Camden, Maine

October 5, 2002

Our second week on the road finds our travelers starting in Bean Town with friends Alan and Debbie…

The week began in Boston where we took the "T" into town to meet our friends Alex and James. They took us to an amazing dim sum restaurant in Chinatown that had been converted from an old theater. This place was VAST! We were there with a few hundred locals. Luckily James speaks Mandarin, so he kept the dishes coming, carefully explaining what we were drooling over. We then walked through Boston Common and the Public Gardens to see their apartment in Beacon Hill. In the afternoon we went on a walking tour that was billed as "Boston Underground." It was more a visit to the Big Dig, Boston’s now famous new highway/tunnel construction. Our tour guide was very excited about all this, and we now know more than we ever wanted about slewing walls and cut and cover techniques.

In the evening we met up with Tiffany’s friend Bruce from the Gunnery (High School) and had some great Italian food down on Newbury Street. We stayed with him in his palatial apartment in the Back Bay.

In the morning we met up again with Alan and Debbie for the Duck Tour, a tour of the city and Charles River in an old WWII amphibious car. Our driver was quite the character, and kept us entertained as we quacked our way through the streets of downtown. After this we again wandered Newbury Street and the many bookstores there.

On Tuesday we bid Boston and our friends farewell, and drove north to Salem. We took in the obligatory tour through the Salem Witch History Museum, complete with talking animatronics that recreate the trials of 1692. It’s very cheesy stuff, but beneath all the pointy hat Christmas ornaments, witches brew root beer and books about casting spells, we did glimpse some of the history of this eerie and troubled place.

The closest State campground is about an hour outside of town, but once there we found it closed for the season. We called another campground and it too was closed. We ended up driving up in to New Hampshire for the night, keeping the rangers up late waiting for us to pull in. We’re hoping we don’t run in to too many more of these places that close for the season, though it is getting late so we’ll just have to be creative.

The next day we drove back out to the coast and into Gloucester and Rocky Neck Artist Colony. The living artists didn’t impress us much so we decided to head to the museum to see some of the dead ones. The Cape Ann Historical Museum is a true jewel. We gaped at the Fritz Hugh Lane seascapes, stood in awe of the Winslow Homers and discovered new favorites like the etchings of Stephen Parrish. There’s also models of what the town used to look like in the 19th century, and the 16 foot boat that made the first ever solo Atlantic crossing.

We left Massachusetts behind us, traveled through the teeny piece of New Hampshire that touches the coast, and drove into Maine! Ah, Maine. Upon entering the state, the sign by the road says, "Maine, how life should be," and we agree. We found a great restaurant/brewery called Gritty McDuffs in Freeport and felt instantly at home. Having no idea where we were going to sleep that night, we thought we’d put off the decision a little longer and stopped into the L.L.Bean flagship store (open 24 hours, 7 days a week for your shopping convenience). Talk about paradise! You can never have enough camping gear.

We did end up eventually leaving the store in the wee hours and thanks to the nice ladies at the checkout counter drove a few minutes out of town to a campground on the coast. The site is on a working farm and once the car had been turned off, and the silence enveloped us, we heard the most disturbing sound. It was like a haunted séance of lost souls off in the woods. We didn’t know what to make of it, and after spending some time in Salem, our nerves were a little frazzled. Was it the Blair witch? Dinosaur zombies on the march? We finally figured out it was cows, mooing, but unlike any mooing cows we’d ever heard. This was the cow tabernacle choir. And they kept it up all night! Luckily this disturbing sound was drowned out but the rain that began pouring in the middle of the night. Our tent that had barely had a chance to dry from the last rain we got out on the Cape was now dowsed again. We needed a bigger tarp.

In the mooing, sorry, morning we packed up our wet things and ventured once again into Freeport. Freeport is anything but. It’s a string of outlet stores masquerading as a town, all clean and friendly like Disneyland. We felt the irresistible pull once again of L.L. Bean. Then we were sucked into Patagonia, tossed into the North Face, and swirled around Timberland for a while. It was like that old Greek myth about the whirlpool that traps weary sailors. We were under the spell of the town and we couldn’t escape.

I don’t know what finally snapped, but we were spit out the other side and decided to drive north while we were free. Our heads cleared and we got some fresh air in our lungs at the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse. Here the coast is all glacier-scarred rocks raking the sea, and stubby pine trees used to standing up to North Atlantic winters. It’s rugged and it’s beautiful.

We pitched our tent north of Camden at Camden Hills State Park, then found some quality chowder ("chowdah," as the locals say) at Cappy’s in town. Camden in a post card of a town with shops on Main Street and lobster pounds on the docks. Fall colors light up the trees around the protected harbor that looks out onto the many islands dotting the coast. At night in our campsite the stars shone down on us, peeking through perfect little star-sized gaps between the leaves.

On Friday we explored the town, stepping in to the local library with picture windows that look out on the harbor. We drove down the coast to Rockland and the Farnsworth Art Museum and Wyeth Centre. We saw the paintings of N.C, Andrew and Jamie Wyeth, and let the spirit of this land seep into us through their eyes. There have been so many great artists that have lived and painted along this coast, and we’re seeing it through their eyes as well as our own. Every time we turn a corner on a wooded country road it’s like we’re stepping into a Winslow Homer painting. That weathered old barn is an Andrew Wyeth. Looking out to sea with the sun setting low over calm waters we’re in a Fritz Hugh Lane.

The rain started coming down again so we rushed back to camp to string a tarp over the tent. We then ventured through the trees to the rocky shore. The wind was whipping up, the drizzle blowing sideways at us. It was great! We slipped across the slick boulders to dip our fingers in the icy waters. Islands a mile off the coast lost focus in the weather and then vanished all together.

On Saturday morning we got up early, piled on our coats and headed off to hike up the mountain by our campsite. Within minutes we were dripping with sweat wishing we’d worn shorts and t-shirts. The trail led us up through a rain forest that was painted red with the fall leaves. We were supposed to get a scenic overlook once on top, but instead we emerged into a cloud. Wind blew fiercely up from the valley, and all we could see was mist as we stood amongst the dripping trees. It was better than any view though, much more dramatic. We then plodded down the other side of the hill and up Mt. Battie that overlooks Camden and the harbor. By the time we reached the top of this one, the weather had cleared a little and we did get spectacular views.

After returning to camp and washing the grime from the morning off we drove into town and sauntered around the local arts fair. The sun was out now and it was a beautiful day. In the evening we had dinner down on the docks where Alex tackled his first ever lobster! Thank goodness the placemat had instructions. It was quite the treat to sit outside as the sun set, looking out on the harbor, and getting all messy with a lobster bib.

Thus ended our second week of road travel. Tune in next week (or there ‘bouts) for our continuing adventures as we travel further up the coast of Maine and points unknown …



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