The highlight of our second day traveling Route One on this mid-September Tuesday is to be our hike on the Coastal Trail on the cliffs at Quoddy Head State Park. A mere six miles from downtown Lubec, the West Quoddy Lighthouse is a beacon on the border of the United States and Canada.
Originally built in 1808, by order of President Thomas Jefferson, the original wooden tower was replaced by the current tower in 1858. With “candy-stripes,” it is the only such tower in the United States. Previously the lamp was illuminated with, get this, sperm whale oil and lard oil.
With a choice of trails, we opt for the four-mile macho man/woman Coastal Trail along the steep rocky cliffs with trees toughened by the punishing by the Atlantic’s harsh winds. The cliffs are remnants of marine volcanoes! Who knew!
The Coastal Trail starts benignly enough with a level trail that offers dramatic views to the ocean.
Then the trail turns mean. With rocks and roots crossing the trail, we hold onto branches as we descend; it’s more cliff climbing than hiking.
Keeping close the cliffside, we come to a point where we wonder if we have lost the trail or not. It’s zero fun so we backtrack towards the Bog Trail. We are looking for an enjoyable hike not an arduous one. Such is life at 73!
Opting for the level sublime Bog Trail, we catch a hiking rhythm.
With the sun soon to set, we get our 10K steps and more and prepare to return to our Eastland motel, three miles out of Lubec on Route 189. We’ve a warm bed, a continental breakfast ahead to prepare for our third and final day exploring Route One from Kittery to Fort Kent.
Part 10 provides modest evidence that we are not all that stupid
Just before noon this Tuesday in mid-September, a fellow hiker at the Old Farm Point of the Cobscook Shores encourages Hannah and me to head to Mowry Beach, minutes walk from downtown Lubec. (See map below.) Looking to lunch out before we hike, we are thinking an old favorite – Italian. And by that today I mean pizza. Sadly, we learn that Morano’s Authentic Pizza, the only pasta palace in town, is open only on Fridays and Saturdays during the off-season. Ever resourceful and quite hungry, we lunch on peanut butter on Ritz cracker sandwiches with sparkly water. You gotta admit, these kids know how to live!
Driving down the Maine side of the Lubec Channel towards the Atlantic, we have trailhead parking for fifteen. Mowry Beach looks to the east to Campobello Island, summer getaway for Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Our less than half mile trail has us hiking on both on dirt and boardwalk through coastal scrub woodland. See below.
Situated along the edge of the village of Lubec, this property protects 1,800 feet of shoreline along a 1.2 mile beach overlooking Lubec Channel and Campobello Island.
Along the lower portions of the beach at low tide, the remains of ancient tree stumps can be seen, quite possibly, indicating the location of a primeval forest (or so says Wikipedia!).
So we come to another small town on the coast of Maine on a gorgeous shorts-and-tee-shirt day in mid-September. Live here? It’s still a strong no. A friend told me of friends of his from rural Maine who moved away. Asked why they moved, they responded “heroin.” Boredom can do some mean things to a person.
Part 9 takes you to the trails of Quoddy Head State Park on the Atlantic six miles from downtown Lubec.
In the dead of winter (2021) nestled in our nearly 50-year-old post and beam house in coastal York, Maine, I read in Outside magazine of the new trails of Cobscook Shores opening up in Downeast Maine near the Canadian border.
Some five hours from York, the trails of Cobscook Shores sing to me. Sucker for a hiking temptress, with Hannah, I have twice postponed our hiking adventure due to rainy weather this past spring and summer.
But today, we will not be denied as we arrive before lunch in Lubec (pronounced Lou-beck). After a morning driving the 85 miles of Route One from Ellsworth to Lubec, we are ready to get our bodies moving and grooving and hit these trails. By the way, Lubec is the easternmost town/city in all these United States and is the closest continental connection to Africa in the United States!
Cobscook Shores is a system of 15 parklands spread around Cobscook Bay in Lubec. The name “Cobscook” comes from Kapskuk, a Passamaquoddy word meaning “place where the water looks like it is boiling.” Privately owned, Cobscook Shores offers visitors an alternative to the saturation hiking and congestion of Acadia National Park, 100 miles to the south.
At the trailhead, we have a farmer’s field for our morning hike at Old Farm Point.
The pictures and maps will take you on our hike with us.
Lubec has a rich fishing history. Are you a big fan of sardines (small herrings)? Can’t say that I am! Popular in the 1800s, the smoked herring business was roaring along and, get this, employed nearly every male resident over the age of ten in Lubec. By 1900, 23 sardine factories were pumping out the little fellas night and day.
Over-fished by the 1960s, herring, the staple of the local fisherfolk, was in serious decline. The last cannery closed in 1990 and the last smokehouse shut its doors in 1991. Regulations limiting the numbers of herring caught have returned the herring to a sustainable level. Even so, lobster and shellfish are the focus of the fishing industry in Lubec today.
Yeah, it’s just a walk in a hayfield. No path at all, but it was sweet mile in the sunshine some 300 miles from home, almost in Canada, after a morning in the car.
After lunch, our plans to hike Black Duck Cove, another trail of the Cobscook Shores Parkland, are happily derailed by another hiker who suggests we go to Mowry Beach. Hannah and I are all about shoreline hikes and abruptly change our plans.
Part 8 takes you to Mowry Beach and into the town of Lubec.
Warmed-up by hiking the 40-minute, 1.7 mile One Hundred Acre Wood Trail in Brooklin less than 30 minutes ago (click here for that blog), Hannah and I drive nine miles inland up Route 175 into the little coastal town of Blue Hill to the oceanside trailhead of the Peter’s Brook Trail.
With trailhead parking across the country road highway from the trail, we walk a hundred yards north on the opposite side of the road knowing we have sixty minutes to hike before the sun sets on this mid-September Monday.
After eight hours car-bound driving Route One, we fall in love with the brook-side trail into the forest of Blue Hill, Maine. A waterfall awaits.
With a trail system of five miles managed by the Blue Hill Heritage Trust, we hike by the dashing stream just minutes from the ocean heading to our thundering falls.
Let’s let the images take you on this picturesque trail.
With the setting sun, we motor fifteen miles to our overnight at the Comfort Inn in Ellsworth, Maine back onto Route One. A glass of wine awaits to toast our first day of three traveling Route One from Kittery to Fort Kent.
Part 6 describes our travels north from Ellsworth on Route One, far from home in rural Maine that we do not know. Let our education begin.
Leaving the Penalty Box Pub in Damariscotta after lunch, we drive north on our three-day mission to drive the entire length of Route One in the state of Maine (530 miles).
Despite having the most picturesque harbor in all of Maine, Camden and its sister cities of Rockport and Rockland are charmless when it comes to Route One; congested downtowns are not the stuff of adventure. Having driven 140 miles over the past six hours, we find Camden filled with America’s excess – wealth management financial services, law offices, Walgreens, Oyster River Wine Growers, Camden National Banks, and the Smiling Cow selling tee-shirts. You could be in Florida or Most Anywhere USA.
By 3P we are in Bucksport the home to the Fort Knox Observatory, the tallest bridge observatory in the world. With our sights set on two modest hikes, first at the Hundred Acre Wood near the Atlantic in Brooklin and then the Peter’s Brook Trail in Blue Hill near the harbor, we motor on towards the ocean.
Rated the #1 trail of the Top Ten Great Downeast Hikes for Kids and Grandparents (Maine Seniors, September 2021), the One Hundred Acre Trail is a modest 1.7 mile loop. This trail is an ideal antidote to eight hours in the car on a September Monday.
Tooling down the country road of Route 172, we see no evidence of the promised trailhead. With daylight waning, we have little margin for error; then we do as we always do – look for someone to ask or, if necessary, knock on a door for directions.
A delightful earth mother in this very rural part of coastal Maine tells to just go back up the highway a half a mile. We do and see the smallest of signs that we missed as we zipped by. You be the judge if they could have made the sign a little bit bigger.
Pulling into the trailhead, we see a lot for just three cars with, you guessed it, three cars filling the spaces. Not to be denied after a day in the car, we park off the road on Route 172, very lightly traveled at this time of year. Changing into our hiking shorts and shoes, we see a car pull out. The hiking gods have come through in the nick of time as we take the vacant spot.
Let the pictures show you what we found on the Hundred Acre Wood Trail.
Out in nature our souls are renewed. Part 5 takes the reader back to Blue Hill for the highlight of our first day of the Route One Road Trip – the Peter’s Brook Trail.
On a Sunday in early April 2021, Hannah and I notice cars parked by the side of the Route 103 as we approach Kittery coming from York. The collection of vehicles has the feel of a Sunday afternoon family gathering in this rural shoreline part of York.
Little do we know until this morning, we have two to three miles of farmland paths wide enough for a 19th century wagon to easily pass through the shoreline forest of oaks and firs. We’ve lived here for nearly forty years and never knew that this unmarked trail existed.
Parking roadside one hundred yards from the trailhead, Hannah and I have the tidal river to our right and are freewheeling straight ahead on what appears to be a one-time farm lane, easily wide enough for two.
As shoreline trails in southern Maine often are, this farm lane skirts the expanding tidal creek without much gain in elevation. The trail that would handle a four wheeler doesn’t appear to have seen mountain bikes or motorized vehicles of any sort.
A freshwater stream crosses our path, but a few well placed rocks allow us to easily step across.
Maybe a mile and a half in, we take the hard right towards the tidal river.
Passing the Payne Cemetery, we walk out on a marshland berm with the mudflats and the wetlands bracketing the trail. Soon we are looking over to the Kittery shore, not far from the Cutts Island Trail (Click here for that blog.).
Doubling back on this 55F degree morning, we hike on our own until near the trailhead we we run into a woman with her free-ranging, friendly dog. Not a fan of out-of-control canines, I even pet this amiable golden retriever.
Fifty minutes later we return to the unmarked trailhead knowing we have found a hiking jewel for families and nature lovers who come to visit us. Please do.
Ten days later we hike this same trail with our local friend Karen.
Pumped by the news that our sister-in-law Becky is coming to Maine, Hannah and I have just the trail for us all to hike. Thanks to the recommendation of our friends, Donna and George, we head 30 minutes north from our home in York for the Emmons Preserve curated by the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust.
Yes, that Kennebunkport, home of the presidential Bushes (41 and 43). By the way, we are tight with Becky as she married Hannah’s older brother, Doug.
Let me tell you Becky has lived a full life. She spent a year as a child in Australia with her family, went to college in Colorado, earned a piano performance Master’s at our Ithaca College, worked aside her hubby Doug for twenty years on a buffalo farm, dealt with Doug’s early death at the age of 56, came to Maine to care for her mom, spent a year WOOF-ing (volunteering on farms and homesteads from South Carolina to Arkansas to New Mexico for no pay but for room and board), and currently resides in North Carolina as a talented musician with her guy Derek.
Meeting on a Friday in late May at the spectacular Emmons Preserve in Kennebunkport, we three lunch on Hannah’s cole slaw and chicken salad on the visitor’s center’s upper deck. Becky has brought a frog to place on Hannah’s Frog Wall and Hannah found a mug from Becky’s Diner (Portland, Maine) for our Becky.
Heading out on the wide Batson River Trail (detailed trail map at the end of the blog), we stumble upon and are blown away by the stone labyrinth of rocks donated by locals to commemorate a loved one.
Crossing the creek, we have a clearly marked trail into the wilds of Kennebunkport. In mid-May the spring green leaves spread a softness all around us. We catch up on Becky’s adult kids out Oregon way and share our times with our five grandchildren in Massachusetts and New York state.
After 45 minutes we have still not reached the terminus of the Batson River Trail but turn around to return to the trailhead for our good-byes.
Fact is, there are no good-byes. There’s just see you soon, raccoon and blow a kiss, jellyfish.
The second of our daily double of short local hikes is just over the York line into Kittery. (Click here for the first, the Fuller Forest Preserve in York.) Travel south on Route 103 from York Harbor and on your right after two miles or so you’ll see the trailhead parking for this hiking jewel developed by the Kittery Land Trust.
This mid-April late morning finds women with their dogs and a mom with her three-month-old papoose. The trail is often wide enough for the two of us to walk side-by-side through the forested land.
Crossing the little creek on wooden puncheons with roof shingles for traction, we are minutes from home but really away into the Maine woods.
Having hiked this trail before with our grandsons Owen and Max, today we discover the new Sawyer Farm Trail spur at the far end of the loop trail; red plastic blazes on the trees guide us all the way to Bartlett Road near the York/Kittery line.
Without haste but walking steadily, Hannah and I cover the mile and a half or so of trail in forty some minutes.
Paired with the Fuller Forest Preserve trail not five minutes away, the Brave Boat Headlands trail gives those new to hiking/walking and those seeking the solitude of nature a double-barreled hiking experience.
Five days later we took our friend Karen to explore this same trail.
Finding outdoor alternatives to working out at our local gym, Hannah and I discover the Fuller Forest Preserve right here in town.
From the center of town, take Lindsay Road, cross Sewell’s Bridge by the York Golf and Tennis Club. Take the gentle right onto Southside Road. After a half mile, take the first left onto Bartlett Road, and voila, the extensive trailhead parking is to your right within 0.3 of a mile.
Thanks to the generous donation of the Fuller Brown family to the York Land Trust, York has the first stages of a forest trail at its doorstep. As a conservation area, this 220 acre parcel is part of 1300 acres of contiguous undeveloped lands in southern York County.
Let me give you a little background of how this land came to be set aside for the public. In 1986, Marion Fuller Brown founded the York Land Trust. In 2017, her heirs sold this acreage at a bargain rate to the York Land Trust and then donated some of the proceeds back to the YLT. They are our local version of Warren Buffet and MacKenzie Scott (Jeff Bezos’ ex-wife).
Currently, the Red Oak Trail is 0.75 miles through forested wetlands and remnants of coastal agricultural of a bygone era. With new wood plank puncheons over swampy areas which are fed by seasonal vernal pools, we hike among the oaks, maples, and firs just minutes from the Atlantic Ocean. For you Ice Age buffs, this land was under a mile of ice during the last Ice Age some 11,000 years ago.
Encountering pickleball friend Gary working on a new set of puncheons with another volunteer this mid-April Tuesday, we see the beginnings of a new trail all the way to Dolly Gordon Creek.
In April 2021, the less than a mile trail takes just twenty minutes of ambling. Come back this fall and surely next spring to see the fine trail work of the volunteers of the York Land Trust.
For more information about the Fuller Forest Preserve click here.
Five days later we hiked the Red Oak trail with our friend Karen. The picture below is of the same tree that trapped Hannah.
More Hannah and Karen on the same puncheons where the volunteers were building the day we hiked.
On an overcast mid-April morning, Hannah and I head to the Maine coastline to explore the Cutts Island Trail on the Rachel Carson Nature Preserve in Kittery.
Though 70 degrees filled our Saturday past, today Monday, it’s a blustery 48. You may not know it, but April in Maine is a tempest, a volatile lover. Driving south from York on coastal Route 103, we turn left on Cutts Road for a few hundred yards to a stop sign. At the junction of Sea Point Road, we veer left over the small bridge, within sight of the modest trailhead parking on Cutts Island.
Pulling behind a van with Oregon plates, we have before us nearly two miles of flatland trails along Chauncey Creek on to the Salt Marsh. The forest ahead is a collection of brown pick-up sticks of fallen oaks, maples, and pines among the healthy trees ready to leaf out. In a month, the softness of green will bracket the trail and calm the winter beast within us all.
With a trail of soft dirt that is easy on our feet, we head out on level terrain exploring to see if this is a suitable trail for our grandsons, Owen (8) and Max (6).
Signs directing us at junctures of the trail tell us of quite the American hero, Rachel Carson.
As an American biologist, Rachel Carson wrote on environmental pollution and the natural history of the sea. Her book, Silent Spring (1962), was the spark for the modern environmental movement as well as five alarm fire for the need to control pesticides, including DDT. A graduate of Chatham College in Pittsburgh, PA, incidentally where my mother earned her B.A. in French and Latin, Ms. Carson in the prime of her life was weakened by breast cancer and died of a heart attack at 56 in 1964.
Chatting up the Oregonians, fully masked thirteen months into the Covid-19 pandemic, we learn they are vandwellers traveling the country. Vandwellers!!
Following this encounter, I think how appealing it would be to travel the Lower Forty-Eight in a van as William Least Heat Moon described in Blue Highways (1982). Staying wherever we want for as long as we want. Hiking, visiting family and friends as modern day free-spirited, albeit upper middle class, hobos. Of course, I would be doing this alone since Hannah wants no part of van-ity.
Even with all our stops to read the informative trail signs, we are back at the trailhead in 50 minutes. Have hiked with Owen and Max before, we know this hike will easily take an hour and a half as they climb trailside logs and boulders, scamper down to the water’s edge, and throw whatever is close at hand.
What do you know, during a “24 Hours with Owen and Max,” one month late (mid-May 2021) Hannah and I brought the boys to Cutts Island.