Howard Ruff, a college dropout, had a roller-coaster career, starting out as a stockbroker. For a time he also supported himself as a singer. (One gig was at a synagogue, as what he described as the only practicing Mormon cantor in San Francisco.)
Mr. Ruff drew his widest attention in 1979 with his book “How to Prosper During the Coming Bad Years.” It recommended survivalist strategies, like stocking a year’s supply of food, and directed readers to other books including “Safe Places East of the Mississippi” and “Eating Weeds for Fun and Freedom.” The book sold millions of copies and was a New York Times best seller for more than a year.
For the November 1, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour hosted by Mark Gross and Peggy Berryhill in Gualala, California, we are asked to freewrite to this prompt: “What is Something You Hold On To?”
I am holding on to the belief that this seventh decade of my life is the best ever. Who’d a thought being a geezer, an old goat, a codger would make these past ten years my my crème de la creme, my pick of the litter, and my cream of the crop. I have my health, I have a flexible schedule where I don’t have to squeeze things in as I did when I was in the work force. We have the resources to travel and be generous. We hike and pickle. Life is good.
You must be thinking, surely there are other decades in your prime that are contenders. Well, let’s examine the facts,
The first ten years as a kid in suburbia were fine but the details escape me. Let’s chalk those years up as challengers to the past decade.
Teenage years? Dead last. Though good high school friends, my insecurities just ran amok.
Twenties – I got to say this might earn the silver medal. Going to Arizona State changed my life for the better and I wooed and married the girl of my dreams – One Hannah Kraai.
Thirties – By far, our three kids are what Hannah and I are most proud of. But parenting young-‘uns is just exhausting. We survived.
Forties – Teaching middle schoolers! Nuff said. Didn’t make my top ten.
Fifties – I’m thinking I have the bronze here as I got my dream job – teaching at the university.
The above roll call has not changed my mind that these past ten years remain numero uno. Time, health, resources, and choices. Oh and one more thing, I’m still doing it all with the girl of my dreams.
Seeds of doubt about completing our three-day journey on Route One from Kittery to Fort Kent creep into our heads and start to grow as we drive back to our Eastland Motel in Lubec. Wrapping up our second day of on the road, we’ve just finished hiking at Quoddy Head State Park. Click here for that blog.
Sitting with wine in our motel room (glamorous, I know), we toast two great days on the road but wonder about Day 3 of our 530-mile drive on Route One from the bottom to the top of the state of Maine.
You see, the forecast for Wednesday (Day 3) is showers and rain. Do we really want to spend the 250 miles from Lubec to Fort Kent in a car on a rainy day just to say we traveled the entire length of Route One in Maine? Looking at each other, we just don’t. Fair-weather travelers? I’m afraid so.
It’s like running a marathon. No one else cares for more than a minute that you ran 26.2 miles. Do it because you love the training, the challenge, and the satisfaction of completing a monumental task. Do it for you.
It’s like earning a PhD. Don’t do it because you want people to call you “Doctor.” From my experience it is way too much work for that misguided belief that anyone will give a sh*t that you are Dr. So and So. Do it because it would lead to your dream job working with preservice teachers and seeing if you can cut it teaching “bigger kids.” Your friends like you for who you are, not because of some title or that you ran a marathon.
You see, our travels north over the last two days have morphed into a hiking road trip. We hiked the Hundred Acre Wood in Brooklin and Peter’s Brook Trail in Blue Hill on Monday. Tuesday took us to Cobscook Shores, Mowry Beach, and Quoddy Head State Park. On the trails and getting lots of Fitbit steps are what we realized we wanted, not just driving on Route One. Tomorrow, we would have few such hiking options heading on the road to Fort Kent.
So today, we opt for flexibility to make the road trip ours based on what catches our fancy and what we learn as we go; not being limited and restricted to a plan hatched at home months ago.
We did mostly keep to Route One, except when the shoreline country roads beckoned (e.g., Bold Coast).
We never did listen to music to Pandora or podcasts while driving but focused on the sights of Route One that grabbed our attention.
So what did we learn?
One, we don’t need to be a big fish in a small pond. Small towns are home to people who grew up there. I get the appeal. But these villages on, admittedly, the beautiful coast of Maine are just not our home. Home is where we have lived in York for the last thirty-nine years. We are staying put for the long-term as small fish in a small pond.
Two, being among our peeps is important. We are liberal, tree hugging, Obama Democrats that do not want to be lone wolves in a rural Red part of the state. Finding like-minded folks who also believe what we care about (i.e., the common good, the environment, truth, vaccinations, being our brother’s keeper and hope) are important to us. We’ll continue to grow that community in York.
Three, to fully know the Red part of Maine I would need at least ten days to stop in towns, go to local events (e.g., in high school gyms), and meet the rural people on their terms, in their villages and towns. You know, I like the sound of that.
Overall, I’d call our two-day road trip on Route One from Kittery to Lubec a success.
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.
With the sunshine filling the sky on a day going tor 70F day this mid-September Tuesday, we are freewheeling up Route One onto our second overnight in Lubec on the Canadian border.
Tooling north on a very quiet Route One from Ellsworth, we have a WTF moment. A truck on the roof! A front yard ferris wheel!
We walk around the property, that happens to be for sale, and see no one around. The faces out front (see below) make it a little weird. Maybe it’s just as well no one is about.
Motoring on, I am surprised how little of Route One goes along the shoreline. This scene below is one of the few glimpses of the bay to the Atlantic Ocean.
Then it’s on to Steuben. We’ve a pickleball buddy Bob with a summer place here. Never heard of the town myself, but we make a side trip into the town center to check it out.
On a beautiful morning in the 60s, we wonder if we could live in such a small town. Wonder no more. There’s no way in God’s good green earth that we could leave the community in York we’ve grown for the last 39 years – access to pickleball courts and pickleball players, services such as gyms, large grocery stores, and clinics and doctors that we have at our disposal. That our daughter Molly’s family is an hour away from our home closes the “moving to a small town in the middle of nowhere” door.
Just north of Steuben is Milbridge, home to the “Purple Palace at 70 Main Street right on Route One. Again, we walk around and again no one is home. I’ll have to call Lisa to find a price. She texts me back!
Lisa texts me. Hi Dan, this is Lisa with Better Homes and Gardens. I received your message regarding 70 Main Streetin Milbridge. The Purple Palace. The seller has received and accepted an offer. I should be putting the listing as pending tomorrow. Thank you for your interest. If the sale falls through, I’ll reach out. Or would you like to put in a backup offer, just let me know. Kindest regards. Lisa
Now having the address, I find it on Zillow for $199,000. The restoration has already been started, so with some TLC and sweat equity, you could be the one to bring this sweet Queen Anne Victorian back to her glory….
Sounds like the buyer would need the constructions skills of our friends, George and Fran! (see the additional pictures of the Purple Palace at the end of the blog)
Heading north we take the sideroad closer to the ocean known as the Bold Coast.
Click here for more info on the scenic byway of the Bold Coast.
We jump off Route One for Route 1A to skirt the water’s edge.
This wire basket for balls struck me as clever in this small fishing community.
Always looking for university spiral notebooks for my journal writing (184 journals and going strong), we walk the still empty campus of U-Maine Machias (students were arriving the next day) in search of wire-bound notebook.
With no signage for the bookstore, we walk the campus looking for someone to help us out. One student tells us the bookstore is in the library, Unfortunately, one needs an ID card to get in the bibliotecque. Another student says she has been a student here for three years and has no idea where the bookstore is. Maybe online books have come to Downeast Maine? We leave town without a treasured university spiral notebook.
We have just 28 miles before lunch to our first of three hikes for the day at Cobscook Shores in Lubec.
Part 7 describes our hike from the above trailhead at Cobscook Shores in Lubec.
For your viewing pleasure, here are four views of the Purple Palace in Milbridge, Maine referenced above.
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.