Diary USA 22 to 28 Sep 2014

Monday September 22nd
Had a pretty gentle day today after the busy weekend. We drove up to Freeport and visited LL Bean (a well-known Maine store for outdoor stuff – almost no bargains to be had though), where Katharine bought some lightweight hiking boots in a sale and we also got 2 LL Bean water bottles. We finally sorted out the mobile phone problem – it turns out to be impossible to buy a US SIM card which works with our UK phones, so instead bought a $10 Tracphone (known as a ‘burner’) plus $20 of minutes – just as all the criminals and terrorists do, Pete told us. A quiet evening at home.
Tuesday September 23rd
Got back on the cycles today to go into the city. We visited the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow House, especially interesting as all the fixtures, fittings and furnishings are either original or modern versions of the originals. It was fascinating to see how the area had grown into part of the city entre from being a farm. We then went to see a special train of a collection of around 30 privately owned and restored old luxury Pullman cars and observatory coaches from trains of the early 20th century, which were in Portland for a convention.

Vintage railroad cars

Vintage railroad cars

Richard wandered along happily taking photos till we were chased off by the security people. Then we returned home to pack and set off for the ‘camp’ up at Lake Sebago, shopping on the way. It was very cosy and pleasant, a most attractive setting. Richard cooked a fresh lobster – what else – for spaghetti sauce. Went for a stroll and watched the sun set.
Wednesday September 24th
Met Gary and Suzanne at about 8.40 and set off with them for our hike up Mt Jackson (4052 ft). It was a bit overcast when we started but overall it was a lovely day, though the cloud never did leave the summit of Mt Washington. We had a pretty good view of most of the other ‘Presidents’. It was a terrific walk, with some scary bits (for K) but overall the right amount of challenge and plenty of paces to stop for views and birds. Saw a really good tally of birds, including Boreal Chickadees, which are high, northern birds, and which neither Pete nor Janet has seen, and Canada (Grey) Jays, which ate ‘trail mix’ out of our hands. They had a good three-bird rotation worked out, a bit like planes stacking into Heathrow.

Bretton Woods in New Hampshire

Bretton Woods in New Hampshire

Ascending the summit of Mt Jackson

Ascending the summit of Mt Jackson

Feeding a Canada Jay

Feeding a Canada Jay

We came down via Mt Webster, and then found a great little eatery, ‘Cabin Fever’, where we had burgers and ice cream and home-made pie, and listened to live music of the 60s and 70s. A good end to a most enjoyable day.
Thursday September 25th
Sad to leave the peaceful cabin by the lake after our 2-night stay.

Peter & Janet's lakeside cabin

Peter & Janet’s lakeside cabin

Drove south to Bath, to the excellent Maritime Museum. We spent several hours wandering around the site, which shows the history of Maine shipping and how the ships were built in the 19th century, and has a big outside area where 6-masted schooners used to be built, as well as a special exhibit on Maine lobster fishing, including a splendid 1950s black-and-white TV documentary with the commentary delivered in a rather Hemmingwayesque style. There was also a little kiosk in the grounds where good, simple fresh food was sold. Then drove back to Portland to find that Pete’s new job contract had at last come through.
Friday September 26th
All the hiking and walking round the museum plus driving had taken its toll on Richard’s knee, which was swollen and stiff, but he ice-packed it and then felt able to cycle into Portland – much more pleasant and convenient than taking the car – where we visited the Art Gallery. We found it very impressive – well laid out with an interesting range of work. We enjoyed the Impressionist and Post-impressionist paintings, the work by local artists and the display of 19th century American homes. After we’d cycled home and rested a bit, Janet drove us to Capisic Park, where we had a gentle walk and looked for birds, seeing our first Cardinal at last, albeit briefly.

Janet & Richard looking for birds in the bush

Janet & Richard looking for birds in the bush

Pete came back from work with a presentation plaque and several gift vouchers for local restaurants, so very kindly took us out to an excellent dinner in a fairly new restaurant in town.
Saturday September 27th
It was great that all of us could get up rather more gently this morning. As Richard was keen to see some real Maine coastline, and it was a lovely hot sunny day, we decided against a trip to Boston and instead drove up the coast to visit a couple of headlands. We went out to Land’s End on Bailey Island, driving over the extraordinary crib bridge, the only one in the world since the Scottish original is no more.

The Crib Bridge

The Crib Bridge

The coast of Maine

The coast of Maine

Our lobster shack

Our lobster shack

We ate fresh seafood while we watched the next lobster boat coming in. The sun had brought the butterflies out, including the odd Monarch and several Painted Ladies.
Sunday September 28th
Today we drove to North Monmouth, home to Suzanne and Gary, as well as to the factory where 75% of the world’s tennis ball fuzz is made – we saw huge bales of the stuff through the factory windows! After checking out the birds on the garden feeders and watching a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker doing a good job of destroying a rowan (mountain ash tree), we set off, minus Pete, whose hip was troubling him, to Mt Pisgah, which Gary climbs most days to check on birds.

The view from Mt Pisgah in Maine

The view from Mt Pisgah in Maine

Richard’s knee was still rather sore so we did a gentle hike, stopping to look at birds. Then we came back for a huge late lunch cum early dinner, including purple potatoes and really sweet corn. A final bird check yielded two Sand Cranes, which excited everyone. On the way back to Portland we stopped off at Kohl’s department store, where they had a sale and Janet had coupons. Richard and Pete each bought shirts. Once home we completed our packing and set our alarms for 6am. It’s sad to be leaving – we’ve had such a great time in Maine and really enjoyed getting to know some of Julia’s family.

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