Monthly Archives: September 2018

Blueberries, Mushrooms, Sea Salt and Sunsets

Maine is big on blueberries – wild blueberries.   Wild blueberries are one of the food plants native to America and they have been growing here for many, many years.   They are different than the cultivated high bush blueberries as the plants grow low to the ground and the berries are much smaller in size.   It has been reported that wild blueberries have twice the antioxidants of regular blueberries and are therefore healthier.   People like to go out into the fields and hillsides on public lands to gather them.   In addition, Wyman’s Company, the leading brand of frozen wild blueberries has their processing plant in the area where we were staying.   Perhaps you have seen their product in the store as they are sold all over.   In the photo above, I am showing off a handful of berries I found at our campground.

My introduction to wild blueberries in Maine came with the book, “Blueberries For Sal,” a well loved children’s picture book written in 1948 by long time Maine resident Robert McCloskey.  The main character is based on his own daughter and the story revolves around little Sal going out with her mother to pick wild blueberries.  Carrying her pail and eating as many blueberries as she picks, Sal and her mother run into a mother and baby bear who are also out foraging for berries.   I loved this story as a child and loved reading it to my own kids as well.   A classic Maine tale I couldn’t help thinking about as I saw wild blueberries in the fields and picked some berries myself.

While in Maine I had hoped to find a farm where I could pick blueberries, highbush or wild, but I could not find any in our local areas.    After we moved to our third and final campsite further up the coast, I found Lynch Hill Farms with their wild blueberries just beginning to be picked for sale.   Mark and I went to pick up some berries from their store thinking it would be a short visit as this is not a u-pick farm.   Instead, we stayed much longer as we were offered an informal tour by one of the owners who asked us if we would like to see the wild blueberry fields.   These fields have been growing wild on this property for years and are managed by the farm.   They are grown on a two year cycle, harvesting the crop every other year.   In between harvesting, the plants are pruned by either mowing or burning to encourage higher yields.   The owner spent time with us in the fields talking about what it was like working in the wild blueberry industry and how the plants are harvested, which is usually with short hand rakes.   He said that they hire migrant workers from Mexico who work the blueberry fields in the summer after which they head to West Virginia to pick apples in the fall.   We also saw the farm’s cranberry fields but it was too early in the season as they ripen in the fall.

We were surprised when the owner took us to see their mushroom business.   We were expecting to see blueberry and cranberry fields but this farm also grows shiitake mushrooms and makes balsam wreaths from fir trees on their property for the holiday season.    So how do they grow mushrooms?   Starting with oak logs, they drill holes and inoculate with mushroom spawn.   The holes are then covered with a hot wax to seal them.   Oak logs are best to use and the word shiitake actually means the “mushroom of the oak.”   The photo above shows the process of sealing the holes with wax.   Near the log is a bag of spawn and a small crockpot of hot wax.

The logs are taken to the nearby woods and stacked to wait for the mushrooms to grow.   It was a fascinating introduction to mushroom growing.   The farms sell these premium mushrooms to restaurants and specialty stores.   Below is a photo of mushrooms growing on a log.

Shortly thereafter, we got to have another tour of a Maine specialty business.   While I was researching things to do, I found out about a small business called Maine Sea Salt Company.   I read a few reviews where people said the owner was happy to take visitors on a tour to see his unique production.   Mark and I stopped in and found Steve finishing up showing his saltworks to two other people.   An easygoing guy, he was happy to take us around as well.   He has been harvesting sea salt since 1998 and although his facility is rather small and he does much of the work himself, he sells his salt all over the U.S.

Steve uses greenhouses to evaporate sea water which is pumped in from a local harbor.  The first set of greenhouses evaporates the sea water by 50 percent before the water is moved to the second set of greenhouses.   After further evaporation the remaining water and salt is moved to the finishing greenhouse where the pool of water is completely evaporated leaving behind the sea salt.   We stepped into each of the greenhouses and I was shocked at how hot and humid it was inside.   I couldn’t imagine working in that environment.   Steve explained that they work in the greenhouses during the early mornings before they start heating up.   It was really interesting to see the water being evaporated and the salt crystals forming as the photo above shows.

A few large containers were located outside the greenhouses and Steve opened one to show us the finished salt.   We moved on to the drying room where even more moisture is squeezed out of the salt in vats using towels.   After drying, flavorings are added to the salt and we noticed on the wall recipes for various flavorings – no secret formulas here!    Some of the salts are smoked and we were shown the smoking area outside where he uses common BBQ smokers.   Although he was not smoking salt when we visited, he lifted the lid and showed us how he smoked his salt.   Around the grills were different kinds of wood like apple, hickory, mesquite and maple stored in lobster cages.   When I asked him why lobster cages, he said that the cages allow air to flow freely around the wood and are just right for his size operation.   It was inspiring to see this man’s passion for a product that we so often take for granted.  After visiting this shop, we noticed his salt being offered in every tourist area we visited in Maine.

I had high hopes for Sunset Point Campground, our last place to stay in Maine.   A small campground located right on the Bay, it had excellent reviews for the scenery and kind owner.   Although our campsite did not have a water view, it was a short stroll to a path along the bay with wonderful views.   This was a great place to hang out and enjoy nature and I looked forward to seeing the promised sunsets.   The bench pictured below was placed on a large rock by the owner and was my favorite viewing spot.

But alas, for most of the evenings of our week long stay, scenic sunsets eluded us as grey clouds or fog inevitably rolled in before the sun was going down.   One evening I walked all around the area including checking out places down the road.   It was foggy and grey, no sun to be seen and even though the area is secluded and very lightly populated, it still felt strange to not hear a sound or see anything stirring.   During the evenings, the tide was always out leaving a muddy wasteland.   As I took photos I had to laugh at myself for thinking that the place had a forsaken and almost apocalyptic look.

We did end up having two days of great sunsets before we left – two of the best we have seen on our travels, so Sunset Point Campground was certainly appropriately named.   It was worth standing on that rock getting attacked and bitten by mosquitos to see all the beauty.   (I had forgotten one night to put on repellant).  Check out the two different views below.

Another fun thing about the campground was that you could order a lobster from the owner and for one dollar more he would cook it and bring it to your RV doorstep.   The lobster came on a large patriotic paper plate with a cracker.    How fun to have a steamed lobster delivered to our trailer door.

And speaking of delicious Maine food, below is a picture of a yummy slice of wild blueberry pie  I had after one of my (Marks says many) lobster rolls.

Stay tuned for next time when I write about our day visit to a former president’s home on an island in Canada.

Exploring Deer Island

I have written in previous blogs about the many peninsulas to explore in Maine.   I think Maine is one of the best states for a road trip, because there is so much to discover around every corner.   It seems the whole state is one scenic sight after another.   Of all the driving trips we took during our time in Maine, I think our day traveling the Blue Hill Peninsula and Deer island was the most beautiful.   In this blog I wanted to highlight some of our stops on the way and invite you to come along on this day of exploration.  Above is a photo from Caterpillar Hill, the highest point on the peninsula offering far reaching views of wild blueberry fields, mountains, water and islands.

Our first stop was the coastal town of Castine which has a Maritime Academy where students learn on the training ship docked next to the college.   We checked out the remnants of Fort George, an earthworks fort built in 1779 by the British during the Revolutionary War.   The town also has a small lighthouse (pictured above) at the end of a road.   Established in 1829, the grounds of Dice lighthouse are now a private residence but people are still allowed to wander the grounds.   It is always a treat to find a lighthouse that can be accessed by land since many of them in Maine are on islands and therefore accessible only by boat.   The Dice light still shines today.

Deer Island which is at the southern part of the peninsula is connected to the mainland by an impressive, tall bridge.   After crossing we headed to a rather unusual place, Nervous Nellie’s, located in a secluded part of the island in a forest setting.   Nellie’s makes an impressive variety of jams and jellies on site and sells everything either in their small store or online.   You can sample most of them in their shop before buying.  In their tiny cafe you can enjoy homemade scones with jam.   On the table they give you a tray with about five jars of jam to try with your scones.   The scones and jam were quite good and we had the cute little cafe to ourselves.

So I mentioned that Nellie’s was an unusual place.   It isn’t the jams that make it unusual but the Nellieville village with buildings, art installations from scraps and junk and sculpted figures created by the owner Peter.    The figures are made from metal and wood and sport real clothing.   Peter designed an old west town including a market (above), saloon, jail, auto shop and hotel.   There are other buildings as well that he incorporated from his visits to the Mississippi Delta including “Red’s Lounge” and a general store.   In the woods next to the village sits a small chapel building, two story outdoor theater and King Arthur’s Court with figures seated around a table and armored soldiers standing guard.   In another area under the trees is a group of musicians with real instruments including a banjo, drum, horn and piano player.

Some of the figures and groupings appeared a little creepy like the lone ghostly looking apparition sitting on one of the chapel pews or the strange looking guy in the dilapidated car pictured below.

This is one of the most different and quirky places I have visited on our travels.   There is so much to see here that you can spend an hour or more just looking.   I really enjoy sculptures and quirky art, but Mark not so much.  His uncultured opinion was it was just a bunch of old junk.   While I wandered, he headed for a bench and then on to the truck to listen to an audiobook.   This was really his loss, because the place is fascinating as well as a labor of love by the owner.   Clearly he does not have an appreciation of fine art with repurposed items (smile).   Apparently this place is a work in progress.    There were piles of old parts, household items, tools, machinery, metal and wood stacked around waiting for further inspiration.  My favorites were the scenes he set up inside the buildings like the one at the auto shop below.   The figures are sitting around with their instruments among car batteries and tools as if they had dropped in for an informal jam session.

After we bought a few jars of jam and I thoroughly enjoyed rambling around Nellieville we drove on to the town of Stonington which is considered one of the most picturesque lobster fishing villages in Maine.

Mark and I drove down to the harbor to watch the lobster boats coming in to drop off their catch and then take their boats out into the middle of the harbor for the night.   It was fun to observe the comings and goings at the end of a fishing day.   Stonington is reported to be the top lobster port in Maine as to commercial value.   We had an interesting talk with one seasoned lobsterman who reported when he was younger there wasn’t much to do for a livelihood in Stonington:  It was catch lobster or work in the shipyard around the bend.   Above is a view of the village and below a lobster boat preparing to leave the pier with its fishing dog aboard.

I love seeing the small white churches that seem to be in every village and along the country roads in Maine.  The St. Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church caught my attention because it has a perfect view from a top a hill above the harbor.   I also think it has the nicest name.  It is hard to capture in a photo the beautiful contrast of the white church and blue water below.

Driving down the road from the church we stopped for a pleasing view of boats in the harbor.

We finished the day at the Fishnet lobster shack in the town of Blue Hill.   We saw these shacks all the time driving around Maine and besides lobster, clams and other seafood there is always ice cream on the menu.   It seems that lobster and ice cream just goes together in this state.   The Fishnet has been a popular stopping place for many years and of course I had to try the lobster roll.

Thanks for stopping by!

Carving and Chainsaw Sawyer

During our stop at a Maine Welcome Center, I picked up a flyer about the Wendell Gilley Museum in the town of Southwest Harbor.   This museum of bird carvings celebrates the life and work of Wendell Gilley, who is considered a pioneer in the field of decorative bird carving. Gilley estimated that for over 50 years he carved over 6,000 birds and 399 species.  He wrote one of the first books to share the craft with others.    He started out working as a plumber and became interested in carving birds after seeing an exhibit of miniature bird carvings at a natural history museum in Boston.   His first carving was a miniature mallard duck which the Gilley museum still exhibits.   During the 1930’s and 40’s, he made and sold small scale carvings to the New York City store, Ambercrombie and Fitch.  Eventually he started making larger and more detailed carvings and at the age of 52 sold his plumbing business and decided to make a career out of his hobby.  The museum opened in 1981 and in 1983 Mr. Gilley passed away.

Above are carvings of Common Eider ducks which I enjoyed seeing in the museum because it was here in Maine that I first saw them in the wild.   I was hoping to see both male and female Eiders, especially the males since their black and white coloring is so striking.  But alas, it was only the females I was able to see.   After Eider chicks are born, the males take off and travel up the rivers where they will not attract attention of predators to the females and their babies who remain in the coastal areas.   One person described it to me as the males taking off for a “bachelor party,” but I could see the wisdom of nature in this, as the females are very drab in color and blend in well with the rocky shore.   The males though would definitely stand out!

Above is a photo of the work bench Mr. Gilley used for his carvings while working in the garage of his Southwest Harbor home.   I have always found wood carvings to be fascinating and these were extraordinary to see with such attention to detail.   Besides exhibits of Mr. Gilley’s work, classes are held here to teach bird carving.   The classes include everything from a one and a half hour introductory class to multi-session classes learning to carve and paint a chosen subject bird.    During our visit we were able to see an introductory class in session with a mother and two young daughters.  It looked like fun and we asked when the next one was being offered.   It so happened that another class would be held in the early afternoon.   I had other things planned for us to do:  a short hike near the coast as well as a visit to a lighthouse and beach we had not yet seen.   But things quickly changed when we found ourselves sitting at a work table with carving tools and a small partially carved wooden loon in our hands.

The museum has a very talented Carver-in-Residence named Steve who teaches the classes.  Some of his work like the Great Blue Heron in the photo above are displayed at the museum.   Mark and I were the only ones in the afternoon class so it became an informal lesson.   Although the introductory class was only for one and a half hours, Steve told us that he didn’t have anything else planned that day and we could stay as long as we wanted.   So we ended up staying there for almost four hours until the museum closed at 5:00.   Below is a photo of Mark working with a special carving knife on his loon.

It was a fun afternoon, not only because the carving was rather relaxing and interesting, but because we had such a great visit with Steve, a personable and easygoing guy who is a lifelong resident of Maine.   He explained that in his early years he wanted to be a lobsterman but ended up instead with a degree in biology and a job with the fish and game department.   He has had a great interest in birds since childhood and started out carving by making decoys with his father and uncle.  In the photo below, Steve works on shaping feathers on a loon piece during the class.

We shared together our birding adventures in the U.S. and Steve also talked about a recent trip to Europe and the unusual birds he found there.   We also found out that Steve is a big knitter, so Mark and Steve had that common interest to talk about.   Knitting comes in handy in Maine during those cold winter months!   A couple other museum staff came around to chat, including a gal who worked at the front desk who showed us her own bird carving in progress.   The afternoon flew by quicker than I thought as we chatted and chipped away on our loons.   It was inspiring sitting near so many professional bird carvings and if I lived in the area, I might be tempted to take a more in-depth series of classes.   But I realized in this class that carving is difficult and it would take me a number of hours to feel comfortable working with the knives.  At least I only cut myself twice.   Below is a picture of me with bandaids on my fingers which were conveniently available on the table as needed.

At closing time, we took our unfinished birds with us to carve on some more at home and Steve gave us some paint as well.   I wish I had thought to take a picture of how the carving was supposed to look when completed – a beautiful black and white male loon.

On another day, Mark and I made a visit to see a different kind of wood carving artist.   Ray Murphy, known as Chainsaw Sawyer bills himself as the first chainsaw artist, a skill he has been perfecting for the past 65 years.   He has a shop where he works on his projects and displays his carvings for sale, such as bears, squirrels, eagles, skunk and a ship captain.   In the photo above, Ray stands by a recent carving he made for a lobster and ice cream stand in the town of Bar Harbor.   Ray explained that the ice cream stand’s previous carving had been ruined after accidentally rolling down a hill.   When we arrived in Maine, Mark and I quickly learned that lobster and ice cream stands are very popular.

 

In the summers Ray puts on two hour shows each evening in a large building on the property pictured above.   During the shows he does such things as chainsaw a name on a person’s belt buckle (while it is being worn), sawing the alphabet on the side of a popsicle stick, a name on a pencil and even sawing 15 numbers on a toothpick.   He also wields two chainsaws at the same time to make two different pieces  of art.   No worries about the noise as he uses a soundproof booth.   We didn’t attend one of his shows but I bet it would have been quite interesting.   Ray has been written up in a variety of publications including being featured in Ripley’s Believe it or Not.   What is amazing is that he is still going at it in his late 70’s.

In his early years and prior to starting his show, Ray took his work on the road living in that old bus pictured above.   He said that he traveled for 25 years all over the U.S. and Canada and also went into Mexico and Central America.   In the photo above you can the building that houses his workshop and display area.   Scattered around the large lot are many pieces of wood, some waiting to be sculpted and some already finished.   After visiting with him for some time and seeing his work, it was hard to leave without buying one of his pieces.   I asked about one of his small bears that was not yet shellacked and whether it would still be durable.   Ray said that durability was not an issue and that the reason for the shellack was “SSS.”   I asked what SSS meant?   He said don’t you know “Shiny Shit Sells”?   Well, we went with the unshiny piece which I am touching in the photo below.

Thanks for checking in and stay tuned for more Maine exploring!

Schoodic Peninsula and Pickled Wrinkles

In my last blog I wrote about Acadia National Park where the main part is located on Mount Desert Island.   There is another smaller part of Acadia on a mainland peninsula which we heard was less busy.   Indeed we found this part of the park to be much quieter and more relaxing.   A scenic drive skirts around the edge of the peninsula with a few areas to stop and sightsee.   There were no traffic or parking issues and similar beautiful Acadia scenery.   PIctured above is our first stop at Frazer Point featuring a lovely picnicking area on the water with wildflowers and roses.  I found lots of colorful sea snail or periwinkle shells at the shoreline here.

Below is a panoramic photo of one of our stops along the scenic drive.

We spent most of our time at Schoodic Point which is the most southern point of the park and peninsula – a very large, rocky area with expansive views of Mount Desert Island, Cadillac Mountain and various islands in the Bay.   This is a great place to see the waves come crashing in against the rocky shelves like the photos below.

I walked around watching the waves for some time, hoping to catch a big one with my camera.   Mark my driver/photographer snapped the picture of me below near the wave action.  Some times he comes in handy.

After spending time near the ocean we headed to The Pickled Wrinkle, a restaurant recommended by a couple of store keepers we met while visiting the small town of Winter Harbor.   Pickled Wrinkle has to be one of the more unusual names we have come across for a restaurant, but perhaps the object on the sign to the left of the title gives you a bit of a clue as to the reason for the name?

There are actually pickled wrinkles on their menu and I wanted to give them a try.   They are large carnivorous sea snails also known as whelks, but commonly called “wrinkles” in Maine.   Unlike periwinkles that live along the tide line (like the ones I talked about above), these are larger and found in deeper water.   They are often caught by lobstermen when they haul up their traps from the ocean floor.   These wrinkles once helped feed hungry Maine families when times got tough and pickling was a great way to preserve these morsels.   Today, they are still served pickled and considered a delicacy.  I found them to be very chewy, giving my mouth quite a workout, but I thought they were pretty good.   Below is a picture of the pickled wrinkles.

It was here I had the first lobster roll of a number I was to have during our stay in Maine.   While I really liked them, Mark never showed much of an interest, often going for plain old fish and chips.   I could see the appeal of them as there is not the hassle of getting the meat out of the shell since it is all done for you and piled nicely on the roll.  Lobster rolls are not inexpensive, but there are so many lobster shacks and restaurants serving them in Maine that one is constantly reminded and tempted to have one!   Most of the time lobster meat for the rolls is already mixed with mayonnaise, but I found most places would accommodate with lobster meat that was mayonnaise free for confirmed mayo haters like myself.   Usually they would bring a little side of butter as well.

We had noticed an ice cream stand (Me & Ben’s Dairy Creme) next door and we headed there for dessert.  They had one of the more simple but delicious desserts we had during our Maine stay – blueberry soft serve topped with wild Maine blueberries and whipped cream.   I am usually not a fan of soft serve for an ice cream choice, but this was so good.   We ended up having typical Maine foods that day – pickled wrinkles, lobster roll and blueberry soft serve.

After dinner we drove more around the peninsula stopping for a look at the small town of Corea.   This place is a classic Maine fishing village with a harbor full of lobster boats and other vessels.

Lobster fishing is the primary industry in Corea but I was still surprised at the many lobster traps that seemed to be every where including big stacks on the piers.   In the early 1800’s the town used to be called Indian Harbor as it was occupied by the Passamaquoddy tribe, but the name was changed in 1896 when the town got its first post office.   I thought this place was so darling that I wanted to come back again and eat at the lobster shack on the wharf.  But alas, we didn’t make it back.  Below are two photos of the piers and many traps.

Thanks for checking out the blog and following along on our adventures through Maine!

Acadia National Park

After our stay in the Freeport/Portland area, we moved on to a new RV park closer to Acadia National Park.  I was excited to visit Acadia, a place I had heard about but never visited before.   Acadia is known as a park with a lot of diversity as it has miles of rocky shoreline that rises to big mountains and includes forests, lakes and ponds.   It is a great place for the outdoors with many hiking trails.   I had heard that Acadia could be crowded and since we were visiting at the height of the tourist season in July, we certainly found the park to have many visitors.   This made it difficult to drive the park roads and find parking.   Acadia is on the list of the top ten most visited national parks in the past few years.   If I was planning a trip just to Acadia and not traveling full time, I would probably plan to come here in the fall when summer crowds have dwindled.   But alas, we were traveling through Maine in the summer to escape the heat we would have found in many states to the south.   So, we just had to do the best we could with the situation.

Crowds aside, the park is just stunning and not to be missed.   One of our first objectives was to drive up Cadillac Mountain, not only the highest point in the park at 1,530 feet but the highest point on the North Atlantic Coast.    This is one of the most popular places in the park and a road winds rather steeply to the top.   We were lucky and found a parking spot.   Although the parking lot on top is not large, the area to walk around once parked is huge!   Lots of different vantage points to see all those remarkable views.   It really felt like we were on top of the world.   Above is a picture of one of Acadia’s lakes that we enjoyed seeing during a stop on our way up the mountain.

Above is one of our first views from Cadillac Mountain with the small town of Bar Harbor visible near the water.  In the late 1800’s a cog railroad brought visitors to the summit where a hotel was located.   The railroad and hotel are long gone and other than a small gift/snack shop, the mountain is only a place to roam and enjoy far off views.

We were fortunate to have a sunny, clear day as the weather can change quickly with clouds and fog common.   My favorite was how the clouds covered over the small islands in the Bay, almost as if they were coated with wisps of cotton or gauze.   Here is a closer view of the cloud covered islands below.

Cadillac Mountain is a popular place for sunrises and many people come here well before the sun starts rising to get a parking spot.  That is a little too early for Mark and I to make the drive from our campground as we would have had to start around 3:30 a.m.   We are not known to be early risers and are more likely to be gazing at the midday sun at noon.

After seeing Cadillac we connected with the 27 mile one-way park loop road which is the primary access to the main parts of the park and gives a good overview of the sights.  Along the way there are pullouts and parking areas (most of which were packed full).   At a few stops we were out of luck for a space and just had to move on.  I wanted to walk part of the ocean path for views like above and we managed to squeeze into a space along the road.   People love climbing around Acadia and there are numerous rock formations to scramble or relax on.   I also saw people taking rock climbing classes.

Thunder Hole pictured above is a popular stop for visitors who hope to see the ocean rush in to the narrow inlet located on the right of the rocky steps.  During times of high tide, water comes in with great force causing a loud booming sound with waves soaring high.   It was an interesting stop although I wasn’t able to see it at the best time.  Below is another stop on our scenic drive showcasing ocean and cliffs.   Before we left the park we decided to drive up to the top of Cadillac Mountain again to see how the view had changed.

I wanted to return to Acadia a second time and walk more of the ocean path/trail which extends two miles along the coast with almost constant views of the shore.   Although this is not very far to walk, it is easy to get distracted because there are many dirt paths you can take off the main trail to walk a short distance for more expansive views.   It was hard for me to pass up all these little paths and different view points, like the rocky path below.

The paths lead to views like the one pictured below.   My second day at Acadia was a little foggy and gray, not sunny and bright like our first visit.  But in a way I was glad, because I got to see the park in two different settings.

I spent more than three hours walking the trail each way and the time seemed to just fly by.   As someone who loves to walk, the Acadia Ocean Path is one of the best walks I have done in my travels with spectacular scenery the entire way.   There were many people of all ages and abilities enjoying this trail.   I have to say that I was most impressed with an elderly lady who was on the path with her walker accompanied by a friend or family member.   This path could be uneven at times and I admired her spunk!   Here is another photo from my walk.

Thanks for stopping in and reading about our Acadia travels!

The Largest Globe, Wolfe‘s Neck Woods and a Ship Building Town

One of the fun things about exploring is finding the unexpected.   While staying in the Freeport, Maine area we learned about an exhibit in a neighboring town that featured the world’s largest revolving globe.   Named “Eartha,” the globe was designed and built in 1998 by Delorme employees as a representation of the earth seen from space.   Signboards in the three story atrium where Eartha is located give complicated, technical information on how Eartha was made using computer technology.   I love looking at maps and globes so this was a feast for the eyes.  The building has three floors and you can get a different view of the huge globe from each floor.  In the photo above taken from the third floor, you can see how small Mark is next to Eartha.

Delorme had a map business and store here, but in 2016 the company was bought out by Garmin who makes GPS devices and digital maps.   The map store subsequently closed, but Eartha remains.   I thought this was a really cool find and it was fun to watch it make a complete rotation which takes about 18 minutes.   In the photo above you can see the angle of the globe while looking at it from the first floor.

Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park was another great find in the Freeport area.  I thought the park’s name was unusual but found out it was named for Henry and Rachel Woolfe, the area’s first permanent European settlers who were residents here in 1733.   I drove over to walk in the woods and get a look at the shore as the park is located on a peninsula of Casco Bay.   It was more scenic than I expected and I could have stayed there indefinitely.   It was very peaceful with just a few people on the trails and near the water.   This was the kind of Maine scenery that I love – woods meeting water with lots of interesting rock formations to climb on and a few islands close by.

The park is known for Osprey which nest on one of the islands so close to the main shore that you could probably walk there during low tide.   After locating the osprey nest with my binoculars, I sat and watched two flying back and forth and even got a glimpse of a baby moving in the nest.   When I got there the tide was out as you can see in the picture above.  But I returned to this spot later after walking some trails in the woods and found the tide had come in covering most of the rock.  You can see the island in the upper right of the photo above.

The historic town of Bath has a great downtown with my favorite building the old City Hall pictured above.   Mark and I made a couple of trips to Bath – the first time so Mark could visit a large yarn shop and we could check out the Farmer’s Market.   On another trip we came to see the Maine Maritime Museum which is in a fitting location on the Kennebec River as Bath became known as the “City of Ships” after shipbuilding began here in 1743.   There were once many shipbuilders and the museum is located on the grounds of the former Percy and Small Shipyard.   There are five original 19th century buildings that exhibit the different processes used in constructing wooden ships such as laying out the patterns and sawing the pieces, painting, metal forge work, caulking and rope making.   From here many ships were built and launched into the river.

The centerpiece of the museum is a full size metal sculpture installation of the largest wooden commercial sailing ship ever built, the six masted schooner Wyoming which was constructed and launched here in 1909.   The sculpture is more than 400 feet from bow to stern with six flags representing the ship’s masts.   As I looked up at it, I found it hard to imagine a ship standing that tall!   There is a lot to see at this museum and I thought I would share a few highlights.

Welcoming visitors to the lobstering exhibit is a Volkswagen with a lobster sitting on top, a fitting pair since a lobster is called a … you guessed it “bug” here in Maine.  Inside the building are displays of lobster boats, traps – both metal and old fashioned wooden ones.   There was interesting information about the life and behavior of lobsters including videos showing their aggressive, fighting tendencies.   Those big claws are not just for looks!   The wall pictured below displays an assortment of buoys that mark the location of each lobsterman’s traps.  Each lobsterman has their own distinctive color and design.

The Mary E. Schooner docked at the museum is a survivor as she is the last of over 850 small wooden schooners built in Bath that were once common in Maine harbors.   Built in 1906, she spent over 50 years in the fishing and cargo carrying business and is pictured below.   You can step aboard and see how beautifully she has been restored.   I am not sure if they ever take the public out for sailing trips, but what a fun trip that would be.

Although Bath stopped building wooden ships long ago, Bath Iron Works (BIW) has been in business as a major shipyard since 1884.  They are known for building Navy Destroyers and have been building them since World War II.   A slogan developed that “Bath built is best built.”  The museum offers boat trips on the Kennebuc River to get a close up view of the ships and machinery like the destroyer pictured below.  It was a fun and informative trip and nice to see this shipbuilding company from the water.

When we had finished the indoor maritime exhibits and were walking to our truck, Mark noticed that there was another building near the parking lot we had not yet explored.   Inside we found an exhibit with remains of the Clipper ship, “Snow Squall.”   This ship built for speed was launched near Portland, Maine in 1851 and traveled all over the world, carrying tea, spices and silks back to the U.S.  After being damaged trying to go around Cape Horn in 1864, she was abandoned in the Falkland Islands.   After over 100 years, an archaeological expedition was able to retrieve her bow section and bring her back in 1987 to where she began in Maine.

I thought this was an amazing exhibit, especially when I learned this is the sole remaining example of an American clipper ship which at one time numbered over 300.   I was surprised that this ship was housed in a building away from the main part of the museum as I thought they might want to keep more of an eye on it as people come and go from the exhibit.   I am glad we didn’t miss seeing this as some how it had escaped my attention when I was planning what to see and do at the museum.   I thought it was the most interesting exhibit!

I will close with this cute sign I found next to a shop regarding Maine vocabulary I couldn’t resist photographing.   Thanks for reading – in the next blog we explore Acadia National Park.

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

As some of you may know from previous blogs or knowing me personally, I just love visiting gardens.   I also love working in a garden and growing things.   Whether for visiting or growing something fun or useful, gardens are one of the best things ever.  When researching online for the best gardens to visit during our travels, the Coastal Maine Gardens in Boothbay, Maine consistently came up on lists as one of the best in the U.S.  So, I knew I had to plan a trip to see this place.  Above is a picture of a type of Sundrop or primrose flower that was blooming enmasse and really caught my eye with an explosion of yellow.

When we arrived, I have to admit that at first I was not very impressed.   The part of the gardens near the entrance are not developed and when walking in looked rather barren.  The map provided didn’t seem to show many different sections of the gardens.   I questioned if there would be much to see and approached our visit with less optimism than at previous gardens.  But as I began exploring, I came to realize that this place was indeed remarkable and equal to any I have seen in our travels.   One of the newer exhibits was a butterfly greenhouse.   In addition to the butterflies, there were lots of colorful caterpillars, something I have not seen before.   The caterpillars pictured above will eventually become monarch butterflies.

This is a fairly new garden that opened in 2007.   In 1991, a group of Maine residents founded an organization that believed Maine and Northern New England needed a botanical garden.   After searching, they purchased 128 acres of land including shoreline frontage near the town of Boothbay.   I read that the founders actually used their own homes as collateral!   From this natural area of forest and water, they developed magnificent gardens that are a delight to see.   There are many beautiful forest trails to wander like the one above.   The gardens are a mixture of both natural forest setting and planned garden areas.   In the picture below I am standing in an area of lush plantings next to a rock waterfall.   Rock is used throughout not only for waterfalls but to also create pools, steps, benches and sculptures.

Maine is loaded with ferns since there are so many forests and waterways.   I was intrigued with this exhibit of Ostrich ferns which produce fiddleheads (the furled fronds of a young fern) in the spring.    I was interested to read how popular fiddleheads are both historically and in modern times.   Each year thousands of ”Mainers” go out along the streams and rivers to pick this prized wild crop.   A popular dish is to boil them and serve with butter and vinegar.

When we went to the local farmer’s market in the town of Bath I couldn’t resist picking up a jar of pickled fiddleheads since I love trying interesting local specialties.  I found them to be actually quite good and enjoyed eating them with my salads.  Haven’t seen them since leaving Maine, so don’t know if they are enjoyed in other states as well!

One of the main sections of the gardens is the “Lerner Garden of the Five Senses” which is supposed to delight all the senses in some way.   There were beautiful flower and tree plantings to see, water features and the croaking of frogs to listen to, herbs to taste, roses to smell and a reflexology labyrinth for touch.  Visitors are encouraged to take off their shoes and feel the smooth river stones under their feet.  This practice is based on ancient Eastern wisdom that walking on stones massages various points of the feet promoting health and well-being.  In addition, the labyrinth is a great meditation tool while walking.  I had to give this a try and when my feet got used to being on the stones I found it rather soothing!   Mark wasn’t around at the time to take a picture of me doing it (probably on a bench some where with a Diet Coke?) so the photo below is of a young family.  I actually think they were better subjects!

The Garden has a children’s section that I imagined I would quickly walk through.   I was so entranced that I ended up spending much more time than I thought.   It was a fun place to walk around with a pond, bridges, playhouses topped with grass and little flower gardens surrounded by white picket fences.   This was the most clever children’s garden I have ever visited.   The main feature is eight different stations that are based on stories from prominent Maine children’s authors like Robert McCloskey who wrote “Blueberries For Sal” and E. B. White who wrote “Charlotte’s Web.”  I wrote earlier about how rock figures prominently in the gardens and at the children’s entrance are several large rocks carved into whale shapes with spouts of water coming from them.   These are from the book, “Down to the Sea with Mr. Magee.”   Can you see the whale smiling as he spouts in the picture below?

I love children’s books but was not familiar with the book, “Rosebud and Red Flannel.”   At this station kids can use an old fashioned washboard and hang to dry clothes including Red Flannel, the well worn long johns and Rosebud, the delicate nightgown who in the story develop a relationship one cold, stormy day.

At the pond area kids can don a yellow raincoat and try out the colorful docked rowboat from the book, “Burt Dow, Deep Water Man” written by Robert McCloskey.   In another area they can play on the big “Stone Dragon” and of course there is the bear with a bucket to check out from “Blueberries For Sal.”  There is an actual thriving vegetable garden to explore with a “Peter Rabbit” display from McGregor’s Garden that includes oversized veggies, watering can and scarecrow (below).

What amazed me the most though was the colorfully decorated playroom/library that had shelves filled with hard back books that looked like they were new.   I would have never expected this at a botanical garden.   Adults and kids could take a break and sit down on one of the many chairs or seats available and read books together.   There were also child sized tables with games and puzzles.

I was again amazed at the Therapeutic Horticulture area where people with physical or developmental challenges can garden.   How neat is this!   Instead of having to get up and down, gardeners can wheel their chairs up to raised beds with vegetable and flower plantings.  There are also railings around the beds for those than can stand with some assistance.   Some of the beds in wooden boxes are standing vertical so one can roll right up and touch the plants without leaning over at all.    Ergonomically designed garden tools are kept in an accessible area near a small building.   Different groups in the area come here to garden and provisions have even been made for those that are visually impaired so they can identify the plants they are working with.   Below is a picture of one of the lovely raised beds with railing.

It was a great day exploring the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens.  Thanks for reading – stay tuned, more exploring in Maine to come!

A Year on the Road

On August 25 we hit an anniversary – one year of traveling with our RV on the road!   We reached this date while staying at Boston Minuteman Campground, located in Massachusetts.   I thought it was interesting that Massachusetts was our 25th state to visit, so we are now halfway through our goal of visiting all the states.  To clarify, we won’t be able to visit them all – Hawaii is out of reach and at this time we don’t have the desire to make the long trek to Alaska, but the remaining 23 seem to be doable.  It has been quite a year – we have stayed in 49 different campgrounds, visited many historical sites, museums, National Parks, State Parks, towns, cities and attractions.  Below is another picture of our anniversary site, with perhaps the tallest and densest trees we have camped under!

During this past year we visited the Black Hills and Badlands of South Dakota, listened to folk music in Arkansas and Cajun music in Louisiana.   We saw the swamps and bayous of the South and antebellum mansions in Mississippi.   In Alabama we camped right next to the waters of Mobile Bay and enjoyed the turquoise ocean and white sands of the Florida Panhandle.   We walked the historic streets and sat in the squares of Savannah, Georgia.  While in South Carolina we visited the only tea plantation in America and discovered lots of history in the narrow streets of Charleston.  While traveling through Virginia we saw the homes of former presidents and the first colony at Jamestown.  We explored Philadelphia with family and camped in the Amish country of Pennsylvania.  In Maine we visited a new National Park and on scenic drives admired miles of rocky coastline.   We discovered beautiful waterfalls in New Hampshire’s White Mountains and traveled up to the tallest mountain in the Northeast.   These are just a few of the many highlights during a year of exploring and learning much about this wonderful country we are blessed to call home.   In the picture below, we got a warm welcome when arriving to our park near Mobile, Alabama.

I was thinking recently how different each state is as they each have their own look, “feel” and culture.   I can just tell I am in a different state and not because of the welcome sign on the road.  They really have their own uniqueness and that is one of the things that makes exploring such an adventure.  There is always that anticipation of what the next state will be like and what we will find there.   During our year of travel, a few of the states we had visited before, but most were new to us and there has been much to appreciate in every state we have been.   Some touched a special place in my heart and I found myself a little sad when leaving.  But I always reminded myself that there would be more memorable and special places to come and this has truly happened.   It can be hard to leave a great place behind, but without moving on, we would not have explored 25 remarkable states.  Below is a picture of the park we stayed at in Louisiana, one of our favorite states and the place where we experienced a surprise snow storm in December.

So, traveling and sightseeing aside, how has it been living in a 21-foot trailer?   It can certainly be a challenge.   The lack of space for all our things is probably the biggest challenge but there are others.   The ability to move around freely inside and spread out is tough.   Our comfort is compromised, my days of lounging on the couch like I did at home while watching a movie or reading a book are a thing of the past.   Trying to prepare food and cook in a small kitchen area can at times elicit some groans from me as I struggle to manage the ingredients I am cutting up or finding space for a dish or pot.   Since our refrigerator is small we can only fit limited amounts of food so grocery shopping has to be more frequent.   When trying to find something in our long, deep food pantry, I often have to take stuff out and stack it on our bed, as I reach my arm into the dark space trying to feel for that can or box.

Above is a picture of a scene that awaited us when we arrived in Vermont, another challenge we have dealt with from time to time.   Although we try to secure everything when moving the trailer from one campsite to another, a few times we have found frozen food items on the floor or even one time a cabbage that somehow popped out from the refrigerator and ended up near our bed.   On one stop we found our large glass mixing bowl in pieces on the stovetop.   The shattered dishes pictured above we discovered after arriving in Vermont.   I didn’t expect Corelle Ware to break into so many tiny pieces.  We do use paper plates and bowls from time to time, but for some things dishes are better.

For the most part we have tried to stay at least a week or more every where we have been, but that time goes by so fast and it seems before we know it, it is time to pack up and move on to the next spot.   The life of a nomad is certainly an interesting one.   There are always new places and situations to become accustomed to.   We have been fortunate to find quiet and pleasant neighbors at every place we have stayed.   It has been nice to talk to other travelers and find out about their experiences, where they have come from and where they are traveling next.  Some have had some good tips on places to camp or attractions to visit.   It is always great to share expertise on the road!   We have met a few full time travelers, but most are seasonal who are only RVing for part of the year or taking a short vacation from their home.  The RV park owners and staff have also been kind and helpful and have never lost our reservations!  I have to admit that as we drove to each new location, I would wonder if this would be the time that we would be told, “Sorry, we don’t have a spot for you!”   We were blessed with few issues along the way that have hampered our progress.   Below is a picture from our last campground in Maine which featured a lovely area to sit and walk along the waterfront.

Where do we go from here?   Although I had good intentions, my blog has continued to be so behind, because I always have much I want to write about making it hard to keep up.   Although we left Maine the first part of August, I still have more to write about our time in that wonderful state.   We have since had shorter stays in New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and our current spot in Rhode Island.   We will be visiting Connecticut next and then start making our way to the Appalachian and Blue Ridge Mountain states of West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina.   We plan to visit those states through the rest of September, October and into early November.   We will then begin our trek back to California where we look forward to spending the holiday season.   Below is a sunset picture at our campground in New Hampshire.

We thank you for taking the time this past year to check out the blog and for the comments you have made.  It can get lonely on the road so it is much appreciated to hear from you!