The location of Downeast Maine, where the region starts and stops is hard to nail down.
The term Downeast or Down East Maine has been used loosely since the word first appeared in a dictionary in 1825. “Downeast” is a sailing term too. The prevailing winds along the Maine coast blow from the southwest in the warm months, so ships from Boston were able to run downwind as they sailed along Maine’s north-easterly-trending coast. Or so reported like a true skipper Colin Woodard with his explanation of where the term originated in his book The Lobster Coast.
Woodard examines Downeast Maine’s complicated relationship with Massachusetts that combined with what else was happening almost a decade before the pilgrims spied and named the rock.
When European settlers were barely eking out a living along the rocky Maine coast. Where their weary, weathered descendants fended off aggrieved Indians, French raiders, self serving English lords. And greedy land speculators all had a hand in the forces forging. Shaping the unique lobstering communities of coastal Maine.
Downeast Maine is small fishing communities, a little less touristy than coastal sections closer to the Granite, Bay states.
The terrain is hilly, soils rocky, sandy. Nd not like the Caribou loam profile of Aroostook County, the garden of Maine. Downeast Maine is not easily accessed by simply turning on a right hand turn signal. No quick zip trek to reach from an Interstate 95 off ramp. It takes time to weave in and out along old US Rt 1. Like threading the eye of a needle. Downeast is more difficult to reach from land than from sea. During periods of fog, when it is snowing and blowing fluffy flakes or through a weather spell of freezing rain. Those batton down the hatches, zip up your rain or winter wear snuggly during a weather northeaster.
The distance, difficulty for travel insulates and protects like lots of far away corners of Maine.
Where on a day trip you just arrive and like travel to the Moon have to quickly shift gears and think about heading for home. Low on the fuel of precious time. That is part of what protects the craggy, rock bound coast of Downeast Maine. And why there are not easy directions for tourists when wanting a quick answer fix to finding tourist attractions and getting a slow, dry reply of “you can’t get there from here”. (The correct pronunciation “You caunt get thar from here-ah”)
When the native asked for the tenth time today gives up, because the travel help just causes grumbles about what a stupid way to lay out your town. When the locals have no trouble at all and like it just fine.
Downeast Maine is not like anywhere else, not trying to be and hangs tough to what helped it keep going and survive the storms of life.
Don’t expect cookie cutter like modern grid row communities and remember the terrain, weather, tight economics all add more wrinkles to the Downeast experience that defies zoning and does not seek perfect order. Clinging instead to the days before the steamers and when clipper ships, King pines, fishing canneries, maritime folklore of dance and music, rich sea coast history and tradition ruled the day.
So back to the drawing the dotted line on the cake of Maine to cut deep and carve out a piece of tasty Downeast Maine.
Downeast Maine, where exactly does it start or stop again? The tourist information people slice the watery eastern side of Vacationland to include “sections” of the Maine coast so the local merchants can focus just on their backyard. Because on a three day weekend, you are not going to be able to sample all of Maine coastline. Pace yourself as a traveler with only so much time. Focus on your area as a merchant not wishing to waste a drop of the expensive promotional dollars. It’s regions, not one of the sixteen counties easy to figure out the where the travel slide show is taking you today in Maine.
Hancock County has the longest coastline of any of Maine’s sixteen land sections. In Washington County no democrat has led the county since Hubert Humphrey back in 1968. What about the Downeast Maine lighthouses included in this northern most section of coastline? I know Cape Elizabeth’s Portland Headlight gets most of the press, but West Quoddy Headlight is one of the prettiest in Maine in her crisp, clean, dramatic red and white attire. She is the Eastern most lighthouse in Maine, the USA.
I think West Quoddy Headlight’s northern coastal location across from Maritime Canada, Campobello Island makes her a jewel the average traveler runs out of gas and never gets to see.
We took a little road trip down to Machias Maine, the county seat for Washington yesterday. Had some fried clams, fish chowder at Helen’s Restaurant and admired the Downeast setting. Less tourists, much snow than Northern Maine today, plenty of fractured ice along the waterways. A visit to Roque Bluffs State Park is one recommendation if you are in the Machias area of Maine. For the smell of salt air, vision of coastal eye candy and to feel the breeze that makes you pull up your collar, tug on your zipper.
Blueberries, one more word to describe Downeast Maine. Like Central Maine children collect eggs out of the hen’s nest, Northern Maine children pick potatoes out of the ground, Downeast youngsters and their families rake blueberries from the barrens.
Meg and I picked up the Quoddy Tides and Machias Valley News Observer after fueling the stomach with fresh Maine fish.
Front page insertions about food pantries, winter fuel heating assistance, volunteers sought to count homeless residents all show how Maine coastal communities ban together. To help each other, and leave no one out in the cold or overlooked. Especially during the darker, snow filled months, the stark off season tourist months. When folks hunker down and wait for spring. Your turn to deal in the cribbage board game Chummy. Pass the sardines please Bub. You going ice fishin’ this weekend? Heard the catch was wicked strong off the point. A yuh. Headin’ upta camp.
In both newspaper publications, towns grapple with local regulations for marijuana gets front page press ink in larger font type. Fifty two percent of Washington County did not support the latest pot referendum but Maine as a whole did by about four thousand votes.
Now talk about moving forward with how best to handle pot out in the open suggests moratoriums for a year. To figure out regulation, enforcement, penalties, how to guide best, how to test for sobriety and what about edibles that all on the table in small Maine communities. Who are looking to the Maine Municipal Association for guidance on legalize pot. Some towns in Maine reaching out to learn about how Oregon, Colorado and Washington state rolled out legalize marijuana growing programs to study for the private and retail sector.
The veteran of the month is highlighted in the Machias Valley News Observer, the local Maine newspaper serving its region for over 160 years.
In the newspaper edition I held up, opened wide for the peek into Downeast Maine, a World War Two vet was the topic of discussion. Many in the audience no doubt somehow related to this service vet. Veterans are gone but not forgotten and remembrance is the least you can do for the many who gave some, the some who gave all. Amen.
Local sports teams like all of Maine towns are big news as thoughts of another or the first gold ball for the school trophy case are entertained by everyone young and old. ” The Narraguagus Lady Knights basketball team slays the Woodland Knights” the headline reads. Local photos from Steuben, Jonesport, Barney Cove in Beals, Maine all add to the literary seasoning of the local newsprint of Downeast Maine.
News highlights in the local Downeast press edition we scanned highlighted the Calais Maine hospital marks it’s 100th anniversary.
It shows a 1917 image from back when it was on Church Street. An image of Bohemian Waxwing birds flying in and out to feast on apples and berries was showcased for readers. New books at the Pembroke Library highlighted… one titled “The Kamikaze Hunters” by Will Iredale.
Contra dances, Celtic music, boat builders meeting, benefit suppers, bug delicacies tasting and education, senior socials, a beam raising ceremony, soul foot pot luck supper, mind reading, workshop on making sauerkraut, moon light snow shoe/ski/food hike. Everything happening in the local setting make the news announcements and gets coverage in the weekly papers Downeast.
To mark the new year, the Great Sardine pictured, dropping from the Tides Institute and Museum of Art building in downtown Eastport at midnight. Also a historic tug boat that parted from its mooring in St Andrews Canada because of high winds during a winter storm was pictured listing to one side on shore in Robbinston, Maine.
The 60 foot T.B. McClintic was built in 1932 at Bath Iron Works and had a rich maritime history racking up the nautical miles out at sea. Luckily the sea vessel was able to power off on the incoming tide the following day with calmer seas and the journey across the St Croix River to return to St Andrews.
Who says there is nothing going on in a small Maine town?
Downeast Maine, you want to vacation but need some ideas on what to do and where in Vacationland. The Pirate Festival in Eastport and Lubec Maine is one worthwhile outing. There is an Eastport Ferry Service to help get you on the water, from land lubber point to point. To help you during the Pirate Festival develop your sea legs. Wicked fun time if you can make it to Downeast town wide celebration. Now let’s go clamming! Ready?
Bar Harbor Maine is part of the lower end of Downeast coastal sections but seems so much more prosperous and polished that something is lost in the authenticity.
There is spin in that four color high gloss representation of Downeast that seems a little slick, a lot more expensive. Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park are a tourist attraction that is hard to resist and she is the rich relative because of the wealth. The old and new money people that all had the same idea in where to head. In migration to this coastal Maine destination for summer vacation homes and nightly sea cruises where breakwaters were installed to avoid spilling your cocktail while conversing and spotting whales, seals, bald eagles and lighthouses.
Lobster recipes in Downeast Maine. The crustaceans start out dark green and end up bright red. But if I had my druthers, just set me in front of a very large bowl of steamed clams with the broth for dipping, in the stripping and bathing in butter before down the gullet. With a splash of micro red or white something from a local brewery of barley pop and topped off with a seaside setting with your family in Maine. It does not get better than that.
Sample Maine, all of her. Even if it takes a lifetime.
When you say you vacation at the Maine coast, that does not nail down the where exactly about are you talking? And don’t make the trip the same season if you want to get a completely difference travel experience. Often times the best Maine coastal vacation is without all the people like the open highway when it is not drive time busy.
Vacations, time away to be below radar and unplug, to recharge in Maine.
Come at the beginning, ends, before and after the tourism season’s highest pitch for the down low, real connection.
Fill your lungs with the sea salt air, your eyes with the expanse of rock and coastal fresh water. Your plate with another helping of fish, clams, lobster but save room for a slab of blueberry pie topped with drizzling scoops of ice cream. Learn about the Acadian and Canadian history. Lots of stories to hear. Pull up a chair, roll down a window, make the trip.
Come to Downeast Maine.
To absorb the small Maine coastal town living experience up close and personal in say Downeast Maine.
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