The Maine Attraction - A Traveling Northeast Vacation

John M. Dabbs

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Photo by Richard Lee on Unsplash

Our trek began after saying farewell to the family during a brief visit to New York. Our excursion into the Northeastern U.S. left us wanting more. As you can see from this brief article on Maine, also include it in your bucket list if you have room!

Hungry and ready to rest on our laurels for a few minutes, we grabbed a bite to eat in Freeport — our first stop after entering the state. We ate at a local restaurant and were not disappointed at the portions or flavors thrust upon us.

After eating, we stretched our legs to look around. We discovered the L.L. Bean flagship store and spent another hour exploring the grounds and goods for sale. If you love the outdoors, this is a great place to look around and find what you need.

We arrived in Bangor, Maine, in early June last year. Our first vacation to the Northeast (beyond New York, not counting Toronto). We stopped at a giant statue of Paul Bunyan. Taking in its grandeur, we snap a few photos with different photos of us in the foreground to add scale. Quite interesting.

The Maine Facts

What do you think of when it comes to Maine?

  • Mountains
  • Harbors
  • Forests
  • Wildlife
  • Sealife
  • Lighthouses
  • L.L. Bean (their flagship store is in Freeport)

A few facts about Maine — did you know?

  1. Nobody knows precisely how Maine got its name.
  2. Maine has its own desert (40 acres outside of Freeport), the result of over-farming.
  3. Almost 90% of the United States’ lobster supply comes from Maine.
  4. Until 2003, Strong, Maine was the toothpick capital of the U.S. with over 95% of the country’s toothpicks coming made there.

The readers and aspiring writers among us mentioned Stephen King lives in the area. We googled his address and found the home quickly.

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Steven King's home - photo courtesy of Nikki Lewin-Dabbs

A simple and unassuming structure with a beautiful fenced yard with a Halloween theme — we took a few photos for posterity before making our way to our accommodations for our vacation — the KOA Campground. Not that it was to be a “camping vacation,” but it suited our needs as a central base of operations.

Basic Lodging

The Bangor/Holden KOA campground is a bit out of town, yet the location is quite suitable for our excursions planned in the area. We check into our tent site and establish camp and take a quick look around. The standard KOA setup is straightforward yet nice and clean. They have a pool, camp store, and within a few minutes drive to shops and sites, we will visit within the next days.

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Image by free image at pixabay.com

A bit of prep and research before the trip had us pack our bug spray and sleeping bags. The weather can be a bit chilly in the evening, as evidenced by our blue-toned sons exiting the campground pool on several occasions during our trip.

The weather was very accommodating, not overly hot or rainy, but nippy enough that we made a stop at the local military surplus store, and a few coats were purchased (along with souvenir t-shirts). My youngest son even wears his European military long-coat at Berea College (where he just completed his Junior year).

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Antique Jet Fighter at the military surplus store — John M. Dabbs

Bar Harbor

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Photo by John M. Dabbs — Bar Harbor, Maine

From the History Channel to our personal observations, the iconic harbor was on our list of places to see. Our first foray into the countryside (other than the campground) would be to Bar Harbor. The peaceful town and waterfront are breathtaking. For sea and nature lovers, I highly recommend not only stopping by and chartering a whale watching trip but to stay in the comfortable accommodations here.

We ventured into the charter offices only to find whale watching trips were already booked for the next three days. We hadn’t known ahead of time, as I didn’t think to look for this type of excursion before we left home. We managed to book a morning trip for the last day of our journey — which unfortunately canceled after our arrival, due to weather.

Fort Knox

Our second excursion had us traversing the Penobscot River. We made our way to the less famous Fort Knox. You are more likely to know of the Fort Knox, Kentucky — home to the U.S. Gold Depository and U.S. Army Armored Cavalry.

Located on the west bank of the Penobscot River in Prospect, Maine, Fort Knox is a nicely preserved historical fortification on the New England coast.

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Interior of Fort Knox, ME — John M. Dabbs

During the early years of the U.S.A., the area was often the subject of border disputes with British Canada. Fort Knox was established in 1844 to protect against British naval incursions.

The fort is a great place to explore and climb around its walls for a few hours. The views from the top of the structure are worthy of photography. You may not find a gold bar, but the trip is worth the cost of admission. The surrounding fields were full of wildflowers. A few photographs I took of them gained minor acclaim in local publications.

Penobscot Narrows

Adjacent to Fort Knox, you’ll find the Penobscot Narrows Bridge and Observatory located within sight and walking distance. The Penobscot Narrows Bridge is one of three bridges in the U.S.A. constructed recently using a cradle system that carries the strands within the stays from bridge deck to bridge deck, as a continuous element, eliminating anchorages in the pylons.

In June 2007, six strands within three stays were replaced with carbon fiber strands — a first in the U.S.A. Monitoring the strands will evaluate the use of carbon fiber for future purposes in bridge designs.

Observatory

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Penobscot River Bridge (Observatory atop the near tower) — John M. Dabbs

The Penobscot Bridge is also home to the Penobscot Narrows Observatory, the first bridge observation tower in the United States (and the tallest public bridge observatory in the world). At 420 feet, it gives visitors a 360-degree view of the bridge, Fort Knox State Historic Site, the Penobscot River, and the Bay. The Observatory opened to the public in 2007.

Local Eateries

During our visit to Maine, we dined at local establishments. Our motto is, “Don’t eat on vacation, where you can eat at home.” We like eating local and enjoying the local twist each establishment puts into their menu to make it their own.

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Image by ucomedia from Pixabay.com

We dined at several small diners in the area, whose names escape me as I didn’t write them down or take a photo, but the food was not just filling but delicious. There was no room for seconds, and nothing was left to waste. Nothing was lost on our tastebuds either!

From crab-cakes and muscles to lobster rolls, we enjoyed it all. I’m not sure why anyone would want to visit Maine and then end up eating at a Steak & Shake, or McDonald’s, but I’m sure it’s happened. It’s better to support the local business owners and their fares rather than keeping it all going to the conglomerates. We give them enough business when at home or when traveling to and from our destinations.

Maine Wildlife Park

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Photo by John M. Dabbs

As our whale watching trip was on hold, my wife and I had our hearts set on seeing the moose in Maine. We kept a watchful eye on the forests and water’s edge during our drives to various destinations during our trip. We had yet to glean even a peep at anything resembling a moose. We finally asked the locals who told us the moose aren’t usually seen away from the mountains and forests until fall and winter, and it would be rare for us to see one.

After a bit of searching and researching the internet, and we found the most likely place to spot the titans of the American forests — The Maine Wildlife Park.

The park is located in Gray, Maine. It was a few hours’ drive from our camp, but we were looking at lighthouses too, so it was not too far out of our way and was well worth the trip.

The park is home to over 30 types of wildlife found in Maine and allowed us some of the best views we’d ever had of these animals, even compared to zoos we have been to over the years.

The moose is a significant draw. A second fenced area keeps the moose and visitors at safe distances from one another. We spotted several large bulls, cows, and a calf or two during our visit.

We even saw whitetail deer, bobcats, coyotes, and wolves without intruding too much.

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Black bear — John M. Dabbs

The animals were situated as to appear up close and personal, while safe from us and us from them. We saw mountain lions, bears, birds of prey, and much more.

We thoroughly enjoyed the outing and could have made a day out of the park itself without stopping to see other things along the way. The cost of admission is well worth the views. The trails are easy, and the benches and vendors make for perfect places to reflect and enjoy the sights and abundant sounds. It is a place to enjoy for kids of all ages leisurely.

Lighthouses

The lighthouses in Maine are varied and quite beautiful.

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Bass Harbor Head Light, Acadia National Park — John M. Dabbs

The sizes and shapes vary, as do the locations for each. Though there are similarities, there are many distinctions in each.

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Photo by Mercedes Mehling on Unsplash.com

We hadn’t intended to make lighthouse sightseeing a part of our Maine vacation, but I am quite glad we included it in our itinerary. One could make a vacation of lighthouse sightseeing alone — just in Maine!

Looking back, our planning did not account for all we would find during our excursions. Each of us wanted more time at each encounter along our way. Though I have a love for the tropics, the Northeast coast is calling me.

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An outdoor enthusiast with a passion for travel and adventure. John is a professional consultant and photojournalist.

Johnson City, TN
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