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Maine: Saco, Kennebunkport, Wells,
2004 Travelogue # 14 Maine, New Hampshire
Sand Dollar Inn
6/16 Today was special as the calendar turned another year for Peggy. She was up a little after 5 AM and out on the beach to watch the sunrise over the Atlantic. It was her special time; she walked in the sand like a barefoot kid, searching for shells and buried sand dollars.
Returning to the room, she showed me her collection and after reviewing her discoveries, we decided to return the little shell creatures to their home. Barefoot, I joined her to help toss them back into the surf. Then, I headed toward the beach entrance and found the perfect seat on an old, weathered and smooth log, to brush off my feet while watching my bride enjoy her morning at the water's edge. I returned to the wet sand area, and wrote "Happy Birthday" in big letters, knowing she'd walk across the inscription on leaving the beach. She did see it and was very surprised saying, "Not many have the pleasure of seeing a Birthday greeting written in the sand!" She was pleased.
Regretfully, it was time to leave that peaceful beach and drive down US 1 to Saco, ME in search of the Saco Heath Preserve on Hwy 112. This place was very difficult to find. We even stopped at a home along the highway and asked a gentleman for directions, who had lived there all his life, but he didn't have a clue as to where it was located. Hum, this required more investigation! We drove back into Saco, stopped at the farmers market and after several tries, finally found a young lady who knew about it and gave us excellent directions. Even though there are easier places to find, this 833-acre Preserve is well worth the search.
The Saco Heath Preserve is one of Maine's unique natural ecosystems to be enjoyed by walking a 1-mile self-guided trail. The trail winds through the woodlands where we saw one of the state's largest stands of Atlantic white cedars. Then, it leads out of the timber, with never a hint of the unique peat-land that lies ahead in the heath. The heath is a 15-foot deep peat layer that is wet and spongy. At different places along the boardwalk I saw sphagnum moss, like I used for many years in making my hanging baskets.
This Preserve is the southernmost North American example of peat-land, known to a biologist as a coalesced raised bog. Here, the bog has grown above the level of the local water table. At one time, there were two ponds but over a long period of time, the decaying plant material piled layer upon layer and swelled up with the moisture to form raised bogs. These domes eventually grew together, or coalesced and gave us the land we walked on.
After our hike, we looked for a place for lunch. We knew of a special place in Kennebunkport that has been serving food for 50 years, and headed for Mabel's Lobster Claw. The restaurant is on Ocean Drive, in town, directly across from the harbor, on the way toward the Bush Compound and one of Barbara Bush's favorite places to dine.
Mabel's has limited parking; we parked in a public lot near the waterfront, just as a lobster boat docked at a nearby pier to unload their catch. The seamen wore the bottoms of their yellow rain gear with white rubber boots, long sleeved shirts and caps. They truly looked like lobster fishermen. They opened the hatch of a large live well in the middle of the back portion of the boat. Then, they placed a couple of large plastic shipping crates into the boat and transferred the lobsters from the live well into the crates. Each lobster had a thick rubber band around each big claw, placed there at its time of capture. These bands remain until they are boiled or steamed.
After watching the seamen unload their lobsters, we crossed the street to Mabel's. A friendly waitress greeted and seated us outdoors so we could watch the activity and enjoy the sunshine. We ordered lobster rolls, which were toasted with bite-size chunks of cold fresh lobster meat; hot drawn butter for dipping, wonderful cabbage slaw, and fresh potato French fries. Peg topped her lunch with one last piece of Maine blueberry pie alamode.
Finishing our delightful lunch at Mabel's, we were off to Wells, ME and the Well's National Estuarine Research Reserve (www.wellsreserve.org ) This beautiful land, once known as the Laudholm Farm, was settled in 1642 and is well preserved on the southern coast of Maine.
We picked up an interpretive map and hiked down to the seashore. Along the way, we paused at a small bench overlooking a grassy hillside close to a bluebird house, and watched a little mama bluebird pop her head in and out while sitting on her nest. Then, we followed the trail down to a boardwalk, out over the salt marshes along the Little River. We saw several bird species for the first time but couldn't identify them.
Peggy attaches a pedometer in the morning to measure her steps during the day. Upon returning to the car she checked her steps, we had walked 4 miles this afternoon, not counting what we did this morning at Saco and on the beach.
It was time to make tracks toward Manchester for our return flight to St. Louis. We left Wells a little after 4 and drove through the Maine countryside to Dover, NH, then on to Deerfield, and into Manchester by 6:30. We were planning to stay where we stayed last week, however, up the road in Laconia, NH more than 120,000 motorcycle riders were having one of their weeklong rallies; they had pretty much booked all available rooms for miles. It took three stops and a phone call before we found a place to stay. But, it couldn't have been better a brand new, 3-month-old Hampton Inn and we were the first in this particular room plus, only minutes away from the airport. Being so new, it wasn't on all the travel lists.
After checking in and unloading everything into our room to sort and repack, we drove down the street to Outback Steakhouse. Our waitress, a young French Canadian, was also a biker and filled us in on the happenings at the Rally in Laconia.
It was a good day to turn the calendar; having the sea by morning, the land by afternoon; lobster for lunch, prime rib for dinner, and a new hotel for sleeping accommodations. Happy Birthday Princess!
6/17 Our flight left at 11:15 am, so we were up early, enjoying the continental breakfast at the Hampton. It was a pretty day leaving New England and we had no problem retuning the car, checking-in with Southwest Airlines by 9:45. Our plane took-off on time with a two-hour layover in Baltimore and on time arrival in St. Louis made our flying time uneventful, thank goodness. After getting our luggage, renting a cart, and finding our shuttle to the long term parking, it was close to 5 pm; we had all the traffic problems of the St. Louis evening rush- hour ahead of us. I can truthfully say we were not disappointed.
We finally reached I-44 and it was still a 3-½ hour drive back to Marshfield. We arrived at 9:30pm. It was a long day and good to be back in Marshfield Missouri.
Bob & Peggy Woodall