Ha--that title alone makes me sound/feel like a 13 year old girl :) And speaking of the past, here's a bit of back story on how Maine so fiercely wound up on my radar: via my first blog I connected with Heather at Townsend House. Over the last 10ish years, we've followed each others endeavors through chickens, gardening, and our attempts at more natural living. I've enjoyed seeing her raise her beautiful babies, and through the last several rougher years, she constantly encouraged me to come out to explore Maine. When this work trip opportunity came up (and I finally realized that instead of visiting cities, I needed time exploring nature), it just seemed to make sense to take some time to finally meet Heather in person and see more of the state of Maine. And I just have to say that I am SO GLAD that I did. Anytime you meet a blogger friend it's a new & fun experience, but I'm not even kidding that within the first three minutes of meeting this great gal in real life, I seriously wished we were neighbors and was so glad that we had taken the time and energy to stay in touch all these years. ********************
So without further ado, here's the Maine part of the trip:
My first stop this day was the small town where Heather lives which was a couple of hours away from North Conway. The drive there was great (although lots of construction on the roads as they get pretty torn up from winter!) and I was surprised by how many amazing lakes I passed on the way. (aka great kayaking territory) I also could tell right away without even being on the Maine coast yet that the state had the feel of a more progressive version of my hometown (on the Oregon coast). This alone made me start to fall in love with it a bit.
I met Heather in the super cute downtown area of her small town. She treated me to a coffee at the local co-op (THANK YOU!!) and then we sat on some benches in a little plaza area to chat about life happenings, Maine, and sociopoliticalecological topics (THANK YOU!!). As we only had a bit of time together, we then did a little walk about of the rest of the downtown area and checked out this area in the waterfront:
So awesome! And so great to see her. Definitely plan on meeting up again :)
Oh one word of note: toll roads in Maine---you absolutely need cash! They don't cost much but I was short on the first toll. I grabbed more cash for the second one and tried to pay up the shortfall but that sweet lil' toll booth lady wouldn't let me settle the difference. Maine! :)
Next I decided to head over to Acadia National Park. I'd already looked up the trail maps online and knew that the hikes weren't intense so I didn't feel like I'd miss too much if I just went for the views and not the mileage.....and man, those views did not fail. SO absolutely beautiful. You could just sit and stare mesmerized for hours.....
From Acadia, I drove down to Deer Isle and the teeny tiny lobster capitol of the US: Stonington. I'd found this cabin option (with kayaking available although it turned out to be too cold for it) on AirBnB. This site would be great for the on-season and I absolutely loved the host here. (Some reviews said he was "rough" but I thought he was great!) Luckily I got there before dark so was able to get my initial bearings and still make it to the one diner in Stonington to grab some food and a local brew. And while I knew it would be this way, Stonington is the type of place that when you walk in the diner, they know you aren't from around there..... Not that my purposely ripped jeans, leopard flats, and aviators gave it away by any means.....ha! :) Super friendly individuals but it's an incredibly small community. The town has one main street with just a few main buildings and that wraps around the small bay/harbor. I love these types of places as they're super off the beaten path however and I'm more of a small town gal to my core. Oh and at the diner, I had lobster mac n cheese!
The view from the diner with lobster boats in the distance.
After dinner, I went back to the site for the night and Bill had set me up in the better cabin option that had a heater--so awesome! After a bit of a cold shower in the bathroom quarters (about a football field's length away....this site wouldn't be for everyone....), I loaded up in layers and headed down to the nearby dock to hang out for a bit before bed, such a beautiful view:
This next morning I rolled out fairly early after exploring the property a bit more. I knew there wouldn't be coffee until I found some back on mainland Maine so I didn't really make many stops along the way. I did stop to snap this picture of the neat bridge that you drive over to get to Deer Isle however :)
And I stopped to snap this gem also because....Maine, it's just so beautiful!
It's the NE: white clapboard buildings everywhere! :)
Back on the mainland, I did finally come across a coffee shop where I stopped to get a cup of java and a pastry before continuing to head on toward Camden (which is a place Heather had suggested). As I arrived in Camden I saw the first thing I was looking for: the state hiking trails :) It was $6 for out of state entrance and the rangers were super friendly. The guy had done some hiking in Oregon so he gave me a suggestion of which trail to do and I set off up the hillside:
This is the overlook of the Atlantic & Camden in the background
Neat trek through the woods: There were options for shorter or longer versions, but I knew I was on limited time here.
Post-hike, I drove through the town which was pretty cute with many historic buildings (but I didn't stop). The gal I was staying with this night via Air BnB had been in touch earlier in the day and seemed a little particular so I felt like I was on more of a time crunch this day. I did manage two more stops however.
1) I stopped in Freeport to go to the flagship LL Bean store. Truthfully, not impressed (and generally I like LL Bean stuff but this day I just felt it was all overpriced and not of interest)....and not impressed with what I saw of the surrounding area of high priced retail stores here either. I literally walked through the store and out, around the block, and then got in my car and drove on.
2) I did happen to look up some running options for Portland, ME on the way and found one that was right next to the Old Port district and along the waterfront. I snagged an easy parking spot and then headed out for some jogging mileage. Lots of other joggers were out and this particular trail connects over to another as well. There also was a kayak group in the bay AND a dog park right on the shore. I (again) felt like I was right at home. (On a side note: this paved trail does take your jog right by the water treatment plant however....)
Post jog--I explored a bit of the Old Port area on foot. Very cute with lots of great restaurants and storefronts....and SUPER packed. This was the off season and I couldn't imagine how busy it would be during high season :) I did snag this fun picture of the lobster boats along one of the arms of the port however!
From here I jogged back to the car and then headed to the house in South Portland for the night. In some regards staying here was a good experience because it reminded me not to be so anal retentive as I continue to age. I think she was just being mindful....but there were instructions for everything and even every single light switch was labeled with a post-it. Luckily she was out for the evening when I arrived, so I took a quick shower, got my things settled in the room, and then walked toward food options. I ended up eating at this bustling BBQ joint where I ordered the big plate and a great local beer. (Are you noticing a theme here? :) I tend to drink lots of coffee and eat a pastry in the morning and then hit one solid meal and a "local" beverage at some point during the day when I'm on road trips.) Since I was flying out the next day, the rest of the night I spent getting my bags re-packed (with some pretty sweaty clothes at this point! :)) and everything in order.
The next morning I was up early and out. There was a really cute bakery within walking distance of the house so I headed there for a cup of coffee & a scone. I also had a great conversation with the owners who were super friendly and had both been to the west coast Portland. People seemed to love it when they asked me where I was from and I said "the other Portland." One of the reasons I'd opted to stay in South Portland was that it made many of the lighthouses super easily accessible, so from here I drove to do a bit of a lighthouse tour and to find a lobster roll :)
One of the three lighthouses I checked out this day was also an old military location, so it was fun to trek around the surrounding area here. Getting to and finding parking was a bit of a challenge at one of the other light houses, but I eventually figured it out with a bit of help from a local and googlemaps. :) And in my final hours in Maine, I had an infamous lobster roll from The Lobster Shack.
Before heading to the airport, I drove the rest of the loop around Cape Elizabeth, passing many local farms, and then back up through a different part of the city of Portland. The city itself is small feeling (which I loved) and it really only seemed like the Old Port area had a ton of people :) But truthfully I didn't spend much time overall in Portland.
Because of the ding in the windshield, I got to the airport early so they could process paperwork on the damage. (Which eventually it was waived, then re-instated, then waived again. So far I've been super incredibly fortunate and haven't had to pay for the chip to the windshield---oof! Out of all the thousands of road trip miles I've put in and back roads I've driven of course the one time I would have a ding would be in a rental car :) and in a spot that I never would fix on my own vehicle! Ha!)
The Portland, ME airport is small. I grabbed another book and enjoyed perusing the gift shop. Look at this awesome gem....just another reason why I love this state:
I spent some time reading part of the book and had some great people watching before getting on board for my flights. From ME I flew to NJ and then on to "my" Portland. The gal I sat next to on the NJ to Portland flight was great to talk to and I had a great conversation with a guy at the airport bar in NJ. Both individuals were from very different perspectives on life and yet we found lots of common ground. These conversations also really sort of restored me in a sense.
Altogether though this particular trip didn't really re-invigorate me as I'd hoped. Most of the time when I 'get away' I come back feeling refreshed but this wasn't exactly the case with this one. I'm not sure if it was the distraction of the guy I was talking to, the cold I ended up with on the way and the lack of sleep initially, the interesting array of AirBnb stays, and/or the fact that I was still working across the distance by grading and responding to emails. There were lots of beautiful moments, sites, and people interacted with, but I don't know that I truly felt as fully "present" on this trip.
In a sense, waiting a few weeks and then reflecting/writing about the trip has allowed me to really highlight the beauty that I did experience though....and I truly do want to go back sooner rather than later. :) There's just SO much to see and do...and in so many ways Maine (and Vermont) truly felt like a great location to appreciate and explore further. Here's hoping that in the next few years, I'll get the opportunity to head back for a bit more of a "present" time exploring....or.....living....we'll see. :)