Tag Archives: maine

Parlor (Living room) rehab…under $1300?

I’ve been missing in action and I admit it.  However, I have something to show for my absence:  a 4.0 for the fall semester and a rehabbed parlor.

For those of you who aren’t sure what a parlor is…a parlor is an old fashioned word for a living room, of sorts.  It was a formal room used to entertain and is located in the front of a house; usually near the front door.

My parlor was in need of some TLC and when Uncle Sam donated some funds to my checkbook in February, I decided to get down to business.

I set a budget of $1400 including furniture (gasp!)  Could it be done?  You betcha; with a ton of elbow grease and some Yankee ingenuity.  Of course, Rose and Robert were rolling their eyes in anticipation of yet another one of my “projects, ” but they rolled up their sleeves and helped enormously (I cannot stress how helpful and wonderful, and patient they are).

So, what did I have to work with?  A room approximately 16′ x 14′ with a bay window, a casement window, and two doorways.  One door leads to the dining room and the other into the foyer.

Two years ago, after removing some 12 layers of wallpaper, I quickly painted the walls to hide what I didn’t want to face:  rough walls that were serviceable but gouged and patched.

The ceiling has those pressed paper tiles (think circa 1975) and missing tiles from a massive leak over the bay window – don’t even ask about that disaster. Robert and I came up with ceiling tiles to replace the missing ones and that was all it took.  I was on my way to a beautiful new parlor.

Oh, I forgot to mention the floor.  The floor was painted blue and I had no idea what was hiding underneath, but I was willing to take the chance.

Not the best picture to give you an idea of what I had to work with, that’s for sure.

I decided the ceiling was solid but not very attractive, so I headed to Sherwin Williams for heavy duty embossed wall covering and sweet talked Rose into helping wall paper the ceiling (yup, you read that right).  $65 for the wall covering and $5 for the adhesive and a lot of not so lady like words, but the results were fantastic!

Here’s the ceiling half finished; if you look carefully you’ll see the embossed paper on the right and the tiles on the left.

Next, good old Rosie agreed to help straighten out the walls.  Crumbling corners, gouges, you name it.  Take half a day,  $15 worth of drywall compound, two metal outside corners, some sandpaper and a lot of elbow grease and you wind up with something like this:

Sorry the photo is sideways, but you get the idea.

Now about the same time all this was going on, I’d borrowed a belt sander from a friend of Rose and Robert’s, just to see what was under the blue paint on the floor.  I found another layer of paint and two different stains.  Yikes!

Bound and determined, I spent close to 50 hours and $150 on my hands and knees before I decided to hang it up and rent an industrial floor sander ($85 with belts).  Robert ran the behemoth while I kept at it with the belt sander.  Again, well worth it; this is what was underneath all that paint and stain:

Home improvement stores seem to run really good sales right around tax refund time.  Home Depot was selling crown moulding, with free shipping, at a great price, so I happily ordered up $160 worth and cajoled Robert into putting it up for me.  Anyone who has seen me try to miter corners will understand my plight.

Two gallons of wall paint and a gallon of trim paint ($50) and it began looking like a room I could be proud of.

I agonized over the floor:  polyurethane?  stain with poly mixed in?  linseed oil?  I admit it–I’m not likely to sand the whole thing down every 4 or 5 years so poly was out and the floor was a beautiful color all on its own.

Enter laquer ($35).

Kids, do not try this at home in the winter.  It is the most rank, foul smelling stuff known to mankind.  It was February and I couldn’t open windows and doors for very long.

I’m telling you, I spent three days higher than a kite on this stuff, but it has its advantages:  fewer coats, 1 hour dry time, 24 hours before normal use, and no sanding or stripping required when high traffic areas are looking worn.  Simply slap some more on the surface and voila!  I’ll definitely use it again…in the summer.

I needed a ceiling light and had a good idea what I wanted, but as usual, I have champagne taste and a beer budget, so I headed to Ebay to see what I could find.

$19 and this little gem was all mine.  Of course it didn’t look quite like this, but a $3 can of brass metallic spray paint fixed it up.

The big dilemma, considering my budget, was furniture.  I am an absolute fan of overstock.com.  I spent hours, ruthlessly scouring the internet (and local stores) for furniture I liked and could afford.  $723, including shipping, netted me a sofa and loveseat in moss green microfiber suede.  Love it, love it, love it!

I had plenty of other “stuff” to add to my room, and I hope you’re as impressed as I am!

Bottom line?  $1310.  My least favorite room in the house is now my haven.   It’s peaceful and airy, bright yet soothing.  And  a fabulous use of my time except I wasn’t too sure as I lived like this for nearly 3 weeks:

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Quoddy Head State Park – Lubec, Maine

As part of a series on exploring Downeast Maine, I spent a day touring Lubec, Maine.  Lubec is a beautiful town and boasts dramatic scenery to rival any other and is working hard to preserve the natural beauty of the “Bold Coast”.

No trip to Lubec is complete without a visit to Quoddy Head State Park and West Quoddy Head Light which are located four miles off Route 189 (watch for the light house sign). 

On your way, keep an eye out for the “Sparkplug”, one of only three remaining cast iron lighthouses left in Maine.

The Sparkplug

The Sparkplug

 

Entering Quoddy Head State Park, the first sight visitors see is West Quoddy Head Light, perched atop a cliff, standing sentry to the often perilous waters of the cold, grey Atlantic.

West Quoddy Head Light

West Quoddy Head Light

There have been three lighthouses on this spot.  The first was made of wood in 1808 and for obvious reasons didn’t remain standing for too long.  The second was made of stone and was replaced in 1858 by the brick structure you see today.

West Quoddy Head Light just celebrated 200 years of lighthouses in the same location.  More than 1200 people attended the celebration and enjoyed tours of the tower, music, food, and the annual postal cancellation to celebrate the history of the lighthouse.

There’s a small museum found inside the former Light Keeper’s residence which provides visitors with a glimpse into the history of the lighthouse, its keepers, and the history of Lubec.  

The lighthouse has been unmanned since Malcolm Rouse closed the door behind him in 1988.  Operations are now fully automated and moisture in the air is what activates the fog horn and light.  Museum manager, Debora Bridges, smiled ruefully as she said, “There’s no need for people anymore.”

One can only imagine the lonely existence for the light keepers as they faced the choppy waters and the red cliffs of Grand Manan Island (Canada) miles off in the distance with the mournful cries of sea gulls for company.

There’s more to Quoddy Head State Park:  tables and grills for picnickers and four separate trails for hikers (and by now you know I love the trails). 

The trails take hikers along the coast, sometimes perilously close to the edges of cliffs and outcrops.  The views are stunning, dramatic, and bold.

Of considerable interest is the Bog Trail which is listed as a National Natural Landmark.  A boardwalk takes visitors through the ice age bog that’s been 8,000 years in the making.    There are signs marking rare plants such as sheep laurel and pitcher plant as well as subarctic species like the baked-apple berry, reindeer moss, and black crowberry.

Pitcher Plant

Pitcher Plant

The trails are, for the most part, very easy going and clearly marked. 

Quoddy Head State Park is open from 9:00 a.m to sunset, May 15-October 15.  The lighthouse and museum are free of charge although it is important to note the museum is staffed by volunteers and supported through donations.  The hiking trails are maintained through a very nominal park entry fee.

I have no qualms in saying no trip to “Lubec, America” is complete without a visit to Quoddy Head State Park. 

And one final note:  the fog and cool air can move in quickly along the coast so be sure to bring along a jacket, good walking shoes, and of course your camera.

“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!

Moosehorn Wildlife Refuge – Baring, Maine

I’ve driven by it dozens of times but never had the time to stop.  Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge in Baring covers a daunting 17,257 acres and over 50 miles of roads and trails but today was the day.

It was a hot, sunny, summer day in Downeast Maine and that can only mean one thing:  get outside quick and enjoy the weather before Mother Nature changes her mind.

I drove to Baring with my friend, Rose,  who wasn’t intimidated in the least by over 17,000 acres, after all it wasn’t as if we were going to walk all 50 miles of trails, right? 

She may not have been intimidated but she may have raised an eyebrow when we encountered this sign upon entry to the refuge:

Oh, this could get interesting

Oh, this could get interesting

We arrived at the Headquarters building, got a map of the refuge and we were on  our way down “Mile Bridge Road”, a 2.7 mile gravel trail.

“It’s very pretty out here, very serene,” I remarked to Rose,  who was busy swatting a mosquito.

“Yes, it is, ” she said and swatted at another blood sucker that I swear was the size of a baby pterodactyl, “we should have brought bug spray.”

Note to self:  next time bring heavy duty bug spray or pay the price.

The gravel trail was well marked and easy going.  It would definitely be a great place to take trail/mountain bikes.  Nonmotorized bikes are allowed in the refuge.

Through forests of fir, aspen, and maple we walked.  We saw snakes, frogs, and hundreds of iridescent blue dragonflies buzzing, bobbing, and weaving (do they eat mosquitoes?). 

Fields of wild blueberries stretched across wide meadows so bring containers because everyone is allowed to pick two quarts of blueberries per person per day–free of charge.  

We stood snacking on wild blackberries so juicy it brought tears of joy to my eyes when I realized that the silence was absolute ( except for the sound of Rose killing mosquitoes).  The woodland and all its creatures were still, watching us, I’m sure.

We kept our eyes peeled for moose but didn’t see a single one.   Considering they weigh over 1000 pounds, stand seven feet at the shoulder, and have a stride over three feet long, it could be a good thing  we only saw moose tracks.

Moose tracks average 4 -5 " across

Moose tracks can be 5" across

 Moosehorn is a bird watcher’s paradise.  At least 220 different types of birds have been identified:   loons, eagles, geese and ducks, plovers, owls, hummingbirds…the list is immense.  Bring your binoculars (and your bug repellent) and enjoy the spectacular show.  There are also observation decks for viewing  bald eagles.

If you’re interested, you can join wildlife biologists when they tag and band waterfowl and woodcocks, just make arrangements ahead of time.

The refuge is open during daylight hours, dogs are allowed on leashes, and the refuge is free for everyone to enjoy.  Fishing is allowed in some locations, too.

(To avoid confusion, there are two divisions of Moosehorn Wildlife Refuge:  Baring and Edmunds.  Edmunds provides an additional 7,200 acres of wildlife conservancy).

For more information on Moosehorn, including directions,  please visit their website.

And the sign warning of bears crossing?  Thankfully we didn’t see bears either; they were probably holed up, hiding from the mosquitoes.

“Stay-cation” – Eastport, Maine

I’m not certain when the word “stay-cation” appeared in our vocabulary but I have a sneaking suspicion it might have correlated with skyrocketing fuel prices. 

A “stay-cation” is a vacation you spend at  home or in your hometown.  And why not?  It saves on gas, there’s no air travel involved, no expensive hotels, and way less stress than a “traditional” vacation. 

How many of us drive by museums, shops and galleries in our own towns just to tell ourselves “I’ll check it out another time”?

So, in the spirit of the “stay-cation”, I spent a day as a “tourist” in Eastport, Maine.   Not only did I have a lot fun, I did many of the things I’ve wanted to see and do (after all, it would take more than one day to do it all).

Let’s start with a little background on Eastport:

Eastport, the easternmost city in the United States,  is actually comprised of several small islands.  The city itself is located on Moose Island and is joined to the mainland by a causeway (Route 190).

There are more than 1600 residents living in an area of 12 square miles,  but at one point in Eastport’s history, the population was more than 5100.  That’s a pretty tight fit in 12 square miles.

In its heyday, Eastport boasted 13 sardine factories and was the second busiest port in the country(second only to New York Harbor).  Sardines were a very big deal in Eastport and understandably so.  More than 800 men, women, and children worked in the sardine industry and one can still see the impact the salty little fish made on this island city.

There’s a lot of history in Eastport and like everything else, Eastport is changing.  The changes are coming slowly and Eastporters seem determined to hold on to its history, charm, and unique character.  Eastporters cleverly combine the old with the new to offer something for everyone. 

 Follow me on my “stay-cation” in Eastport and you’ll see what I mean.

Welcome to Eastport!

Welcome to Eastport!

Being the outdoor type, I began with a hike at Shackford Head State Park on Deep Cove Road.  I took along my fearless terrier and we trekked the Schooner Trail.  More information (and pictures)  on Shackford Head State Park can be found here.

Molly at Shackford Head State Park

Molly at Shackford Head State Park

Molly and I are “regulars” at Shackford Head and we never, ever tire of the scenery.  We didn’t spot  seals, herons or bald eagles today but we usually do.  The Schooner Trail is one of six trails and it’s the longest and most scenic.  The most popular is probably the Overlook with expansive views of the bay, Lubec and Campobello (Canada).

Because it was shaping up to be a warm day, I dropped Molly at home (another luxury of the stay-cation) and drove down Water Street to Dog Island to see the Old Sow whirlpool. 

 The Old Sow is best seen about three hours before high tide from what I understand.  The time wasn’t right, so any pictures I would have taken wouldn’t have done the old girl justice.  If you’re interested in seeing some photos and reading some survivor tales about the largest whirlpool in the western hemisphere, check out this site

Reeling in the big one

Reeling in the big one

I passed the U.S. Coast Guard station, and came upon a slew of people, young and old, fishing from the breakwater for mackerel. 

 The breakwater is always crowded with people fishing and visiting.  For now, recreational salt water fishing doesn’t require a license, so bring your rod and cast a line. 

The breakwater overlooks Passamaquoddy Bay and is a great place to watch whales and seals. 

I left the breakwater and the sound of screeching gulls and made my way down to the historic waterfront business district.

Most of the store fronts on Water Street date back to the 1800’s and Eastport has been hard at work replacing sidewalks and installing period lighting.  In this eclectic little city one can shop for just about anything ranging from pottery to tattoos. 

Water Street, Eastport

Water Street, Eastport

The best part about shopping in Eastport is the quality of the distinctive wares on offer. 
Nearly everything is made locally and there’s some serious talent in Downeast Maine.
  I always stand in awe of the gorgeous creations displayed.  Prices and styles run the gamut but whether you are browsing or a serious shopper, everyone is friendly and willing to answer questions.
My first stop was the Quoddy Maritime Museum which also houses Quoddy Crafts (yes, I finally bought the coveted woolen socks with lupines knit in the sides).
The museum has a small display on the Quoddy Dam Power Project which began under the hospices of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
 The project was meant to harvest hydro power from the strong tidal currents.  The dam was never built but tidal power is being given a very hard look once again. 
 Quoddy Crafts has many items for sale:  knit items, photographs, sea glass jewellery and more.
The Commons, a fine artisan gallery, displays the work of over 72 local artisans.  They have the largest collection of Passamaquoddy Indian baskets in the area as well as jewellery, fiber arts, pottery, and wooden ware. 
The Eastport Gallery , a fine arts collective, sells works from 30 area artists in a variety of mediums. 
Speaking of fine arts, I visited the Tides Institute and perused the loaned works of William E.B. Starkweather.  The Tides Institute has a permanent collection on the second floor. 
The Starkweather exhibit ends August 17, 2008 and will be replaced by etchings from New Brunswick artist, Dan Steves (Steves’ etchings will be on display August 23 – September 21, 2008). 
 The Tides Institute is undergoing renovations to restore the copper roof as well as the  original decorative stonework. The Tides Institute is free of charge and will remain open during renovations.
I walked to the pier in the center of town, sat on a bench under the shadow of the fisherman’s statue (which was a gift from Fox after they made the reality show/mystery drama “Murder in Small Town X” in Eastport).  I watched passengers board the schooner Halie & Matthew for a whale watching tour and longed to go too.  Another day, for I had more to see and do.
Eastport's fisherman statue

Eastport's fisherman statue

I crossed Water Street and visited S.L. Wadsworth & Son which is the nation’s oldest ship chandlery and has been owned and operated by the same family since 1818. 
 Aside from being our local hardware store, Wadsworth’s also carries gifts and souvenirs (not to mention a fine selection of pirate gear for Eastport’s Pirate Festival which runs the same weekend as the Salmon Festival September 6-7, 2008).
Pirate booty at S.L. Wadsworth & Son

Pirate booty at S.L. Wadsworth & Son

 

Not to be outdone, there’s Raye’s Mustard Mill, North America’s only remaining stone ground mustard mill. 
 A working museum, Raye’s was built in 1903 and still uses the enormous grinding stones that were imported from France way back when. 
 More than 23 gourmet mustards, all available for your sampling pleasure. Tours of the mill are free and are offered seven days a  week, from Memorial Day until New Year’s.
The afternoon was rapidly drawing to a close, but there was one more stop I needed to make.
  The South End of Eastport is home to one of the few sand beaches on Moose Island.  Could there be a better way to end my “stay-cation” than with a leisurely stroll on the beach?
My “stay-cation” barely scratched the surface of what Eastport has to offer her visitors:  plays, live music, friendly people, harbor cruises, shopping, plenty of restaurants serving plenty of fresh seafood, a fine hotel and lovely B & B’s.    Why not make the trip down and find out?
 Eastport holds delights for all ages, and who knows, you may fall in love with this island city, just like I did.
I got to thinking:    I had so much fun on my “stay-cation”, I think I may expand a bit.  Join me next time when I visit Lubec, Maine.

The Way Life Should Be

I’m always carrying on about  the incomparable beauty of Eastport and Downeast Maine but today I rediscovered the unreserved friendliness, impromptu gaiety, and unabashed happiness that is life in Eastport.

After an outrageous number of back to back days of fog and rain, the sun made its grand appearance at long last. 

I donned my flip flops and a pair of sunglasses and down the sea path I went, a stiff breeze coming from the west, sunlight bouncing crazily off the water, and I was filled with the indescribable happiness which can only be achieved after innumerable days of cold rain and dense fog.

Families and couples gathered around the picnic tables outside Quoddy Bay Lobster with platters of cherry red lobsters and small mountains of steamers.  Plastic bibs snapped like sails in the breeze, the sound of laughter snatched and carried off by the wind.

The mood was high on Water Street as I watched a man standing in the bed of a pickup truck playing an upright piano, belting out whatever tunes came into his head.  I’m fairly certain the piano was destined for someplace else, but the impromptu performance stopped everyone in their tracks and made us smile.

I visited a local artisan shop and wound up spending nearly an hour conversing with the artist about the economy, lay-offs, and the endless possibilities the future holds.  The artist was unknown to me, and I to him,  but the conversation flowed, the atmosphere was relaxed. 

Although his paintings, carvings, and pottery were impressive, I didn’t have a dime to spend (three more days until payday) but the conversation was real… and the sun was shining.

I wandered to a store that carries local crafts and admired a pair of lavender woolen socks with lupines knit into the sides.  I have been planning to buy a pair or two and had to check to make sure they had plenty on offer for when payday arrives  (three more days, but who’s counting?)

I struck up a conversation with the woman working behind the counter about Christmas, our families, and old postcards.  We don’t know one another but it didn’t matter; the rain and fog were gone, even if only for a day. 

 Tourists were out and the locals were milling around, talking and laughing in the middle of sidewalks, outside of restaurants, greeting one another as if a year, instead of a week,  had passed.

I don’t know a lot of people here yet, but there is a rapport between pet owners and many people recognize me because of my beastly, ghastly, overexcited terrier and my tag-a-long feline Midge. 

Over and over I heard, “Where are Molly and Midge today?”

Like a parent feeling guilty about leaving the kids at home, I explained  even I need a solo walk from time to time.  And so the conversation continued about pets, antiques and home improvement projects until I realized that, I too, was one of the locals milling about in doorways, smiling in the afternoon sun.

Never underestimate the power of a gorgeous day to bring out the joy in your fellow man. 

 Take the time to rediscover the art of real and relaxed conversation, you just might end up learning something new or meeting someone new. 

 Stop and listen to the music, or better yet, be the guy standing in the back of a pickup playing a piano.

 Walking home with the sun on my face and the wind in my hair, I realized that this is happiness, this is Eastport, and this is truly the way life should be.

The Best Kept Secret In Salt Water Camping

View from a campsite

View from a campsite

I spent a sunny, glorious Sunday at Cobscook Bay State Park in Edmunds, Maine.    As their brochure says, it’s “ideal for the camper seeking solitude and beautiful scenery.”

With 888 acres to explore, there is no shortage of hikes to take, beaches to comb and rocks to climb.

Cobscook Bay State Park is home to over 200 species of birds, including the American Bald Eagle. 

The camp sites are very private and secluded and they allow tents, campers and even have five Adirondack shelters for rent.

While out walking the miles of trails and gravel roads past meadows, through forests, and along the shore, I encountered a camper, Todd, who was spending the weekend at the park with his wife and two daughters.  Todd explained he grew up in the area and now lives in Orono but he returns to Cobscook Bay State Park to relax with his family.

As Todd put it, Cobscook State Park is “the best kept secret in salt water camping.”  He pointed out where all campers can, at no cost, dig for soft shell clams at a beach located on the grounds.  One peck of clams is allowed per person (and that’s a lot of clams). 

Todd went on to say that there are very few campgrounds right on the ocean and Cobscook is one of the best.

Cobscook State Park is open for camping from May 15 through October 15.  Day passes are available at a cost of $3 per person.  Renting a campsite will cost Maine residents $15 per night and non-residents can expect to pay $26 per night.  Dogs are allowed provided they are kept on a 4 foot leash.

The park is impressive in its beauty and its desire to allow campers their privacy. 

Fresh water, bathrooms and showers are available; they are abundant and well placed throughout the park.

There’s also a playground for children and the park has volleyballs, horseshoes and other games on hand for campers to use.

The park is serene, well kept, and impressive.  Without a doubt, Cobscook Bay State Park is the best kept secret in salt water camping.

You can make reservations on line:   www.campwithme.com or by calling 207-726-4412.

View from a hiking trail

View from a hiking trail

Meadows with the ocean beyond

Meadows with the ocean beyond