels with Gary #4 - Maine Marathon

I could live in Maine - it is my kind of place - a spectacular coastline, scenic inland forests, mountains, quaint villages, a relaxed life style, and an independent spirit. It was less than 24 hours since crossing the border and I was just about ready to move.

A restful night of sleep and the promise of a clearing sky put us in the mood to continue our journey on Hwy 1 across the fingers of land that project into the sea along Maine's mid-coast. We planned to visit a few towns with Acadia National Park as our ultimate destination.

The first stop of the day was the little village of Wiscasset billed as the "Prettiest Little Town in Maine" on the sign just outside of town. It certainly ranks as ONE of the prettiest although all the towns we saw in Maine might fit the description. Wiscasset (and many other towns we visited) is built on a hillside sloping down to a small bay. Although the village had the required white steeple topped church, a cemetery and large clapboard homes, not all the houses were the simple white gabled boxes we had seen previously and the church built in the Greek Revival Style was a bit more grand. The view from across the bay was picture postcard perfect.

Traveling further north through Waldoboro and Rockport on our way to the next stop in Camden, the trees began to show more intense colors of autumn. When we entered the charming town of Camden, built around a horseshoe shaped bay, we were both enchanted. How can any place be this perfect? A park surrounding the Camden Public Library gave us an ideal view of the harbor and the town. The library itself was a gem. A recently built low addition to the side of the older building holds most of the books freeing up the original structure to function as a welcoming reading room. Gary was ready to settle in and suggested I pick him up again on the way back to Brunswick. It was difficult to make ourselves return to the car and leave the peaceful town.

After leaving town to drive the short distance to Camden Hills State Park, we noticed the road was lined with inviting old inns. The State Park road climbs up a steep hillside to the top of 796 foot Mount Battie where the view overlooking Camden, Penobscot Bay and beyond took our breath away. From the stone tower at the top, we could see a hundred miles in all directions - the entire Maine coastline was spread out before us. It was more stunning than I ever imagined and impossible to capture with a camera.

On the road again not more than 25 miles North, we approached Belfast in Waldo County where my Shorey ancestors farmed 150 years ago. We headed West on a narrow country road hoping to find the Shorey Cemetery and the farmland where my great grandmother and her parents lived before they left their family and moved to Montana. I almost couldn't believe my eyes when the small cemetery surrounded by a grove of trees came into view. We walked among the head stones leaning this way and that looking for familiar names. I found a Nickerson (my great great grandmother's maiden name) and a Shorey, but not one I knew. Even though I didn't find my family, I was completely satisfied just to be in that place.

Upon returning to the car, Gary suggested we drive up the road a bit further because I had mentioned there might be a second cemetery. Passing by pastures filled with honey brown cows and a barn or two, we finally came to another cemetery on an open hillside. With no expectation of finding anything, Gary drove the car through the center iron gate, up the dirt tracks to the top. A large monument caught my attention as I got out and when I approached it I threw my arms in the air exclaiming, "Here they are - I found Wellington and Louisa!" Each side of the monument listed different members of the family who had died between the 1860s and 1980s. It appeared that small older markers, almost buried in the ground, had been replaced by this granite gravestone sometime in the last 30 or 40 years. I could feel my roots in these gently rolling hills.

We returned to Belfast where we discovered another charming town center that felt like home. There was an interesting triangular shaped building (formerly a bank) for sale on one corner. During lunch at Darby's we fantasized about opening a yarn store or a wine shop on the ground floor and living above. After lunch we wandered the streets following historical signs on buildings called "Museum in the Street" and we stopped by a vegetarian bakery for a chocolate cookie laced with dried cherries and a pecan tart. Yum!

It was already well after noon and we were still more than 50 miles from Acadia Park so it was time to get back on the highway. We passed through Bucksport where an observatory has been built into one tower of a modern suspension bridge and then Ellsworth where we turned south across a bridge to the island where Acadia is located. As we approached the exclusive resort town of Bar Harbor we noticed two gigantic cruise ships anchored in the bay.

Most visitors travel a 27 mile loop around the park with a drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain at the end of their tour. The clouds were gathering, the wind was picking up, and we were 3 hours from our hotel so we decided to go directly to the top of 1,527 foot Cadillac Mountain the highest point on the Atlantic Coast. The wind was so strong on the short trail out to the viewpoint that I was nearly blown off the path. To take photos, I had to use Gary as a wind/rain break. In the far distance to the southwest we could see Mount Battie where we had been a few hours earlier.

It was getting late as we retraced our route back toward Brunswick. The sun was setting behind the hills and the sky looked like it was on fire. We rushed back to Camden Hills State Park hoping the colors would last and the park would still be open. The last pink of a glorious sunset still tinged the sky as we reached the summit of Mount Battie. The end of another glorious day in Maine.

1 comment:

  1. Thankyou! for sharing your travels. I now have to put Maine on my list of places to go. Loved the story of finding your ancestor's graves.