10 September – Left Brewer and headed down the Acadia Peninsula to Seal Cove and a surprising little Brass Era Auto Museum which had a stunning array of vehicles from early steam and gasoline vehicles through to a brilliant 1913 Mahogany skiff bodied Peugeot and several early motorbikes. A couple of hours later we emerged to head off down a dreadful road surface to Seawall and the National Park Campground. Basic camping (ie. no power or water on the sites and no shower facilities) but in a nice setting in the woods, plus the essential weekly dump station.
11 September – Made the most of the facilities at the campground and hit the road. Stopped off at Eagle Lake and did a mile or two of the carriage way which encircled the lake. In this area of the park there are masses of carriage trails – they must have been used by the hoi poloi to go for picnics as this was a very wealthy part of the State in the early 1900’s. Headed then into Bar Harbour – a real tourist town with loads of art galleries and souvenir shops. Broke the bank and had a lobster lunch because that is what you have to do in Maine. Not sure that I am that enamoured with lobster – I think I prefer crab (or at least the crab we had in Norway) but it was OK. Note to self again – when it says it comes with chips, that is not the french fried variety but snack-pack potato chips – a strange thing to serve with a meal! The weather turned to custard whilst we were eating and was quite miserable for the rest of the journey around the park, which put paid to any enthusiasm for an afternoon walk. Made for Ellsworth and joined several other rigs for the night at the Waldorf.
12 September – Another night passed in 4 star luxury at the Waldorf. A bit cooler this morning with a bit of fog which had cleared by the time we were ready to set sail. Our first stop was a visit to Fort Knox – not the one housing the nation’s gold – that is in Kentucky – but a small granite structure intended to protect the Penobscot River settlements from British naval attack. It was started in the 1840’s and building continued for 25 years. When work was finally stopped in 1869 it was still not completely finished. It had a huge number of cannon emplacements. Originally it was built for the smaller 32 pound cannons, complete with furnaces to heat the cannonballs so that they would set the enemy ships on fire when they landed on the deck, but these were never used as before the fort was completed a more sophisticated type of cannon had been developed. This was the Rodman which was capable of firing a heavier ball over greater distance of 3 miles. These were huge guns with a 15in bore using a 450 pound ball and needed 12 men to load the cannon. Size wise, the fort was much smaller than those at Halifax or Louisbourg, but still a great feat of engineering ingenuity.
To get to the Fort we had to cross an amazing suspension bridge over the Penobscot River, with the country’s highest bridge observation tower – the lift to the top of the tower was closed for repair so sadly we couldn’t go up to the top for the view.
Carried on down the coast road to Camden, a nice little port town although very touristy. While wandering along the dock, we came across several sailing ships which were offering cruises; after a little deliberation decided we would go on the sunset cruise which gave us just enough time to check if we could stay at the Waldorf a short distance away in Rockfield. GPS Sally took us to the site of an extinct Walmart and the new tenants didn’t want us to stay, but just opposite was a Home Depot (US answer to Bunnings) so we gave them a try and they were fine for us to stay.
Back into Camden to catch our ship – a nice 86ft two masted wooden schooner – looked old but was built in 1978. She has sailed around the world and now spends her days between Camden in the summer months and Key West in Florida for the winter. A crew of three guided us out through the harbour and around the coast of Penobscot Bay. A beautiful time of day, with only wispy clouds and a slight breeze although it did get a bit cool on the way back. We had a lovely sunset which strangely transformed the eastern horizon from clear blue through to reds, pinks and mauves – quite breathtaking. The sea was beautifully calm and if it was always that calm I could quite easily take to sailing.
13 September – Must say that the Home Depot is a step up from the Waldorf – we may try another one in our travels further down the line. Treat for the day was the Owls Head Transportation Museum and their special car and antique aircraft action day. The museum had another stunning display of early vehicles and wonderful planes. We got to watch several of the older aircraft soar into action and spent the whole day taking in the exhibits. With a Rockefeller listed as one of the founding members and of the trustees, it is no wonder it is such an impressive museum. They also had a vehicle of choice for this show which was Porsche, so there were a lot of modern Porches as well as Volvos, MG’s (LH drive so they didn’t look quite right) and many other sports cars on display. The museum had also recently been donated a collection of 28 MG’s including several rare models. The MC nearly fell off his chair when a modern three-wheeled Morgan came in (it would have been nice to spoil his day and tell him how many of the original version the club has at home.) There were not many of the brass era vehicles which were having a large rally in the area and were expected to be on show at this event. Thanks to Pat and John (our new friends from Australia) who recommended a visit to this museum, as it hadn’t really featured on our radar.
Needless to say, with that visit taking up most of the day we didn’t get very far from Campden, ending up at Thomaston and another Waldorf. Sampled their hot rotisseried chicken for dinner which was really quite tasty and at only $4.95 was good value – big enough to have another meal for tomorrow. The rain which had been threatening all afternoon finally arrived and dropped the temperature a little more. Might need to break out the thermals soon!
14 September – After mulling through the maps and guide books, we set off for the Maine Marine Museum in Bath – the book said you would need 2 hours – we took the better part of 4 hrs and probably didn’t see everything. While we were there, a bus tour group came and went in no more than 20 minutes! This museum was based at old wooden ship building yards and centred around the building of the wooden schooners in the late 1800’s right up until 1920. Bath was an impressive place – around 30 ship building yards in days gone by and today it is home to a huge iron works yard building the new generation of smaller US Naval ships. The displays centred around the trade routes out of Maine, the lobster fishing, the boat building and period housing. From the very yard where the museum is sited the last and largest of the wooden schooners, the Wyoming, was built in 1909 at a cost of $162,000. With six masts, each 170ft high and a deck length of over 350 feet, it was a massive ship as displayed by the full-scale on-site sculpture, and was built and ready for sailing in just 9 months from start to finish. It was the world’s largest wooden schooner. It was primarily used as a coal delivery vessel and could hold 6,000 tons. The run down the coast to Virginia to load the coal and back to Maine would take a month. At times when the ship was being built there were upwards of 250 men working in the yard – covering all the trades from lumbermen, blacksmiths, carpenters, painters etc.
With the day nearly over by the time we got out of the museum, headed off in search of our next nightly stopover. Went through Brunswick and left the coast heading towards Pownal; just outside of the small settlement of Gray we found a trailhead on public lands which looked suitable, so stopped and parked up for the night.
15 September – Glorious clear start to the day but wow the temperatures have certainly dropped. First off, took the trail from where we were parked – met local man, outdoor guide Brooke, who had come to walk his gorgeous dog and walked the trail with him. Yet another American with impeccable taste – he had visited NZ in March this year and had also visited previously in earlier years – he was a keen fisherman and had really enjoyed our back country and fishing streams.
Another local hiker we met suggested that we visit Pinelands which was just down the road – it was originally a mental hospital but had closed down many years ago and the buildings had got quite run down. It got rejuvenated a few years ago, the buildings refurbished, a dairy farm, creamery and hothouses established and now it is a thriving place. All sorts of hiking, skiing and snowshoeing trails as well as a lovely indoor market selling all their homegrown produce. Did a small walk which was quite cute – every 100 metres or so there was a page from a kids story book written by a local author and the big kids just couldn’t resist reading them.
Headed north from here through Oxford, Norway and Paris, following a very pretty scenic route skirting the edge of the White Mountains and climbed a little higher to run again into the Appalachian Trail where it crossed the highway and a pleasant chat with several more ‘all the way’ trail hikers. Stopped en route to have a small walk to a lovely waterfall – had it been a warmer day a swim in one of the many clear pools would have been nice and refreshing.
Passed over the Grafton Notch and found a parking area near a trail which was suitable for overnighting. At the slightly higher altitudes we are getting to see a bit more colour in the leaves. When walking up to the falls, was thinking how nice it was to walk in these northern areas as you don’t have to worry about snakes when lo and behold what was right beside me on the track – a snake! Only a small one – about 18 ins long and about the thickness of a finger – it didn’t want to move away and seemed completely disinterested in us.
16 September – A bit of a cold wet start so we weren’t in a hurry to get moving. Had no visitors overnight – not even a moose. Continued our travels through the White Mountains on a variety of scenic roads. Another European tour today, passing through Milan and Berlin. Very nice road following the Androscoggin River, a lazy tree lined river which travelled first through a fairly narrow valley then it opened out to a more rural outlook.
There are a lot of trees in this area and the first ones to start changing colour are the maples; they look pretty against the dark green of of the evergreen pines and firs. Some nice scenic overlooks on the road with sweeping views over the valleys to the mountains. Went past Mt Washington but the cloud was quite low and so the top not very visible and the auto route up there not really an option. The towns in this area are geared to the winter season and quite touristy. Picked up a few essentials in Conway and then it took quite a long time to finally find a place to stop overnight. This area is populated – not densely but just a string of small villages or ribbon development with not a lot of empty space between them. Finally came upon a sign indicating a hiking trailhead near Moultonborough which had a decent area for us to park, with no restrictive signage, so made that our lonesome home for the night.
17 September – A bit of low cloud and fog cleared reasonably quickly, so we made a circular route through the White Mountains – firstly with a northwards dash on the Interstate 93 to Lincoln and then on to one of the not to be missed roads in the US – the Kancamagus Highway. What a pretty route that was – it followed the Pemigewasset and Swift Rivers from West to East, with some stunning views along the way.
Did a couple of short hikes along the way. Were particularly enjoying the peace and quiet of the forest to have it rudely interrupted by army helicopters and the grumble of fighter jets. We went back through Conway and Glen and then hit another scenic route back East to West through the middle of the White Mountains ranges. Went past Mt Washington, from the other side this time, and at Bretton Woods – the venue of the famous wartime conference of world leaders which resulted in the establishment of the World Bank and the IMF – stood the famous Mt Washington Hotel on a superb site with a backdrop of the major mountains of the eastern states. The white landau carriage drawn by a pair of grey horses along the hotel driveway as we viewed the scene was a nice touch. A mile down the road stood the base station for the mountain cog railway, the first such facility ever to be built and still in regular use, but at $60 each for a trip to the peak, a little outside our budget.
Our stop for the night is just a little further down the road at a National Forest Service dispersed camping area at Twin Mountain. The area is up a small road and has 11 sites spaced about 200 metres apart where you can stay for free for up to 14 days. We found one where we could get reasonably level and although it is in the trees it was a bit more open than others. Down the back of the site we have a little stream and supposedly bears and moose for company. It is good to have reliable internet on hand again – makes it easier to do our research on our future travel routes, to listen in to Radio NZ so that we can follow what is happening back home and check up on our emails.