Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Maine - Halcyon Yarns and L.L. Bean

A cooler, greyer day and we decided to indulge in some retail sightseeing. We set off south, down Hwy 1.
Halcyon Yarns is in Bath and as it has a full page advertisement in the Rug
Hooker magazine, we thought it worth a visit.
I bought yarn for whipping, hooking,
knitting and felting (along with some roving too).
Next stop L.L. Bean in Freeport. This is a "campus" of stores (clothing, hiking,
running, canoeing, skiing, biking. Really everything outdoorsy). We again managed to
support the local economy.
Home quite late and as we are now trying to use up groceries, Don made a
large mushroom and cheese omelet with home fries. It was our first seafood
free day. 
The next day was spent packing, tidying, cleaning, buying alcohol to take home and checking out an oil and vinegar store we had noticed in Rockland.
We tasted, oohed and aahed and all bought more than we had intended. The high
points: butternut squash oil and honey ginger balsamic vinegar. The expresso balsamic
was also delicious as was the pumpkin butter.

For our final lunch it was back to the Brass Compass and this time I had
Bay Scallops on sweet potato fries with coleslaw. They were lightly battered,
lightly fried, tender and sweet.

Maine - Vinalhaven Island

We had watched the eclipse of the "super moon" the night before and heard at the ferry terminal in Rockland that this particular full moon, because it is so close to the earth, creates very high tides and the ferry had to dock differently due to this.
We left the ferry dock just before 11am at the same time as this
lovely wooden boat set out.
Out past the Rockland breakwater lighthouse with the high tide waves
breaking over the wall.
Past the Owls Head Lighthouse that we had looked out from
the previous day.
Although nice and sunny the wind was brisk and quite cool. We were glad we had positioned ourselves on the leeward side of the bridge.
The ferry wove its way through numerous islands reminding us of Muskoka
(except for the salty sea smell and the lobster buoys)
We docked in Vinalhaven after about an hour and a half only to find that most restaurants and businesses were closed for the day. We weren't sure if this was because we are out of season or as it was a Monday. We satisfied ourselves with peering in windows and realized that this was saving us some money.
The local grocery store made very good sandwiches and we were able to manage a good
lunch sitting at a picnic table harbourside.
We got a little lost trying to find the way to the Lane Island Preserve but a kind local woman who
stopped to help us ended up driving us to the entrance.
We had a pleasant, easy walk through an area of marshland,
spotted a Yellowlegs (Lesser or Greater?),
beside beaches with the tide now going out
and round the rocky headland,
watching the lobster boats bombing in at the end of their day.
Back into town we had an ice cream (yes, that was open!) and made our way back to the ferry terminal where we were entertained by a constant parade of seals. There were more seals in this harbour than cormorants.
Looking around.
Diving. I had to force myself to put the camera down, stop trying for that ultimate seal
picture and just enjoy the little heads popping up out of the water.
Even more islands at low tide.
Misty and distant lighthouse on Vinalhaven.
Looking back.
The Breakwater Lighthouse looking quite different at low tide.
Supper was a lobster roll to go from the Keag store down the road.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Maine - Owls Head Lighthouse and the Brass Compass Restaurant

The walk to the lighthouse in Owls Head State Park was a breeze after yesterdays hike.
There were lovely views from the path to the lighthouse.
The lighthouse isn't very tall as it sits on a high cliff overlooking the entrance to
Rockland harbour.
After the walk up the stairs to the building there are spiral stairs and then a ladder into the
light area itself. We were able to go up because there were a couple of volunteers on duty.
From the volunteers we learned that the present lighthouse and lens had been in use since the 1850s and that it also had an automatic fog horn, triggered by moisture in the air. The light can be seen from 16 nautical miles out to sea. There was also a discussion of lobster fishing and only commercial fishing is allowed unless you own shoreline property in which case you can put out a few pots.

The others walked down to the beach while I sketched.
There were some happy sailors out on a sunny day with a brisk wind.
Chuck and Plez had made some suggestions as to places to eat so we went into Rockland, to the Brass Compass, for lunch.
I'm doing my best to help a local lobsterman.
I had a lobster roll (without the roll), coleslaw and sweet potato fries, a glass
of red wine and blueberry pie.
Heather and Don had a Skippers Meal: haddock, fish cake and swiss cheese on a bun.
We have enjoyed everywhere that we have eaten so far but the Brass Compass is our new favorite. Good food, good service and an extensive menu (Judy was able to find something to eat).
My computer is running out of power so I will finish this tomorrow.

Maine - Camden Hills Hike

We set of to Searsport to find a rug hooking shop advertised in the Hooking magazine that Heather and I get. It was a lovely drive but the shop was closed when we got there.
On the way we drove over this bridge that looked like a modern sculpture.
Hungry again we stopped at Young's Lobster Pound. It was huge, with a big deck and a whole warehouse
of lobster. It had quite an extensive menu but nothing for Judy. It was all seafood.
Out on the deck to eat the lobster roll others were making a real party of it. They had bought coolers with drinks,
sides, table clothes, wine glasses etc and just added the seafood they bought there. Lots of locals so we knew it
was good.
While we ate we watched this beauty sail in, drop the sails and motor into the harbour.
Then it was time to work off the food. We looked without success for the trail to Mnt Battey that Don had found on google maps so ended up going to the Camden Hills State Park. We parked in the hikers parking lot and set off on the Ocean Lookout trail.
It has been very dry in Maine but I'm sure this area is marshy normally and the
boards would be very welcome.
The trail was well travelled but often rough with rocks and roots. There were also stone "stairs"
at the really steep bits.
The trail map didn't match the trail signs very well and we found ourselves at this lookout.
Lovely, but not the one we were looking for. Don and Judy went back to the car to wait for us
and Heather and I continued up.

We spoke to people making their way down the trail and were given a variety of different descriptions of the direction and the kind of trail we were to look for. Finally we came to an area of rock "stairs" that most had described. To call them stairs is really a gross exaggeration of their uniformity and organization. Rocks had been roughly placed into an approximation of stairs but sometimes it was more like rubble and other times smooth slabs of the underlying rock. Luckily I was trying out a set of trekking poles and I found them very helpful.
The views when we finally got to the top were worth the sore muscles and sweat. We could see south along
the Maine coastline to Rockland and even out to Monhegan Island beyond.
A flock of turkey vultures cruised by us, using the up drafts and made us realize how high
we were. The sun was getting low in the sky though and we had to get down.
On the way down the poles were, again, very useful. We realized we had seen a lot of young people on the hike and we were probably the oldest on the trail. During one breather we stopped and chatted to a woman who had only had her knee replaced 4 months before and didn't feel so proud of ourselves. We probably hiked about 4 miles in total but the steep terrain made it feel like a lot more.

Maine - McLoons Lobster Shack and Birch Point Park

We opted for an easier day after all the hiking on Monhegan Island. Did some laundry, caught up on e-mails down at the library etc. Out of curiosity I walked down the laneway with the Oysters For Sale sign and had a brief chat with the proprietor. He explained that the oyster "seeds" come in a big bag which they leave them in, in the water, until they are "baby oysters". These are put in long flat metal cages and left in the river to grow which can take years. They are moved to the saltier part of the estuary to finish off before sale. He said that they are sold mostly through a seafood wholesaler because the selling is not fun (and often secretive and political), that being out on the water is the fun part. I think I have that all straight, I didn't "google" to double check the facts as I remember them.
McLoons was a recommendation from Heather and Don's friends and
was a short drive from South Thomaston.
It is down a road lined with commercial lobstering companies and has picnic tables
and umbrellas to eat outside.
Heather and Don stuck with the lobster rolls and they were chock full of fresh lobster.
I opted for the crab cakes and although they were delicious I had "lobster roll envy"
when I saw theirs. Judy doesn't like seafood (!) and had a burger.
As we ate we looked at the view of the bay, islands and lobster boats. This one pulled in
as we sat there and
we watched him unload his catch.
When someone orders a lobster a hoist is used to bring a big plastic container up to the dock,
out of the water. It is swung onto the dock, lobster taken out and then the container is returned
to the sea. It doesn't get much fresher than that.
After lunch we took a short walk down the road, looking at the water, boats and the commercial aspect of the lobster industry.

A fork lift was being used to move these big bins into a shed. The stink was
over powering. We think they would be used as bait in the lobster traps.
We are seeing plenty of Halloween decorations around.
Next stop was Birch Point State Park where we were surprised to find the gate shut. People were parking on the road so we joined them and walked down to the beach.
The tide was out so there was a deep expanse of wet sand with tumbles of rocks
on each side. We did some clambering and could see the coast in each direction,
very rocky with trees to the rocky edge.
A quick sketch of the islands on the horizon.
Binoculars on the various groups of water birds but they were difficult to identify. Saw
loons and cormorants. The above photo was identified by our Maine birders as female Eider ducks.
and of course, gulls. This one was devouring a crab he had just caught.
Amazing, what will grow in the rock crevices.
The sky was beautiful, but darkening, as we headed home.
The day had been quite cool so we were thankful we had chosen the day before for the ferry ride and hikes on the island. We have had no rain, thus far, but the nights are getting quite cool.
We are just seeing the start of some fall colours.