Maine Part III: Other Maine Coast Adventures
My parents and I landed in Boston on September 17th and then made our way northward through Massachusetts, New Hampshire and then into Maine. For the first night we decided to stay in Freeport, and since it was a spur of the moment decision I had to do some quick research on the area. I found three places of interest.
Freeport, Maine Parks
- Wolfes Neck Woods State Park, which is a small beautiful park situated at the end of a peninsula jutting out into the Atlantic. There was an impressive webbing of trail for such a small area and we were able to get our first views of the ocean during our short walk along the water.
- Audubon Mast Landing Sanctuary, which is a wooded swath of land set aside as habitat for birds. Mom and dad dropped me off at the entrance of this park and I did several miles of loops around the forested hillsides and lowland meadows. All the trails were blazed in blue markings painted on tree trunks. After exhausting the trails in the sanctuary, I decided to run through town and across highway 295 over to the third point of interest.
- Hedgehog Mountain is a 196-acre site owned by the city and is home to the highest point in Freeport. The trails wind through mature pine and hemlock forest. In addition to the natural rocky cliff-sides there are also remnants of old stonewalls scattered about the landscape.
Camden Hills State Park
En route to our cabin rental in Trenton on September 18th, we stopped in a small coastal town called Camden. While mom and dad explored the shops, I explored the trails of Camden Hills State Park. Fortunately I was able to find a small hidden trail into the park at the end of Megunticook Street and avoid the crowds at the main entrance. From here I made the steep short ascent to Mount Battie (842 ft). From this vantage point I had excellent views of Penobscot Bay as well as the town of Camden below.
I continued on from Mount Battie, trying my best to explore as much of the 5710-acre park as possible. I followed a series of trails that switch-backed up steep hillsides littered with jagged talus and twisting roots. The forest floor was alive with marginal wood-fern, cinnamon fern, bunchberries, gooseberries, and more. While the canopy was formed by Eastern White Pine, Red Oak, Mountain Maple, Spruce, and American Beech. The trail shifted in and out of the forest, breaking free of cover and onto large rock slabs overlooking the miles of forest in the distance. I reached the largest mountain in the park: Mount Megunticook (1385 ft) and then continued back down to Camden to meet up with my parents.
It worked out quite well; I completed a small loop and returned back to downtown Camden via the Battie trail. One minute I was in the middle of a dense forest on a mountaintop, and the next I was walking around a charming downtown street with a bay front view.
Quiet Side Destinations
On September 20th, our second day in Acadia, we decided to check out a few unique destinations on the Quiet Side of the national park.
- Wonderland Trail in Acadia NP is slightly shorter than Wonderland trail in Mount Rainier NP, but still worth the hike. We made the forested one-kilometer hike out to the rocky Atlantic shore and then spent some time taking in the views of the ocean.
- Bass Harbor Head Light Station was our first lighthouse destination of the trip. This is a 32-foot brick lighthouse with a fourth-order Fresnel lens.
North Coast Exploration
On September 21st we took a long drive northward along the coast of Maine, stopping at a few points of interest.
- Schoodic Point is the terminal point of the Schoodic Peninsula, and makes up 2,266 acres of Acadia National Park. The peninsula is four miles east of Mount Desert Island across Frenchman Bay. There is a scenic 7-mile drive that loops the peninsula with ocean views. We were able to identify Common Eiders and Great Black-backed Gulls during this outing.
- Wild Blueberry Land is billed as the world’s largest blueberry (see photo) and was one of my favorite random stops of the trip (corner of highway 1 and 187 in Columbia Falls). It is a large blue dome made to resemble a blueberry and inside there is a plethora of blueberry themed treats. My dad and I split a large homemade blueberry pie that may have been my favorite pie of all time.
- Our final stop on our great north coast exploration was the Great Wass Island Preserve. There was a very unique drive over a series of bridges to get to the preserve and once we arrived I was impressed with the curious array of vegetation. Dad and I were able to get out for a short walk to satisfy our curiosity. Because the waters of the Gulf of Maine and the Bay of Fundy meet at the island, they create a cool, humid climate, which shapes the unique vegetation. The island is home to several rare plant species including Maine’s largest stand of coastal Jack Pine. Additionally, the slope bogs, which formed on top of coastal bedrock, harbor baked-apple berry as well as carnivorous plants. Unfortunately we only had time to cover a fraction of the loop trail, but we were happy to see what we did.
Whale Watching Expedition
In the early morning of September 22nd we boarded a large vessel, which took us out through Frenchman Bay and into the Atlantic Ocean. Before even leaving Frenchman Bay we were fortunate enough to spot two or three Minke Whales with flocks of Northern Gannets and Great Black-backed Gulls dive-bombing the water overhead. As we made our way further out to sea we spotted several groups of Atlantic White-sided Dolphin. When we reached our terminal destination of Mount Desert Lighthouse on Mount Desert Rock we saw large groups of Grey Seals and Harbor Seals both swimming and sunning on the rocks. Additionally, there were large flocks of Red-necked Phalarope wading in the waters around the island. Mount Desert Lighthouse is unique in that it is farther offshore and more exposed than any other lighthouse on the east coast (18 nautical miles south of Mount Desert Island).
The tour guide, who studied at College of the Atlantic, was quite knowledgeable and provided insights as to the behavior and typical feeding areas of the various marine mammals. Additionally he alluded to the fact that the mountains of Mount Desert Island are the highest mountains along the Atlantic coast in North America. Looking at the island from the sea it was evident how similar each of the peaks were in relation to one another, even the smaller Cranberry Isles resembled the same shape as the mountains on Mount Desert. This is due to the glacial activity of 18000 years prior, which compressed the jagged granite to the current shape.
Though the glacier had the final say in the current look of Mount Desert Island, there are four layers of rock that make up the unique geology of the island. The first layer is Ellsworth schist, which is a metamorphic rock similar to slate and was formed by pressure and heat. The second layer is sedimentary rock called Bar Harbor Formation, which was formed due to deposits from ancient rivers that settled on top of the Iapetus Ocean. The third layer (Cranberry Island Series) was formed by a chain of volcanoes, which deposited ash on the floor of the ocean. The combination of these three layers formed an ancient continent called Avalonia (located between present day North America and Europe).
Plate tectonics caused Avalonia to collide with present day North America and Europe. The collision of landmasses led to the formation of a massive mountain chain with pools of magma, which created the fourth granite layer. Once this landmass (Pangea) broke apart, some of Avalonia stayed plastered to North America while some remained attached to Western Europe. Time, erosion, and glacial activity finished the creation of Mount Desert Island. On our way back to the shore, I tried to envision the geologic timeline of Acadia National Park.
Overall, I was overwhelmed with the beauty of Maine and was so happy that I was able to enjoy the trip in the company of my parents.