The Marshall Point Lighthouse located in Port Clyde, ME
RM and I visited the coast of Maine for a week this month to escape the heat of Texas and to explore an area we knew little about. The Marshall family comes from this part of the country with RM’s relatives most recently residing in the area around the northern New York berg of Watertown. Samuel Marshall ( a great, great-grandfather to RM – not sure how many greats but several) – lived in the tiny fishing village of Port Clyde on one of the many peninsulas that line the Maine coastal waters. Port Clyde is on the lands end of one of these beautiful peninsulas and boasts the lighthouse made memorable from the Forrest Gump film – remember the running across America scene? – named after RM’s family name. The Marshall Point Lighthouse was named for Samuel Marshall who gave (sold?) the land to build this pretty lighthouse in the early 1800’s to protect primarily the lobstermen but others who also fished off this rocky coast for sardines, herring, haddock, scallops and shrimp. There is not a lighthouse keeper required now as everything is automated but the house is well maintained and is now a tiny museum and gift shop for visitors to explore. The lighthouse is spectacular perched on the black granite coast. The day we visited was cool and very foggy and the horn on the lighthouse echoed over the bay area warning lobster boats to stay clear of the rocks. The lighthouse continues to do its job more than 200 years later.
My top 10 favorite experiences this week in Maine were:
1. Hiking the Flying Mountain Trail in Acadia National Park. In just 0.3 miles from the parking area, we reached the 284-foot summit and its dramatic vistas. The climb was of moderate difficulty from someone not accustomed to cliff climbing but it was worth it! We could see Somes Sound as well as Greening Island and the Cranberry Isles.
2. Spending the day exploring the Schoodic Peninsula Loop including interesting stops in the tiny villages of Winter Harbor, Gouldsboro, Corea and Prospect Harbor. The Corea heath – local word for bog – is a great place for bird watching and we unexpectedly ran across an immense-sized eagle’s nest with a tough-looking mother eagle courageously protecting its young perched high on top of a telephone pole alongside one of the narrow roads that zig-zag across this remote part of the peninsula. Each little village has a general store and a couple of gift shops or galleries which are fun to explore. We bought a eye-catching botanical painting at one of our stops as well as a vintage novel written about the area, some old woodworking tools and other one-of-a-kind-finds to remind us of our travels.
3. Putting my feet into the frigid cold waters and deeply understanding why few dared to swim these ocean waters. Most people were satisfied with a quick wade in and out. Imagine what courage and hardiness it must take to fish these waters in the winter?
4. Walking the Bar Island Trail at 6:30 p.m. Our last hike of the day — from Bar Harbor out to the Bar Island — on a gravel bar only passable at low tide. It seems like we were being very risky but it only took about 20 minutes to cross it and then a quick return in plenty of time before the tide changed and a nice sunset ending to a beautiful day before forging on for dinner.
5. Dining at Mache Bistro in Bar Harbor is a must. We started with an appetizer of four local cheeses with a fig relish to cherish, entree of plump and savory sea scallops that tasted like the sea, and a decadent dessert of creamy cheese cake for the finale. Perfection.
6. Eating outside at several lobster pounds but we skipped eating the whole lobsters but went instead for the fresh clams and mussels. They were delicious with just a little bit of melted butter and cold beer brewed in Maine to wash it all down. We liked the Union River Lobster Pot the best which was located in the town of Ellsworth halfway between Bangor and Bar Harbor with great views of the Union River. Only open from June to October.
7. Driving along in our little rental car and the surprising views that just popped out of nowhere to our delight. The roads are lined with tall white pine but every once in a while there was a break in the forestry and you would see the granite-lined coast, or a winding river, or a picture perfect lake, or a spectacular vista of one kind or another. A terrific peek show brought to us by Mother Nature.
8. Spending the day at the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath. We arrived at 10 a.m. and drug ourselves out at 3:30 p.m. so we could make the drive to Freeport and then Boston before night fall. There is so much to see and do in this museum complete with a tour of the ship building yards of BIW (Bath Iron Works). Nearly all of the towns have some sort of museum about their town and the history associated with it. These are worth stopping if you have the time. We visited several and found them all very well done and supported by local volunteers that were fun to chat with and to listen to their distinctive Maine accents especially when they say a word full of the letter ‘r’.
9. Eating pizza at the Cabins in Bath was a delight as the place is frequented by shipbuilders and is really more of a bar than a pizza joint located directly across from BIW but the pizza is surprising excellent with a thin and crisp crust just like I like it and the beer was ice-cold and tasted like fine wine after a long day of traveling and sight-seeing. We had clams, calamari and mussels on a white pizza and it had just the right amount of garlic and white cheese for my taste. RM and I only ate two meals a day on this trip as there just wasn’t time to eat and see all that we wanted to see and do. I can share our itinerary with anyone planning to visit the area as nearly all of our stops and discoveries were ones we would recommend to friends and families.
10. Hiking the Ship Harbor Trail and discovering dramatic pink granite cliffs and tidal pools to explore for tiny crabs or other ocean creatures. Poet Robinson Jeffers is quoted on a hand-carved marking along the trail that states “There is Wind in the Tree and The Gray Ocean’s Music on the Rock” and this is true.
I travel to learn about myself and the world and on this trip I did both. What is better than that? Glad I went and glad I am home again on Ashland.