Maine Vacations, Part II – 2008

Maine, 2008

Our second trip to Maine was different from the first, but just as extraordinary. We visited the sites that so charmed us last year; West Quoddy Head and Head Harbor (East Quoddy) lighthouses, the Roosevelt Estate, our back yard (amazing in itself), the gift shops, and the jetty in Lubec into the channel; It was all amazing, all over again, but we saw them all in a sometimes familiar, but always different light then our first looks. At East Quoddy, instead of directly walking up and down and up and down, to the lighthouse island, our first visit was in the dark on our first night out. It was an unusually quiet night, very calm, and the eerie red light from the lighthouse, and the huge, mysterious (due to weather conditions – very foggy), unidentifiable ship that slowly made it’s way from behind the lighthouse off toward Johnson Bay were both interesting in their own rights. We saw a familiar site at a very different time, and it made it seem altogether new.

At West Quoddy Light, we spent more time in the museum, Ted studying the exhibits closely, me chatting at length with “Ginny”, one of the volunteers, whose grandparents were the first of her family in the area, and whose father was one of the last lightkeepers before the lighthouse was automated. We hiked more than last year, making it all the way to the intersection of the Coastal and Thompson trails. We chose to go inland on the Thompson trail on the way back; the coastal trail had been pretty rugged with numerous muddy spots, and although we considered taking the trail out to Minzy field and walking the road back to the lighthouse, it started raining and we decided to take to the shelter of the inland Thompson trail. Good choice and within 1/2 hour I was able to photograph a cool scene of the sun shining through the trees in a little opening, which was blanketed with fog and bordered by rain droplets which were hanging on to the trees after the storm had passed.

Our back yard was primarily Ted’s “hunting place”, where he gained his first experience of doing his own mussel gathering. He happily slipped through the rockweed littered rocks and slogged through the thick intercoastal mud searching for the delicacy with a big pot in one hand, steadily picking over 4 dozen mussels (which later got him sick, not realizing just how many he had eaten!).

One night, the stars were so beautiful we didn’t want to come down from the top deck. Instead of craning our necks, we borrowed the futon cushion from indoors, and laid on our backs viewing the gorgeous dark sky, bright milky way, and delightful shooting stars when they fell at those rare and special moments.

We ate dinner at the same two restaurants most of the week (there aren’t a lot of choices in Lubec and Campobello) but this time enjoyed full conversations with waitresses at the Lupine Lodge and host/hostess Dave and Suzannah Dale at the Home Port Inn. The food was great, the conversations very satisfying.

Deer Island was reached solely by a simple but fascinating car ferry set up. Ted and I explored the main roads of the 7 mile long mostly wooded island, ate at one of the few businesses and spent some extended time in a quiet cove of cold clear water and a cool close-by cliff. We spent an equally quiet but fascinating time on a local wharf; where I spent the entire time taking detailed pictures of the pier, boats, and gulls, and Ted sat on a bench soaking up the afternoon sun and dozing for 1/2 hour. It was a lovely, out of the way expedition, wholly unexpected and totally gratifying departure from our previous locations.

Back at East Qouddy we spent yet more time NOT going to the lighthouse, but hanging out at the land bridge, picking up rocks and studying the sea vegetables and other life-forms. Ted made an awesome observation which I was absolutely thrilled with- there on the edge of the bridge, in a jumble of rocks and seaweeds, was a really large sea star, a beautiful light peachy color, clinging to one of the rocks with bent legs as the water washed over it. I was mad at myself for only bringing my compact camera down to the bridge, but did my best to catch several good shots of the awesome and lovely sea creature. Only on our third and final trip to the island’s northern tip did we finally climb down the stairs, over the land bridge, up the stairs, across the first island, over the bridge to the second island and down the stairs to the rocky land mass that finally brought us to the lovely historical Head Harbor Light, with it’s traditional red cross on white background. There we remembered our light room tour the previous year, gazed out at the water for whales (no luck this time) and picked our way around the island, enjoying the details as well as the big picture. Less photos from me (though still a lot!), more time gazing, and a healthy dose of relaxing with the sun, sky and shore. After we got back to the bridge we spent 45 minutes just hanging out again at the land bridge, this time watching the tide make it’s relentless path towards coverering the access bridge during high tide. Our only motivation for leaving too soon to see it cover over, was because the whales were waiting for us on our whale watch with Captain Riddle’s team.

The whale watch was quite different this year; more people, less commentary from “Captain Jack”, the father of the actual “Captain Riddle”. An old fisherman I’m sure, although he didn’t say, he spent little time chatting and more time initially speeding, then quietly sputtering along the waters in search of the ultimate whale gathering. We passed eagles (a pleasure I hadn’t had yet this year) and Cormorants (who were readily visible just about everywhere on the water), and of course took a trip to the little island where the seals were playing, their heads bobbing about, eyeing us more out of curiosity then fear. The highlight was his success and our delight, when he managed to get right in the middle of a circle of finbacks, which were feeding on the unusually calm, glassy waters that day. Many mediocre pictures and a few “keepers” later, we headed back to shore, happy for the chance to get close and personal with the ocean wildlife, even if we were no more educated than when we hit the waters in that speedy little boat.

The Bold Coast Trails were definitely a BOLD endeavor this year. Last year we enjoyed a relatively easy, 1.1 mile hike to the edge of the coast and a great promonitory of rock, jutting out into the waters, one side, the open sea, the other, a narrow, deep crevice of rock which endured the punishing waves as they crashed into the tight space time and time again as the tide rolled up. What started out as a casual curiosity for what lay on the other side of the rock wound up becoming a full 6 mile loop trail, 3 of which were along the rugged rocks of the coast. The sights were gorgeous; around every curve in the trail was another amazing display of sharp rocks meeting ferocious waves and the foam and the sea spray was uniformly impressive each and every time we witnessed it. However, with too little water and not as much time to complete it (since it was not planned) not to mention no actual map on hand to refer to where the trail was going, we were exhausted at the end, dying of thirst and entirely happy to be done with any major trails for the week (this was on Wednesday, so we only had two full days left anyway). We were proud of conquering the trail, but were once again reminded of the importance of planning for the unexpected, even if we were only intending an easy excursion.

Throughout the week we drove to various nooks and crannies on Campobello Island. We took a long walk along the beach at Herring Cove and especially enjoyed walking around at Liberty Point, where last year the wind was so gusty that we barely had 10 minutes to get out of the car, be tossed around by the wind as we spied the corners of this spot, then retreated back to the warmth of the car. This day was the opposite- sunny, relatively warm (though still breezy- it’s always breezy on the ocean side of the island), and we took plenty of time to wander about, reading the park signs, checking out the sea from all angles, and walking casually along the gangplank-like observation deck which literally sat directly above the deep waters. Ted had a special fondness throughout the week of hopping on the huge rock piles along the coast during low tide. I toggled between carefully balancing among the gray giants and standing back, a bit fearful of the fierce and VERY cold sea below (the water is ALWAYS cold there and a person can die of hypothermia in 3 minutes if he loses his footing). One day was a bit of a wash, since the sunny/overcast weather finally gave way to a full rain and fog. We did a lot of slow driving through the car trails of Campobello, with frequent stops to get out in the soggy weather to get a quick view of the sights before us and a few token photos to say we’ve been there (the quality of which was severely compromised due to the bad conditions). Still, we enjoyed our travels and my highlight was getting close to Channel Light, another lighthouse which was an inaccesible “sparkplug” style structure, which I adoringly called “Sparky”.

Another new activity which I had read about last year but hadn’t been able to squeeze into our schedule, was a tour led by a local tourguide service. I was thrilled to find the schedule of “Lubec Tours” early enough in the week that I chose my favorite, an introduction to the “intertidal” ecosystem.
Shelly, a 3rd generation “Lubeckian”, took us on a personalized van tour of three different beaches. As we walked along the shore in our borrowed goloshes, she showed us many, many creatures and plant forms along this diverse habitat, from the shrimp-like scuds and their homes under the rockweed, to the shallow burrowing clams, to the invasive foreign “green crabs”, one of which was hiding in a pool within a huge rock. Ted was happy to learn about more than four different kinds of plant life that were totally edible, and taste tested 3 of them on the spot, while I enjoyed slopping around in the mud, skimming the beach for “treasures” and taking ID photos of all our finds. We thoroughly enjoyed our tour and “Lubec Tours” went on our “highly recommended” list.

On our last afternoon, we tried to revisit some of the spots on Campobello which we had previously tried to enjoy in the bad weather. We did get another look down at Cranberry point, but it was again brief since the weather changed quickly. To our wondering eyes, we did witness the literal rolling of fog from the water over the land, which was so intriqueing that we got out of the car and stood there, feeling as though we were being engulfed in a cloud. The visibility went from about 1/2 mile to 20 feet in a matter of minutes, and our appreciation for the fishermen of the area grew exponentially as we witnessed the scary prospect of getting stuck at sea in the midst of such a weather change.

The biggest surprise and delight of my trip came totally unexpectedly. One morning, I left the house in the car while Ted took his time getting ready. My purpose was to go to the location where it seemed the schedule of Lubec Tours would be located and to sign up if possible. Finding that building locked, I ventured down to the main street, where I had seen the posters last year. Though I did not find the tour organization, I did wander into a gallery/historical museum of sorts. The door was open so I walked in and looked around for several minutes before someone actually found me. I had picked up a few postcards to buy and asked the woman to help, which she did. She brought me to the front desk where she rang up my purchase while mentioning that I was lucky to get in- that they were officially closed that day, and had just been moving some chairs and such around in preparation for a meeting that evening. As we chatted happily, me about our vacationing, her about the gallery, she had mentioned an event with many photographers and I responded by mentioning how I had just finished reading a book at the house called “Downeast” by a photographer named Frank Van Riper. Well, to my great surprise and amazement, Rachel pointed to the gentleman that moseyed up to the front with us, and had been standing slightly behind me for a minute and said “and here he is”… I was dumbstruck!! Here I was, telling her how much I loved this book, and the author himself was casually standing beside me!! Of course we shook hands, traded cards (his business and my contact) and I was able to get Rachel to take a few pictures of the two of us. Frank, who was based in D.C., but who had a place in Lubec which he and his wife stayed at seasonally, was very down to earth and friendly. I was pleased as could be to have met the man, and it was his mention of a possible photography workshop next year that made me consider the possibility of breaking my record yet again, to do a repeat vacation in the same place, three times in a row! (and of course I had to buy one of the few books left for sale, an autographed copy bought at that same gallery. )

Our second trip to Maine was filled with suspense, thrill, quiet, relaxation, tension, endurance and beauty, among other things, and we again fought our depression as we headed back from our lovely haven in “downeast”.

Whale Watch off Campobello Island


Originally uploaded by NJHeart2Heart

We took a whale watch cruise on Sept. 6 2007. It was amazing and something I recommend everyone do. The day was gorgeous, our guide was pleasant, and the whales, finbacks to be exact, were -mostly- cooperative. I was amazed that they were “common” in those waters, since it was such a novelty for me. It was around mating season, so we actually wound up following a pair of whales plus a single whale that traveled close to them. Their coordination was awe inspiring- seeing them blow and dive together. Not only the whales but the strong breeze, sun, movement of the boat and other wildlife made it an experience to remember.

West Quoddy Lighthouse

2007 09 02 West Quoddy Lighthouse
Originally uploaded by NJHeart2HeartWest Quoddy Lighthouse is the easternmost point of the United States. When we visited, it was a beautiful day, bright with blue skies and not a cloud in sight. We walked around the lighthouse, than took a walk along the Coastal Trail.