I finally crossed the border from Calais, Maine, to St. Stephen, New Brunswick, early this morning. No problems, even when I told the nice gentleman manning the station that I planned on being in Canada for a couple of months [g]. He just told me to have a good time and waved me on.
I stopped at an ATM and got myself some usable money, then headed north on Highway 1 towards then through St. John, on my way to Fundy National Park. No, not that kind of fundie, but the Bay of Fundy. Anyway, it’s one of those places I’ve always sorta wanted to see, and the park seemed like a good place to do it.
I got here about lunch time and found a little bakery in the hamlet of Alma, just outside of the park, to eat lunch. I may have to go back there in the morning for a sticky bun for breakfast, though, because they looked delicious. I then went looking for a room for the night, even though it was so early, because a) it’s a third night, and b) I wanted to spend the rest of the day in the park. I found one here in town, next door to the bakery, actually [g].
Then I went exploring. I like Fundy National Park. It was low tide when I got here, and all the fishing boats at Alma’s harbor were kind of tilted on their sides in the mud. But I went walking in the park, to see a waterfall (which a lady on the trail described as stunning, but well, I think that was overstating it pretty hard – it was a cute little fall, though, even though I couldn’t get a decent photo of it), and to get some views of the bay with the water surging in. It was a great way to spend the afternoon. But when I got back to Alma just now? The boats in the harbor were afloat! That tide really is pretty impressive, actually, which I suppose it should be given that it’s the greatest tidal change in the world or something.
The motel is right on the water, and they have a bunch of Adirondack chairs overlooking the bay, and I think I’m going to spend an hour or so out there this evening. It looks like a great place to watch the stars.
But I’m going to have to get my jacket out. Believe it or not, the high here today was in the low seventies (F)! With a breeze! It’s so wonderful. It truly is.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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!
I had to make a list to get an accurate number for that second one [g].
The night of the fifth I saw a very strange thing from the LL Bean RV lot. The photo I managed to get of it makes it look more like a cloud, but I swear it looked more like a meteor or a comet when I first saw it, and its movement was visible to the naked eye. Very strange.
I didn’t take much in the way of photos on the sixth, which is why I’m combining the two days. AAMOF, the only photo I took on the sixth was of the Maine state capitol building in Augusta, and that’s just because it was next door to the Maine Museum. It was about an hour’s drive up from Freeport to Augusta, and I spent the morning and early afternoon in the museum before I decided to stop there for the rest of the day. I got a motel room and caught up on stuff, and read, and that sort of thing for the rest of the day.
The museum was great, but I wasn’t allowed to take photos, unfortunately. It covered things by topic rather than chronologically – economic, social, political, and natural history and archaeology, for the most part. The museum itself was older, like the Kentucky state museum was, but it was done very well, and they had a huge collection of artifacts. I particularly loved the working waterwheel that made the little sawmill go.
This morning I got up and out pretty early for having spent the night in a motel, and headed for Acadia National Park. I’ve been to Acadia before, on my 1997 flying-into-Boston trip. Also, I was pretty sure it was going to be crowded on a sunny August Sunday, and I was right, unfortunately.
That said, I still had fun. Like Yosemite and Zion, Acadia now has shuttle busses (sponsored by LL Bean [g]), which are free, and that made getting around much easier. I parked Merlin in the visitor center parking lot, and rode the bus to Bar Harbor’s village green, where I ate a lobster roll for lunch. You can’t go to Maine without eating at least one lobster roll (unless you’re allergic to lobster like my friend Loralee). I’m pretty sure they’ll ticket you at the very least if you try. A lobster roll is lobster chunks dressed in a little mayonnaise, tucked into a toasted hot dog bun. Yum.
Then I got on another shuttle and rode around the main loop in the park, getting off and back on here and there. My first stop was at Sieur le Monts, where volunteers maintain a wonderful native plant garden. One of the volunteers, a young man in a kilt, with a braid, and a very complicated molecule diagram tattooed on one arm, told me the names of several plants I did not recognize, so now I know what their friends call them.
My next stop was Thunder Hole. Unfortunately it was low tide, so I didn’t get to hear it actually thunder the way I did the last time I was here, but it was still cool. Basically, what happens is that the waves get forced into this narrow slot in the rock and splash way up high, making this loud booming sound. I took some video of it, just for kicks. One of these days I’ll learn how to upload it — I have the software now, just not the time.
After that, it was getting on in the afternoon, plus the busses were getting crowded, so I decided to go on back to the visitor center, because the one place the busses don’t go is Cadillac Mountain.
Cadillac Mountain is in no way, shape, or form an actual mountain (it’s only 1500 feet high), but it’s the highest point on the U.S. eastern seaboard, and you can see pretty much all the way to the curvature of the earth from the top. I drove up to the summit, and was actually lucky enough to find a parking place, so I walked the half-mile trail around the summit and took lots and lots and lots of photos [g].
If it hadn’t been so crowded, I probably would have stayed at Acadia for a couple of days, but it was really, really crowded, and campgrounds were problematic, too, so I decided to go on.
I’m camped about 40 miles north of Acadia, in a county park in the woods on a point sticking out into Narraguagus Bay. Anyway, it’s beautiful here, even if the mosquitoes are about to carry me off.
Tomorrow will be my last day in the States until I’m almost back to Washington. Here goes…
Anyway. I started my morning by navigating the c/o/w/p/a/t/h/s/narrow, winding, one-way streets of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, trying to find Strawbery Banke. I did, after less travail than I expected, and actually arrived before they opened (I tend to get up with the sun and go to bed with the sun when I’m camping).
Strawbery Banke is another living history site, but this one’s different. Instead of concentrating on one era the way Williamsburg and Mystic Seaport did, it covers almost all of the almost four hundred years Portsmouth (whose original name was Strawbery Banke) has been a community, concentrating on the old neighborhood of Puddle Dock, on which the modern Strawbery Banke now sits. So, from the mid-1600s to the 1950s.
Each building, from the oldest one, built in the early 1700s, to one that had most recently been remodeled just after WWII, represented a different time period and a different level of wealth and social class. And there were gardens! No one (ahem, Beth!) told me there would be gardens! Everything from a Victorian greenhouse and bedding garden to another adorable Colonial dooryard garden to an herb garden. There were stores and craftspeople, too. I got to try my hand at a loom, which was fun, and wander into a WWII-era grocery store, complete with ration points as well as the price marked on each item.
I spent a good chunk of the day there, and had a wonderful time.
Then I drove on north on I-95, because it was getting late and I wanted to get to my stop for the night – plus I’ve been to this part of Maine before, and I want to spend most of my time that I’ll be on the coast northeast of Acadia since I’ve never been to that part of the state before.
My destination for the night was Freeport, which is basically a factory outlet town surrounding the original LL Bean store. Not that I’m a huge fan of factory outlets, but LL Bean has a free overnight parking area for RVers (which I count as, since I don’t pitch a tent or anything). It was nice and shady and cool(!), and I ended up parked across from someone from the Tri-Cities (southeastern Washington) of all places, which was kind of hilarious.
So that’s where I am tonight. Tomorrow I’m going to Augusta, the state capitol, to visit the Maine State Museum, and then it’s on to Acadia National Park and Down East to Canada (yes, that’s the local turn of phrase, and no, that doesn’t sound right to me, either).
Starting to worry about Canada, for some reason, not sure why. It’s not like I haven’t crossed the border before. But I’ll never have spent that much time there before, either. And Quebec’s got me just a tad freaked out because of the language thing, too. Oh, well. ‘S good for me. Builds character.