Tag Archive | touring Maine

Maine Eats

When people travel, they often like to sample the authentic flavors of the places they visit.  Well, you can’t find a more authentic Maine establishment than Karen’s Hideaway on Rte. 27 in Boothbay.

Conveniently located for tourists right on a main artery to the ocean and all the coast has to offer, don’t blink or you might miss it!  After Shore Hills Campground, keep watch on the left.  Karen’s food trailer is across the road from Adams Pond and parked next to the Maineiac Fresh Seafood shop.  This is where she gets the ingredients for many of her delicious offerings.

We found Karen’s a couple years ago when we were hungry after a long walk on the ocean-side trails that abound on Cape Newagen, also called the Boothbay, Peninsula.  Being an epicurean adventurer, I’m always ready to try a new place to eat.  My husband Tim’s motto is “I can get a hamburger anywhere.”  We were both very pleasantly surprised at the amazing food served up by this humble kitchen.

You know the seafood is going to be super fresh.  It is caught daily and brought over to the lunch wagon from next door.  I ordered the crab melt basket and Tim got the burger basket.  If you ever go to Karen’s don’t make this same mistake unless you are extremely hungry–lost in the woods for a week hungry.  The baskets are served with an overflowing heap of the best french fries around.  They are thick, crispy outside, and soft inside with no trace of oiliness.  I can’t believe we managed to eat all those fries except once you start, you just can’t stop.

Tim’s cheeseburger was comprised of 12 oz of fresh ground beef on a big, soft bun.  He put it all away!  My crab melt was made with two pieces of Texas toast from the grill, stuffed with an obscenely generous amount of fresh crab barely held together with mayo, and topped with melted swiss and American cheese.  When I’m feeling really adventuresome I get the crab melt with bacon, lettuce and tomato, so yummy!  The fries in the photo below are just a small portion of the total provided.

On the side are served a choice of Karen’s pineapple coleslaw ( I usually skip the coleslaw, but not this one, it’s divine!) or her loaded baked potato salad.  I can’t find enough descriptors to do justice to the deliciousness of the spud salad!  It is filled with cheddar cheese and bits of bacon with hints of real baked potato in the skin and sour cream.  Since Tim doesn’t like anything with mayo on it, I get both the sides, yay for me!

You place the order at the window with Karen, a gregarious lady with a ready laugh and sharp Maine wit.  When we told Karen our trip to Boothbay was an anniversary celebration, she confided that she and her husband had been married even longer than our 35 years.  I suspect her husband runs the seafood shop.  Ordering is done from a laminated menu.  Be careful to specify whether or not you want a basket or you will be inundated with fries!  One basket meal provides plenty of fries for two.

While the food cooks, patrons enjoy the authentic Maine atmosphere up back behind the trailer where several tables with umbrellas are arranged in a small clearing in the woods.  A resident chipmunk will keep you company.  Note the proximity of one table to the portable outhouse, dining at its finest for the tough Maine natives who happen by.  The wall of a nearby shed has been painted with a scene from the Boothbay coast, it’s almost like eating right at the shore.  When your number is called, your meals are presented on a tray for ease of transport back to the picnic table.

After such a satisfying repast, we are usually ready to hit one final hike before heading home.  On our last visit we enjoyed a stroll on the Cross River Preserve trails and were rewarded with this view of the Cross River.

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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.

Crockett Cove Woods Preserve

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In early September my husband and I enjoyed a short vacation in the Blue Hill region of Maine.  While there, we visited Deer Isle and the Crockett Cove Woods Preserve held by the Nature Conservancy.  This little jewel of a park extends along one side of Crockett Cove, a part of Eggemoggin Reach in the Atlantic Ocean.c5c12Many places along the Maine coast are fog forests.  Almost every morning, and sometimes the whole day, the area is bathed in sea fog.  The tree leaves collect the mist and it drips to the floor of the forest.  Resultant growth is verdant and dense, even during periods of drought such as Maine experienced in July and August.  Moss and lichen blanket most surfaces.c17

c18The preserve has limited parking, but we were the only visitors upon arrival.  This place has remained wild.  The only human incursion evident is the walking trails.  Most trails are marked with paint blazes.  The land is composed of thick granite, the remains of massive volcanic upwellings in the area millions of years ago.  Scattered about are immense granite erratic boulders, chunks torn from the tops of nearby mountains and deposited here when the last glacier melted.c10  Over the millenia, successive generations of plants deposited a thin layer of earth on the rock.  The conifers evolved a spreading, shallow root system, allowing survival on a nearly impenetrable surface.  Periodic strong Atlantic gales knock over the tallest trees.  When they fall, smaller trees are pulled down as well.  The root systems are exposed, along with the bare rock beneath the trees.  Fallen trees open a light space with an opportunity for hundreds of seedlings to vie for a spot in the sun.c4

The trees in the preserve are predominantly spruce, fir, cedar, maple and birch.  A walk here is pleasantly shady, with an indescribably delightful scent that might be called floral forest by some perfumer.  The space is deeply silent.  Nuthatches persistent ermp-ermp-ermp calls and chattering from red squirrels seem to be absorbed into the stillness.  The only aural evidence of nearby ocean is the regular tolling of a bell bouy marker in the channel.

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Tiny red maple seedlings display their fall colors amid a bed of moss

c2The granite base prevents water from entering too deeply into the ground.  It gathers in low spots to form bogs and slow moving streams.  The dense trees, moss and ferns and little nooks and dark holes in the rock lead one to almost expect wee forest folk to be about, tiny elves or fairies dancing in shafts of sunlight on the carpet of green.c7The true forest folk are evident in piles of spruce cone hulls, remains of red squirrel feasts.  Birds are ever-present:  nuthatches, chickadees and kinglets.  All survive on the bounty of insects, cones and fruit from various plants.  Low growing bunchberry, wild cranberry and blueberry form thick patches burgeoning with a seasonal fruit harvest.

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Wild large cranberry, the fruit is about 1/4″ in diameter

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Low-bush wild blueberry

Mushrooms and other fungi flourish in the dim, moist environment.  Skunk cabbage, a relative of Jack-In-The-Pulpit, springs up in wet spots.  This plant generates its own heat, allowing it to melt through snow for early flowering.  Life clings to the most difficult and unexpected places, gathering moisture from the air and nutrients from the minerals released as lichen inexorably break down rock.

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Skunk cabbage

c9c16c6In places the trail is steep stairs formed by granite outcrop and tree roots.  Other parts of the path are carpeted with a thick layer of fallen cones.  The way is picked carefully with a mind to ankle-twisting protrusions.

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Steep steps up over a chunk of pink granite grasped by red spruce roots

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Tree cone pathway

With walkways that have been given names such as Indian Pipe Stem Loop, Bog Trail, Cedar Trail and Fern Loop, the many attractions of this tiny piece of natural Maine are opened to the enjoyment of all.c14.jpg