Jockey Cap is a 600 foot glacial boulder in Fryeburg, Maine that offers exceptional views with about 10 minutes of (somewhat strenuous) effort. Enough to get your heart pumping, but over before you think about lying down.
To find the trail, navigate to Quinn’s Jocky Cap General Store. Part across the street. The trail head is in the back left corner of the parking lot when facing the store.
While this winter has been mild, it’s also been long and uneventful. I haven’t gotten to do much hiking, and the needle on the adventure scale has been buried at zero. So when my birthday came around, I seized the opportunity to plan a Sunday Funday.
Birthday adventure pickings have been slim for me in New England, what with so many fun things being closed until summer. But I was bound and determined to find something I’d never done before. I narrowed my focus to a day trip to the coast of Maine. I wanted to stop by all the gorgeous little towns sprinkled along the Atlantic, but I didn’t want to spend the entire day in the car, AND again, not much is open right now, so I further narrowed my focus to the Portland area, where I was sure I could cap off the adventure with a delicious dinner.
That’s when I stumbled upon Len Libby Chocolatier in Scarborough, Maine. I love chocolate. One of the good things about New England is that specialty chocolate stores are not in short supply, which ALMOST makes up for everything still being on winter lock-down in March. But this chocolatier has something the rest don’t.
A LIFE SIZED chocolate MOOSE.
Yeah, that’s right. I kid you not. And while maybe that’s not your thing, maybe you could go your entire life without seeing a 1700 pound chocolate moose, once I knew he existed, I had to pay ‘Lenny’ a visit. So I did. And now I’m spoiled. Now I want all my chocolate life sized, and I want all my friends to smell that good! 😉
Len Libby Chocolatier is just a short drive from the Portland, Maine area. And yes, their chocolate is fantastic!
It was a warm December day in New England – not many sentences are going to start like that. It was 50 degrees, the sun was shinning full force, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and we decided to make the most of the opportunity. We drove to the Maine coast to walk along the shore. More specifically, we drove to Cliff Walk in York, Maine, to walk along the cliffs that border the beach.
On one side, you have super expensive, fancy houses. On the other side, there’s
a drop to the rocks below. Everywhere you’re surrounded by beauty. Fresh, clean air, peace and quiet, and an amazing view – this is an experience not to be missed.
The walk is not very challenging, but there is a fair amount of up and down, and soon enough, we were able to shed our sweaters and enjoy the beautiful Maine December day in ourt-shirts!!! I still can’t believe it. The only things I can suggest to make Cliff Walk better is that I wish it was much longer.
It was supposed to be a quick hike, more of a walk, really, just a little fresh air and exercise. It was called the Burnt Meadow Trail. We passed Burnt Meadow Hill Road on the way to the trailhead. It wasn’t my turn to choose, so I hadn’t read anything about the trail, I just grabbed a bottle of water and got in the car.
I suppose I should have known when the trail was immediately steep and craggy. Or maybe when the trail failed to level out. But I was duped by the name. When I picture a meadow, I see a flat expanse. Not a mountain. But that was what we were on, climbing by (my) surprise.
There came a point when it was obvious, when we looked ahead and saw a rocky summit in the near distance and realized that’s where we were headed. Sure, we could have turned around. But where’s the fun in quitting? So we continued up to the summit of what I now know is the North Peak of Burnt Meadow Mountain. And the trail did eventually level out after 1.25 miles. At the top.
Is there really a desert in Maine? Well, yes and no. By all appearances, the forty acres of glacial silt in the middle of the woods in Freeport, Maine looks like desert. It does, however, get plenty of rain and the nearby vegetation is slowly invading the beach-like dunes.
A little over 200 years ago, what is now desert was once the Tuttle farm. Failure to properly rotate crops left the soil too mineral depleted to grow a harvest. The land was then used to graze sheep. Sheep, however, pull grass out by the roots instead of breaking it off like a horse or cow.
With nothing to keep it in place, the soil eroded. Left to the mercy of the wind, the silt continually gets blown around, the landscape constantly evolving through shifting dunes.
This unfortunate case of humans wreaking havoc on the land is now an example of capitalism. For a fee you can take an educational tour of the desert and hike the sandy hills. There’s also a barn museum, gemstone mining, a sands from the world collection, and even a gift shop where you can grab a drink and a souvenir.
I visited the desert on a very cold, very windy day. My impression? While it wasn’t the best spent $10 of my life, I can neither recommend nor discourage a visit. After all, for the rest of my life I’ll be able to say that I’ve been to a desert in Maine – who am I to deny someone else that distinct pleasure?
On the quiet side of Mount Desert Island, in the midst of a picturesque little fishing town, you’ll find the Bass Harbor Lighthouse. Nestled atop a craggy cliff, overlooking the Atlantic ocean, waves crashing against the rocks of the Maine coast below, this little spot is an ideal place to watch the sun set.
For the adventuresome, trails snake through the woods to the north, leading to a series of branch-offs where you can find your own, private cliff to watch on. This is a highly recommended option over sharing the scene with the crowd vying for pictures by the lighthouse. And, as with most places we encountered in Maine, your four-legged family members are invited to enjoy the show as well.
Shades of rose, peach and indigo melded like watercolors as the sun lowered in the sky. A sudden flash of tangerine sparked as the glowing orb sank below the horizon. As the last rays disappeared from sight, darkness fell quickly, enveloping the little town of Bass Harbor in a starry blanket for the night.
In Greenville, Maine, population roughly 1700, there isn’t much to do besides hiking, hunting and fishing. The economy centers on the tourists drawn to Moosehead Lake and the logging industry. There are no movie theatres, outlet malls or theme parks here, but they do have one attraction you might want to try – peace and quiet.
And what better way to spend a serene day of silence than fishing? Early morning found us on a float boat drifting down the Kennebec River, fly rods in hand. The day was shockingly cold, a sudden drop in temperature from the prior week. The sun danced behind the clouds, stingy with its warming rays. Several other fishers were out, braving the chill out in their waders, flicking their fly lines back and forth.
My first cast was rewarded with a bite. I quickly reeled in a landlocked salmon barely larger than a minnow. I thought the quick response would set the stage for the day. I was wrong. It seemed that hours passed between strikes, during which time we continued down the river, following the sun in its course across the sky. My next – and last – catch was a speckled trout.
You might think we were feeling defeated, but we weren’t at all. We traversed a gorgeous stretch of the Kennebec River. The leaves were changing, the water sparkled, mountains loomed magnificently in the distance, and our guide was great, managing to keep us dry even as we bumped our way across class three rapids. For lunch, he pulled the boat ashore, broke out a butane grill and proceeded to cook a feast of chicken, steak, mashed potatoes, pasta salad and more. He even brought Oreos for dessert! While not the most fruitful fishing trip, we still had a blast thanks to Chris at Kennebec River Anglers.
In the small town of Greenville, Maine, moose outnumber people 3 to 1. That’s what we were counting on when we made it our goal to see a moose during our stay. It was actually why we chose that area of Moosehead Lake for the first part of our vacation adventure.
There was no shortage of deer or turkeys – both crowded the roads whenever we ventured forth from the cabin. The slightly eerie cry of coyote filled the night air. We were definitely in the type of rural, secluded area where one might experience a (what we consider to be ‘rare’) animal encounter. Dusk found us driving along empty roads, hoping for a sighting. The roads bore signs warning of the high incidence of moose collisions. No matter where we went or what we did, we were always on the lookout for moose.
We set out on a large pond in Baxter State Park early in the morning, silently paddling a canoe across still waters, listening for the tell-tale crack of branches in the woods, but we heard none.
We looked for shredded vegetation floating in the water, signs of a messy moose breakfast, but the grass and water lilies around us were undisturbed. It was a beautiful morning on pristine waters, fog burning off the mountains around us as the sun rose into the sky. Total silence engulfed us except for the occasional flapping of a bird’s wings.
Then we saw it in the distance. Like an apparition, it rose from the water as we approached, a large bull, almost unbelievable to our exuberant eyes. We didn’t get very close before it ambled into the wood line, vanishing into trees and shadows, but it didn’t matter. The proof is in the picture. We had succeeded in our mission. Operation Moose was a triumph.
For those interested in visiting Greenville to spot a moose themselves – May and June is the best time, and many guided tours offer a money back guarantee during these months. September is mating season, so they’re a bit preoccupied and harder to find.
At first glance, upon entering the woods, it looks like trash has been strewn about. It is only after a closer look that it becomes apparent that the refuse isn’t normal trash. It consists of metal, twisted and tortured into shreds, shards and chunks. Pieces hang from trees. A wheel appears tossed haphazardly on its side, decorated with small American flags. Larger panels lean against trees or rest on the ground, and it hits – this is a plane crash.
It’s not nice and neat like on TV. There is no body of a plane with a snubbed nose and a broken wing leaning at an angle so you know something is wrong. This is real and it is raw. It’s messy and chaotic. This uncontained wreckage sprawls throughout the woods across the side of the mountain. Little trails snake off, leading to another piece of the rubble, flung far from the main path.
Visitors drive across miles of rutted dirt road to pay their respects. They leave the comfort of their cars to enter the dark woods, to walk among the ruins and remember those that lost their lives. This wasn’t an act of war, but it is a war memorial, a tribute to all those who make the sacrifice to serve in the armed forces.
A crew of 9 set out on a routine training flight on January 24, 1963. Due to a structural failure, the B-52 crashed that same day on the side of Elephant Mountain, just outside of the city of Greenville, Maine in Beaver Cove. Looking at the wreckage, it seems amazing that anyone made it through the crash alive, but two survived. The pilot was ejected and spent the night hanging 30 feet up in a tree. The navigator was also ejected, but his parachute never deployed. He landed in the snow with a force estimated at 16 times the force of gravity. After over 20 hours in temperatures that dipped as low as -30degree Fahrenheit, the two survivors were reached and airlifted to a hospital.