A visit to Maine would turn out to be more than an adventure


Melissa Puryear

A local resident takes a stroll, at dusk, in the town of Tremont Maine

Melissa Puryear, Managing Editor

Melissa Puryear
Melissa Puryear is in Southwest Harbor Maine’s Acadia National Park after Grayson storm front hit the east coast.
Frozen waters begin to thaw at the fishing harbor and wharf in Harbor Island Maine.
Melissa Puryear
The Atlantic Ocean crashes into the shores at the seawall of “Wonderland” on Mt. Desert Island Maine.

There’s kind of a backstory to my adventure story that dates back to childhood. I’ve wanted to go to Maine for as long as I can remember. As a child I began collecting little lighthouse figurines, and I fell in love with movies that were filmed in Maine. Little did I know, that Maine and lighthouses had more in common than I could know at the time, and that one day I would get a chance to finally go. The dream began to take form as I got a bit older. A high school teacher put a workshop together and told us to create a vision board that we could keep. He instructed us to glue photos onto the boards of how we saw our futures. I recall one of the things he said about putting our intentions out there by creating something that we could visualize. By doing that we could make it materialize. At the time I was full of faith and really took everything he said to heart. From that workshop I would make Maine a “go to” destination on my list of things I had to do, if the opportunity ever presented itself.

Over the years, I doubted I would ever have the time though and Maine kind of settled there in the back of my mind, but was never too far from being a wish that I really wanted to come true. So, when a friend of mine had asked seven years ago if there was one place I had never visited that I had really wanted to go, I enthusiastically replied, “Maine!”

This winter, he surprised me. He invited me to Maine for holiday and had booked a full paid trip, airfare, lodging and transportation when we arrived. He said he had been wanting to take me to Maine since the day I had shared the story of my childhood wish. Two days before New Year’s Eve last month, I boarded that plane to Bangor, and we headed off to discover this place that had always seemed to summon me.

I think all of the ventures we take in life, they are created first in an emotional setting, against an ideal, and we slowly develop our own storyline around that ideal. The reality though can be much different than what we expect. That’s how I felt at the moment when Maine came into view from my tiny window in the airplane.

As we began our decent towards the landing strip at Bangor, I was straining to peer out the window, to see if it was anything like what I had envisioned it to be. Well, not exactly. From the air, it was snow and more snow. I was very familiar with snow, having lived in towns, and cities where clouds grinded snow all winter. The hard part is mastering the snow shovel, in low temperatures with numb fingers, in a bid to dig ones’ way out of their driveway, for one hour, just to get to work. I kind of winced at that memory and associated it with what we were about to encounter.

What surprised me about Bangor, as we began to descend, was the streets seemed to be empty. Where were the people? Where was the traffic? Chimneys were chugging with smoke, so I knew there was lots of life there, but it felt strangely odd to see little evidence of the typical mid-morning hustle. I’m not so sure how I felt about that at the moment. It seemed my ideal was melting away faster than a popsicle in an Arizona heatwave.

I was not to be disappointed for long. The fascinating thing about Maine is its incredible landscape can mesmerize you once you get on the ground. Even though the trees were covered in snow, they were stately. It was a humbling reminder, that our lives are so short in comparison to that of the white pine, spruce or fir, growing in the wild. They adapt to this immense pressure of cold for long winter months and still maintain all of their needles. Maine boasted of literally hundreds of thousands of these trees, all flocked with winter snow, and some with long shards of frozen icey glass, that glistened as if they were diamonds, when the sun hit them just right.

As we winded through the mini villages and towns towards Bar Harbor Maine, where our lodge was located, I was literally awestruck. It was like going back in time. The houses were beautiful. The churches were those kinds of churches you see on greeting cards at Christmas time. This was a place I can imagine, painters like Thomas Kincaid taking a hiatus to.

Once we arrived at the lodge, I did a general online reconnaissance (a fancy french word meaning “survey”) of the area. I had no idea that Maine even consisted of islands, but we were on one of the 3,166 coastal islands that surround the mainland. We were on Mt. Desert Island (pronounced dessert) by the locals, and I was looking forward to exploring the island.

I brushed up a little bit on the island geography and events that would be happening in less than twenty-four hours. We had arrived just in time for New Year’s Eve and I wanted to bring it in, blowing on a paper tube horn, spinning a noise maker, and toasting champagne in a plastic flute, with partygoers. I found that the Legion Hall was celebrating New Year’s Eve. The tickets were $50 per couple. I secretly purchased the tickets and selling tickets and purchased two, which we would end up attending. We met several people who we would end up hanging out with during our vacation in Maine.

The first day we found the port in Tremont, where the fish and lobster boats, are tied up. My instinct told me that the port was closed for business due to winter. I stepped out of the rental car into the freezing wind, which seemed to rip through every layer of clothing I had on. The frigid air that coasts off of the Atlantic is bone-chilling.  I switched to insulated snow boots, but the wool coat was no match for the high winds. I had a crochet cap on, but I think that the crochet holes should have been much smaller, either that, or I should have worn the typical winter beanie I was used to.

We were temporarily tempted from our Maine destination over the border, to Quebec City. We kind of surmised that neither of us would probably get the chance to go to Quebec in the future, and because we were so close, we might as well take the long road trip. There were challenges along the way. My friend failed to fill our seven-gallon gas tank and we were driving through country roads to the border. In those lost places and spaces in the hills, towns could be sparse, with houses and farms spaced by great distances. Even one town we drove through the gas station had been boarded up years ago and there didn’t seem to be any evidence of people. Maybe the residents had eventually gotten old and passed on. Our hopes quickly sank that time and quite a few other times, and to make matters worse there was no cellular service. We were literally off the grid. There was this panicked feeling in the pit of my stomach. What if we ran out of gas and were stuck out in the middle of nowhere in 15-degree weather for the night? No one even knew we were here. I was frustrated for the apparent lack of forethought and right when my nerves were at their worst, without announcement, a station appeared at the end of the road and just in time.

We eventually arrived in Quebec City. It was incredibly cold, so cold we made our way into a restaurant in one of the castles that had been renovated into a beautiful hotel. Our plan was to stay for the day and head back later in the evening, but those plans had changed because we were so tired from the drive. We found an Airbnb residence for rent listed as a “castle” 15 minutes away from the city and checked in. There was no heat and that night I was extremely cold and couldn’t wait to head back to Maine. The following morning, we changed plans and decided to stay for the day. However, our day was cut short by news of the “bomb cyclone,” Grayson headed our way. I was really worried in blizzard conditions or white out, we might get in a wreck, get lost, or end up in a ditch. Due to poor cellular coverage and roaming, we got lost. At one point we were forced to go rogue and use a paper map, because many of the French Canadians we met didn’t speak English in the suburb towns and could not communicate to us on how to get back to the border. I didn’t have a pen, so I took my Kylie J. lipstain and traced almost six hours of winding and splitting roads which was very difficult to read as it got dark. We eventually made it back safely.

The temperatures plummeted to a mere 15 degrees when Grayson hit. It was so cold that the air seemed to almost freeze once I exhaled. I didn’t want to miss whatever Grayson looked like, so as the storm blew through the island, I was standing outside on the balcony watching the swaying trees, bend at times, haphazardly. It was really a great experience to see how powerful nature can be from a place of safety.  We waited out the storm, and finally went to the road to see that the trucks, with plows, had rolled through and decided it was safe to explore the island once more.

We found Bass Harbor Head Light, a lighthouse that dates back to 1858. We would discover that of the 70 plus lighthouses along Maine’s coast and on the island’s edges, each has its own distinct color and light pattern, which tells mariners what lighthouse they are near.

One of my most memorable moments had more to do with the horror film Hush, that we watched late one night. I don’t ordinarily watch scary movies. My imagination is too big.  After the movie I was so afraid that I went to check all of the windows and doors on all three floors. To my horror, I found two windows unsecured on the first floor, and the front door wide open. Somehow, we hadn’t shut it hard enough and the wind had its way. I had to check under the beds, in the closets and in the showers for intruders. It is the perfect reason why I don’t watch horror movies.

In the end Maine will stay with me. I was enamored with the sights of cozy villages, small towns, little café’s, and the ports where so much history happened. Maine was nothing I expected, and everything I thought I’d end up loving and more.