I grew up a Maine person. In Massachusetts, there are Cape Cod families, and Maine familes. When I was very young, we spent time at my grandfather’s beach house on Hough’s Neck. But when I got older, my Aunty Kay and Uncle Everett bought a camper and stayed at a seasonal site in Long Sands in York, ME. We were thrilled when we started getting invited to spend a week each summer.
Memories of fun, strictly speaking
I remember those mini-vacations as pure fun, even though my aunt was strict. When she said to be back on time for supper, you’d better be there, or you would not be coming back to Maine again. We usually stayed on the 4th of July week. On the holiday, the people who owned the campground had all kinds of contests for the campers and their kids; three-legged races, boiled egg relays, crab walks, costume contests to see who could dress most patriotically. And at night we could watch the fireworks over the beach, although at that young age I don’t remember seeing too many of them. I think my youngest brother probably stayed at home during those trips, but it no doubt gave my mother a bit of a break. We also got to visit with our cousin Jo-Ann. She spent many summers with us when my Aunt Joan wasn’t well.
Time to wander
At the young age of 9 or 10, we’d wander the beach on our own, having promised not to get wet, and to be back in time for supper. An hour or two collecting shells and beach glass, and watching crabs in the tidal pools went by fast. If we got a ride, we’d head up to the arcade at Short Sands Beach and watch them making taffy at Goldenrod. Those days are a reflection of the way summer is supposed to be. Warm, sunny, with full days to wander, no responsibilities except staying safe and getting yourself home for dinner. The night would end by the fire, with us wrapped in blankets or snuggled into oversized sweatshirts, until we fell asleep and somehow made our way indoors.
Moving Inland a Bit
As we got older, my aunt and uncle bought a mobile home on a double lot about a mile or so from the beach. The kids (meaning us) slept in the screen room they had added on, or we’d pitch a tent and sleep in the woods. A leisurely walk to the beach was our daily goal if it wasn’t raining, with time for picking blueberries on our way back. Once I got my driver’s license, I was happy to drive to the beach or head to Ogunquit to shop, eat out, and see a show at the Playhouse. My cousin Pam, whose parents owned the mobile home, became a good friend of mine, even though she was a bit older, and in the late 80s, we both enjoyed many evenings out for dinner, shopping and on July 4th, we’d head to the beach with her son to watch the fireworks.
But when COVID hit this year, the border to Maine was closed to Massachusetts residents because our state was a hot spot. Not a happy event for us. Beth and I visit Maine no matter what time of year. We love to drive along the beaches, have breakfast at the Maine Diner, and spend time at our timeshare in Ogunquit. But here we were, looking to escape on weekends, and suddenly our favorite place was closed to us. Unless we wanted to quarantine 14 days or pay a $300/day fine. So we stayed home, all Spring and through the Summer. But about a month ago the border opened and our first thought was, “we can do our hike in Maine!”
Breakfast at Mount Agamenticus
We agreed with our hiking partner, Sandy, that we’d be heading to Mount A’s for a somewhat easy hike. But having researched the social distancing conditions and finding that the small parking lot was usually entirely filled by 10 am, it was going to be an early morning drive. We decided to stop at Stonewall Kitchen’s Company Store for breakfast before heading out. If you haven’t been to Stonewalls and aren’t familiar with their food, make a note for your next trip and you will not be disappointed. We went decadent and just got breakfast potatoes and maple sugar bacon.
They’ve got a huge store as well, but that was our destination AFTER our hike. So we climbed back into our cars and drove the 1 – 2 miles further north to Mount Agamenticus.
A foreign landscape and a fast-growing crowd
As we drove the winding and steep road to the top I had flashbacks to a trip we took up Mount Washington in a minivan. Definitely NOT as scary as that one where I spent most of the drive hiding my eyes and screaming, but still, a climb to be aware of. At the top, there were a few people, but we easily found a place to park. Trees without their leaves greeted us, and the fog was just rolling off the land that stretched out below. For some reason, I looked out and thought it seemed more desert than the forests of Maine.
Masks are required everywhere, but there is no admission fee, and plenty of picnic tables and benches to sit on for a leisurely breakfast. We watched the sun come up over the ocean and the beaches far below. There used to be a ski resort on this mountain, and you can still see some of the old lift equipment rusting slowly. In the year or two since we’d been up there last, a lot of work has gone on. New trails, bridges, switchbacks, and a much more accessible experience all around.
As we scraped up the last few drops of homemade ketchup and crunched the last few bits of sweet bacon, we decided we really did have to walk on this trip to call it a hike! We chose the simpler trail around the top of the mountain. Views everywhere were beautiful, but the crowd had already started building. We decided to walk the trail in reverse to avoid them. If you do head here, especially while social distancing is still a thing, and people are anxious to get out into nature, plan on arriving early. When we left, around 9:45, the parking lot was full, and there were probably a couple dozen vehicles or more parked at the bottom. People heading up were going to be sorely disappointed. In regular times, there is also an event space at the top of the mountain, and scavenger walks, as well as educational activities for the kids.
Time for Lunch at Beachfire Grill
Yes, while we planned for breakfast at Stonewall Kitchens, we knew that finishing our walk ahead of 11 am would mean we could drive just a bit further north to our favorite BBQ place, mentioned in my post about Honeycrisp Whiskey BBQ Sauce and my favorite BBQ restaurants – Beachfire Grill. They have plenty of outdoor seating, and while it was just slightly chilly, it was so worth it. We actually arrived ahead of them being ready, so wiped the morning dew off our own table, and settled in to chat for a bit. But once the huge firepit was lit, and our drinks and lunch were ordered, we were in our happy place. If you’re looking for local BBQ, great half-price burgers, $10 bottles of wine, great service, and a convenient location PLUS a firepit to warm you, this is a stop you have to make. Specials vary by day so check the menu, but this is our go-to every time we head to Maine. Don’t miss it.
But We Have to Stop at Stonewall!
Yes, even though access to Stonewall Kitchen’s Country Store is limited (they count people in and out) we knew we wanted to stop in one more time before we headed home. The selection is amazing, and pre-COVID you could taste pretty much everything they were selling. Tastings are no longer allowed though, and the huge round counter of jellies and jams to taste is gone. You can’t taste anything actually. But I’ve never had something there I didn’t like. And they’ve got cookware, kitchen gadgets, baking kits, and the most amazing selection of dish towels. Did I tell you we have a thing for dish towels? We buy then everywhere we go, and I have to say, when they rang up our purchases, along with the Pink Grapefruit Marmalade, Watermelon jelly, Horseradish Aoili sauce, and Bada Bing Cherry preserves, we had about $75 work of dish towels! Looking for unique gifts? This is the place, whether you go in person, or shop online.
Here’s Hoping Maine Stays Open.
I know the virus is spiking again. Thanksgiving plans to spend time with friends have been canceled for us for safetye’s sake. And with the election over but still up in the air (at least for our existing president) travel and being out and about is not easy. We’ve been staying local, but have hopes that Maine will continue to welcome us as travel once again shuts down. Whether we head there for Christmas, or try to spend New Year’s there (it’s been a tradition), or just try to recreate our February getaway weekend with our quartet, I am certain Maine is going to be in our future, just as it has in my past!
If you enjoyed reading this post, perhaps you’d enjoy a few other of my travel posts. Why not check out the most recent below?
- Shrimp and Corn Chowder with Marinated Artichokes
- Vegetable Barley Stew and a Walk Through the deCordova Sculpture Garden
- Pastitsio in Honor of a Friend
- Memories of Halloweens Past and a Wintery Halloween Walk
- Maine – The Border is Open Again