At the far reaches of the easternmost point of land in the United States lie two communities, Lubec and Eastport, Maine. Each community claims to hold the distinction of the first place in the United States where the rays of the rising sun strike U.S. soil. In addition to this distinction, they are also steeped in history and blessed with a rugged and wild coastline, sometimes called “The Bold Coast.” In addition, they also hold some of the most spectacular hiking trails in Northeast. The trails cling to the rock-strewn coastline as well as cutting into the vast wilderness of Washington County. It’s still an area that’s waiting to be discovered by those willing to drive six hours from the Lakes Region and are wanting to get away from the morass of people clogging the roads and trails of mid-coast Maine.
Nancy and I discovered this isolated region of Maine about 40 years ago. We were living in Yarmouth, Maine, at the time and decided to venture up the Maine coast, beyond our usual stomping grounds around Bar Harbor and points south. We rambled along the coast and accidentally found Cobscook Bay State Park, an 888 acre park and campgrounds on Cobscook Bay. Here we found an area undiscovered by the masses and began regular pilgrimages to this remote area. Over the years, more people, like us, have found this far-flung region of Washington County. It has become populated with people longing for the solitude and peace away from the hub-bub of coastline communities further south.
This year we stayed at Rossport by the Sea Lodging in Eastport. The lodge and cabins are located a short distance from the former site of the Passamaquoddy Tidal Project. In the mid 1920s, a plan was hatched by Dexter Cooper to harness the ebb and flow of the 24 foot tides of the bay to create electricity for this rural area of Maine. The project never came to fruition and was abandoned in 1936. Remnants of the project still remain, along with Quoddy Village, housing built for workers, engineers and their families. With the demise of the Tidal Project the site was taken over by the National Youth Administration in 1938, a federally funded program to provide job training for young adults. This pet project of Eleanor Roosevelt was abandoned during WW II, as most potential trainees were off to war. Quoddy Village is now a well established neighborhood of Eastport. If you would like to learn more, go to www.mainememory.net. It’s interesting to note that private entities are still interested in harnessing the tides for the power grid and proposals are well underway for further study.
After spending several days for rest and relaxation, Nancy, Reuben and I headed off to Campobello Island to walk the trails of the Roosevelt Campobello International Park. To get there, we drove to Lubec and crossed into Canada by way of the Roosevelt Memorial Bridge. (I found out later the primary builder of the Appalachian Trail, Myron Avery, was born in Lubec. Avery Peak in the Bigelow Range (ME) is named after him). Besides visiting the Roosevelt summer home, which they called a “cottage,” we explored some of the trails located throughout the 2,800 acre park. The trails wind through sphagnum bogs, spruce-fir forests and along coastal headlands, rocky cliffs and cobble beaches. We drove to Liberty Point, where we spotted a humpback whale in the distance, blowing plumes of water skyward. Fin whales swam about, breaking the surface long enough for us to eye their fins and tails. This in itself was reward enough, but we also wanted to explore the trails along the cliffs fronting the Bay of Fundy. We followed the trail from Liberty Point to Ragged Point where we found the Sun Swept Sculpture gracing a point of land high above the sea. The granite sculpture stands as a symbol of international friendship. Created by artist David Barr, this is one of three such sculptures along the Canadian-U.S border. The sculpture is aligned to the North Star, solstices and equinoxes, and portrays the path of the sun from east to west.
We continued on the trail, stopping continually for spectacular views, until we reached Raccoon Beach, where we began our trek back to Liberty Point, via Lower Duck Pond and Yellow Bank Trails. This 3 hour hike should not be missed if you plan to visit Campobello Island. You follow a series of board walks that will take you over wet/boggy areas. Highlights include: frequent sightings of bald eagles, harbor seals, tidal variations at Raccoon Beach, the “fog’ forests along the coastline, ragged cliffs of Liberty and Ragged Point and potential sightings of whales, porpoise, and dolphins. When you plan to visit the island of Campobello be sure to bring your passport and if you want to bring your pooch, bring the vaccination record signed by your vet. While on the island you may want to view East Quoddy Lighthouse, officially named Head Harbour Lightstation. It is the oldest surviving lighthouse in New Brunswick and one of the oldest in Canada. It is also one of the most photographed lighthouses on the east coast. The lighthouse sits on a small island and is accessible only during the 4 hours surrounding low tide, so plan accordingly.
The following day Reuben and I drove a short distance to Shackford Head State Park on Moose Island. The park was named for Captain John Shackford, born 1753 at Newburyport, Massachusetts. He was a Revolutionary War soldier and served in Captain Ward’s Company when Benedict Arnold’s rabble army marched through Maine on their way to take Quebec. The account of this epic adventure is well documented in Kenneth Robert’s "A Rabble in Arms." After the war, Captain Shackford came to Eastport in 1783. He acquired the Head because it offered safe harbor in Broad Cove for his ship. Broad Cove also provided safe harbor for pirates and mutineers.
Reuben and I began our hike around Shackford Head by taking the Cony Beach Trail to the Shackford Head Trail. This 3 mile trail took us out to a viewpoint called The Overlook, which provides a sweeping view of Broad Cove and the beautiful crescent shaped, pebble beach. Climbing to the head of land brought us to Ship Point, overlooking Cobscook Bay and North Lubec. From the Point we began our walk back to the parking lot via the Schooner Trail, passing several outlooks to view the salmon farms, large enclosed circular cages used to raise Atlantic salmon. When you see the word “farm raised” on the next salmon steak you purchase it may have come from the cold waters of Cobscook Bay.
Reuben and I had one last hike on our agenda before we headed back to Rossport: Matthews Island. The Maine Coast Heritage Trust has preserved more than 300 coastal islands totaling 140,000 acres and more than 60 miles of coastal walking trails have been built, and Mathews Island is one of these islands. After parking in the designated area we walked through fields sprouting day lilies, black eyed susans, goldenrod, elderberry, asters and Queen Anne’s Lace or wild carrot. We arrived at the isthmus connecting the island to the marked trail during low tide, just in time to get across the narrow spit and back, before the incoming tide regained its territory. Reuben and I had the island all to ourselves as we basked in the sun and smelled the salt air infiltrating our noses. The gentle waves of the bay washed up on shore bringing small crustaceans onto the mud flats surrounding the island. I was tempted to stay past the anointed hour, when the incoming tide would be washing over my only exit off the island. We made haste, returning to the mainland before we were engulfed in sea water. Along this end of the Maine Coast tides run 16-20 feet. They run very fast, and if I had delayed any longer I would have had to wait twelve hours before returning to my parked car.
When I returned to the cabin at Rossport I was looking forward to another day to hike in Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge, which consists of nearly 30,000 acres of federally protected lands. I was looking forward to a hike along one of the numerous trails, but I had run out of time. The next day was our departure from the “land of the rising sun”. Next year we’ll return to find more natural wonders lingering in the fog forests, the rock cliffs, tidal pools and island habitat; a place where morning lies.