Weekends are for exploring all the places I’ve never been.
I made a promise to myself when I got back from the UK to explore my own backyard as much as I could this summer. It’s been years since I had a job that allowed me the freedom to take full advantage of my weekends. I decided that this year would be different and that I would spend my summer discovering new places in my home state.
I’ve always loved the ocean breeze running through my hair and the salt air filling my lungs, because there is nothing like the kind of peaceful sleep you enjoy after a day at sea. I love feeling the earth beneath my toes, climbing rocks, and sitting in trees. I love the smell of pine and dirt and that sensation of the cool water of a lake up to my knees. I tried to leave Maine on multiple times over the years, but there has never been another place that truly feels like home to me.
This spring, I told you I was going to explore Maine and write about my experiences. Unfortunately or maybe fortunately depending on your perspective, I’ve only kept up half of my promise… I’ve been doing the weekend exploring, but I’ve failed at sharing it with all of you!
That ends today.
Let’s start at the beginning – my first trip north of Bangor to Baxter State Park.
“Man is born to die, his works are short-lived. Buildings crumble, monuments decay, wealth vanishes. But Katahdin, in all its glory, forever shall remain the mountain of the people of Maine.”
-Percival Proctor Baxter
I love Baxter Brewing Co.‘s beer, so obviously, I’m going to visit Baxter State Park. And let’s be honest, it’s a lot closer than my other favorite beer’s namesake, Allagash. I’d like to say that took a hike up Mt. Katahdin, but that would be a lie. However, I did find a really nice little trail to Cranberry Pond that seemed easy enough for my underdressed self in the Maine woods. I never claimed to be an experienced hiker and I won’t start now.
I made it to this clearing overlooking a body of water that I assumed to be Cranberry Pond, which I promptly renamed Cape Cod, mostly because it was the only alcoholic beverage I could think of that goes with cranberry. Much like my go-to bar order, this place proved to be an instant classic.
I couldn’t help but kick my shoes off and dip my toes into that cool water. After wading around the shoreline, I made my way back to the beach and sat on the edge of the pond looking out at the trees. It was quiet and beautiful. I feel like I left a part of my heart on that beach as I tried to absorb each moment and take it all in, and in return, it took my breath away.
My only regret is that I didn’t take more pictures. The only photo I took was one of me dancing on top of an old truck I found abandoned in the woods on my way back to the car. But the unplugging and not caring about anything other than being completely present in those moments were worth it.
I also realized on my way out, that I didn’t actually make it to Cranberry Pond. I was actually on Upper Togue Pond, but we’re going to pretend, because The Cape sounds nicer than The Togue.
“You know it’s funny what a young man recollects? ‘Cause I don’t remember bein’ born. I don’t recall what I got for my first Christmas and I don’t know when I went on my first outdoor picnic. But I do remember the first time I heard the sweetest voice in the wide world.”
I’ve never actually watched Forrest Gump, but I feel like I have because of the amount of quotes I’ve heard from it over the years. I also remember it being a big deal because apparently, it was filmed partly in Maine. What I didn’t realize when I started my quest this past weekend was that I’d end up at the lighthouse from the film.
In all honesty, I had not idea where I was going, but as I made my way toward the coast, I knew it was going to be fun. I dressed for sunshine, but Maine had other plans and greeted me with a thick mist. Some might think it would ruin the day, but to me it was gorgeous. It added a sense of magic to the air.
As I sat on a mostly empty working dock at Miller’s Lobster Company eating a perfectly toasted lobster roll and sipping a Stella Artois, I felt like I was in a movie. I was content in the beautiful stillness of the fog, and it made me feel like anything was possible.
I made my way down along the coastline and found myself on a peninsula that leads to Marshall Point Lighthouse off the point near Port Clyde, Maine. I wandered through the grounds admiring a plaque dedicated to those from the region that have been lost at sea. I was shocked to see most of the names on that stone were people my age, but it was nice to see them being remembered, surrounded by the ocean and forever memorialized in granite on the edge of the sea.
I made my way to the lighthouse, walking in the steps of Forrest Gump himself and grinning ear to ear. In that moment, if someone had asked, “How happy are you right now?” I would have smiled and responded, “SO HAPPY!” It was like a scene from the best movie no one’s ever heard of yet. It made me fall in love with Maine in a way I hadn’t experienced before… man, it’s tough living in such a beautiful place.
On the way out, I couldn’t help but live out my lifelong dreams of being a small town pageant queen on this float outside The Black Harpoon:
I also had to stop and admire the monument to St. George and his slaying of the dragon – you can just call me Khaleesi.
Going to work on Monday was tough. Not because it was a random work day in an otherwise awesome long weekend, but because I was so excited for my 4th of July adventure. I grew up going to Phippsburg and Popham Beach almost every weekend – so much that it feels like my second hometown. We’d stay with our cousins and play in the mudflats, pick wild blueberries, kayak through the dunes, sleep and repeat.
However, I’d never been to the place we simply referred to as the lobster claw island – Seguin Island – off the coast of Popham Beach. The only way out is by a 30 minute ferry ride. I chose to go with the local Fish ‘N’ Trips Charter service, run by Captain Ethan DeBery and First Mate Brook. Unfortunately, Pepper the Deckhand, sat this one out.
You arrive in this small cove on the inside of the ‘lobster claw’, then you hop into a small boat and row to shore. On the beach, you climb up the rocks to a few select trails that are groomed and maintained by the volunteers that stay on the island during tourist season. On the island you’ll find Maine’s only working tramway, baby seagulls (so much cuter than their parents), tidal pools filled with a variety of sea creatures, pebble beaches, blueberry and raspberry bushes for days, and the smell of beach roses is intoxicating.
I would definitely recommend a pair of sneakers for your visit. I wore flip flops, which seems appropriate considering you’re going on a boat to an island for a relaxing afternoon. Well, apparently, not this island. The scratches on my legs and feet from slipping and sliding, and tripping my way around, can attest to the need for proper PPE on your visit. As my Dad would say, it might also be a sign of how graceful I am.
Getting to the lighthouse requires a steep hike toward the sky on some slippery terrain. I stood on a bench to get a better view and took little bit of a tumble when the bench literally fell over. Those wonderful smelling beach roses have quite the bite when you fall into them… just in case you were wondering.
However, the views from that lighthouse are amazing. From the top, past the helipad previously used by the US Coast Guard, you can see Mt. Washington in the distance. On the opposite side of the tower, you can see Mohegan Island. It’s stunning. The light is also home to one of only three working first order fresnel lenses on the east coast of the United States.
As I looked out from that tower, I never wanted to leave. Next time, I’m paying the extra $40 to camp out on the island.
As I made my way back to the main land, all I could think about was how grateful I am to live here. How grateful I am to live this life and to call such a beautiful place home.
Because I am a sophisticated grown up, I ate oysters and a kids grilled cheese. #KeepItClassyRoundPond
My last stop of the day was a shop that I always say I’m going to check out, but it’s always closed. It happened to be open (just barely), so I stopped in to check it out finally! The shop is owned by a mother and daughter from Hawaii. The mother splits her time between Maine and Bangkok, and the entire shop is full of trinkets from Thailand. I ended up with a pair of chopsticks and chopsticks holder, along with a bronze turtle.
In Hawaii, turtles are symbols of longevity, wisdom and endurance due to their ability to always find their way home. I couldn’t think of a better symbol for my journey this summer as I explore Maine. I have a pretty amazing backyard. The Kennebec Valley region is unique because in under two hours, you can be in so many different places.
Whether you want the mountains, secluded woods, a big city, or some coastal vibes – you can get there from here. I may travel the world and see all of these other incredible things, but my heart and soul will always be here in my little big town in Maine.