My life has a superb cast but I can't figure out the plot.
~ Ashleigh Brilliant

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Vacation: Rockport, Camden, Mt. Muffin :-)

Well sheesh, I didn't intend to abandon my blog for so long, but September has been the pits, and my few attempts to write posts felt more like slogging than blogging. Let's see if I can get my groove back and finish my vacation posts... which are nearly done (honest!)

Vacation Day #8

The day after our 4th of July Belfast sailing adventure was spent on good old terra firma in the lovely adjacent towns (originally a single village) of Rockport and Camden, which boast the prettiest harbors in Maine. It was a day mainly of relaxed recon since we'd be returning to both towns for further exploring, shopping and sailing in a couple of days. But we also managed to squeeze in quite a hike at day's end!

Our first stop was Rockport Harbor, which surprised us with these old lime kilns (they're on the National Register of Historic Places, but we didn't know anything about them before coming upon them next to the marina parking lot)...

The sign above my head reads:

These kilns were used to convert limestone rock into lime, used to make mortar and finish plaster. Throughout the nineteenth century, Rockport and other area towns were the major suppliers of lime to East coast markets.

The kilns you see were housed in wooden buildings, most of which were damaged or destroyed in the Great Fire of 1907. The local lime industry never recovered. The kilns are the last surviving physical evidence of Rockport Harbor's industrial past.

The train engine is a replica of those that hauled limestone from the inland quarries to the kilns...

Historic lime kilns weren't the only Surprise that Rockport had in store for us! :-) ...

Built in 1918, the schooner Surprise is listed on the National Register of Historic Places too! We don't know what she was doing "on the hard" at Rockport Marine, but BW was excited to see her there. She is a handsome boat, and fellow fans of Master and Commander will enjoy her name as we did! :-)

Wonder if they intended for her to match the buildings? ;-)

Next we were on to Camden where we explored some neighborhoods, the harbor, and a few downtown shops including The Smiling Cow (not to be confused with the ever-helpful Happy Cow), which generously provides a back deck overlooking the lovely harbor, along with complimentary tea and coffee. We passed on the beverages, but sure enjoyed drinking in the view...

I've loved Camden since I first laid eyes on it during an Autumn camping trip to Acadia as a college sophomore. And Camden was the hometown of one of my favorite poets, Edna St. Vincent Millay, who moved there from nearby Rockland in 1900 at the age of 18. Humor me a moment while I share one of my favorite Millay poems, one I think is especially relevant in our times, titled Siege ~

This I do, being mad:
Gather baubles about me,
Sit in a circle of toys, and all the time
Death beating the door in.

White jade and an orange pitcher,
Hindu idol, Chinese god --
Maybe next year, when I'm richer,
Carved beads and a lotus pod --

And all this time
Death beating the door in.

After our in-town explorations, we went to 5,700+ acre Camden Hills State Park (CHSP) and drove up Mt. Battie for the views of Camden Harbor. A short walk from the parking lot takes you to Mount Battie's stone tower...

Designed by Parker Morse Hooper, one of Camden's summer residents, it was built in 1921. A plaque set in stone near the tower commemorates the poem that launched Millay's career as a poet (winning 4th place in a contest and a scholarship to Vassar), Renascence, which begins...
All I could see from where I stood
Was three long mountains and a wood;
I turned and looked the other way,
And saw three islands in a bay.

Millay is said to have written Renascence while enjoying the view from Mt. Battie's summit, a view that's even more commanding from the top of the 26' tall tower, reached by an interior spiral staircase...

A very nice couple (accompanied by a dog appropriately named "Camden") offered to take our photo for us, with Camden Harbor in the background...

While we stood atop the tower, this float plane flew overhead. You don't see one of those very often (especially out here in Wyoming!) and its bright yellow looked pretty against the blue sky, so I thought it made for a good photo-op...

Our plan after Mount Battie was to return to Searsport via dinner at one of Belfast's vegan friendly restaurants, but had no luck when we called to see if any were open for dinner on that Monday holiday. So we decided to stay in CHSP and do some more hiking before dark. We chose the first trailhead parking lot we found, and as we were studying the trail map to decide which trail to take in the fading daylight, a lone hiker came down the trail to the parking lot. We asked his advice and he said Ocean Lookout was a fairly long, hard climb but definitely worth it, and if we really "hucked it up the mountain" (a phrase new to us but with which we were immediately smitten and have adopted), we might be able to get up there and back before dark (the park closes at sunset, which was about 8:30, giving us a bit less than 90 minutes to complete our hike and be out of there). We decided what the heck, and began hucking it up the Megunticook trail. :-)

It was hot, muggy and buggy, and it was a tough climb in parts, but were we ever rewarded at Ocean Lookout with a cool breeze (actually more of a gale-force wind, but it sure felt good!) and an awesome view! The pink arrow is pointing to the Mount Battie stone tower several hundred feet below us (I took the photo with my zoom)...

Pity it was hazy, and though the golden, fading light of the setting sun was beautiful it made photography tough. But you can see me trying not to be blown off my rock perch, with Camden Harbor and Curtis Island below...

BW salutes the beautiful sunset and scenery with his beloved blue LL Bean shirt...

We'd only eaten a light picnic lunch, had missed dinner, it was late and we'd done a good amount of walking and hiking all day, so we were hungry! (Hucking it up a steep trail burns some serious calories!) Fortunately, Janet had packed a couple of her Confetti Muffins for us to take along and we had toted them along with us. So we enjoyed our muffins in what very well may have been the prettiest and most peaceful spot in Maine that evening...

We figured out later that we were only about 85 vertical feet below the summit of Mount Megunticook, but having no idea what mountain we were on at the time we called it "Mount Muffin." You know, Megunticook is Penobscot for "muffin." (Actually, it's Penobscot for either "great sea swells" or "a stream below a height (or mountain)," depending on which definition found on the internet you choose! I, of course, choose "muffin.") :-)

So captivated were we with the view, the cool breeze, the sunset and our muffins that we nearly forgot we had to huck it back down the trail, now in near darkness, and scoot out the park gate in less than half an hour! We made it back to the car at 8:25, and out the gate right at 8:30. I don't know if they closed the gate behind us or let it remain open a while longer, but cutting it that close made the whole thing a particularly fun adventure and a bit of an adrenaline rush, as we contemplated spending the night in CHSP in our bitty little Nissan Versa, aka "the Vespa," which would have been awfully uncomfortable. (So I'm glad we didn't huck that up! LOL)

Coming up next: Return visits to Belfast, Rockport and Camden, with more new stuff to see!


  1. The kilns, stone tower and views are all amazing! I'm so glad to see you up & blogging again, Laurie. It's certainly been a rough month for you!

  2. Thanks so much, Molly! It's good to be back, in spite of it all! :-) xoxo to you!

  3. I really enjoyed this post. The hiking story was fun even though I had gotten a preview on the phone. My favorite part was the Kiln. Thanks for writing what was on the sign. I was particulary enchanted with it being a lime kiln. Today we used Portland cement and I heard a fun story when we were visiting Mont St Michel in France. Apparently the original building was built using a lime cement but in the 60's (or thereabouts) when they did repairs, they used the modern Portland cement. But very shortly, it started to disintegrate and they had to start all over with lime. I can't recall now what the reason it didn't work was but I was pretty impressed with a cement that held up 500 years!!
    Anyway, in case the whole lime thing was on my account - thanks because I was very interested!!!

  4. Jo ~ Thanks for letting me know how much you enjoyed this post, and particularly the bit about the kilns. I didn't actually share that on your account exclusively (I just thought it was interesting), but am not surprised to hear that the civil engineer among us would find it particularly germane! :-) And I loved the story you shared about new Portland Cement not measuring up to Old School Lime at Mont St. Michel. I think that is more and more often the case... just because it's new, doesn't mean it's better quality, and sure doesn't mean it's built to last!

  5. Ok, so how did I miss this?

    The views from Camden and Rockport are certainly a treat for the eye, and I'm sure the spirit...taking in all that beauty and interest.

    I love the shot of you and BW atop the tower...what a couple of cuties!...if you don't mind me saying so! :)

    I can't believe you skipped dinner, and did all that hiking! I'd be like: um, no way, food or bust!...I'd probably be eating the bark off the trees or something.

    Fair play to you! You must have been famished...I bet those muffins tasted extra extra good!

    That sunset looks like pure bliss!

    Glad you didn't get stuck though, might not have been too blissful trying to sleep in a cramped little vehicle or on damp ground.

  6. Rose ~ Oh it was a real treat indeed, you'd have loved it! Wish you could have been there too!

    Thank you for your sweet compliment ~ we really like that photo too (we have so very few of us together!) And it's kind of you to say we're a couple of cuties! What, us mind? Gracious, no. Say it as often as you wish. ;-)

    I'm usually all about the food too, believe me! But I think the heat and humidity suppressed my normally hearty appetite, at least till we hit that cool and vigorous breeze on Mount Muffin! And you're quite right, the muffins tasted especially delicious! (Your remark about eating the bark off trees reminded me of the Euell Gibbons Grape Nuts commercials from, what, the 1970's? "Ever eat a pine tree? Many parts are edible!" (Sheesh, what critical piece of info did THAT meaningless minutia displace, I wonder? Where I left my car keys, most likely!)

    We were glad not to have to spend the night, believe me! Though what awesome blog fodder THAT would have provided! :-)

  7. Hey Tex-
    I love this post. My fave thus far of all your vacation stories. I've taken day trips to Camden Rockport...but not hiked the CHSP and see that I must.
    I love your photos...the first one of Surprise from the stern, the airplane, and the wonderful views from Mt Muffin. :)

  8. LOL, I remember the Grape Nuts commercials. My mom bought some once, and I couldn't believe how hard they was like eating a tree. I went back to my Cheerios.

  9. Sue ~ How fun to know that this is your favorite of all my vacation posts! I am so glad that you enjoyed it! And yes, huck thyself up to CHSP post haste, my dear!! You'd love it, and I hear this is the BEST time of year to hike there! You probably already have plans for the weekend (and let's hope they don't involve working!), but this is also the weekend of Searsport's "Fling into Fall" festival, should you want to take advantage of that and pay Searsport a visit while you're in the neighborhood. :-)

    I'm always homesick for New England at this time of year, and look forward to having more time to visit your blog... you will no doubt have lots of outstanding Autumn photos! You're certainly far outpacing me in the photography know-how department!

    Rose ~ LOL, well if you didn't like the extreme crunch of Grape Nuts, I don't think tree bark for dinner would have been a big hit. You might have had to content yourself with moss or leaves or something. :-) I actually liked Grape Nuts - they were a favorite of Mom's, so we always had them around - but never cared for Cheerios. So you and I wouldn't have been fighting over the breakfast cereal as kids! ;-)


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  • THE HUMANE GARDENER ~ Nancy Lawson
  • THE WORLD WITHOUT US ~ Alan Weisman

There is still strong in our society the belief
that animals and the natural world have value
only insofar as they can be converted into revenue.
That nature is a commodity.
And that the American dream is one of unlimited consumption.
There are many of us, on the other hand,
who believe that animals and the natural world
have value by virtue of being alive.
That Nature is a community to which we belong
and to which we owe our lives.
And that the deeper American dream is one of unlimited compassion.

~John Robbins, "The Food Revolution"

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