Tag Archive | Maine

Asticou Azalea Garden

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A tiny island of serenity is set amidst the bustle of Northeast Harbor on Mt. Desert, home of Acadia National Park in Maine.  While it is known and loved for the beauty and variety of its blooming rhododendrons, Asticou Garden is a refuge any time of the year.  During the depths of January ice, my thoughts escape to a July garden visit.g10

Built in 1956 and styled after a Japanese stroll garden, the Asticou features paths meandering through shade and sun, hill and pond, flower bed and lawn.  Tiny shrines nestle in woodland or water settings, stone paeans to the beauty of nature.g5g8g1g3g2a
Many of the rhododendrons and azaleas are quite old, having been transplanted from an estate garden in 1956. The shade loving shrubs and small trees shelter beneath towering pines. Red Japanese maples splash color, as do late blooming rhododendrons.g9

Tranquility may be achieved during contemplation of the sand garden, designed to invoke rocks among the ripples of a lake.  The pure white sand is carefully tended.g4

Birds sing and flit about the branches.  Ducks and insects lead their busy lives along the waterways.  Sounds of the outside world mute to be replaced by warm breezes sighing through pine boughs, cricket song or silence.  Visitors tread quietly here, speaking in whispers.g7

g11A bounty of bloom, the garden remains the same, yet ever changing, year after year.  Sanctuary for a body in the height of midsummer, or a mind in the gray grip of winter’s freeze, Asticou continues as a gem of the coast of Maine.

 

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Blue Hill Region Maine

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View of Blue Hill harbor from near the summit of Blue Hill Mountain

This past September my husband and I rented a primitive forest cabin and  spent a weekend Down East exploring the Blue Hill region.  This area encompasses the small monadnock mountain of Blue Hill (elevation 934 ft) and the surrounding large peninsula jutting into the Atlantic sandwiched between Penobscot Bay and Mt. Desert Island.
There are several small towns on this peninsula including Blue Hill, Surry and Castine.  Crossing the impressive old bridge over Eggemoggin Reach takes you to Little Deer Isle and Deer Isle, two very beautiful islands, and the towns of Deer Isle and Stonington.  There is also Cape Rosier, on the Castine side of the peninsula, where we stayed near the hamlet of Harborside.

Little cabin in the woods

Little cabin in the woods

Solar boat shower and secluded luxury outhouse (hidden in the trees in the background)

Solar boat shower and secluded luxury outhouse (hidden in the trees in the background)

This part of Maine lies just off the major byways of Rtes 1 and 3 that each year carry millions of tourists to Acadia National Park and points farther east.  The turn-off to the peninsula flashes by quickly at 65 mph.  As a result, the area around Blue Hill remains more like the old-time country Maine increasingly vanishing from the Maine coast.  So much of the seaside region has been taken over by the tourist trade with traffic, seafood restaurants, strip businesses, fast food, endless motels and big box stores.  Mainers tend to avoid these congested areas, especially in summer.  Maybe I shouldn’t even let people in on the quaint charm of the Blue Hill region for fear of development!

Tim and I enjoy a roughing-it vacation occasionally.  This cottage was not as rough as our usual tent accommodation.  There was no cell phone signal, electricity or running water, yet we were quite cozy.  We had propane for cooking and heating water, fresh drinking water hauled in five gallon jugs, a solar boat shower which we made more comfortable with added hot water, a real bed and a commodious outhouse just a short walk away among the trees.  Not bad at all.  And early to bed means early to rise.  With all that morning time, we had plenty of chances for exploration.

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View from the top of Backwoods Mt.

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Steep trail up Backwoods Mt.

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Luxuriant beds of moss in Holbrook Island Preserve

Directly across the road from the driveway to our cottage lay Holbrook Island Wildlife Sanctuary, more than 1200 acres of pristine forest, ponds, marsh, small mountains and sea shore maintained by the State of Maine.  Threaded with walking trails, and featuring extinct volcano mountains for challenging climbs to gorgeous views, the Sanctuary teems with animals.  We even saw a bobcat, standing right beside the road.  Maybe it was the official park bobcat earning its living, who knows?  We climbed Backwoods Mt, one of the old volcanoes, and spotted plenty of obsidian-like lava spit out when the site was a bubbling cauldron of molten rock.  The paths were quite steep in places.

This section of the Maine coast abounds in reversing falls.  The phenomenon of a reversing fall occurs when the incoming tide pushes the water level higher than the body of water emptying into the ocean.  The rocky stream that drops brackish water to the sea during most of the day suddenly become inundated.  The strong flow of the tide pushing against the almost-as-strong stream creates whirlpools and standing waves.  The sound of rushing water tells of the violent struggle of the currents.  We watched three of the falls:  Goose Falls, Bagaduce Falls and an unnamed falls on the shore near our cabin.  We were able to walk to this last falls and enjoy a close-up of the tumultuous waters.

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Bagaduce Reversing Falls

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Reversing falls near our cabin, the water is flowing backward, up the channel of the brackish stream

b15We took a walk along the shore of the Sanctuary near a spot named Indian Bar.  This area was once inhabited by Penobscots of the Abanaki Nation.  They are gone, yet the name lingers.  A small schooner slipped through the still waters of the harbor in the early mist.

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Summit of Blue Hill Mt from a highland field

b11b6After all this fun, the climb up Blue Hill Mt might have seemed a little anti-climactic, but not at all.  We saved this hike for the last day of vacation.  There are several paths up the mountain.  We chose a moderately difficult climb that was a shorter route than easier ways.b9  The mountain trails are maintained by a community-based trust for the enjoyment of all.  A cell tower has been installed at the summit, detracting from the beauty, but helping the locals stay connected.  Getting a signal in this region is challenging, even with the tower.

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Blue Hill Fairgrounds

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Mountains of Acadia

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Blue Hill harbor

The climb was steep and littered with rocks.  As we neared the top, vistas would suddenly open.  There is a nice view of Blue Hill harbor and the mountains of Acadia National Park.  The Blue Hill Fair was just wrapping up for the year.  The emptying fairgrounds far below brought a fleeting nostalgia for cotton candy and agricultural exhibits.

b5At the summit, wide sheets of bare rock reveal the geologic formation of the hill.  Tortuously folded layers of seabed were turned to metamorphic rock by volcanic action as they were thrust up to form the elevation.  The maintenance trail is used by technicians on ATVs to service the cell tower.  It makes an easy, gradual descent for old knees.b12
Our time in the Blue Hill region was fleeting. Going off-grid is so relaxing, once you get over the urge to check your email and social media messages. Soft candle-lit evenings, the bliss of a warm outdoor shower, enjoying a camp stove-cooked dinner eaten to the sound of crickets and night birds reminds one that the best joys in life are simple and quiet.

Black Flies

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Once the scourge of Maine in the spring and fall, black flies have become a constant the past few years.  These nasty pests are tiny, black, fast moving flies with bodies maybe 1/16″ long.  They begin appearing in late May or early June and last through the first deep frosts.  Black flies hatch in fast running water.  It used to be that during the high summer the rains slowed down, Maine dried out some and the black flies went away for a few weeks respite.  Thanks to the global weather changes, the effects of which I have witnessed in this area in my lifetime, our weather has become much more rainy.  And our black flies are now a permanent summer feature.

Black flies form clouds, what can seem nearly solid masses.  They encircle your head, flying into your eyes, nose, mouth.  They land on your hair and work their way down to bite your scalp and feed on your blood.  The bites cause intense itching that can last for several days and significant swelling.  The flies will bite any exposed place on your body but prefer the head and face.  For horses and other four-footed animals, black flies are a torment.  They crawl into ears or land on the underbelly, biting in huge numbers until the skin is raw and bleeding.  This can happen in a matter of an hour.  For horses to graze in peace, a fly mask and regular applications of insecticide are crucial.a1

An essential for any tack box, a good fly mask covers a horse’s eyes and ears.  It is made of a very fine plastic mesh, preferably black or white, that the horse can see through but flies can not penetrate.  The masks protect ears from black flies and eyes from larger face flies that  can cause pink eye.  Fly repellants are also entirely necessary to protect horses.  Most repellants only work for a couple hours or less, no matter what the product manufacturer claims.  Some repellants don’t work at all.  My choice for a spray on fly repellant this year is Bronco E.  It seems to last about 2-4 hours, depending on the flies that are present.  I spray the horse’s entire body, except the face, which is covered by the fly mask.  Special attention is required for between the front and hind legs, the neck and chest, and along the mid-line of the belly.  These are areas all flies aim for.a2

In the photos of Maddie and Vista, swarming masses of black flies can be seen.  Yet the horses are able to eat in comfort because the flies only hover and do not land.