Sunday, December 13, 2015

The "West Coast" of Maine June 22-Jul 5

We left Bangor with our functioning horn and got onto Rte 2 for our cross-state haul to Bethel ME.  Located almost at the border with New Hampshire and entirely landlocked, they call themselves the West Coast of ME and we were going to the Bethel Outdoor Adventure and Campground right on the Androscoggin River.

Our drive was lovely and much what my concept of ME was.  Pine trees. Rivers. Pine trees.  Long stretches of road. Pine trees. Small towns. And pine trees. It was warm enough that when we weren't on the highway that we'd have the windows open and the smell of the pine forests was intoxicating.

As we drove westward clouds loomed on the horizon but never rained more than a sprinkling.  We drove through or past signs for the towns named after the countries of Europe and South America- Norway, Mexico, Peru... and then past the waterfalls in Rumford before finally getting to Bethel where we were given a beautiful spot facing the river.  Mainly an adventure business, providing kayak and rafts for riding down the river the Bethel Outdoor Adventure and Campground was a great base for our day trips.
Early morning on the Androscoggin from our campsite

Early morning mist on the river and ...
in the campground

The hanging bridge that goes from the campground over to the little island in the river

Stands of birch are scattered around the campsite but one of them...

 had an All Seeing Eye.

Sunsets were both sublime and...


On several afternoons we would hear a buzzing sound in the sky which was then followed by the sight of a guy flying this parachute over the campground.  There was an airfield nearby so we figured he was coming in and out of there but each time I ran for my camera he was too far away.  Finally, I got a shot of him and this time he seemed to have a passenger. 

Our first expedition was to Hebron Academy in Hebron ME where both Don and his younger brother, Doug,  had gone to school but also for me to see Bev Leyden, who is the widow of my former headmaster at Good Hope School on St Croix.  John Leyden took GHS school from its first year and started the development of a school that would have graduates going to the best universities in the states by the time the first class graduated 2 years later.  I always chuckle when people ask me with concern on their faces how we received an education on St Croix.

 Seeing Bev again after more than 40 years was very exciting.  Not only did she give us a fantastic tour of the school-including a viewing of the massive painting of the campus Doug did as his senior project-but she'd invited us to lunch.  We followed home where we gorged ourselves on delicious food and then spent hours taking about old times and catching up on family news.  Having visited with former students and loving meeting them as adults, it was just as exciting to meet and "older grown up" and be able to share.

Our trip back to Bethel took decidedly LESS time since this time I paid attention to the Google maps so we didn't miss a turn and go for MILES out of the way.

That's me with Bev Leyden.  What a wonderful day it was!
Hebron Academy main building
Driving back to Bethel
Red barn by the road

Our campground hostess had told us about the 1/2 price pizza night at one of the local cafes so we took advantage of it and liked it so much we returned and went to another place which also offered half price night.  Both the Suds Pub (in the Sudbury Inn)  and The Millbrook Tavern & Grille (downstairs at The Bethel Inn Resort) were fun and the food -although we diverted from the 1/2 price menu-was good.  Suds Pub had excellent service and was fun.  It's a sports bar which I normally don't like but not loud as they tend to be. The food was excellent.  The Tavern was beautiful since you sit in a room surrounded by windows, the service was excellent as well and the food very good. The one place that was a bit of a disappointment was Rooster's Roadhouse which was friendly and had been highly recommended but left both of us (we had different dinners) with  a feeling of having consumed too much grease for 2 days.

The pizza I had that was better than any I ever had in NY-sorry New Yorkers

Since 1970, when I met Don, he has talked about his boyhood summers at a camp in ME.  In Bethel we were only 45 minutes away from Camp Kahwanee so we went on another expedition, this time to see the camp.  It was quite interesting as, although there are some new buildings and there had been a fire in 1976, Don was able to walk around and point out his cabins, where they sailed and canoed- same place still-and where they played sports and so little has changed. So often when we return after many years gone we are disappointed by the changes that have been rendered or differ from our childhood memories but this was a real trip down memory lane that did not disappoint.  Two people ended up showing us around and were interested to hear Don's memories of the camp 50 years ago as well.

Each of the cabins is named after something in nature.  This one is Eagle
Of course, I got very involved in trying to capture photos of the numerous bullfrogs that inhabited the pond
The Crow's Nest held many memories
as did the lake where they canoed, kayaked and sailed

On our way to Bethel we'd driven through Rumford and noticed the waterfalls so one day we drove back over to see them.  The area by the falls is nicely done and includes a memorial to former Governor, US Senator and Secretary of State (and presidential contender) Edmund Muskie who was born here.  The Rumford Falls (AKA Pennacook Falls) have a drop of 176 feet making them the highest falls east of Niagara Falls though they comes down in steps.  They are beautiful and a nice stop along Rte 2. 

Rumford Falls
The park with silhouette renderings of Androscoggin peoples 
Memorial to E.S. Muskie
below the falls is a dam and the rest of the drop

We hiked at Sunday River Ski Area one day and I learned a hard lesson about layering.  The day was cool but with a brilliant blue sky and in July, as it happens, days get hotter, especially when one is involved with climbing a mountain.  Laden with my camera I had neglected to bring a water bottle and was parched and hot.  No matter, it was a nice climb and I rewarded both of us at the base with icy cold ice creams.  

These are the hoses that bring the water to create snow for the mountain when there isn't enough.  These are ready to be hooked up for the winter...
these are still waiting and there were hundreds of them laid out

Our hike was punctuated with fields of summer wildflowers,

cool mountains streams,

views of the mountain and ski lifts,

and wild alpine strawberries.  Yum!

One of our most spectacular outings was to the set of falls along Rte 26 in Grafton Notch State Park.  Screw Auger Falls, Mother Walker Falls and the Moose Cave Gorge were all beautiful though different.  Screw Auger was the most impressive as the rocks have been carved out by the water to resemble a screw auger.  Along the way we also stopped at the Artist's Covered Bridge.  It's a well maintained covered bridge but did not hold the same fascination for me as the one (Bedell Covered Bridge)  at my grandmother's old house in So. Newbury VT which spanned the Connecticut River and when stood upon in the middle we could straddle the border between Vermont and New Hampshire-something that children from an island in the middle of a sea found to be almost like magic.

Artist's Bridge

Trickling Stream at Mother Walker Falls

Trickling water through rocks and moss at Moose Cave Gorge.  Fairies I am sure live here!

The boulders at Moose Cave Gorge were spectacular

covered with moss
with hidden pools

and one even bearing an uncanny resemblance to my belly :-)


The following photos are at Screw Auger Falls

Orange dandelions

As I stood trying to focus on one of the smaller falls this butterfly flew over and parked himself right in front of my feet and set there while I photographed him

On our penultimate day in Bethel we crossed over the state line into New Hampshire for a drive through part of the White Mountains and then a visit to Kristen, one of my former students who'd come to the BBQ at Conny's and invited us to visit.  We hiked and drove and stooped to gape and then ate a delicious meal that kept us satisfied on the drive back over the mountains with a full moon rise happening in front of us.

We stopped in Crawford Notch to look at Mt Washington,

and enjoy the beauty of a mountain stream
When we stopped at the Androscoggin Ranger Station to gather materials and view the exhibits, I took a moment to read the conditions at Mt Washington.  One of the couples at our campground had been leaving in the morning on their motorcycle which they planned to ride to the top.  They each had a leather jacket and light cotton pants.  I suggested they might want to take something warmer since I am personally acquainted with how frigid it can be up there.  I convinced them that it was probably a little cooler than the 50 degrees they thought they'd encounter.  Yes, the temp that day was 32F/0C and I hope they ended up enjoying their ride and visit.  
Hiking along the river we stopped to watch a couple fly fishing.  His lure had caught in a tree and he was having a heck of a time untangling the line but she was casting away though we didn't stay long enough to see if she caught anything.

This is how nature adapts.  This birch tree is lying horizontally over the Peabody River.  The roots, part of them at least are still attached to the shore.
Phoenix made herself RIGHT at home in Kristen's kitchen.  Always ready for anything that falls...

As we drove out of Lancaster, heading east the moon rose over the mountains.  Magical.

And so after two weeks our sojourn in western Maine ended a month in a beautiful state.  Early on the morning of July 5 we packed up and headed west to VT and the shores of Lake Champlain.

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