A few weeks ago I got into the swing of the “stay-cation” when I played tourist in Eastport, Maine. I had a wonderful time “vacationing” where I live so I decided to expand on the theme and took a day trip to Lubec, Maine (known to locals as “Lubec, America”).
Lubec is the eastern most point in the United States, has about 1700 residents in an area of almost 70 square miles and was part of Eastport until 1811.
Winding roads lead through thickly forested areas and blueberry barrens to bring you out to breathtakingly dramatic and sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean. Sheer rock face, pebble beaches, and rocky outcrops thick with fir trees made me realize Lubec is part of the area known as the “Bold Coast” for a very good reason.
My friend Rose was up to another day spent exploring Downeast Maine.
“I don’t scare easy,” she said. I noticed she brought along bug spray after our last outing to Moosehorn Wildlife Refuge in Baring, Maine though.
So Rose and I set off down bumpy Route 189 into Lubec America and we were off on another adventure. Follow us on our “stay-cation” and see just some of what Lubec has to offer her visitors.
Our first stop was Lubec Historical Society and Visitor Center (located on Route 189). The Historical Society is housed in the former Columbia Store which served the workers at the Columbia Sardine Packing Plant in the first half of the 20th Century.
A replica of the store operates as a museum with items on the shelves complete with price tags. It’s an interesting glimpse into the days where choices were few and “credit” meant paying on the next payday. Besides, it’s interesting to think of buying a “parlor organ” for $17.00, isn’t it?
Tours of Lubec and Cobscook can be arranged through the historical society and certainly these tours offer something for everybody: history, art, lighthouses, and ice age bogs to name a few. For more information, please visit their website. Admission to the museum is free.
Next we were off to visit two wildly interesting places. First order of business: the R.J. Peacock Canning Company Sea Urchin and Echinoderm Hatchery, which is the only green sea urchin hatchery in the country.
Yes, you read that correctly. It’s a sea urchin hatchery.
At this point you may be scratching your head and asking yourself, “why?” and that’s easily answered. According to Hank Stence, who manages the hatchery, sea urchins were being seriously over harvested. Sea urchins are a delicacy in the Japanese markets (urchins are called “uni”) and it’s easy to see how demand could soar once this niche market was discovered.
The hatchery is almost hidden away in an unprepossessing building at 72 Water Street. Hank kindly agreed to give us a tour and it’s obvious he’s passionate about sea urchins and other echinoderms (starfish, sea cucumbers, and sand dollars).
The hatchery is a sort of artificial insemination factory for urchins with the hope of becoming a viable source for restocking and aquaculture.
I learned the process is complex and the urchins are highly dependent on water temperature for successful growth from the larval stage to adulthood. Bacteria is a threat to the urchins and Hank must be on the lookout for such dangers, seven days a week.
Tank after tank of sea urchins in all stages of development. After one year an urchin may range in size from a pen nib to a whopping one inch across. Hank told us about how he and two others spent six hours counting out 4,000 juvenile urchins for a research project to track their development in the wild. If you can see it, the juvenile urchin is at the tip of the paintbrush (now just imagine counting out 4,000 of them!).
Here’s a question for whomever knows the answer: What is the history, if any, behind the name of a certain street known as “Horror Hill”?
Rose and I headed out for some hiking but we took a detour on Boot Cove Road, which is on the way to West Quoddy Head Light. We went to Quoddy Head but I’m saving that adventure for another post.
What a hidden gem this place is! There are three short trails and one descends through meadow flowers and forest and deposits you on a pebble and sand beach. The beach isn’t large but the most interesting thing was almost all the rocks were black, shiny, round or had very rounded edges. I enountered a woman searching for sea glass and even the glass she had found was worn round.
Earlier I said Rose and I went out to West Quoddy Head at Quoddy Head State Park. It’s beautiful, spectacular and deserving of its own entry in the series of “Exploring Downeast Maine”. I promise I’ll get to it just as soon as I get a good night’s sleep.
Lubec is a wonderful town with so much to see and do, we could have spent several days and not seen it all. Thank you to everyone who made our “stay-cation” an unqualified success and a tremendous amount of fun!