Our first stop in Maine is to visit two sets of friends whose homes are tucked into the deep, green woods that blanket the interior part of this northeastern-most state. We are once again grateful for the time to visit old friends and meet their newest additions, Henley the human and Papi the pup. We don’t stay long, or make it far enough north to experience Moosehead Lake or the Allagash wilderness so famously described by Thoreau as “grim and wild.” As much as we’d like to drive on, past the state capitol of Augusta, through Stephen King’s Bangor, all the way up to Caribou and onto New Brunswick or over to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, those places will have to wait for another big trip. Right now, we have to get to the port town of Rockland to catch a ferry to one of the sweetest little island towns in the world.
Vinalhaven, Maine is historically known for its granite quarries, which supplied stone for courthouses, churches, bridges, railroad stations, and commercial centers throughout the U.S. in the late 19th and early 20th century. Vinalhaven granite is in the base of the Brooklyn Bridge and the walls of the Washington monument. Today, though, granite is no longer in demand, and this 25 sq mile island on Penobscot Bay relies on lobster fishing and seasonal tourism. The quarries are now swimming holes that we visit, along with the locals and the other tourists from New York, Boston, Washington, DC, to take a dip, jump off rocks, and pick blueberries from the bushes that grow in and around the granite boulders.
Time passes slowly on this island, where we walk into town to get groceries, ice cream, or a lobster roll from Greet’s Eats, and visit the local library, art gallery, and rocky beaches nearby. The kids walk to the penny candy store almost every day, toting little paper bags that are each worth 3 cents of bonus candy (3 cents can get you 3 candy Lego blocks, 2 gummy fish, or a Starburst so they never forget to bring the bag).
You can take a ride (or a taxi with Gage the puppy!) to explore the other parts of the island, where you’ll pass woods and farms, see the wind turbines that supply electricity for the Fox Islands, including Vinalhaven, and catch views of other islands, including part of Acadia National Park. But you can also just sit, watching the boats come in and out of the harbor and listening for the horn announcing the ferry’s arrival and departure.
We drive out to go canoeing one day in the tidal basin, paddling around curious seals who pop up all around us. We see ducks, terns, and a bald eagle. That night, we pull live lobster from the pier, left for us by our neighbor, and enjoy yet another lobster dinner.
We could stay longer here on Vinalhaven but it is time to go home now. After all this rest, we are surprisingly tired. I guess 17,000 miles and a year on the road will do that to you. Just a few days later and we are back on Dunkirk, home for good. Or at least until our next big trip…