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Beyond the Farm Gates: A week in Maine 2021: Part 1

Updated: Feb 3, 2022

By Kim Carr:

This summer, my friend Jacque invited me to join her on a trip back to her home state of Maine for kayaking, otherwise referred to as “paddling” by the locals. Our trip was to include hiking, lobster eating, and whatever other adventures we might decide to partake in. It isn’t often that I get off the farm, so this was a real treat. Having been nine years since Jacque has been back to Maine, this was a homecoming of sorts for her.

Jacque rented a beautiful home overlooking Dyer Bay in Steuben, Maine, for two weeks. I joined her for the first wee—Saturday, August 14th thru the 21st, 2021. Her kids flew in to stay the second half of her vacation as I headed back home to Missouri. It has taken me a full week to recover; all that paddling and hiking certainly pushed me. It felt good to get out there and become one with Mother Nature and well worth any aches I may be feeling now.

Kayaking was a must, and Jacque rented two for the duration of my trip so that we could spend as much time on the water as possible. We met twice before our actual trip to make travel plans, write out a grocery list, and lay out an itinerary. Even the best-laid plans often go askew. Flexibility and being able to adapt to often-changing plans are a key to happiness and peace of mind when traveling. Our key goal was to explore and have fun. This being my first visit to Maine, I can assure you ALL GOALS were met. I LOVED EVERY second of my trip, even the challenging parts; they made the trip all the more interesting. Here’s a little recap of my adventures in Maine.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Columbia, MO

My cousins David Mark and Arlene let me stay at their house Friday night so I would be close to the airport in Columbia, MO, on Saturday morning. Over the course of the last couple weeks, I have been making arrangements for three sets of friends to stay at the farm and take care of my critters and the farm while I am away. My mom headed to my brother’s for a little vacation of her own. She was able to attend my nephew’s wedding and made a trip to the St. Louis Zoo and the new aquarium in Union Station. I believe she had as much fun with my brother and the great-grandkids as I did in Maine.

Pro Tip: My cousin Arlene makes homemade pizza every Friday night, and it is scrumptious. If you ever have a need to visit my cousins, I highly recommend you go on a Friday.

My cousins had me to the airport about 6:30 a.m., earlier than I get up at home but plenty of time to check in and get oriented. This is very easy to do at the Columbia Regional Airport, as they only have two terminals—smallest airport I have ever seen (of course, my knowledge of airports is slim since I’ve only flown a handful of times). During this early hour visit to the Columbia Airport, I counted a total of six people upon my arrival, and this included employees. Being someone who doesn’t travel often, the much, much, much smaller airport made things easier and less stressful. It was impossible to get lost, and it took a matter of 3.5 seconds to walk from baggage check to security. I didn’t know it at the time, but I would become very appreciative of this tiny airport and the ease of the whole process. My travel home was a little less smooth.

When Jacque arrived, she asked if I would help her unload her suitcases from her truck. It took me, two employees, and a forklift to get her big suitcase out of the back of her truck . . . well, maybe it was only me, but I’m a certain she did pack her entire closet and the kitchen sink. Once we hoisted it onto the scale, United charged her $100 to ship it! Now you know I was not kidding about how heavy it was. I laughed at the weight, but on the positive side, EVERYTHING I asked for after arriving in Maine, she had. Her suitcase was like a Mini Walmart. It saved us extra trips to the store because she had everything we needed except for food.

It was neat to walk out to our airplane, felt like someone rich and famous boarding our private jet. Not sure why I was entertained by this, but I was. The flight to Chicago for a short layover only took a little over an hour. Last time I flew to Chicago, I am certain it took at least two hours. So the Earth is shrinking or these smaller planes fly faster. Or, I have a bad memory. Let’s not dwell on that.

We flew United, and it was really nice for a small plane. Seemed the same to me as a big plane only fewer people. United would text us messages about our flight. I wish someone would invent an app that would tell you what part of the country you were flying over and cool facts about the area. Being in contact with the airline through text messages just made travel that much easier. Once in Chicago for our layover, the airline texted an active map with directions from our gate and how to get to the next gate, which according to the text, would be a seventeen-minute walk. That was fun, but the signage is good in the airport, so we would have made it anyhow, but technology is cool. Oddly though, I did not get such a text when returning home, and I had zero minutes to get to my next gate. Perhaps the airline already knew I was out of luck and had zilcho possibility of catching my connecting flight. I wish they had sent me a text telling me I was tough out of luck before I broke a sweat running the mile with a backpack wearing sandals.

As far as airports go, O’Hara is a pretty one with lots of art and color, so it makes your miles of walking from gate to gate very pleasant. I saw several Cannabis Amnesty Boxes on our hike through the airport along with high-end shops like Coach and others that I’ve heard about. I went the cheap route for lunch when I saw they were charging $13 for only a hamburger at some little restaurant. I headed to Aunt Annie’s for a regular pretzel, a cinnamon pretzel, and a medium drink. Funny thing, two pretzels and a soda cost me $13. Live and learn.

Once we boarded our plane in Chicago, we had about a forty-minute delay because we were waiting on a flight crew that was on another flight. This meant Jacque had to scramble trying to get the folks at the rental car place to wait for us, as we wouldn’t be arriving till about four and they closed at three. If we couldn’t get our rental, we would be up the creek without a paddle. Luckily, Jacque ended up with a real nice gal who said she would wait and would pick us up from the airport and get us to our rental truck. Jacque caught the shuttle that was there specifically for us. The young lady who waited past closing so we could get our rental truck is an angel. While Jacque was off getting our rental truck, I waited for our suitcases at the Bangor Airport. Everything worked out great despite the delay. This trip ended up teaching me a lesson or two in delays and patience.

We stopped at the Walmart in Ellsworth, Maine, to grab groceries for the week. It was the only big town on the way to our house. I saw my first seagulls for the trip hanging out on top of the light post. I also found out Walmarts in Maine are as under stocked as Walmarts in Missouri—lots of bare shelves, but we managed to find everything we needed: peanut butter, eggs, bread, the essentials. My plans were to eat as much lobster as possible, so the lack of lunchmeat didn’t really phase me. For the fashion-forward folks, you can now buy a matching shirt and mask in case you want to be trendy. Also, all Walmarts in Maine have gone bagless. Bring your own reusable bags or, in our case, buy a couple. Having the four-door rental truck with full-size back seat sure came in handy for hauling luggage, groceries, life jackets, paddles, and dry bags for our float trips.

Saturday Night / Sunday Morning, August 14–15, 2021

Steuben, Maine

Arrived at our rental house in Steuben right at sunset, about 7:30 p.m. We were able to check the house out before darkness engulfed us. Of course, a favorite spot was the deck, great view of Dyer Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The house is huge; I had my pick of three bedrooms upstairs. I chose the one with the starfish quilt overlooking the ocean. This was an excellent choice, as I was awakened each morning to the sunrise slowly peeking over the pines and water that gently rolled through the bay. I added an extra blanket so I could leave my windows open at night. This allowed me to awaken each morning to the sounds of lobster boats and seagulls.

On our first night, it wasn’t long before it was dark. We turned off all the house lights and sat out on the deck enjoying the night sky. Amazing the difference of how many stars you can see when there is no light pollution; there was no dusk-to-dawn light, no distant lights from town, no lights from the neighbor’s place. It was magical.

Somehow Sunday morning I managed to wake up just before sunrise. I think the little sliver of sunshine coming through my bedroom window was just enough to do the trick. Making my way out to the deck with a blanket, I stretched out on a lawn chair and watched the sun come up over the ocean. Sunrise here was at 5:30 a.m., so apparently, I got up at 4:30 a.m. Missouri time and watched the sun come up; it was beautiful and peaceful. It was also far earlier than I get up at home. I know being a farmer and all, I’m supposed to get up with the chickens, but I don’t. The sounds from the ocean are far different than those at home. I find them both to be soothing. The sounds of nature are relaxing, whether they come from chickens scratching in the yard or seagulls flying the shoreline out to sea squawking about their next meal.

While Jacque slept in, I decided to take a hike down to the ocean. A walk down a narrow path of pines, ferns, and the greatest collection of fungi I have ever seen led me to an opening with the most wonderful view. It was immediately clear that we might be able to get the kayaks down to the ocean here, but there was no way we would ever get them back up to the house. It was way too rocky, steep, and slick. A different access point would need to be found. We had hoped to launch our kayaks from our house, but that would not be the case. The rugged beauty of the beach was something best enjoyed on foot.

You could see the tide was down because lots of aquatic plants were exposed. I made my way down the beach, wandering along soaking in the sun, the sounds, the smells until I got far enough away I decided I best head back to the house before I got lost or the tide started to come back in. I am so glad before I started my walk along the beach that I took a picture of where our trail came out of the woods. Three tree stumps marked the secret path back to the house. The trail was not obvious from the beach. No signs of man. It was just as it should be. I did exactly as I should; I took nothing but pictures and left nothing but footprints in the sand. In a matter of hours, the ocean would wash away any evidence that I had ever been there. I am thankful for the pictures I took, a reminder of the beauty I witnessed firsthand.

SUNDAY, AUGUST 15, 2021, Mid-Morning

Dyer Bay in Steuben, Maine

Having started the day by watching the sunrise from the deck of our rental home on Dyer Bay, followed by a hike down to the beach, I decided it was time to see if Jacque was up. I asked her if she wanted the good news or the bad? The good news was the beach was absolutely beautiful and an excellent place to walk the shoreline surrounded by beauty without another soul in sight other than the boats moving through the bay. The bad news was that no way were we getting our kayaks down to the ocean from here. Well, maybe we could get the kayaks down to the beach, but no way would we ever get them back to the house. The terrain was too steep, too rocky, and beyond our physical level. No need to die on the first full day of our vacation.

Now keep in mind, Jacque is a native of Maine, but she has lived long enough in Missouri to adopt our mental way of thinking: ”Show Me,” so that's what I did. As we headed out the front door to walk the trail down to the ocean, I turned the thingy on the door to make sure it was unlocked. A tiny voice in my head said, “Grab the house key,” but being in vacation mode, I ignored that voice. As Jacque walked out the door, I watched her fiddle with the lock thingy and mentally told myself, surely, she was just double checking that the door was unlocked.

My first trip to the beach was around 6:30 a.m. Our second trip was about three hours later. I noticed way more mushrooms/fungi growing along the path that didn’t seem to be there earlier. It’s a pretty walk through the woods, and the end of the trail seems almost nonexistent. It definitely blends well with the surroundings, making it hard to even tell where the trail is at times.

Once we made it through the trail, I was surprised at how much the tide had receded and even more rocky beach was exposed. Jacque remained optimistic and hopeful that we could drag the kayaks down and launch from our beach. My prolonged look of “Are you insane?” finally convinced her it would be best to search out another access point for our bay.

We decided that we would head to a pond or other body of water to float the day until we learned more about access points to the bay. Jacque got on the phone and contacted her cousin Cole to find a good launch point from Dyer Bay. Perhaps we could launch from his mom’s place, which was just up the bay off of Goods Point Road. Next, Jacque reached out to another cousin to see about a recommendation for a great place to float for the day. Her cousin had recently floated the Orange River and gave it two thumbs up.

We headed back to the house to pack a lunch for our day’s adventure. Arriving back at the house, as I climbed the two wooden steps up to the door, I mentally clicked my heels together as though I were in The Wizard of Oz and chanted, ”Please let the door be unlocked, please let the door be unlocked, please let the door be unlocked.” But . . . the great and mighty Oz deemed that no passage into the kingdom of household should be made at this time.

Plan A

After a brief moment of panic passed, we started trying to figure out how we might regain entry into the palace. Jacque thought it best to stack our kayaks on top of each other so I could climb on top of them, hoist myself onto a protruding beam from the deck, climb over the rail, and make entry through the back door as though I were some distant relative of Spiderman himself. Admittedly, I like adventure, but I know my limitations. I think this would have been a fantastic plan if I were fifty pounds lighter and at least twenty-five years younger. Needless to say, this plan did not work and that’s all that needs to be said about that.

Plan B

Jacque texted the Good Witch of the Northeast, otherwise known as the property manager, who told us where the spare key was hidden. Obviously, we were not the first guests to lock themselves, we won’t be the last.

SUNDAY, AUGUST 15, 2021, Early Afternoon

Steuben, Maine

With kayaks loaded in our rental truck, we decided to make a detour to see the place Jacque’s cousin Cole told us we could launch from in Dyer Bay. This house belonged to his mother, Marsha, and is only a few minutes from where we are staying. Jacque has lots of good memories of spending time here as a child. I snapped a pic of the beach at Goods Point during low tide. Once the water was up, it would be a much easier place to launch our kayaks. Cousin Cole says it is a great place to launch mid tide or high tide, so it is on our agenda for Thursday. Little did we know at the time that we wouldn’t make it back here until my last day in Maine. It was fitting that the last paddle of my vacation would launch from Jacque’s family’s place.

On the map, the blue dot is where we are staying on Schooner Point. When we paddle Dyer Bay, we will launch from the last house on Goods Point, just north of us. Aunt Martha’s house is less than a ten-minute drive from our rental home. We will find out later that it will take us triple that amount of time to float from Goods Point down to our rental on Schooner Point. The ocean waves, though gentle that day, definitely slowed our row.

Jacque has told me repeatedly that folks from Maine live and die by the tide. The landscape changes drastically from low to high. It’s amazing the sea life you get to see when the tide is out. I have a new admiration for seaweed, spending part of its life exposed to the sun and elements and part of its life underwater reaching for the sun. We also learned to read the seaweed. If it is present, then watch for rocks below the water surface. This was a valuable lesson. If possible, Cousin Cole will join us for a paddle on Thursday around the bay. We're happy we will have a safe place on Dyer Bay to launch onto the Atlantic Ocean. For now, we asked Siri to lead us in the direction of Orange River. We are going to take advantage of the recommendations from Jacque’s cousin. Who better to ask than a local? Look out Orange River, here we come.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Orange River Conservation Area in Whiting, Maine

Our first trip out on the water was remote and secluded. Access to the river was a guessing game. The road quickly turned into an overgrown dirt path. Not sure what made us keep driving—no signs, no GPS, just a wild guess. The so-called “road” seemed more like a backwoods hillbilly trail that most likely was located near a moonshine-making still. We passed a little shack of a house that reminded me of movies where people go missing. In my mind I could hear banjo music and was unsure if we would make it back alive or ever see the truck in one piece again if we ever found the river or a place to put in at. Jacque reassured me that Mainers tend to ask questions before shooting because you might be kin, in which case you would be welcomed with open arms and offered a swig of blueberry shine. I felt a little better knowing Jacque is most likely related to half the folks in Maine. My chances of survival just increased.

Finally, the grassed trail opened to a gravel spot large enough to park maybe two vehicles. There was an official sign welcoming us to the Orange River Conservation Area, which let us know we were in the right spot. We put into the water at about 2:00 p.m. and gratefully made it out alive at 8:19 p.m. just before dark. The water was a perfect temp, clear and smooth. It didn’t feel like a river. It was nice and wide, lined by tall pines and tons of aquatic plant life. I snapped a ton of pictures. Absolutely gorgeous.