I Saw the Light in Midcoast Maine

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19503711736_2f1d950b14_hI saw the first of many lighthouses in Maine at Fort Williams Park in  Cape Elizabeth,  about a 15 minute drive from Portland.  The Portland Head Light sits at the edge of the 90-acre site, which was a military fortification  that proved useful during the world wars to protect Portland. The fort saw no combat action  although an enemy submarine was spotted offshore.

You can grab some great views of the bay and  check out the old military bunkers. You can also visit the remains of the colonel’s mansion. There’s not much left to it these days.

IslesboroMidcoast Maine has some great lighthouses too, about an hour and a half north of Portland, A 15- minute ferry ride from Lincolnville to the island of Islesboro landed me at Grindle’s Point, where I braved a narrow stairwell and up a ladder to the tower overlooking Gilkey Harbor.

Islesboro is breathtakingly beautiful and a favorite of celebrities, don’t ask me who.  I believe Kirstie Alley used to live here.  The homes are exquisite, elegant and way out of my price range.  Be sure you get back in time for the last ferry, which left at 4:30 pm on the day I visited. They will leave you behind, said the teens who were probably just trying to scare me at the general store in the Dark Harbor shopping area.

 

 

 

 

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The Old Port in Portland, Maine

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I was destined to return to Maine for my vacation this year, to escape the heat of South Louisiana.  Cool temps did await me in Portland, where I spent two nights in a hotel on the waterfront overlooking Casco Bay.  Although I didn’t have the time to take the ferry, I am told Peaks Island is nice, only about 20 minutes away.  I spent most of my time checking out the Old Port, which was right across the street from my hotel.  It features many different sites and seafood smells-the good kind. The port was bustling with a ferry, restaurants and working fishing boats.  The scene is a pleasant walk with cool breezes.  Great restaurants and shops are also located in the surrounding few blocks.

 

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Lobsterpalooza in Maine

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They eat lobster in Maine like we eat chicken in the South. It is everywhere. Lobster omelettes, rolls, wraps, chowder, BLT, poached, broiled, boiled, whole, half, stewed and then there’s everything I haven’t had a chance to eat yet.

20140810_201003 It’s a good thing they have some spectacular walks to burn off those rich calories. However, according to the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative, lobster has less calories, less total fat and less cholesterol (based on 100 grams of cooked product) than lean beef; whole poached eggs; and even roasted, skinless chicken breast. It is also high in amino acids; potassium and magnesium; Vitamins A, B12, B6, B3 (niacin) and B2 (riboflavin); calcium and phosphorus; iron; and zinc.

20140813_133047Must be true because lobster doesn’t stick with you long. After a nice walk, I find myself having to reach for a nice ice cream chaser.  I must not be alone because there are many tempting flavors to choose from in Maine. I prefer the native blueberry myself.

But I digress. Best walk in Kennebunkport? The one on Ocean Drive that takes you to the Bush compound, as in Presidents 41 and 43. Politics aside, the property is massive as it juts out into the Atlantic and it’s worth the walk to see. The way is paved and offers spectacular views of the ocean and manicured mansions.  There is access to the rocky oceanfront below.  Definitely worth taking a stroll.  Head in the other direction into town and there are beaucoup shops and eateries. I recommend Hurricanes for a spectacular meal. Pier 77 for a spectacular lobster roll and views.

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Charlottetown, PEI: Plenty of Mussel!

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Canada’s Prince Edward Island is located in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and produces 19,000 tons of mussels annually. If you live in the U.S. chances are you’ve enjoyed some PEI shellfish at your favorite restaurant.  However, I found the real strength of this island to be the options it provides for walks that are both beautiful and historic.

Charlottetown dates back to 1720 and is considered the birthplace of Canada. Downtown is situated along the harbor which provides for picturesque walks along the harbor and neighboring shops. The village is pedestrian-friendly with well-maintained sidewalks shaded by trees and a friendly citizenry always eager to offer directions or advice on shops and dining. Guess what’s on the menu?

If lobster is more to your liking, there’s tons of that too. In fact, the fishing village of North Rustico, about half an hour from Charlottetown is one of the many spots where they haul em in. Lobster boats and traps are everywhere.  If you are lucky, you might catch a tale from the Bearded Skipper who happened to be dockside when I was there. His picture alone is worth a thousand words! The tide changes every six hours so if you park your car near the water, keep an eye on the time.

If you are looking for a beach experience, head over to Greenwich Park which features a beautiful  beach and trails. Take your shoes off – I am told the water here is a comfortable 72 degrees, some of the warmest water on the seaboard, because it is so close to the gulfstream.

Apparently, the best time to visit PEI is from June until the end of September, before the cold sets in. My experience was a pleasant 65 degrees under beautiful blue skies, but I did experience rain the day before, farther south in chilly Peggy’s Cove near Halifax, Nova Scotia. Let’s just say Mother Nature was in full force, spewing rain, wind and fog in a furious way.

Still a nice respite from the hot temps in the U.S., I say!

 

 

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Bar Harbor Shore Path: Shore is Pretty

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The first stop of my Canada/New England cruise took me to Bar Harbor, Maine and it was everything I thought it would be. Quaint and lush, what’s not to like? There is a very convenient Shore Path that goes for about a mile and makes for a leisurely stroll. It begins and ends in town and you are just steps away from shops and restaurants.  Lobster is plentiful here and you can get some fantastic lobster for under $20.Acadia National Park is just minutes away.  Unfortunatley weather prevented me from taking on Cadillac mountain but that was okay by me because I was still getting my sea legs, if you know what I mean.  The ranger recommended Jessup trail for a nice hike but I opted to stroll through the wild gardens cuz I’m that kind of girl.*

* That is a joke.

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Boston STRONG!

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It sure is. Spent a night in Beantown and the city is looking great. It was the perfect night to stroll along Hanover Street in the north end – a pleasant 72 degrees at the end of June.  Harbor Walk, just outside the Italian District, is so enjoyable. Really pleasant. And if you work up an appetite, I highly recommend Mamma Maria’s. Lobster ravioli anyone?

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Bar Harbor on the Horizon!

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Bar_Harbor_Maine_Shore_Trail_mdI couldn’t be more excited about my upcoming voyage to Maine and Canada’s east coast. I got some great advice from Amy Roeder, a local, about how I should spend my day in Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. I thought I would share it with you. She writes:

I highly recommend the Shore Path (starts in town, level walking, approx 1 mile in length, out and back walk or you can come back via town) or Compass Harbor.  Compass Harbor is just a short ways out of town and it offers varying terrain (though none very steep) with harbor views and the chance to see the remnants of the Dorr Mansion.  It’s one of the most picturesque walks on Mount Desert Island.  If you head out of town on Main St., the entrance to this trail will be on your left after a half mile or so.  The Chamber of Commerce (corner of Main and Cottage) should be able to give you a map to the trailhead.  You can totally do both in a day, btw.  As for lobster, my favorite is at Thurston’s in Bernard, but that’s kind of far away.  If you’re looking for a good in-town lobster, I recommend Side Street Cafe.  Their lobster roll is the best in Bar Harbor.  I also really like the lobster roll at the Thirsty Whale, but Side St. has the best full lobster dinner in town.

Can’t wait to try it out. Thanks Amy!

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Shoulda Stayed in Brownies: Jenny Lake, Wyoming

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Jenny Lake I dropped out of Brownies so I was not a Girl Scout, which means I don’t know nuthin’ about maps. But ponder this:

The trail around Jenny Lake in Rockefeller National Park in Jackson, WY, is 7-8 miles long. You can hike 2.5 miles and for the low, low price of $7.00, a boat will pick you up and bring you back to where you parked your car. How nice.

Jenny Lake boatOr, you can go in the opposite direction and walk over 5 miles to reach the damn boat.

Guess which one I did?

Merriam-Webster just added “aha moment”  to the dictionary in 2012. I wonder when “oh sh*t” will make it into the books? That’s a familar feeling for any hiker of compromised direction. When you realize your hike is more than twice as long as you thought, that’s when you when you take a deep breath and stop thinking about lunch for a few.

So how to reach that boat after all? Don’t ask my hiking partner Debbie. She just tripped on the trail and did a full body twirl onto the rock solid path. (Though I must admit I thought I would be the first to drop.)

Being from New Orleans it is only natural to rely on the kindness of strangers. And sure enough, along came Al and Amanda, a nice young couple from back east. Al must have been a Boy Scout because once he realized the shortest distance between two points is to take the boat, he got down to business. He pulled out a map.

Imagine that.

And a few steps later, Al spotted this: DSC_0211

“I am in good hands, indeed,” I thought!

Al led us to the promised land. We hiked a couple miles more around a creek, alongside a mountain and finally saw the shore. We joined a queue of about 20 people who waited for the water ferry for the 10 minute ride back to the dock. Once on familiar ground, we soon lost our fears and celebrated our 5 1/2 mile conquest.

Day of rest tomorrow. I am 50 years old for goodness sake!

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Thank You Rockefellers!

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Let’s hear it for rich people who give back in enormous ways. John D. Rockefeller Jr. (1874.1960), of Standard Oil lineage,  thought preservation instead of development when he donated 24,000 acres that connect Grand Teton National Park with Yellowstone, the world’s first national park.
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Located a few miles outside Jackson, the Laurence Rockefeller Preserve, named after Junior’s son, offers some great hikes and lookouts. At left is a shot of the view just as you begin the trail.  It is a pack it in, pack it out kind of place so you won’t find any trashcans.

 

 

 

Phelps LakeThis is bear country. That fact is top of mind at all times. I don’t know what I would do if I came face to face with a grizzly. One thing the signs consistently say is don’t run. So that doesn’t leave me many options, I’m afraid.

 

I highly recommend a jaunt to Phelps Lake.  My Tracks app calculated it as 1.82 miles in and 1.88 miles back. I would consider this a moderate hike since there is a slight incline along the way. In the beinning of the hike you will come upon  a creek. You can hike around the lake once you arrive. It’s a beauty.

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Touchdown Jackson Hole, WYO

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Taggart LakeI arrived in Jackson, Wyoming thinking that was cloud cover we were flying through. Wrong.

Smoke from seasonal fires are blowing this way, creating a hazy but not lazy summer in Jackson. You can’t smell smoke but the haze adds a filter that makes you wish for a good rain to wipe it away.  No fires here but they are in neighboring Idaho and four other western states.

But the nature here is breathtaking nonetheless. The trails are challenging and the scenery and wildlife are one of a kind. Spying on a moose drinking in a creek is a sight you just don’t see while shopping downtown.

DSC_0219Here’s a delightful moose who has taken a liking to the creek just outside the Jenny Lake visitor’s center. Either that or the town’s convention and visitor’s bureau is paying him a nice wage to sip water all day while folks take his picture.

 

 

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