22 June 2005

More car trouble - more kind Mainers

Yesterday we had more car trouble. We were out in the woods at the edge of a tiny town on the bay, and the battery died. We were literally, out in the middle of nowhere. We found a few people around but nobody had jumper cables, so once again, we called AAA - we've really gotten our money's worth with them this year! I gave very specific directions to the dispatcher but I was sure the driver wouldn't be able to find us. We were in a remote location on a dirt path off the main road. We could see the main road from where we were, but the trees were so thick, I didn't think the truck would see us.

We were told we'd have to wait about an hour, but we settled in for a longer wait considering the circumstances and the non-emergency nature of our need. The sky was blue and the sun was trickling through the thick pines. It was actually a very pleasant day to be stuck in the woods.

Only 20 minutes into our wait, the big tow truck arrived to give us a jump start. The driver was a grizzled old Mainer with a harsh sounding voice but a heart of gold. He was huge and potentially scary looking, but incredibly kind and friendly. If I'd been afraid of wild animals before, I wasn't with him there. He offered a few kind words, got our car started right up and then chugged his truck back out onto the main road.

I love Mainers. I'll never be one - not officially anyway - but I love them and I want to be one. They are so good; salt of the earth, doing good deeds kind of good. I wish everyone could know this kind of life - the way life should be.

Copyright © 2005 - Paulla Estes

15 June 2005

June 15 ~ 47 Degrees and Raining

Ok, it is COLD today in Maine. Am I weather obsessed? This year I certainly am! We had a very unusual springtime with highs in the 50s and a ton of rain. Last week we had a warm stretch and it seemed summer had finally descended upon us. But today winter is fighting for a last hurrah before letting any of us put our sweaters and coats away for good.

I'm wearing jeans, wool socks, a long-sleeved shirt and a jacket. I'm thinking of building a fire in the wood stove, but that just seems sick and wrong in the middle of June. We planned to drive to the beach later this week, but the highs are only forecasted in the 50s and low 60s. Mainers aren't complaining yet, but they're a bit perplexed about this odd weather.

Yet ~ I spoke to a friend in Virginia yesterday where the heat and humidity is almost unbearable and I have to smile as I snuggle into my coat and drink hot cocoa. Compared with their weather, in my book, THIS is the way life should be. :)

Copyright © 2005 - Paulla Estes

14 June 2005

Pond Swimming in Maine

Now that summer is here and the weather is trying to make up its mind to stay warm, many Mainers are looking to head to the beach or any form of water to cool off, catch some rays and maybe even swim a few laps. Yet visitors will find that Maine, unlike most states, isn't big on public swimming pools. Instead, visitors to Maine will enjoy going to the local pond for a swim.

Ponds all over Maine are either kept in their natural state so the happy swimmers just jump right in with the fish and turtles, while other ponds have been converted into public swimming areas. One such pond in Brunswick, Maine, Coffin Pond, is a favorite of local Maine children.

Coffin Pond has been set apart from the natural water source and is chlorinated. Though you won't find any fish in the pond, it has a sandy bottom, a small beach, and a snack shack at the far end. But the best attraction, by far, is a two-story water slide where frolicking visitors climb the set of stairs from the beach and then slide merrily back into the cool water of the pond. The pond is staffed by conscientious life guards and has a scenic playground nearby.

If you're visiting Maine this summer or you live within driving distance of Brunswick, take a day and relax at Coffin Pond. Surprisingly, it's right in town, but with woods all around, it feels like it's in a remote woodland location. Enjoy swimming Maine-style and take a spin on the water slide while you're at it!

Copyright © 2005 - Paulla Estes

09 June 2005

Finding the Horizon

I grew up in the west, in the land of wide open spaces and horizons. For anyone who has lived in sight of the horizon, you know who you are and you know the importance a horizon can hold. When I moved to Maine, though I fell in love with the beauty and serenity of the state, I missed seeing the horizon. Instead of looking out my window to see plains or mountains, I looked out to a wall of tall pines and birch trees.

After a few months in Maine, I went searching for a horizon. I found it at the top of Bradbury Mountain in Freeport. I found it again when we climbed Mount Megunticook near Camden. But my favorite place to see the horizon is at the end of Bailey Island.

There is a meandering road that goes south from Brunswick; it crosses three bridges, and spans the length of two islands before arriving at the Cribstone Bridge which gives entrance to Bailey Island. Although there are many reasons to visit Bailey Island, I always keep driving right to the end of the land where there is a gift shop appropriately named, "Land's End."

The shop is delightful, but the view is even better. A few scattered islands with lighthouses are the only obstacles to seeing the perfect horizon on the Atlantic. There is a small beach at Land's End and rocks on which to sit. Summer or winter, I go there to soak in the view of the horizon. Afterward, I drive back through the winding roads to the forest that is now my home and somehow, when I look through the window at the swaying trees, I don't miss the horizon so much anymore.

Copyright © 2005 - Paulla Estes

01 June 2005

Finding the Moose

When we first came to Maine, I was determined to see a moose. I had never seen a moose in the wild and I was fascinated with the lumbering animals which, Bill Bryson says, "look like a cow drawn by a three-year-old."

I began asking around about the best place to spot a moose. Rangeley, everyone said. You can't go to Rangeley and not see a moose. So we planned a long weekend at Rangeley Lake. We stayed in a rustic cabin just a stone's throw from the water and all our extended family joined us there. We saw skunks, deer, foxes, loons, and even a bald eagle, but not even a trace of moose.

The next year I volunteered at a local radio station in Freeport. One day when I arrived, several people were talking about the moose they'd seen just down the road. I jumped back in my car, drove to the spot, but there was no moose. My husband and children went out for a drive in the mountains one day while I was working, and when they returned, they announced that they had seen three moose. Three! I was so envious and a bit skeptical.

We had been here about three years when I finally saw my first moose - and it was dead. It was on the side of I-95 and had tragically been hit by a car. I imagine the collision was tragic for the driver of the car, as well, as moose collisions are often deadly. It was terribly sad to see such a majestic creature lying by the roadside, lifeless and limp. This prompted a rather sick joke in our family: they claimed that the only moose I would ever see was a dead moose; and furthermore, if I did have the fortune to see a live moose, it was a misfortune for the moose because my seeing it would cause it to die very soon.

I continued to go on about my life with only a dead moose sighting to my name, Friends and family came to Maine and were treated to many moose sightings - always when I wasn't around - which was perhaps fortunate for the moose.

Then one year I hit the jackpot. Our family decided to do a day-long drive through the mountains near Moosehead Lake. We found an old logging road that cut through from Greenville to Millinocket and came out near Mount Katahdin. We knew it would take hours to navigate in our little Volkswagen, but it was spring and we needed to get out of the house after the long winter.

After leaving Greenville, we started slowly down the rutted, bumpy road, bouncing along, unknowingly causing our Volkswagen permanent damage. After a couple of miles, we saw it - a very young moose standing curiously in the center of the gravel road. It watched us for a moment and then trotted casually into the thick woods. "Oh no," said my husband, "It's probably going off to die." But before the words had faded into the mountain quiet, we saw another moose standing next to the road a mile or so from the first one. This one was older, but just as curious and stand-off-ish.

The jokes about dead moose disappeared when we saw our third moose; another young one that simply galloped awkwardly across the road right in front of our car. It was as if all the moose in Maine had been waiting for me to drive down that road on that spring day so they could give me the thrill of my life.

In the end, we saw eleven moose that day, all on that road from Greenville to Millinocket. The last one was something out of a postcard. Just below Mount Katahdin, we pulled over and saw a large male moose with giant antlers standing in a lake. He lowered his head under water every so often to munch on the soft vegetation and eyed us disinterestedly.

There really is nothing quite like seeing a moose in the wild, but beware of getting too close, as they are unpredictable and can be aggressive. If you come to Maine to see a moose, don't despair if you are unsuccessful; it happens to the best of us. But I would recommend finding that logging road between Greenville and Millinocket!

Copyright © 2005 - Paulla Estes