August 8: The French Jamestown – why didn’t I know about this???

Anyway. Today I drove up the Maine coast, through a lot of very northern-looking forest. Much more northern than it should have looked, given that I passed the 45th parallel today (second time on this trip), which also runs through Oregon not all that far south of Portland. I also passed through the town of Machias (pronounced MaCHIus (the ch as in church and a long I), which had the only iced tea dispenser I saw today [g].

Then I went to the easternmost point of the United States, which, logic aside, is called West Quoddy Head (East Quoddy Head is in Canada). Quoddy, I’m told, is short for Passamaquoddy, which is the name of the local Indian tribe. It has an adorable little lighthouse with an intact third order Fresnel lens. There’s also a gift shop about half a mile back down the road that claims to be the easternmost gift shop in the U.S. I bought another magnet and a little cross-stitch pattern there. They had items made from some nifty quilt fabric there, but they weren’t selling the fabric itself, alas. I’d have loved the fabric with the puffins on it.

It wasn't until I saw people out picking them that I realized these are blueberry plants.
It wasn’t until I saw people out picking them that I realized these are blueberry plants.
West Quoddy Head lighthouse, Lubec, Maine.
West Quoddy Head lighthouse, Lubec, Maine.
The beautiful 3rd order Fresnel lens at West Quoddy Head.
The beautiful 3rd order Fresnel lens at West Quoddy Head.
The stone says that this is the easternmost point in the United States.  Which sounds impressive until you look at a map and see how much further east Canada goes.
The stone says that this is the easternmost point in the United States. Which sounds impressive until you look at a map and see how much further east Canada goes.
Looking out over the ocean at West Quoddy Head.
Looking out over the ocean at West Quoddy Head.

The countryside around West Quoddy Head made me homesick, though. Except for the lack of mountains and the fact that the ocean’s in the wrong direction, it looks so much like the Olympic Peninsula (esp. around Aberdeen and Forks) that it forcibly reminded me of home. I don’t normally do homesick, but it got to me, just a little.

Then I went to Canada, at least for the afternoon. Campobello Island is sort of the Point Roberts of Maine, in that it, like Point Roberts, Washington, is only accessible by going into another country. The reason I wanted to go there was that it was where FDR’s summer home was. They have a nice museum, and the cottage (not nearly as much a misnomer as calling The Breakers a cottage was, but it was still a pretty good-sized cottage) is open for visitors. It’s a lovely place, and there were flowers planted everywhere (that seems to be a Canadian thing, to plant flowers at their historic sites and in their national parks).

Flowerbeds at FDR's cottage at Campobello, with the cottage itself in the background.
Flowerbeds at FDR’s cottage at Campobello, with the cottage itself in the background.
Inside the cottage.
Inside the cottage.

Apparently honey locust blossoms make bees drunk [g].
Apparently honey locust blossoms make bees drunk [g].
I also drove out to the end of the road on Campobello because there’s a lighthouse out there, but it was high tide (Campobello’s at the mouth of the Bay of Fundy) and the lighthouse is only accessible at low tide. It was rather disconcerting to see the two metal staircases, one going down from where I was standing, and the other on the island with the lighthouse, leading down into the rushing water.

The stairs going down to where you can cross to the lighthouse at the tip of Campobello Island -- when the tide is low.
The stairs going down to where you can cross to the lighthouse at the tip of Campobello Island — when the tide is low.
The lighthouse at the tip of Campobello Island.
The lighthouse at the tip of Campobello Island.

After crossing back into the U.S. I headed towards the town of Calais (no, not pronounced the French way – CAL-iss – Cal as in California — is the local pronunciation, at least as I heard it on the radio).

But on the way I saw a sign for the St. Croix Island National Historic Site. It wasn’t on my map, and it was a tiny place, just a visitor center and a three-hundred-foot trail leading down to a view of the water across to the island itself. But it commemorated a settlement that was even older than Jamestown by three years, when Samuel de Champlain and company landed on that island to create a settlement and claim the land for the king of France. As the very enthusiastic ranger lady in the visitor center said, the French part of our history tends to get ignored here in the States. The fact that the settlement only lasted one winter (a very bad choice of location, mostly) before they moved it up into what later became Canada may have had something to do with it, too. But still.

A closeup of one of the bronze statues at St. Croix Island NHS.
A closeup of one of the bronze statues at St. Croix Island NHS.
One of the statues at St. Croix Island, NHS.
One of the statues at St. Croix Island, NHS.
A model of the settlement at St. Croix Island.
A model of the settlement at St. Croix Island.
Looking out towards the island itself.  It's the sand bar-y looking thing, not the big piece of land behind it.
Looking out towards the island itself. It’s the sand bar-y looking thing at the center of the photo, not the big piece of land behind it.
And the back of another of the statues.
And the back of another of the statues.

I think it was the statues along the trail that enthralled me, though. Well, that and the whole concept of forgotten history. But I was almost afraid to touch the statues, because I swear it seemed like they would come alive. Which would have been equally scary and thrilling, I think [g].

Anyway, I need to read more about this, and I got several good suggestions from the ranger, which was good.

Then I drove on to Calais, where I spent the night just across the St. John River from Canada!