As a dessert rat, many generations removed, I find the idea of lots of water – added into the idea of colors that do not involve any degree of brown – absolutely fascinating.
Growing up in the southern most part of New Mexico, even our green is brown. Dirt everywhere and even the plants blend into the dirt, though they do on occasion turn a very pretty dessert green. It is kind of like olive drab, but not.
So when the opportunity arose for a chance to go to Maine I was more than happy to say, “yes, please”.
As we began our decent into Portland my head was on a swivel. Everywhere I looked there was water. Ocean, bays, rivers, as we turned into our final approach I had water on both sides, I’d look left there was water with little blobs (I presume they were islands), when I’d look right there was more water and more blobs. As we got closer to the main land old battle armaments were visible, as well as…lighthouses.
Every little cove, every shore, somewhere along its water attachment was a lighthouse.
The houses that came into view were magnificent, old and new architecture, both weather worn and quintessentially sea side homes. It put me in mind of the fictional Cabot Cove from Murder, She Wrote.
Now one thing you have to understand is that I have curly hair. I have the kind of curl that puts Goldie Locks to shame, only mine are brown very tight ringlets.
Remember my talking about being a desert rat? Well, I now live in Colorado which means that the air is even dryer than New Mexico. This is my hair in the dry Colorado air.
If you know anything about humidity you’ll know what humidity would do to hair such as mine; hence the title of the article.
I got sidetracked, back to the story.
After a much needed nights sleep, I was up and at’m, I had places to go and things to see. Though we had landed in Portland we were staying in the Lewiston/Auburn area. It is a magnificent and quirky place. Lots of different food types to be found, and being a college town awesome coffee places. But I digress, this story isn’t about coffee…it’s about lighthouses.
Coffee in hand…check. Camera charged, and memory card in place, easily accessed…check. Full tank of gas…check. Phone plugged in and music ready belt out…check.
It was time to see the shore, the sea, to feel the salty sea air as it tightened the redish brown ringlets of my hair and fill my lungs with more moisture in one breath than I’d feel with the same lungful of air during a downpour at home. It was time to let the inner Columbus out and go exploring.
With map in hand, Siri set to get me there by the long scenic route, I was ready to see whatever I might see.
Getting on the 295/1 wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, since I had planned a quick detour to L.L. Bean (I was in Maine after all, one must pay homage to the local home store) and since I was going the back way the speeds weren’t that high, and since I didn’t know where I was going, exactly, I set the cruise control and let the locals pass me. I did take a few unplanned detours, when you find a road sign naming the road as runaround pond you kind of have to go find that pond. While I did find it, and I couldn’t see how any sane person could indeed ‘run around it’. Yes, these are the crazy things that pass through my mind on any given day. It was still beautiful country side. Farms dotted the dirt road, horse owners were out working the beasts, and signs proudly advertised a particular Farms farmers market. I can’t even imagine buying all of my produce from the farm that grew it mere hours after it had been picked.
Finally, I was back on my way, Taylor Swift welcoming me to New York, when I saw a lovely river languidly flowing along side of me. When the public parking area came into view I pulled in, and went for a little hike to the waters edge.
As “Just Around the River Bend” ran through my head, I stood and listened the lapping of water, and reveled in the homes that could be seen on the opposite shore. Only seen because the trees along the banks had yet to leaf out. Serenity filled me, calmed me, coursed through my veins and excited me at the prospect of seeing the northern Atlantic Ocean.
Back in the car and continuing on my quest to find L.L Bean. Finally successful in my quest of finding L.L.Bean, I had to take a moment to really take all of L. L. Bean in.
Now understand I’m come from Cabella’s and Bass Pro Shop ville. Those places are huge! But when compared to the sheer size of the first L.L. Bean…they are tiny. Three different buildings, all covering several blocks were in front of me.
I saw a Paul Bunyan sized snow/water shoe and headed straight for it, walking past a building that boasted archery classes as I went. Success! I found the retail store. The one that sold shoes, jackets, and dog bowls; a three story shoppers paradise.
Inside I found very helpful natives who were more than willing to take a minute, or twenty, and talk about their state and all the wonders there were to see. Armed with that, and nothing else – I was proud of myself for not buying a single thing while I was there. I headed back to the highway to finish my quest for the sea and the beacons that guard her shores.
But first a quick stop at a rest area was in order. Remember the afore mentioned coffee? Inside I found a wonderful lady who had an even more detailed map for me, and even drew me the line that would get me to all three of Portland’s lighthouses. It was at this moment I realized I was about to meet the Three Bears of Lighthouses.
Baby… First I arrived at Breakwater “Bug” Light lighthouse. This is Baby Lighthouse. It is small, it is tiny, it is so compact that you’d find it hard to believe that it is a light house. Because let’s face it, it’s not what you think of when you think of lighthouses.
Baby was built in 1875 and modeled after a grecian monument, and is made out of cast iron. It is a strong and mighty little thing.
It was very useful during WWII when the shipbuilding industry was booming in Portland. It guided vessels as their entered or left Portland’s harbor.
You can read more about this lighthouse here. It is a wonderful place for families with smaller children who need to get out and run around. It’s park is small and intimate, and a great place for kite flying.
Next you come to Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse, a caisson style lighthouse. Bigger than Bug light, but still not what you would think of when thinking of a lighthouse; for me anyway.
What made me think of this as Momma is that it is near Southern Maine Community College, so education is important. And being a proud home school graduate, we all know how important education is.
Also Spring Point is surrounded by the remains of Fort Preble, so the old battlement walls can be seen, and through them the shores across the bay.
This brings to mind the momma bear mentality mothers are known for, along with the nurturing you expect as a home school kid of the mother teaching her children with the college so close.
This lighthouse is not easily traversed. You have walk along the breakwater (sea wall in my language) to get to it, and some of the boulders have some substantial gaps to be jumped over. But for older kids who have some energy to burn it would be a great experience to see just what the keepers would have to go through to check on the lighthouse each day.
The surrounding areas of Fort Preble would be OK for smaller kids to enjoy while their older siblings went scrambling. Lot of views to see through old armaments.
There is a little maritime museum between Bug and Spring point lighthouses. Inside they give a brief history of ships and the men who worked on them. You will also find a small store, I got some cute books about Maine for my niece and nephew.
Here is the lighthouse I see in my dreams. It the picture perfect ideal, complete with keepers cottage, of what a lighthouse should be; in my estimation.
It gives one a feeling of strength and stability, which if you remember the fairy tale of old it is the very essence of that Papa.
Portland Head Light marks the entrance into Portland’s harbor. It is attached to Fort William, or what’s left of it anyway, by parks. For a family looking for a no kidding day out with the entire family (young and old) this is the place to be. The keepers cottage has been turned into a place you can get food (provided there are no restrictions on what you can eat).
While I didn’t even try to go and get food there, my pamphlets told me about the food and the store that were located inside what used to be the keepers quarters. There were simply too many people around the building for my taste, so instead I stayed outside and enjoyed the sunshine while I could.
Surrounded by a state park, with access to the ocean, picnic tables, room for kids to run around, and ruins of a fort that so long ago kept our northern shores safe, you can’t help but stand in awe of the history all around you.
If you are looking for a great place to visit, filled with history, and yet calm and serene, Portland’s lighthouses are a must.