We were darn happy to see Maine was still open for business as we crossed the state line. The fall colors at the state line were fairly green, but as we traveled farther north, we began to see more shades of red and orange begin to dot the landscape.
Our original plan was to go all the way north to the top of Maine, but the lure of staying in Bangor Maine, the setting of many a Steven King novel, proved to be too much to resist for this Steven King fan. Bangor, coupled with all the fun one can have in Acadia National Park, about an hour away, seemed like a great place to land for a couple weeks.
We pulled the rig into Holden Family Campground located in Holden ME, just a few minutes from Bangor. The campground has some seasonal sites, and many pull-through sites for the overnight and visiting travelers. Our stay there was pleasant, but as is our norm on vacation, we didn’t hang around the park too much.
Although we expected to do a bit of hiking in Acadia, we were pleasantly surprised, while enjoying a cold draft at a local watering hole, when the the bartender told us about the Bangor City Forest which had 3 great trails, as well as connections to several other trails, creating miles and miles of scenic, in-town trails.
We hiked at the Forest several times, trying all 3 trails that basically follow the same route. One is a hard dirt trail, another that is a bit more rocky, and one unimproved trail which was very rocky. They were all fairly easy trails, not too many hills, and well-marked with the exception of the unimproved trail. Each time we went the colors got more spectacular. Parking is free, so it makes for a nice, inexpensive outing.
The city of Bangor itself it a really nice town. I did not have any paranormal, Steven King-type experiences happen to me while I was there, but I could imagine it in my mind. The rolling streets, pretty churches, old buildings, the shadows as the sun went down, oh yeah, I could picture it.
Bangor is located in Penobscot County in the southeastern section of the state, and has a population of around 33,000. It was established in 1791, long before Maine was a state, and was a lumber and shipbuilding community. These days their economy is a diverse one with manufacturing, retail, healthcare, banking, and tourism being the main sources of employment.
We found the people to be very friendly and helpful. I am not sure why New Englander’s have the reputation of being somewhat cold and unfriendly, because I sure didn’t get that impression.
We went into Bar Harbor a couple of times, but we found it pretty touristy, crowded, and over-priced. Bangor suited us much better.
Bangor has a nice Riverwalk area with a couple of eating/drinking establishments nearby. We found the staff at the Sea Dog Brewing company to be a lot of fun. (A shout out to Jason And Liz who rapidly became our favorite bartenders!!) And everyday at the Sea Dog they feature a happy hour from 3-6 sporting $3 craft beers and $4 house wines.
Another good place for food and drink was Geaghans Pub and Craft Brewery. We had some tasty soup and sandwiches there, and their craft brews weren’t too shabby either.
While in Maine, one should eat some lobster. So I did. I had 2 lobster rolls, one very good, one not so much.
We never did get a lobster dinner. We either could not find the right place at the right time, or didn’t want to spend the money (contrary to popular belief, it is not cheap in Maine, cheaper, but not cheap, unless you buy it and cook it yourself) or just didn’t feel like fussing over what to do when presented with a whole lobster. So we kinda blew it off, and enjoyed the rest of what Maine has to offer.
One thing Maine has to offer in a big way is Acadia National Park. Acadia encompasses over 50,000 acres of pristine land. It is the first eastern national park and the first ever donated entirely by a private citizen. The vast majority of Acadia is situated on Mount Desert Island where the city of Bar Harbor and a couple of smaller towns are located.
We spent one day in Acadia hiking around the Ocean Path Trail, which runs parallel to part of the Park Loop Road ,which as it’s name suggests, loops the park. It is a 3.6 trail which was an easy stroll, but quite crowded. After lunch we hiked a couple of the lesser known trails, and to get a better feel of the area away from the crowds.
We took a drive up to Cadillac Mountain, the tallest mountain on the island at 1530 feet. You can also hike or bike up to the summit, but they are both listed as very strenuous, and well beyond our current ability level.
The view from the summit was breathtaking. On our second trip there were two cruise ships nestled in the harbor and it was fun to see the big ships from that vantage point.
While hiking we discovered a great bike trail. Before cars were the main source of transportation, carriages were the ride of choice. And winding through Acadia are some old, very well-maintained carriage roads made of crushed rock that made it superb for biking. You can also ride the Park Loop road, but then you are dealing with cars, traffic, and all that sort of madness.
Adventure strikes at funny times, and as we began our ride, Bruce discovered his bike gears were not working correctly and he could only get 3 gears out of 24. I offered to opt out of the ride, and hike instead, but he said, “No, let’s go for it” so we did. Right up a big, big hill. We ended up walking our bikes partly up. I had visions the whole ride would be like this, and fortunately it was not, but it was a pretty strenuous ride for a couple of flatlanders like us as it was. We walked our bikes a couple times, and we saw several people really struggling up some of the hills. It pays to know your terrain before you set out!
We took our lunch with us that day. Bruce was very hungry, but I made him wait until I found the perfect area to dine. Cheese and crackers,boiled eggs, carrots, and apples never tasted so good!
Once we refreshed with a bit of food and relaxation in the warm sun we finished our ride. It was a truly memorable day.
We did not eat much lobster on our trip to Maine, but we sure saw some vibrant red and orange leaves, unlike ones we have seen before. We hail from Michigan, and get some pretty decent leaves, particularly up north, but the red hues were much brighter to my eyes. Leaves were late this year in Maine, and we didn’t get to see them at peak, but it sure was pretty!
Of course pictures never do justice to Mother Nature’s creations. To really get the full impression, one must view the autumn magnificence with one’s own eyes.
The people, the landscape, the history make it the state of Maine a very worthwhile travel destination. And because I didn’t get to see those leaves at peak, well, I guess I’ll just plan on coming back someday.