The Maine Thing

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July 26th 2019
Published: July 26th 2019
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Poet, novelist and travel writer William Graham holds a BA and MA in English and a MS in Communication from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. He lives in Stowe, Vermont. His most recent travel book is Border Crossings: Travel Essays and Poems.

I have traveled to all seven continents of the world. I have seen many stunning landscapes. One of them is in my own backyard in New England where I live. It’s the state of Maine, where I have taken many vacations over the past 20 years. Maine’s unique combination of mountains, forests and stunning rocky coastline keeps drawing me back. My most recent trip involved travels to Monhegan Island, Camden and Portland. Here are a few highlights.

Monhegan is a small, rocky island 10 miles from the nearest mainland and scarcely a square mile in area. It is accessible only by boat and there are no cars or paved roads on the island. The year-round population has seldom exceeded 65 in recent times. For more than 100 years, Monhegan has been a summer haven for artists and other visitors who appreciate its isolation, natural beauty and quiet. My family and I arrived there via a one-hour ferry ride on calm seas from Port Clyde. We immediately began hiking several of the island’s 12 miles of trails, some of which are moderately difficult, whereas others that weave along steep cliffs are more strenuous. The views from the forested cliffs that plunge to the sea, however, are magnificent. After many hours of hiking we enjoyed lunch at a local eatery called the Barnacle. Then we continued to wander about the island looking at the many tidy grey shingled houses that dot the rolling landscape. We saw several artists out in the sunshine capturing scenes that had inspired them. If you can’t be inspired on Monhegan, you can’t be inspired anywhere.

We continued the hiking theme of our trip by traveling to Camden, a picturesque and trendy seaside town about two hours north of Portland. The village center was very crowded with tourists. But we were headed for the more peaceful zone of Camden Hills State Park, where we climbed Mount Battie to gain a magnificent view of the town below and the many islands that sit in the bay like jewels. The climb up and back down Mount Battie takes about two hours. The trail winds through a forest and features an elevation gain of about 800 feet, or the equivalent of an 80-storey building. The trail is very rocky and steep in places, so anyone thinking of tackling it should be prepared to scramble over boulders at several points.

After burning calories on the hike, we needed sustenance. Since Camden was crazy crowded, we headed south on Route 1 to the tiny hamlet of Waldoboro, where we ate at Moody’s Diner, which was established in 1927 and served people traveling in their Model-T cars. Today, this throwback eatery offers plentiful portions of food served by an army of waitresses who look like everyone’s grandmother.

The third stop on our sojourn was Portland, the largest city in Maine with a population of about 66,000. Portland is lovely, vibrant city with a bustling port district that boasts many fine restaurants, shops and art galleries. For a delightful upscale dining experience, we recommend the French bistro called Petite Jacqueline. For a hearty seafood lunch along the wharf, we enjoyed the Porthole Restaurant and Pub.

The city also offers an array of outdoor experiences, from cruises to kayaking to bike riding. We rented bikes from the Portland EnCYCLEpedia and took a delightful ride around a bike path that circles the eastern promenade and back cove of the city. We capped off our stay by attending a minor league baseball game featuring the hometown Portland Seadogs, the Double-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox.

Maine’s siren call has seduced me for many years, and I suspect I will continue to succumb to its charms in the future.

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27th July 2019

What a wondrful trip
Bill, I enjoyed reading about your recent trip to maine. Thank you.

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