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Fall Foliage in Maine: Acadia National Park & Beyond

Author: soliteyah
Date of Trip: October 2010

This past October, SO and I took a break from international traveling to visit a U.S. destination we’ve always wanted to visit: Maine. Specifically, Acadia National Park. We came hoping to do plenty of hiking, lobster eating and leaf peeping — and we got to do all three!

We left our home in the Philly area on a Friday night around 8 p.m. and were lucky enough not to hit much traffic on I-95 as we passed through New York City. We made it to Hartford before deciding to stop and hunt for a hotel, which took us about half an hour (after following a “lodging” sign at one exit that didn’t seem to lead us to any lodging at all). Finally we found a Holiday Inn Express that gave us a room for about $105 with tax. It was a little more than we wanted to pay, but at midnight we weren’t going to argue or keep searching. The room was actually pretty nice, especially the bed — which we promptly collapsed into.

Saturday

The next morning we were on the road by 8:45, passing through Massachusetts and New Hampshire into Maine. The farther north we went, the more foliage we started to see (it was very early in October, so we were a little premature for the peak in most of New England). We stopped for lunch in Portland, Maine, which looks like a fantastic little city.

We parked near the Old Port/waterfront where an enormous cruise ship was docked. The area was swarming with tourists. Sidestepping the restaurants, shops and trolley tours, we wandered down a private wharf toward the water. It was clearly a working wharf, judging by the strong salty stench and the fish heads strewn all over the street. We stopped for lunch at the Porthole Restaurant, where I had a salad with goat cheese and beets (tasty!) and SO had a lobster sandwich (sadly, neither of us was that impressed with it — too much mayo).

After lunch we were back on the road, traveling up I-295 and then I-95 to Bangor, where we caught Route 1A and then Route 3. It was mostly highway driving, but on a sunny fall day the colors were quite beautiful. We stopped in Trenton for some groceries (sandwiches, bananas, postcards) and then made our way into Bar Harbor. It was a Saturday and the town was absolutely packed with cars and buses and tourists. (I think a cruise ship may have been in town.) And I’ve never seen so many B&B’s and hotels in a row in my life!

Route 3 got much quieter once we passed through Bar Harbor, and we saw some of the rocky hills and cliffs that Acadia National Park is known for. We were headed for Blackwoods Campground, which is one of the park’s own campgrounds (there are also a lot of private ones nearby). It was a pretty campground, and very quiet even though apparently every single site was taken that Saturday night. We were right near the bathrooms, but unfortunately there were no showers; you had to leave the campground and drive a couple minutes up the road to pay for showers offered by a private company.

After we set up our tent, SO immediately started trying to light a fire. We didn’t have our own kindling, unfortunately, but he spent a good hour using the sticks that were already in the fire pit as well as some paper towels we had in our truck to try to get a blaze going. Bless him for his patience — I would have given up after five minutes! But he didn’t have any luck, and with temperatures dropping into the 40’s, we were not exactly warm. I went to bed wearing two shirts, a sweatshirt, a fleece jacket, two pairs of pants and two pairs of socks, and I was inside a sleeping bag and under two blankets. And despite all that, I was still quite chilly. (It didn’t help that SO had forgotten the air mattress, so we were lying right on the cold rocky ground.) For some reason we were also both having allergic reactions to something — smoke? Dusty sleeping bags? Something growing in the woods?

Between the shivering and the compulsive nose blowing, we didn’t have the best night!

Sunday

We woke at 7:30 to a brisk, clear morning. We took down the tent, deciding that if we could find a hotel to stay in, it would be worth wasting the $20 we’d prepaid for a second night of camping. Maybe we’re soft, but it was so worth it!

We bought a hiking trail map from the ranger station on our way out of the campground and set off for Acadia — specifically the Park Loop Road. We started midway through the route at Otter Cliffs, where we walked along the Ocean Path for a while. It was a clear, relatively level path along a rocky coast lined with fir and spruce trees. The Atlantic was beating against the craggy rocks, and at one point we made our way down to some tide pools where the ocean had retreated a bit. There were a lot of people clustered near the parking lots along the trail, but it seemed like most of them were just stopping for quick photo ops, and we had the rest of the trail largely to ourselves.

We continued along the Park Loop Road, stopping in several pullouts to take pictures of coves and coastal views. We arrived at the Jordan Pond House in the heart of the park just before noon. The place was crawling with cars and buses, and the restaurant there (the only restaurant in the park) was just gearing up. It’s famous for its popovers — these huge puffy doughy things — so we figured we’d have lunch there just for the experience. I got a salad and SO got a grilled chicken panini with brie. Both were pretty good (if a little overpriced), and the service was the fastest I’ve ever had at a sit-down restaurant; we were in and out in less than 30 minutes. Final verdict on the popovers: Underwhelming! Kind of greasy and tasteless. Ah, well.

We walked off lunch on the three-mile loop trail around Jordan Pond. It took us an hour or two but was well worth doing; the pond was gorgeous, set against a backdrop of mountains. The foliage in Acadia was just barely starting to turn, so there were splashes of gold and vermilion against the abundant green. The walk was relatively flat but not boring — lots of eye-catching views, big smooth rocks and even about a half mile of boardwalk through the fragile forest ecosystem.

From there we worked our way around the rest of the Park Loop Road, skipping the Cadillac Mountain summit because we were trying to reach Thunder Hole by 4:30 or so. Before that, we went down to Sand Beach, which is a bit of an anomaly amidst all the rest of the rocky coastlines in the area. A few brave souls (mostly kids) waded into the icy ocean up to their ankles, and we saw one person surfing in a wetsuit. We snapped a few photos and made our way to the opposite end of the beach and the trailhead for the Great Head Trail. Clearly marked with blue blazes, the trail involved some rock scrambling but nothing hardcore. We didn’t go all the way around the loop since it was getting a little late in the afternoon, but we still got some fantastic views over the beach. It reminded me a bit of Point Reyes in California with its dramatic rocky coasts and sweeping beaches.

Then it was on to Thunder Hole, which was packed with people. The tide was coming in, which we’d read was the best time to see Thunder Hole, but I’m not sure we were quite there at peak time. It was cool anyway — swirling water that occasionally forced its way out with a big boom and splash. I was tired and hungry so we didn’t stay too long before heading into Bar Harbor for dinner.

We ended up at Chowdah’s, which had two things going for it: parking right out front, and a “sunset menu” (available between 4 and 7 p.m.) — one appetizer, two entrees and two desserts for $22. A steal! (Clearly a lot of the older crowd agreed; we were the youngest people in the place besides the wait staff.) We got a Maine shrimp cocktail for our appetizer. I was expecting four or five nice big shrimp, but instead we got a bunch of teeny little shrimp drenched in mayo — basically a shrimp salad. Not too impressive. Entrees: “broiled” haddock for me (looked fried) and grilled swordfish for SO (tasty). Dessert was by far the best part: strawberry rhubarb pie and vanilla ice cream, which we mixed to delightful effect.

Fortunately for us, we were saved from a second night of camping by the Wonder View Inn, where we’d planned to stay the next night. They took us a day early for an only slightly higher rate. The place had the basic feel of a 60’s motor lodge (and it looked as though it had the original curtains from back then!). Fortunately it was clean enough, and it had HEAT and a BED! Which was all we really wanted after camping.

Monday

The day started out gray and drizzly, and I worried that our planned morning hike — a climb up Gorham Mountain — might be a little treacherous over wet and slippery rocks. But we decided to go for it, and traction wasn’t quite as much of a problem as I’d expected. The persistent drizzle was a little bit of a pain, but we’d waterproofed our coats and boots before we left home and that helped a lot. And we were sheltered by trees for much of the way.

The hike itself was lovely — it felt a little like I’d imagine the Pacific Northwest to feel, damp and green, with lots of firs and pines. We went up the main trail, which had some altitude gain but was never strenuous. We reached the top in less than an hour. At the top was a wide, rocky summit with fantastic views of Sand Beach and Otter Cliffs. We would have lingered up there longer if we hadn’t been getting so wet!

On the way back down, we took the Cadillac Cliffs detour, which was a little more challenging on such a damp day (lots of descending/scrambling over slippery rocks), but it was quite pretty with some fall foliage and a sea cave with a rock ledge jutting out over it. When we met up with the main trail again, it wasn’t too much farther back down to the parking lot — and along the way, the rain stopped!

We continued around the Park Loop Road to the Bubble Pond parking lot, where there’d been no available spots the day before. Today there were several, so we checked out the pond and walked along the carriage road that borders one side. This seemed to be a popular place for people to bike and walk dogs (or in one case both: a woman rode by, her dog stopped to check something out, she kept going, and the dog was dragged/flipped into the air by her forward momentum, landing on its back and getting its leash twisted around the bike wheel — ugh!). As we walked, the sun finally came out, and the day had turned clear and beautiful by the time we pulled out to go to the Cadillac Mountain summit.

Unlike the other summits in the park, you can drive right up to this one via a dramatic road with lots of hairpin turns. Along the route are a bunch of viewpoints where you can pull over and ooh/ahh over the increasingly expansive panoramic views: Eagle Lake, Frenchman Bay, cruise ships docked outside Bar Harbor … amazing. The Blue Hill overlook had great views off to the west (as well as a decent-sized parking lot), and then at the very top is a massive lot and a 0.3-mile paved trail to let you take in the full panorama. Be warned that it is very windy up there — I was glad I’d packed lots of layers.

We were both hungry by then, so we drove into town to find sustenance. We ended up grabbing some ready-made food at Hannaford, a grocery store: chili and a hoagie for SO, turkey sandwich and yogurt for me. We ate in the Sand Beach parking lot, where I also used the bathroom before we moved on to our afternoon hike: the Hunter’s Brook trail.

The path ran along a gorgeous stream for much of the way, including several crossings. (Some were easier than others; an older couple with a dog decided to turn back after a few tricky ones.) The trail apparently linked up with a path to the Triad Mountain summit, but we didn’t start the hike till 2:45 and weren’t sure we’d have time to get it all in before dusk fell. So we turned around after about 55 minutes to go back the way we came as the sun started to slant a little lower between the trees. Our feet were really tired by then — we’d been hiking for the better part of two days, and this particular trail was full of knotty roots that really started to do a number on the balls and arches of my feet.

We finished the day in delightful fashion by returning to the Cadillac summit and watching the sunset. (The best view was not at the summit itself but rather at any of the west-side viewpoints on the way down.) We parked the car and hung out for a bit, snapping photos as the sun sank behind the hills.

We were too late for all the early bird dinner specials in Bar Harbor, so we headed to Galyn’s, which our guidebook had given a good review. It was pricier than we really wanted, but frankly we were due for a really good meal! I got sauteed scallops (delicious) and SO got a spicy seafood stew. We topped it off with warm blueberry-apple crisp topped with vanilla ice cream — so good!

Tuesday

This was an absolute gem of a day weather-wise — brilliant sunshine and temps in the mid-60’s. We used this day to check out the western side of Mount Desert Island, which is significantly quieter than the eastern side where Bar Harbor is. We started by hiking up Flying Mountain, which at less than 300 feet is really more of a small hill — it took us a whopping 12 minutes to reach the summit. The views of Somes Sound were gorgeous.

The trail continued up and over the mountain down to the edge of Valley Cove, where we sat on the rocky beach and looked out across the water for a while at the ritzy homes on the opposite coast. Then the trail looped back around to the parking area via an unpaved truck road, mostly flat but a little bit uphill. Overall it was a relaxing hike, long enough to be interesting but less than two hours (and we took our time with it — it could have been even shorter).

After that we drove into Southwest Harbor, a cute little town with a pretty waterfront. We parked and wandered aimlessly around town for a while, winding up at the Wendell Gilley Museum. Gilley was a local artist who did wood carvings of birds. The museum wasn’t big, but the carvings were fascinating and intricately done. Species included ducks, loons, owls, eagles, cardinals and my favorite, the chickadee.

We had lunch at the Sips cafe in Southwest Harbor. They had some creative and healthy options on the menu (like hummus, crepes and a vegetarian club sandwich). I had clam chowder and a green salad while SO had minestrone soup and a turkey club. Pretty good. Our waitress was a bundle of energy; we joked that she would have climbed Flying Mountain in six minutes flat, then sung Frank Sinatra songs at the top!

After lunch we drove down to the Bass Harbor Lighthouse, which is still in use (but now automated). Apparently a Coast Guard officer still lives in the attached “house” part of the lighthouse — I can’t imagine it’s much fun for his family to have tourists swarming around all the time, but what do I know? We stuck around long enough to snap a few photos before moving on to the Ship Harbor Trail — an easy, figure-eight-shaped trail that passes partly through the woods and partly along the shore, where the low tide revealed lots of rocks and dried seaweed. SO enjoyed browsing for periwinkle shells and other sea life. (He spotted a few lobster claws too.) We stopped for a while to bask on the rocks and watch the sunlight spangling the water — brilliant and mesmerizing.

We definitely took our time with the tidal side of the hike (I even got sunburned), but we ran out of steam a bit at the end and took the forest trail back pretty quickly. (We’d seen lots of forests by that point.) We’d initially planned to do the nearby Wonderland trail as well, but our feet were sore again and it looked like more of the same, so instead we parked for a while in the Seawall picnic area, looking out over the waves and watching a brazen seagull chilling out on the hood of the car next to us. (He was unfazed by the several tourists, including us, who came up to take his picture.)

We had dinner in Bass Harbor at Seafood Ketch, which was right on the very picturesque harbor. The tide was very low, so we watched a bunch of seagulls picking over the offerings on the newly revealed beach. It was warm enough to eat outside, which I thought was pretty impressive for Maine in October, but we were plagued a bit by some mosquitoes that seemed to be blowing in from the nearby marsh lands. For our meals, I ordered stuffed fish topped with lobster sauce and SO got shrimp scampi — both good but not amazing. For dessert, we tried the Indian pudding, which is made of corn meal, molasses, sugar and spices. It tasted a bit like pumpkin, and the texture was a little like Cream of Wheat. Quite yummy! (SO told me to just lick the bowl already.)

We spent the night at the Bluff House Inn in Gouldsboro, on the Schoodic Peninsula. This B&B has some fantastic views over the water from several wide porches. We stayed in the Strawberry Room, the least expensive option at $75/night + tax, which didn’t have the amazing water view but was cute and charming. We were greeted in the main lounge area by a poodle named Olivia and the calls of an African parrot in another room. Two other small dogs also ventured out to say hi, while Olivia inquisitively nosed up against my crotch. The lounge had a bunch of tables set up for breakfast, as well as a computer that I assumed was for guest use (we had our own laptop and were able to use the inn’s free wi-fi), as well as some comfy chairs and a small library.

Wednesday

We woke up to a gray but dry morning and had a quick continental breakfast at the inn before driving down Route 186 to the Schoodic portion of Acadia National Park. As with the Mount Desert Island portion, there’s a one-way loop road here that winds around the bottom of the peninsula (though this one is much shorter and doesn’t require an entrance fee). The scenery was fairly similar, with the ubiquitous rocky coastline, but this section of the park was much quieter. There was barely anyone else in the pullouts on the side of the road, and the two-tiered parking lot at Schoodic Point only had one other car in it when we arrived at 9:30 or so. I really enjoyed that stop — it was high tide, and the waves crashing against the rocks were magnificent. Lots of shore birds there too.

We worked our way around the peninsula to the parking area for the various Schoodic Head trails (Schoodic Head is a 440-foot peak, the highest on the peninsula). On the advice of our guidebook we started with the Anvil trail, a mile-long approach to the peak that had a few steep and/or precarious sections (ie rocks and roots that would be tough on the knees during a descent). Along the way up was a nice overlook with views that ended up being better than those at the top. (There were so many trees at the summit that the view was underwhelming, especially after others we’d seen. Bummer.) We continued over the top of the mountain to descend via the 0.7-mile Schoodic Head trail, which also had a cool overlook and then went down via a lovely path surrounded by trees and mossy rocks. That hooked up with the 0.6-mile Alder trail, which was wide, flat and grassy, and led straight back to the car. The whole thing took less than two hours, and it didn’t rain —  nice!

We finished the Schoodic loop and went back up to Route 1 to search for food, since we didn’t see much in the couple of small towns on the peninsula. We ended up picking up sandwiches and salads (plus beef jerky — SO’s impulse buy) at a grocery store in Millbridge. SO spotted a sign for a local park 4.5 miles away, so we took our food there for a picnic. The drive there was really pretty — a country road with lots of fall color. The park, McClellan, was pleasant too, though the rocky coast looked much the same there as it had everywhere else.

After lunch, we drove back to Route 1 and turned onto Pigeon Hill Road to reach the Petit Manan National Wildlife Refuge, set up to protect Maine’s local shore birds. We choose a 1.5-mile trail that started in a field and wound its way through a ton of blueberry bushes (SO even found a couple of berries still on the branches, which we tried — too small to judge the taste) down to the shore, where the tide was way out. I’d noticed by that point that everything looked better at high tide; low tide tended to expose lots of mucky-looking brown sand and seaweed.

The wind was really kicking up and the clouds looked threatening when we reached the shoreline, so we hightailed it back around the rest of the loop to the car. (On the way, SO spotted what he believed was a quail, high in a tree. Cool!) The skies opened up a bit in the last few minutes of our walk, so we were on the damp side when we got back to the car.

It was about 3:30 at that point, so we retreated to the inn. We sat downstairs in the lounge area and enjoyed the views of water and trees as far as the eye could see. The wrap-around porch had a number of hanging birdfeeders, so we watched the nuthatches and finches eat and flit around.

We had dinner at Ruth and Wimpy’s, a fabulously kitschy diner-type place in Hancock with a huge model lobster out front (apparently named Wilbur). There were dozens of lobster combos on the menu plus heaps of sandwiches and pastas too. It was all very affordable: lobster roll for $10, lobster and corn (which SO got) for $11. My baked stuffed lobster plus a trip to the salad bar was $17.

The salad bar was pretty lackluster (iceberg lettuce, not many veggies), but everything else was fantastic. The atmosphere helped: license plates and beer bottles on the walls, a collection of vintage model cars, and an older waitress who said the best dessert on the menu was the brownie sundae — too bad they were all out, haha! She tied on our lobster bibs and gave us moist towelettes and buckets to put our lobster shells in. It was my first time actually cracking a lobster — fortunately SO knew what he was doing. (“It’s a lot like dissection.” Heh.)

We ended the meal with an unnecessary but delicious blueberry pie topped with blueberry ice cream. The blueberries in the pie were obviously wild — quite a bit smaller than the ones you’d normally see in a supermarket. In all, it was a great dinner, and more affordable than most that we’d had so far.

On our way out, we walked past Wilbur, who appeared to be overseeing a steaming lobster pound. Behind that was a small outbuilding hung with lobster pots and the sign “Master Baiter.” Awesome.

Thursday

We checked out of the Bluff House Inn and drove to Blue Hill, where we hoped to climb Blue Hill Mountain. Despite the sunny forecast I’d read the night before, there were gray clouds overhead, and I was worried that maybe setting forth on a two-hour hike wasn’t the best idea. But we spotted a few patches of blue sky overhead and decided to go for it.

The trail ran a mile uphill to the 900-foot summit. It was pretty — lots of fall color — if a little muddy. There was an overlook before the main summit, both of which offered some sweeping (and windy!) views. Alarmingly, any patches of blue we’d seen in the sky were gone by the time we hit the first overlook. Uh oh.

To go down, we had two options — an “easy” service road or the “steep” Hays trail. We took the Hays, of course, but they weren’t kidding about the steepness — lots of rocks and some slow descents in the upper stretch. There was another nice overlook on that side too, though, so it was worth it.

Once we got onto the south face trail, which was pretty much exposed, the heavens opened. We raced through that stretch and found relative shelter in the wooded trail that we’d started on, though we were still pretty darn drenched when we got back to the car.

We drove into the town of Blue Hill to find lunch, ending up at the Fish Net. Clearly a local joint, it looked like a little roadside trailer with five or six booths and a carry-out window. We could have eaten very cheaply here (I was eyeing the $4 grilled cheese), but we ended up getting a $13 lobster roll (me — YUM) and a $9 fish and chips (SO), plus a dessert of apple crisp with a HUGE pile of vanilla ice cream. It was fun to eavesdrop on some local conversations; most of the people there seemed to know each other.

We spent about 45 minutes after lunch browsing the stacks in Blue Hill Books, one of two independent bookstores in town. (We stopped in the other one too; it was connected to a yummy-smelling bakery.) Blue Hill Books had two floors of goodies, including a sizable poetry section. SO and I both treated ourselves to a book purchase. As we browsed, we were amused by the conversation between the sales clerk and a local. The clerk had been in Bar Harbor a couple of days before and said there were so many tourists (particularly cruise ship passengers) that you couldn’t even move on the sidewalks. She talked disdainfully about cruise ship travel and how it was not how she’d ever want to travel, etc. I had some sympathy for her point of view, but I found it sort of funny that she was complaining about tourists when we were right there. Hopefully that means we weren’t obvious foreigners!

We browsed a few other galleries/shops and stopped in the local marine ecological society office, where the staffer on duty recommended driving out to Wooden Boat to try to look for seals. (SO really wanted to see some at some point during the week.) So we drive toward Brooklin to see if we’d have any luck. It was a pretty country drive, and we tried to identify the house in North Brooklin where E.B. White and his family once lived. (It’s not marked — nuts.) Wooden Boat is a school/boat building workshop/store/magazine publishing company. We went out to their little boat launch/beach area with binoculars, but we had no luck with the seal spotting, alas. We popped into their store and bought a souvenir for my dad, who likes to sail.

The afternoon was coming to a close, so we headed down toward Stonington. After crossing onto Little Deer Isle via a truly enormous bridge, we detoured out to the end of Eggemoggin Road, where we had a nice view of a lighthouse on nearby Pumpkin Island. Our second detour was on Deer Isle, to Settlement Quarry. A quick five-minute walk brought us to a former granite quarry with fantastic views — it was the least work we’ve had to do for that sort of view all week!

We arrived in the harbor town of Stonington a little after 5 p.m. and found our lodging for the night easily enough — Boyce’s Motel, right on Main Street. A friendly young staffer checked us in and took our payment on the spot, telling us we could leave our key in the room the next day and simply leave without checking out. We were a little worried this place would be a dive since we were paying less than $70 a night with taxes, but it was actually pretty decent. The room was small but well kept, with a view out onto Main Street and the harbor. The light switches and plugs in the bathroom were in rather bizarre places, and the lack of three-pronged outlets meant we couldn’t plug in our laptop, but otherwise it was just fine.

There were several restaurants within walking distance. We ended up at what the Boyce’s staffer called the “healthiest” option of the three (and probably the most expensive): The Seasons at Stonington. All I wanted was a good salad. I ended up ordering a house salad and the vegetarian soup of the day, which was some sort of parsnip thing (delicious!). SO ordered the curry dish of the week. And then, even though we’d said no dessert, well … we had dessert. (I blame SO.) Blueberry crisp with peach ice cream — scrumptious.

Friday

We woke up early and wandered around Stonington to snap a few pictures, then drove to Barred Island Preserve on the western side of Deer Isle. We were the only ones in the parking lot and saw no one else the whole time we spent on the trail, which ran about a mile through the woods out to a rocky shoreline. The waves were really pounding on the rocks, and the sun was shining — beautiful. Apparently you can walk out to Barred Island itself at low tide, but the path was definitely ocean’d out when we showed up, so we just followed the loop back around to the parking lot.

Then it was time to leave Deer Isle and the Blue Hill Peninsula to head to Camden. On the way out we had such a gorgeous drive — fall colors, blue skies, cute little hamlets and lots of water views. We stopped a few times to snap photos — along the causeway between Deer Isle and Little Deer Isle, and at Caterpillar Hill, an absolutely stunning overlook at the south end of the Blue Hill Peninsula. The foliage was in full color there.

Back on Route 1, we stopped for sandwiches and then headed down to Camden Hills State Park, about a mile north of Camden. We paid the entrance fee and drove to the top of Mount Battie, where we saw perhaps our best views yet.  The mountain overlooks Camden’s pretty harbor as well as the coastline and islands in both directions. There was a stone tower up there that you could climb for slightly higher views (and a heck of a lot more wind). We ate our sandwiches and sat at the summit for a while to soak it all in. We’d planned on doing another hike while we were there, but SO put his foot down and decided that he was through with climbing mountains, and that any view we got from another hike couldn’t possibly match the one we were looking at just then. So that was that!

We left the park and drove down into the town of Camden, where traffic was sluggish along Main Street — but we found a parking spot easily as soon as we turned onto a side street. The town is really touristy, so there were lots of galleries and shops to help me get my last-minute souvenir shopping done. There was the usual junky stuff — T-shirts and lobster pillows and whatever — but there was some lovely art, pottery, etc. too.

Then it was on to Rockland, which while only 15 minutes south of Camden had a very different feel to it. (When you approach on Route 1, you’re greeted by Home Depot and Burger King.) It seemed less picturesque and more working class, though the main street had some nice historic buildings and galleries. We were there to visit the Farnsworth Museum, which is right in the center of town. It has a couple of buildings: the main one and the Wyeth Center next door. I was expecting a lot of Andrew Wyeth paintings, but there actually weren’t that many (the Wyeth Center has more N.C. and Jamie Wyeth work). New England artists were well represented, and there were also some interesting exhibitions. My favorite was a black and white photography exhibit by Emily Schiffer: “Youth on the Cheyenne River Reservation,” striking images of Native American kids at play or in portraits. Altogether a good museum of manageable size.

We had dinner and spent the night at the East Wind Inn in Tenants Harbor, which had the feel of a 1900’s rooming house or something — a big, drafty old building with a sweeping front porch and an old-fashioned parlor furnished with a grand piano and a big old RCA television. Our small room on the third floor had a dormer ceiling (so low in places that SO had to duck), antique furniture, and rose-print wallpaper EVERYWHERE, even the door! There was no TV in our room, but the wi-fi was free. Bathrooms were down the hall.

The dining room at the East Wind Inn looked out over the harbor, which was nice, but the meal was a tad overpriced. The service was a little uneven, and I thought SO’s stuffed haddock was a too heavy on the dill. (To be fair, I’m not a huge fan of dill, so perhaps I’m biased!) My scallops were good, and they added extra asparagus and a couple of strips of carrot to take the place of a starchy side. Dessert was blueberry buckle topped with vanilla ice cream, which was fantastic — one of the best of the week.

Saturday

Our room rate at the East Wind included full breakfast cooked to order. SO got a Belgian waffle topped with blueberries that he said was pretty good. I had a cheese and veggie omelet that was unfortunately too heavy on the former and too light on the latter.

We checked out a couple of nearby lighthouses before we started our long drive home. The first was Marshall’s Point — very pretty! — and the other was Owl’s Head, a state park that actually allowed us to climb into the lighthouse and take a peek. (We left a donation.) Both spots were incredibly windy, not to mention cold.

Then we hopped on Route 1 to Wiscasset, where we wanted to sample the famous lobster rolls at Red’s Eats. We waited 45 minutes in an extremely slow-moving line, which included several dogs. (There was a huge sheepdog whose owner told a little kid who wanted to pet him, “He loves children — ate one for breakfast this morning!”) When we got to the front of the line, we made our order: two lobster rolls with drawn butter on the side, a small portion of fries, and a bottled water. It was pricey at $37, but the lobster rolls were incredibly generous — apparently each sandwich has more than a whole lobster in it. I pretty much had to pick the bigger pieces off the top before I could even begin to manage it as a sandwich. The drawn butter on top was so delicious, mmm.

And from there it was a straight shot back to the Philadelphia area after a lovely, relaxing week filled with lots of hiking and foliage, and WAY too much food! Obviously we only saw a small portion of a big state, but we really enjoyed it. For outdoorsy types there is a ton of stuff to do in Maine — more mountains and trails than you can shake a stick at, a lovely coastline, fresh air and unspoiled lakes. The food is fantastic too, provided you like seafood and blueberries.

A few bests:

Best meal: Ruth and Wimpy’s.
Best views: Mount Battle or Cadillac Mountain.
Best place we stayed: Bluff House Inn.
Best towns: Southeast Harbor and Blue Hill.
Best hike: Hmmmm. They were all pretty nice! The Flying Mountain trail had a good variety of views for not too much effort, and the trail around Jordan Pond was very scenic.

Overall a great trip!

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