In October 2010, I had the opportunity to spend 3 days traveling down the Maine coastline. I started at the eastern most point in the continental United States, the West Quoddy Head lighthouse, then drove south over the next three days ending, in a cold windy mist at the Pemaquid Point Light (followed by a sprint back to Boston). This Flash gallery comprises 24 images from that trip. If your device doesn’t support Flash, there’s a non-Flash gallery at the end of the post.
Day 1 saw me drive from Lubec to Bar Harbor. I was hoping to see the sun rise at West Quoddy Head, but the thin line of Orange on the Horizon in the first image of the Gallery was the only glimpse I got. The classic Landscape Photography advice is to use one of the two ‘Golden Hours’ each day – around dawn and dusk – but for many of us the weather and our schedules conspire against us and we end up having to shoot what we can. Against the quiet of the early morning, the sound of the distant fishing boats and bells mounted on buoys out in the channel were strangely loud and I had to use binoculars to locate the small vessels several miles distant.
As I drove south through the day I was struck by the number of properties for sale and how unlikely a sale was going to be given the state of the economy. Perhaps many were second homes but any sale would now have to wait for the start of the next summer season in May. As for the local population, the only game in town seemed to be lobster fishing. I found it slightly ironic reading later in my trip that in the great summer estates established by the wealthy such as the Rockerfeller’s on Mount Desert Island, lobster was food for the servants while beef was the food for the masters. Living in Texas where beef is plentiful and fresh lobster is not, to think of servants thinking, “Oh no, not lobster again!” struck me as funny.
Bar Harbor was closed for the season. A cruise boat in the bay was getting ready to leave. Only a handful of restaurants were open to serve the last stragglers of the season. Those hotels not already closed were closing the following weekend. I struggled to bend my mind to running a business for half-a-year. “Closed for the season. See you in May”, read an incongruously hopeful sign in the window of a pizza restaurant. “No you won’t”, I thought, walking on by.
Listening to the rain in the early morning I committed a near fatal mistake and hit the snooze button. An hour later, with the rain coming to an end I found myself scurrying to eat breakfast, check out and get on the road. Cadillac Mountain was still swathed in fog, but every now and then there’s be a break and the vistas on this October morning were simply breathtaking. When I eventually got to the top of Cadillac Mountain – a leisurely car drive for most, an energetic hike for a few – I was rewarded with some breaks in the cloud. Being end of the season, there were only a handful of tour buses spilling their occupants onto the mountain top. I can only imagine that high season is very crowded.
That late afternoon saw me sprint to Belfast for the night with a highly pointless and forgettable detour to Castine. Maybe in the daylight, in the summer, the detour would have been worthwhile, but in the gloom of a late fall fog there was nothing to see. On the upside, the roads were deserted and the driving was fun.
The mist the following morning belied the intensity of the rain, so again, I took my time heading out in the morning. Stopping briefly at the Lighthouse Museum in Rockland, I set out to view the Rockland Harbor Southwest Light. The only challenge, apart from the rain) was that the entire coastline is privately owned. I located a property without a fence on the road from where I could see the light and resolved to asking the property owner if I could set up in their yard. Sensing I was mad but not dangerously, the property owner graciously granted my request and retreated back inside their warm house while I set up in the rain.
My next stop was Owls Head Light, requiring a short hike from the parking lot to the light. On this morning the light wasn’t of much use and I never really considered how loud a fog horn is till the one I was standing by went off! That was a shock! I grabbed some images and retreated.
The fog never lifted. I drove down to Marshall Point Light where I was frustrated by a ‘tourist’ who, in an empty parking lot, parked his van right by the light keepers house and refused to move it – even for just the couple of minutes I needed to run-and-gun a handful of images. This remains the most frustrating and annoying part of the whole trip.
Leaving Port Clyde, I then made another mistake in not checking Google Maps for other places of interest. Had I done so I would have realized I was very close to the studios of John Paul Caponigro, in Cushing. Perhaps the studio would have been closed but now I’ll never know. Given the lousy weather, I wouldn’t have had anything to lose by driving by to find out. Instead, I drove back to Highway 1 and then turned south on Route 32 to Pemaquid Point.
There were a handful of hearty souls at the Pemaquid Point Light – most letting their dogs run free. Despite the wind, the fog was holding fast and by now the cold and wet were starting to drain my spirit. With a good 3-hour drive back to Boston still ahead of me, I decided to stop chasing light houses and go chase a warm meal and a good ale, so I packed my kit away and drove non-stop back to Boston.
On reflection the timing was less than ideal – a couple of weeks earlier would have been better, but then there would have been more people so perhaps it would have been a case of ‘swings and roundabouts’ trading off the weather against the scarcity of people. If you ever get the opportunity, I would highly recommend spending some time on the coast of Maine. I hope I get an opportunity to return.