“Stay-cation”: Lubec, America

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.

Welcome to Lubec, America

Welcome to Lubec, America

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!).

A juvenile sea urchin

A juvenile sea urchin

The other really interesting thing was the tank of albino sea cucumbers.  Sea cucumbers are a delicacy in the Chinese market and just one look will just make the dinner bell ring (hmm):
Albino sea cucumber

Albino sea cucumber

Right next door to the hatchery is Quoddy Mist, a sea salt factory owned and operated by Clayton Lank. 
Quoddy Mist is starting their fourth season in the sea salt business and is growing by leaps and bounds. 
Clayton gave us the tour of his facility and explained the process,  but in a nutshell making sea salt is a bit like making maple syrup.  It takes 44 gallons of sea water to make one gallon of brine.  One gallon of brine yields three pounds of salty heaven.
Clayton took his time in perfecting his 16 varieties of sea salts and it’s paid off.  His gourmet blends and sea vegetable blends grace stores such as Whole Foods stores in Massachusetts and Maine,  Fairway Markets in New York and white tablecloth restaurants across New England. 
Trace minerals are what separate Quoddy Mist from many other brands of sea salt.  The plain and garden blends contain 20% trace minerals and the sea vegetable blends boast 30% trace minerals.
m-m-m, sea salt!

m-m-m, sea salt!

Clayton was kind enough to set out every variety he makes for us to sample, and sample we did.   From Cajun to Irish Moss, I munched down cucumbers sprinkled with nearly every variety he makes (followed up by a glass of water of course).
And me?  I went home with a jar of “Seven Seas”.
Quoddy Mist plans to turn out 20,000 pounds of salt next year and Clayton Lank is hoping for an investor to express an interest in his rapidly growing business.  In the meantime, Quoddy Mist has free daily tours of the facility 9 am to 5 pm daily (but Sundays it’s a good idea to visit in the afternoon). 
salt is raked into piles

salt is raked into piles

Now what is a “stay-cation” without chocolate?   I was positively joyful when I discovered not one but two chocolate shops in Lubec.  Monica’s Chocolates (56 Pleasant Street) and Bayside Chocolates  (37 Water Street) are both suppliers of heavenly, melt in your mouth creations.  Both provide samples before you purchase.
And might I humbly suggest Monica’s Needhams and Raspberry Wine Truffles and Bayside’s Puffin Nests and chocolate covered cherries?
Full of chocolate, Rose and I wandered into Northern Tides (24 Water Street) and admired a wide variety of pottery, handmade soaps and candles, paintings and other great gift ideas all made by Maine artisans.  I tried on a fabulous pair of mittens that honestly felt like slippers for your hands. 
Rose and I walked down to the waterfront and admired the view of nearby islands through an observational binocular set up (you know, the kind you usually have to put a quarter into in order to see anything). 
We walked the sea wall and noticed this marker that is the international boundary between the United States and Canada.  The bridge to Campobello, Canada is seen in the background.
International Boundary Marker

International Boundary Marker

 

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.

Back to Boot Cove Road:  we travelled perhaps a mile or two when I noticed a sign for the Hamilton Cove Preserve.

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!

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9 responses to ““Stay-cation”: Lubec, America

  1. I am guessing Horror Hill is so named because it is icy in the winter, leading to one short slide across Johnson Street and over the cliffs into the Johnson Bay?

  2. It would indeed be one short slide, thanks for commenting!

  3. Pingback: Quoddy Head State Park - Lubec, Maine « Living Downeast

  4. The rocks you have pictures of look like a type of Obsidian. Just thought I would throw that in there. Pretty smooth black rocks though. Like onyx. 🙂

  5. They are pretty, aren’t they? I brought home a pile of them and put them in an olive tray. Thanks for visiting, Niki : )

  6. They actually are probably just sea pebbles. Obsidian is a little thicker and comes from lava. But the shininess reminded me of obsidian. 🙂 I have sea pebbles that I got in Costa Rica and Italy that I use as decor around a candle. But yes they are very pretty!

  7. I almost bought a home on Horror Hill Lane and the owner told me that the lane originally extended down to Johnson Street but was closed off. Probably, as Lubecker states, because it was unsafe! Last August I did buy a home on the South Lubec Road that I fell in love with and am presently using as a weekly rental – Lubec Bay Cottage. Lubec is a wonderful place! I’ll have to try a Lubec “stay-cation” myself!

  8. Well, then that must settle it as far as Horror Hill goes. It is an interesting name for sure.

    I thought about Lubec too when planning my move Downeast but Eastport won my heart. Lubec is a great town and a wonderful place to staycation!

    Thanks for stopping by and come back “home” soon….

  9. In ancient times, this area had volcanic activity, so it is possible the black shiny (when wet) rocks are volcanic.

    The larger black rocks, oval and about the size to fit in the palm of your hand, make excellent ‘hot massage rocks’ and are much sought after by professionals on the West Coast to use when giving massages.

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