When thinking about the coastline of Maine in its most celebrated most idyllic sense to my mind it’s only the Downeast region that still fully captures it. …
The love I have for my home state of Maine is no great secret. The sad and sorry thing about me though is that save for sharing my state via experience and a site like riverdevin.com I’m fairly covetous and selfish with that love. I seek out the wild beauty of remote areas precisely because I don’t want to be around other people. If I get to a chosen spot of remoteness and find people already there I get generally upset and pissy about it. This sick disease I seem to have is a horrible thing to be afflicted with in the summer when you live in a state with as beautiful a coastline as the State of Maine has. Such a beautiful ragged surf pounded serpentine of wonder that I hardly ever visit in the summer because it’s so dirtied and sullied by of all things, other people. Most of them are tourists and I’m not so sure what it is I have against tourists because, for one, they help with our state’s tax burden by dumping hundreds of thousands of their dollars on cheap tacky tourist trinkets and overpriced bland and basic lobster rolls every year, but also because being from the inland in a sense when I visit the coast I too am sort of a tourist there. But whatever. Tourists! There’s just too damn many of them. It’s because of this that when I consider going coastal in the summer I often look towards a very very long drive way down east.
US Route 1 snakes along the coastal stretch of Maine entering in the south at Kittery. It then winds more or less north/north east/east across the entire coastline of Maine where it reaches its most eastern terminus in Perry, Maine before finally swinging back north. During the summer months the section that lies between Kittery and Ellsworth (at the entrance to Bar Harbor) is consistently congested with a honking mass of migrating tourists. The Downeast region of Maine generally encompasses all of the coastal region that stretches east north east from Bar Harbor in Acadia to Lubec, Eastport, and Calais which all lie directly on the eastern border with Canada. When thinking about the coastline of Maine in its most celebrated most idyllic sense to my mind it’s only the Downeast region that still fully captures it. The honking traffic? Gone. Sunbather packed beaches? non-existent. Amusement parks? Nope. Golf courses? Nada. Big hotels? Uh no instead it’s a few worn and seedy motels instead or perhaps an old seaside inn. And then there’s camping; no, not your, massive RV family style campground with large stupid activity centers but more like real tent-site camping the way the folks deep out in the woods do it. I always love driving out to the Downeast. The little seaside towns are just exactly what they appear. None of them have those sprawling rich “summer homes” that remain unoccupied for 9 months of the year. These are hard working REAL coastal villages of Maine, beautiful, rustic, poor, and enduring. I would trade a Downeast town like Cutler Maine for a mid-coast tourist trap like Boothbay Harbor any day!
So let’s talk about Cutler. It’s why I’m writing this blog post. I wanted adventure, I wanted remoteness, and I wanted beauty so I set out this past weekend to find it. In Cutler lies the Cutler Coast Public Reserved Land. This wild land sprawls across bogs, marshes, and maritime spruce forests all the way down to a majestic cliff studded rocky coastline. Previously inaccessible, there is now a network of trails through here. I’ll leave the description of the trails, and other information for Maine Trail Finder which you can find here: http://www.mainetrailfinder.com/trails/trail/cutler-coast-public-reserved-land Suffice it to say that these trails are generally pretty rugged and if you are camping here you’ll have to hike all your stuff several miles in. This is back-country camping folks. Now on to my adventure.
…nothing was going to stop me at this point. After much movement and packing the pain and stiffness did subside…
It’s a three and a half hour drive from my residence in Augusta all the way Downeast to Cutler. I decided it would be best to get up early, have a big breakfast, pack up the last minute stuff and be out of the house no later than 9 am so I might start my hike by mid-day. When the alarm hit my girlfriend and I arose from the bed at the same time, she preparing for a workday and me for adventure. She hit the morning in full stride. I on the other hand took one step out of bed and winced in pain. As she saw me hobble towards the bathroom she exclaimed in concern “Again honey?” This was the second morning in a row. I tried waving her off. “Are you gonna even be able to do this hike? You worry me.”
“I’m fine,” I protested while grimacing and flexing my foot. “It’ll be just like yesterday. Just gotta warm it up and get the blood flow going. It’s just a tweak from my yoga. I’tll be fine”
“I know. You just worry me,” She said.
But nothing was going to stop me at this point. After much movement and packing the pain and stiffness did subside and I was on the road at 9:30 only a little bit behind schedule.
It was cool walking with a salty humid tinge in the air. As I hoofed my way in I worked out a kink in my shoulder while getting used to carrying so much weight on my back….
I made only one pit stop in Sullivan to relieve myself and pulled in to reserve land’s parking lot at 1:00 PM. Much to my dismay there were several cars there. I guess in the little fantasy I’d constructed for myself I thought I’d be all alone out there. Preferred to be in fact. Now I was worried if I’d even get a tent site. It was a steadily graying day with temperatures in the low 60’s; afternoon showers were in the forecast with possible evening thunderstorms. This is not optimal weather for the coast of Maine, especially the Downeast coast. There’s not much sightseeing to be done when a wall of mist and fog engulfs the region. But sightseeing wasn’t all this was about for me. This was about the journey. The woods were on the dry side of what I’d call misty when I began. It was cool walking with a salty humid tinge in the air. As I hoofed my way in I worked out a kink in my shoulder while getting used to carrying so much weight on my back. I really couldn’t say how much weight I carried. It was heavy though. I know that’s crazy talk to the seasoned backcountry hiker but a seasoned backcountry hiker I am not. I’m a day hiker. Even though it’s a very rugged LL Bean I was still hiking with a day hiker backpack. I’d paid very close attention to balance when I packed it but it was still working up my left shoulder pretty good. I was hiking the most direct trail in to get to the shoreline about a mile and a half off. Halfway down this trail it started raining so I stopped to put my rain gear on before continuing. I knew it was going to be a wet night before drying out with a sunny day tomorrow so I wanted to stay as dry as possible on the hike in. I’m not sure why I even bothered. The rain gear and the exertion from the rugged rocky root addled hiking had me working up a sweat that was soaking me from within my rain gear. I kept it on though for quite some time. After passing many groups of hikers on their way out I eventually I reached the shore coming out on a scenic overlook just west of Holmes cove.
My trail began to get more rugged as it swung southwest along this shoreline and the rain stopped so I decided to take off my rain gear. I wish I hadn’t because almost immediately thereafter I abruptly descended into a meadow of tall grass that swallowed up the trail…
The overlook was nothing to behold but a wall of white and a slowly swelling and ebbing mass of dark water beneath it. I was on the edge of a rocky cliff looking out over the Bay of Fundy. If it had been clear I’d be able to see across to Grand Manan Island Canada out in the middle of the bay. Maybe I’d even be able to spy the Northern shore of Nova Scotia. Heading west I left the overlook and hiked through the edge of the forest that ran along this section of shore. After awhile I came back out to the rocky cliffs with the sea gently lapping far below. The shoreline was a dark massive wall of pine studded rock. My trail began to get more rugged as it swung southwest along this shoreline and the rain stopped so I decided to take off my rain gear. I wish I hadn’t because almost immediately thereafter I abruptly descended into a meadow of tall grass that swallowed up the trail. Wading through this grass was no drier than wading waist deep into a pond and within fifty feet of hiking this section of trail I was soaked straight through everywhere, my feet making little squish squish noises. I was thankful for the dry clothes rolled up tight deep in my backpack. I’d need them that night because the public reserve land allows no open fires. My hike along this section of shore was going slower than I’d expected. The terrain was terrible and I was taking extra care to be slow as the trail was often difficult to stay on. My original plan had been to hike the entire shoreline of this land down to Fairy Head at it’s most southwestern point and then loop back on my way out, a near ten mile journey, but as I neared Black Point Cove wet and tired I changed my mind and decided I might camp wherever a spot was clear. When I reached it the few sites around Black Point cove were both occupied and I became concerned that I might have to hike all the way to Fairy Head anyway. My trail took me through two more deep meadows that swallowed me up and spit me out the other side looking like a drowned rat, my glasses all steamed up, stumbling over boulders. After descending a blueberry covered ridge into some deep forest of spruce I finally came out to a point with an empty tent site that overlooked Long Point Cove.
My evening on the cove was peaceful and solitary. After putting my bathing suit on and bravely testing the frigid waters to wash away the sweat I got into dry clothes and explored the shoreline. The tide was coming up. Looking up the cove’s walls I could tell it was a huge tide. The Bay of Fundy has the highest tides in the world, which sometimes go over 50 feet at it’s most extreme. I was keenly aware of this as I navigated the massive pebble lined shore. I did not want to get caught in a smaller cove and cut off by the incoming tide before I could make my way back to my beach. After a dinner of red beans and rice and some hot tea I passed the rest of the evening peacefully in my tent nodding off to a book. Around 9:30 I heard some hikers pass by my tent with excited hoots at seeing a camp-site. I listened as their excitement tapered off into disappointment when they discovered the site occupied. I felt bad for them. It was dark now. They had further to go. They hiked onward and I drifted off into sleep with the low intermittent moan of a fog horn and the water gently lapping yards below me.
For part 2 of my adventure click Here