Massachusetts to Minnesota (2): a week in Maine

It has been great to meet up with our elder daughter, Hannah, and her family (Michael, Callum, and Zoë) for a week in a cabin at Waterford in Maine, taking a short break in our road trip. They flew in from St Paul (Minnesota) three days after we landed in the USA, and on the day that we drove over from Burlington in Vermont, crossing the White Mountains in New Hampshire.

And what fun we have all had together. It’s wonderful to see them again. It has been a year since we were last over on this side of the Atlantic.

On Saturday we decided not to stray far from the cabin, just the short distance to Hawk Mountain to take in the breathtaking panoramas south and west of Waterford.

Sunday was Michael’s 40th birthday so we celebrated by a visit to Attitash Mountain Resort, about 50 miles west of the cabin along US302. This map shows all the excursions we made during the six days we spent in Maine.

I’d been expecting huge crowds, and long queues for the rides. But no! Although school was out in some areas, the resort was quiet, and we could take as many rides up and down the mountain as we liked, and no waiting.

There were two rides that we enjoyed: the Alpine Coaster, and the Alpine slide. Never having experienced either, Steph decided to ride with Hannah on her Coaster ride; I took Zoë. Callum rode with Michael.

I’d seen videos on YouTube of alpine coasters around the USA. The one at Attitash is advertised as the longest. This is what it looks like.

Michael managed to capture me on his cellphone during one of my descents.

The Coaster was quite a bone shaker. More fun for us ‘oldies’ was the mile long and awesome descent on the Alpine Slide. It’s a bit like the Olympic luge. And we could all take our own carts, even Callum and Zoë.

Here’s what it looks like from a rider’s perspective, from a video I found on YouTube.

To begin the ride, it was necessary to take the chairlift up the mountain, about a 10 minute ride, with incredible views over the surrounding mountains.

And when it all got too much, it was nice just to sit back, relax in the sun, and watch the others having the time of their lives.

Being Michael’s special day, we stopped off for dinner at a recommended restaurant, where he enjoyed lobster, and the rest of us something not quite so exotic. The end to a great day.

After all the excitement of the previous day, we decided to take it easy on the Monday. So Hannah and Michael took the children around McWain Pond in a canoe.

Meanwhile, this was a great opportunity for me to enjoy yet another cold beer in the sunshine, and Steph to knock off another couple of chapters of the book she’d brought with her.

On the Tuesday we set off for Mt Washington, at 6228 feet the highest mountain in the northeast of the USA, and where the highest wind speed was recorded in the 1930s.

We passed by Mt Washington near Bretton Woods on the west side of the mountain while traveling across New Hampshire the week before.

It’s a seven mile drive up to the summit, and we enjoyed a 360° panorama at the top. We were lucky. For more than 60% of days, the summit is completely fogged in. While it was windy (40-60 mph), it was just about manageable.

There’s also a cog railway that climbs to the top, bringing even more tourists who don’t relish the drive. While we were at the summit several trains arrived, and I was fortunate to capture this shot of three at the summit.

After the slow descent, and heating of the brakes, we found a nice spot to enjoy a picnic, let the car cool down, and a rest for ourselves.

On the way back to Waterford, we finally came across one of New England’s famous covered bridges – at Jackson, NH! They really are fascinating, and from what I could tell from various plaques and information online, they are really cherished.

Wednesday and Thursday were our big excursion to the coast, to Camden on Penobscot Bay for an all-day sail around the bay on Sailing Vessel Owl with Capt Aaron (Lincoln) at the helm, a direct descendant of folks who came to the USA in the 1680s.

Michael used to sail these waters with his mother and stepfather when he was a boy, and was keen for Callum and Zoë to enjoy the same experience. We left the cabin by 06:30, and were ready for boarding the Owl around 09:30.

We set off east into the bay, arriving at the passage between North Haven and Vinalhaven (map) by lunchtime, in time for a short shore excursion on a small island. Until our return it had been warm and sunny, and mostly smooth. But as we set sail for the return to Camden, the wind got up, the waves increased and the temperature fell.

After a long day at sea, about 9 hours, we arrived back in the harbor, and enjoyed a welcome meal of freshly caught haddock. Since the drive from the cabin had taken about 2½ hours, we had already decided to spend the night in Camden, returning mid-morning the next day.

But before we left, we took a stroll around this pretty town and its harbor. In a small park overlooking the harbor there is a statue memorial to soldiers who fell in the American Civil War of the 1860s, referred to interestingly as The Great Rebellion.

There’s considerable wealth in Camden, given the large houses and boats moored in the harbor, owned by some of America’s most illustrious families.

Before heading back to the cabin at Waterford, Steph and I decided to take a look around Rockport, just a couple of miles south of Camden. On the point of a peninsula east of the town, the simple and beautiful Vesper Hill Chapel was built in 1962, and is dedicated to all young people who found God in their lives.

Then it was time to head west so that we would have enough time to pack, and prepare for the long trip even further westwards the next day.

Such was our week in Maine, enjoying time with Hannah and Michael, and the grandchildren. Callum and Zoë took everything in their stride, full of beans, and always ready for the next adventure. They keep us young!

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See the other posts in this series:

Massachusetts to Minnesota (1): the first three days in MA, VT and NH

Massachusetts to Minnesota (3): onwards to Niagara Falls

Massachusetts to Minnesota (4): heading west through NY, PA, OH, KY and IN, then on to MN

Massachusetts to Minnesota (1): the first three days in MA, VT and NH

It’s that time of the year, and here we are, on the road again in the USA. Another potentially daunting road trip that will take us from Boston, Massachusetts (MA) to St Paul, Minnesota (MN) via Vermont (VT), New Hampshire (NH), Maine (ME), New York (NY), Pennsylvania (PA), Ohio (OH), Kentucky (KY), Indiana (IN), Michigan (MI), and Wisconsin (WI), including a ferry crossing of Lake Michigan from MI to WI. This year I’m using my new Garmin DriveSmart 51 sat-nav, for which I purchased the USA-Canada maps. It saves Steph having to navigate, state by state, map by map, as in previous years, so she can enjoy looking at the passing scenery.

We are also spending a week near Waterford in western Maine, with our daughter Hannah and family (Michael, Callum, and Zoë) at a cabin on the shore of McWain Pond, one of the many small lakes that dot the landscape.

Anyway, it all started last Wednesday morning, very early, when a taxi picked us up from home at 04:00 to take us to Birmingham Airport (BHX) for our 06:00 KLM flight to Amsterdam Schipol (AMS), connecting with Delta 259 at 11:15 to Boston Logan International Airport (BOS).

Apart from a rather rude Delta ground agent at Schipol, our connection was uneventful, as was boarding (Sky Priority), and I was soon enjoying my first G&T on the 6 hour 55 minute flight, on a comfortable Airbus A330-300. When we landed in BOS there was a delay of more than 20 minutes while the ground crew figured out how to connect the air-bridge to the aircraft. But soon enough, we were checked through immigration on one of the newfangled automated passport control (APC) machines. I still had to pass through regular immigration (and facing another rude official who even queried me about any visits I’d made to the Middle East). Before long, luggage in hand, we were at the car rental center and picking up our SUV from Budget. The Mitsubishi we had been assigned had a flat battery, so Budget upgraded us to a full-size SUV, a Dodge Journey V6—rather larger than we needed, but extremely comfortable nevertheless, if a little heavy on fuel (about 25 mpg). But at USD3 a gallon, that’s not really an issue. It would be in the UK, however, where gasoline is more than twice the price!

We successfully navigated our way out of the airport and through the tunnels under Boston city center on I-90, after finally getting the sat-nav to behave itself. Our Wednesday night stop was in Hadley, in central MA, just over 100 miles west of Boston, and southwest by a handful of miles of Amherst.

Over the next two days we took in northwest MA, the Green Mountains of VT as far north as Burlington, and then over the White Mountains of NH, to arrive at our cabin destination in Waterford, ME.

Heading northwest from Hadley on Thursday, it was slow-going for the first 20 miles or so as we encountered school traffic and people heading to work. But soon we were in open country, on scenic byway 112 and often had the road to ourselves for long stretches (as we have enjoyed in past road trips). After about an hour we joined MA2, the Mohawk Trail, and followed that until North Adams where we turned north and crossed over into VT.

There was a glorious view south from Whitcomb Summit, and some miles further on, just short of North Adams, there is a spectacular view north into southern Vermont, reminding us of the views we saw when exploring the Appalachians in 2017.

Vermont is a beautiful state, with forested hills and mountains as far as the eye can see.

North of Wilmington, VT we stopped at a general store and deli to buy sandwiches and were intrigued with the Mini Cooper parked outside with an interesting registration plate BONKS. There was also a Golden Retriever with a Union Jack collar. We discovered that the proprietor was British, from Guildford in Surrey (near London)!

We spent Thursday night on the east side of Burlington, conveniently located for the next day’s travel northeast into New Hampshire and Maine, beginning around 08:00.

Most of the small communities we passed through have a general store or two, offering a whole range of produce, and many selling fresh sandwiches from a deli counter. We enjoyed a coffee in the sun at Westfield in the far north of the state, just south of the border with Canada.

Crossing into New Hampshire, we headed towards the White Mountains and were not disappointed with the fantastic view of the Presidential Range and the Mt Washington Hotel Resort at Bretton Woods. That’s Mt Washington just left of center, at 6288 ft the highest mountain in the northeast USA.

But Bretton Woods also has special significance for me. Why? Well, I worked for 27 years at two international agricultural centers, CIP and IRRI,  sponsored by the CGIAR (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research). The CGIAR was founded in 1971 under the auspices of the World Bank. In July 1944, an international conference was held at the hotel to plan for a post-war world, following which the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund were created.

Stopping at Conway to pick up a supply of groceries, we finally reached the cabin around 17:00. A long enough day, followed by a couple of cold beers, an early night, but still far short of some of the travel we have yet to make.

Watch this space!

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See the other posts in this series:

Massachusetts to Minnesota (2): a week in Maine

Massachusetts to Minnesota (3): onwards to Niagara Falls

Massachusetts to Minnesota (4): heading west through NY, PA, OH, KY and IN, then on to MN