I just returned from the coast of Maine and thought I would kind of give my review of the area and regions I spent some time in.
The target region was the central coast of Maine. Usually when I go to Maine the focus is further north, Bar Harbor and further north of the Acadia region. This time it was decided to head a bit more south into the “True Central Maine Coastal Region” and so Camden and Rockland were the areas picked to spend time around.
Taking the lesser roads like route 2 and other country paths we drove from the Green Mountains of north Vermont through the White Mountains of New Hampshire and into the western countryside of Maine. Even though the roads through these areas are twisting, narrow with only two lanes and much slower driving than interstates, I find them to be far more relaxing to drive and hold far more to see. The drive through the White Mountains is particularly beautiful. Once you cross into Maine there are still many forests and lakes along both sides of the road for many miles before you near the main north-south route of 95.
Through the very rundown capitol of Maine, Augusta, and onward towards the Atlantic we ended our 6 hour drive in a very nice Irish coastal stay off the famous route 1 near Rockport. The weather was nice though a bit on the cloudy side and the air smelled of salt.
After eating a big meal of local crab stuffed haddock amongst the familiar strong Mainer accents it was time to rest and plan.
Camden Hills State Park was a beautiful place and reminded me very much of the Vermont Mountains. The 30 miles of trails through the park are the typical northeast woodland layout. Traversing low lying bogs and wetlands and climbing over rough, wet and rocky hills through dense forest of hemlock, pine, birch, maple, ash, beech, rowan, oak, spruce and others; streams cascade over smooth and worn granite on their way down to the Camden Harbor and the vast expanse of Penobscot Bay.
For those who make it up the very rocky trail to the highest of the Camden Hills they get to stand in awe at the 360 degree panoramic views off Mt. Megunticook. Large slabs of smooth granite rock sweep off to the east and plummet to the lower forests far below. These rock faces make Mt. Megunticook easily identifiable from miles out in Penobscot Bay. It was the original inhabitants of the region, the Penobscot people that called the area “Megunticook”, which means “great swells of the sea”. Since it was so wet when we went into this park the forest floor was riddled with amazingly colored mushrooms and fugues of many varieties. Bright yellows of the corals to deep violets of the corts dappled the dark brown floor like splattered paint on a rough canvas.
Since I was in a walking cast with a cane my traverse of the trails was incredibly slow and very measured with each hobbled step, but I certainly was not going to let a torn up ankle joint prevent me from exploring! I also knew later when retiring from the day I would be able to elevate it and ice it down real good. I think it took me at least a solid hour and a half to hobble a mere mile!
Once back down we were able to drive up to the top of Camden Hills Mt Battie. Usually I am not fond of driving to the top of mountains, but in this case I was happy to have the vehicle bring me up to the top of which I would never had made it with my ankle after stumbling over wet rocks for over two hours. A large conical rock tower stood atop the mountain with a spiral stair traversing the inside walls to the overlook platform. Unfortunately I was unable to navigate the stairs with a walking cast and cane, but luckily the mountain has a sweeping view off to the east and south across the Penobscot Bay. Since it had been raining during our hike earlier the fog and cloud banks rolling along the Atlantic waters was truly a breathtaking sight to behold! The Camden Harbor could easily be seen along with the small town itself. The open grassy sloping hill was rimmed with sumac that did not take away from the view. While eating some lunch on the flat rock slabs a red-tailed hawk graced us with its gently gliding circular pattern flight from the low forests upward to the gray cast skies above.
The energy of the place was quite pleasant. An old and “wise” feeling combined with the sheer power of mountains run up against the vastness of the great Atlantic; two massive ecosystems joined as immediate neighbors supporting countless life forms of vast diversity makes for a feeling that is unforgettable.
The town of Camden is one of those quintessential Maine coast towns. After the French & Indian War the area was first inhabited by whites in 1791. Prior to that time the region remained pure wilderness whose only long-term human dwellers were the Penobscot themselves.
A single road runs through downtown which is dotted with shops of many kinds. We did find some true craftsmanship shops tucked neatly away in downtown Camden. The harbor sits just to the north side and holds many varieties of boats and boardwalks, ducks and gulls. A beautiful landscaped park sits above the harbor overlooking it with plenty of flowering bushes and trees.
Downtown is a small heavily treed park containing a granite war memorial war listing the names of all the soldiers from Camden that fell from World War 1 all the way to Iraq.
If you want classic a high quality New England Chowder then Camden has some great Chowder Houses. The people are openly friendly and helpful. Though it is of course busy and touristy, Camden somehow retains its charm and allows for a more relaxed and quaint feeling that a place like Bar Harbor lost a long time ago. It was a place we enjoyed.
Rockland was a different story all together. Rockland is south of Camden along the coast and is a working port and the town is dirty, congested, rust-belt commercial and holds an air of unfriendliness. There are no such craftsmanship shops or quaint parks that Camden had. Rockland was concrete, steel, brick and energetically cold.
The Rockland Harbor is much larger than the Camden Harbor and contains far larger and more commercial ships. Nothing compared to a place like Bath down south, but still is a busy and noisy harbor. The Harbor Light is certainly worth the walk though. A mile long rock slab breakwater juts out from the north shore into the center of the easterly side of the harbor. At the very end of the breakwater stands on old lighthouse. Though the lighthouse is not as picturesque as many I have been to, the stroll out to it is well worth the visit. The vast Atlantic to your left and the deep harbor waters to your right and the only land is the rock slabs you stand on between make for a powerful experience.
We took the ferry from Rockland an hour and a half east into the Atlantic to an island called Vinalhaven. We thought this island’s name had some deeper meaning and exotic pronunciation and were quite disappointed to find out otherwise. Nothing exotic about it. In 1789 it was deemed a town and named after the guy who helped get it registered whose name was John Vinal. He did not even live on the island.
Originally it was inhabited by the Red Paint People and later by the Abenaki and only in the 1700’s did white settlers begin to venture out and a family from Massachusetts settled there. In the 1800’s the logging, shipbuilding, shipping, fishing and granite quarrying were the islands main business for a long while. The Rockland Harbor’s breakwater was built using granite slabs taken off of Vinalhaven. Today the quarries are closed and used as swimming holes. The biggest form of work on the island is fishing and lobstering. Rockport is claimed the lobster capitol of the world and Vinalhaven I think helps their claim, since just about everyone on that island has a lobster boat and their docks are filled with lobster traps!
The ferry ride out to Vinalhaven is quite picturesque with the many small bird and seal islands along the way. The open waters and ocean swells make the thousands and thousands of lobster buoy markers bob like colorful pieces of candy as far as the eye can see.
The town of Vinalhaven is very disappointing. The island is a lobster port and little more. Sure there are beautiful coast lines, primitive in nature and so very rocky with thick mats of seaweed covering everything, but as far as a community there is not much to it. The place is quite rundown and has a shabby feel to it, though the houses outside of town, stacked right on top of one another and very well kept. The local folk are friendly enough but you can tell they spend most of their time on lobster and fishing boats and do little else. Actually they are well known for their friendliness and waving to and saying hello to everyone they come across. However, the overall state of health of the folk on that island leans heavily towards the obese ratio…
Owl’s Head State Park south of Rockland is a very beautiful spot. The Owl’s Head Light that we passed on our way out to Vinalhaven is a neat location but the lighthouse itself is not among the most interesting I have seen. Actually the area south of Rockland is a very nice laid back region or forest and field. It is much more country oriented than north in the Rockland and Camden areas. There are some nice beaches to hang out on and though it is the north Atlantic the water was not too cold. I hobbled in with an air splint on my ankle and melded with the great ocean as the waves rolled inward towards shore.
From the Owl’s Head region west to the St. George River and Tomaston was very pretty and completely different than the harbors. The people were friendly and the landscape was very comfortable. Outside the harbor areas the whole region held a very old feeling and surprisingly laidback. It was as if the land, forest and field still held the energy of an older way of life, a way of life the Native peoples lived for thousands of years. It seemed untouched by the nearby tourism and vacationer energies. I did notice a marked difference in the land’s energy between the Camden area and the Tomaston region. The Camden Hills and surrounding area had a very old and deep presence, not unlike what I felt in Acadia National Park during the few times I have visited in the past. The energy held a “power” that spoke of “Old Ways” and wisdom, rather masculine like a grandfather. South along Owl’s Head and the St George River areas held more of a soft and comforting energy more like you would feel in the presence of a respected grandmother.
The last time I was along the Maine coast, last year, I filled on lobster, but this time I decided to fill up on the local crab instead! Maine sure does have some great local crab that is easily found in every town we ventured through. You have to love fresh food from the ocean!
Driving south reminded me of everything I do not like of Maine. The further south we went the busier, more congested and dirtier it became. The people were mush less friendly and the intensity of high paced, angry modern city life flooded every sense. The strange “astral” pockets of energy could be felt in many locations from Bath all the way down through Portland, Saco, Biddeford, Kittery and Portsmouth. I find that whole region of Maine to be very assaulting on body and mind and always have. Needless to say it was so nice to move west back into the White Mountains and then onward to the Green Mountains of Vermont.
For pictures visit the photo album.
Filled with crab and the salty air of the ocean it felt nice to settle back into the rainy cool Green Mountains here where Element Mountain is based. Be sure to check out what is upcoming here at Element Mountain and if you see a class you wish to take, make sure to get your pre-registration in as soon as possible.