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May 24 - Maine-ly Fog - Maine Bus Trip
by Al Smith

Our trip to Maine got off to a good start on Saturday, June 24th, thanks to the ‘on-time-man-ship’ of all involved and the help of the Liebrecht sisters. After a second pick-up at Audobon Park, NJ and in spite of the usual traffic headaches, we still managed to reach the Holiday Inn Express in Saco, Maine in time for dinner and some much needed ‘sack’ time, especially for those who left from BWI Airport.

Cape Elizabeth West tower. An early start on Sunday (weren’t they ALL) with Juan, our veteran bus driver, and we were on our way to the Cape Elizabeth Twin Lights. We received our usual ‘no-buses allowed’ greeting from the residents when the bus entered the neighborhood for pictures of the two lights. Cape Elizabeth East tower. Then it was off to Portland Head, where we were allowed to climb, a rare opportunity as that is something that doesn’t usually happen. In fact, some of the staff was also surprised, as they weren’t told about our early arrival. Needless to say, we made the folks in the gift shop VERY happy. Next on our schedule was Spring Point Ledge and the Portland ‘Bug’ Light, and another opportunity to shop. Now a little behind schedule, we were off to Owls Head to meet Mr. Dilger who agreed to open the lighthouse for climbing. But, when we arrived, no one was there to let us in. Seems Mr. Dilger had forgotten the date, and when he found out, he promised to meet us another day. We then headed to Pemaquid Point Lighthouse, and the area around it is a great place to spend some time, so we took our lunch break there. While some people were ‘lunching’, others used that time to climb the lighthouse and, yes, shop in the nearby gift shop. We then left for the long drive to our hotel in Ellsworth for dinner and some sleep.

Ram Island Ledge Light. Portland Head. Al locking up Portland Head. Spring Point Ledge. Bug Light. Owl's Head Light.

Burnt Coat Harbor. Monday dawned with off and on rain. We headed to the Swans Island Ferry for our trip over to the Burnt Coat Harbor (a.k.a. Hockamock Head) Lighthouse. At the lighthouse we were met by the man in charge of the group doing the restoration, and he opened both the lighthouse for climbing and the keeper’s house for viewing. He outlined to us the group’s plans for the structure. While there, we enjoyed our box lunches. This lighthouse is accessed by a narrow road, and the turn around space became a nightmare for Juan to turn the bus around. With mission accomplished, we headed back to the ferry and the mainland. Back on the mainland, we were off to Acadia National Park and Cadillac Mountain. Fortunately, the rain held off and we were able to enjoy the beautiful views from the 3500 foot summit. Our dinner that evening was in Bar Harbor at the West Street Café, with some spare time to shop. After our wonderful meals and dessert, and shopping, we headed to Bass Harbor Lighthouse, for sunset pictures, at least, it was planned to get sunset pictures. Unfortunately, we can't control the weather.

Tuesday, fog again; we headed to Schoodic Point for an opportunity to see Winter Harbor (Marks Island) Lighthouse. Everyone had to believe me that there really is a lighthouse there. Our next stop was West Quoddy Lighthouse, the eastern most lighthouse and gift shop in the U.S. On our way back to the highway we got a look at Lubec Channel Lighthouse from the bus. No place to let everyone out for a photo opportunity, so, thanks to Matt Nitschke for allowing us to pass his photo on to the group. Lunch this day was at Helen’s, and afterwards everyone knew why we chose this place. The food was great and the service remarkable considering the number of people coming in at one time. In fact, two more buses were pulling in as we were leaving. Then, off to Campobello Island and clearing customs. Entering Canada was a quick ID check of everyone. Mulholland Light. We stopped at Mulholland Lighthouse for a quick ‘photo op’. On our way to East Quoddy Lighthouse, I got off the bus to ask for directions (a man asking for directions!) Well, the folks that stopped were our guides for the lighthouse. After another great meal, at Family Fisheries, and shopping with the East Quoddy group, we were on our way to the lighthouse. Our arrival there was timed so that the tide would be out, and those who wanted to climb (about 25 hardy people) could make the treacherous trip across the rocks that were wet and slippery with seaweed. They were the first visitors to climb the lighthouse since 1964! Much to our dismay, vandalism has taken its toll on the lighthouse, and particularly a Fresnel lens sitting on the floor of the lantern room. There is much to be done at this lighthouse, but the group is very optimistic that they can get the money needed to ‘get 'er done.’ Head Light. Those that did not choose or physically could not take the hike out to the lighthouse were afforded a cruise to view the lighthouse, and got some excellent shots that just aren’t normally available. After we regrouped, we stopped at a gift shop that kept their doors opened for us. It was getting late and I suggested folks just go in and look around and we could be on our way. Well, an hour later, the last of the troops were boarding the bus for our ride back to the hotel. The owner’s came out and thanked us for ‘making their season’ for them. Since 9/11 crossing the borders into the U.S.A., has become very, very strict. The border guard collected all of our passports and was going to check all of them. Fortunately, we had an INS agent traveling with us, and she offered to help, and we were on our way in 15 minutes.

Fort Point Light. Wednesday we were dry at Fort Point where we got to climb the lighthouse. We then headed back to Owl’s Head Lighthouse to meet Mr. Dilger, who this time was waiting for us, and anyone who wanted to climb the 28 or so steps to the top. Al and Betty. This day we had our box lunches at this location. On our way to Rockland Breakwater, we stopped at the prison shop in Thomaston to purchase well made wooden items ranging from toys to jewelry boxes to hope chests, all handcrafted by the prisoners. These sales go to the ‘canteen’ fund for these prisoners. Then it was on to Rockland Breakwater where Ted Panayotoff, who wrote the book on the History of Rockland Breakwater, met those of our group who braved the “heavy mist” to walk the almost mile breakwater out to the lighthouse, which we climbed. The rain started again as people were returning from the lighthouse. We checked into our hotel, the Trade Winds Motel, for the next few nights. The Maine Lighthouse Museum, which is the new home of Ken Black’s collection that was at the Shore Village museum, was across the street. They remained open past their normal closing time for us so that everyone could visit the museum.

Marshall Point in the fog. Thursday was the worst day for the fog that we had been experiencing all week. We headed for Port Clyde for our scheduled cruise. There we met up with others that had signed up for this cruise only. Well, we should have known better, rounding Marshall Point, you could only see the light, not the lighthouse. Passing Whitehead Light we could see the waves crashing on the shore, no lighthouse. There was more of the same at Southern Island (a.k.a. Tennants Harbor). At Owl’s Head, again we could see the light, but not the lighthouse. Safety was becoming a concern, we were in shipping lanes, and the crew was having trouble finding the marker buoys, so we headed back to Port Clyde. While trying to locate Juan to come and pick us up, we had our box lunches on the pier. Also, during this time, we could shuttle over to Marshall Point and their museum and gift shop. So, with an early return to the hotel, some took advantage of the time to rest, others toured the city, and some revisited the museum.

Photo of tour group in front of Nubble light. Friday we got to sleep in an extra half hour. As we drove down to Cape Neddick Lighthouse, (The Nubble), before heading to Portsmouth and the Isle of Shoal Boat Company, the weather improved and the sun came out. There we took our pictures, had lunch, and then gathered for the group picture. A very nice man volunteered to take the picture, but probably was sorry, as he wound up with more then just one camera. The Isle of Shoal cruise is a very nice cruise, viewing 5 lighthouses in comfort; Portsmouth Harbor (a.k.a. Ft. Constitution,) Whaleback and Jerry’s Lifesaving Station, The Nubble (now we have pictures from all sides,) Boon Island and Isle of Shoals Lighthouse. A very good dinner was served during the cruise. It was a little rough out in the waters and, unfortunately, a couple of people got ‘seasick’ and could not eat. Our last stop for this day and our last lighthouse stop for this week-long trip was at Portsmouth Harbor where Jeremy D’Entremont met us and opened the doors to the lighthouse for us to climb. He also opened the back of his ‘SUV gift shop’ so that we could purchase Friends of Portsmouth Harbor items. A very tired and weary group then returned to the Saco Holiday Inn Express to rest for the long ride home on Saturday.

Portsmouth Harbor Light. Jerry's Lifesaving Station. Whaleback Light, NH. Boon Island. Isle of Shoals.

After an uneventful trip back to Audubon Park and BWI Airport, everyone was on their way home by 7:30 pm.; exhausted from the full schedule of viewing lighthouse, somewhat disappointed with the weather and the Port Clyde cruise, but still very happy to have seen and climbed so many of the Maine lights.

Editor’s Note: The Chapter wishes to thank Betty and Al Smith for their very hard work in putting together this lighthouse trip, and contacting the various organizations to have many lighthouse doors opened for climbing. Thanks also go to all of those who helped with the Chapter store.

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