Going way Downeast, and back in time, in Maine, Off the Grid, Part 1

On a Sunday afternoon last October, I packed up my rescue pup and about month of camping gear in the trusty Volvo and headed to Northeastern Maine, or in local terms, as far Downeast as one can go. So far in fact that we lost all phone signal and this was the goal. The road, my pup, nature, time, and freedom to just be.

I was craving time in nature, the solitude, in that way that is like the need for air or water, a primal urge that tugs at your gut, so urgent that you can feel it and almost taste it.  

And to truly succeed at that nowadays one has to totally disconnect from the leash that is technology.  There is no away when your phone pings or well-meaning clients check in.  I wanted to be able to hear my own voice again, to hear nothing at all, to sit in real darkness and to feel free of things in the man made world that don’t matter, but start to weigh us down like so many needs to be served pulling at our pant legs.

Driving through Downeast, Maine in misting rain while mid October colors burst into flames.

And even more, what I craved was to be restored by the accessible joy of hitting the open road with only the rough frame of a plan, and the sense of opening that this gives one.  Maybe left, maybe right, who knows what will be down the road, but it is utterly up to you, and the repercussions, there are none.  Maybe it rains, maybe you get stuck, it doesn’t actually matter, this is the goal.  I was seeking the awesome nutritive powers that comes with time in nature, and the absence of which I feel so much in the city after too long without nature.  I need to submerge in nature, to feel human, the animal human kind, which is really our whole ourselves. 

We were not disappointed by the road trip, well maybe Mia was, former rescue pup that she has become, but I wasn’t.  The general aim was to start in Downeast, Maine then head across the border to the Bay of Fundy, setting the route roughly for campsites that were still open in mid October, and sticking close to the coast, doubling down on nature.

Best morning view for Best cup of coffee. Ever. Cobscook State Park, Dennysville, Maine

At Cobscook Bay State Park, in Dennysville, Maine it was closing week so we had our pick of the campsites, in fact I didn’t see a soul for 24 hours, and was unsure of how to pay.  I drove into the camp in full dark, in a gale storm, and pitched by head lamp, tucking gear into the leanto.  I had picked what looked like a good site on the map, facing a cove, and when I woke up in the morning damp but happy in still falling rain, it appeared we had done well.

October really is the ideal time to explore the Maine, the leaves are brilliant and still turning, most years, and epic storm clouds add texture to every view (and sure it was chilly but not unbearable with the right clothing) and best of all, the tourists are gone. Well everyone was gone it seemed, we had the camp entirely to ourselves, and dropped the fee in a box.

Maine street Lubec Maine, the eastern most town in the US. It is thought provoking how the depressed northern most areas of one country are adjacent to the far more affluent southern borders of the next. Food for thought.

October really is the ideal time to explore the Maine, the leaves are brilliant and still turning, most years, and epic storm clouds add texture to every view (and sure it was chilly but not unbearable with the right clothing) and best of all, the tourists are gone. Well everyone was gone it seemed, we had the camp entirely to ourselves, and dropped the fee in a box.

Cobscook State Park Campground is near Lubec, Maine, the eastern most town in America, and a poor one at that.  Much of northern Maine has a history, and continued reality of deep poverty.  The only cell service we picked up through these few days in Maine was off of Campobello Island, which is the Canadian Island reached through Lubec made famous as the summer home of FDR.  It is awesome how simplifying and present one is without the phone, and all its apps, as distraction.

West Quoddy Head Light, Lubec Maine is located on the Easternmost point of the Continental US, and is in the Quoddy Head State Park. The Light looks across to FDR's Canadian summer home island of Campobello and Nova Scotia.

We visited West Quoddy Head Light, and later headed downtown to watch fisherman in the dangerous and bustling Lubec Harbor, really called Johnson Bay and the Lubec Narrows.  A unique flag flew over the harbor, a hybrid of the Canadian and American flag, as the narrow waterway is literally half Canadian and half American.  On Main Street, at the Town Gift Shop + Cat Shelter, we barely made it out the door without an adorable 8 week old kitten who the proprietress told us “loves dogs,” and Mia loved the black kitten who sat happily on her back.  I backed out the door talking about travel, expensive rescue pets and responsibility, while Mia kept trying to nuzzle the clearly delighted kitten back onto her back like a money in a circus.  Adding a kitten to my entourage would definitely make sense, we ran next door to a knitting shop and instead considered locally made additional layers for our chilly nights.

The rain had let up that morning, but we headed back to the campsite to doubled down for the predicted freezing weather coming in, and while I reveled in our view across the tidal flats with young eagles circling in the golden light, Mia stood nose to car door clearly not pleased that we were not heading back to our perfectly good house, with a roof and heat, as the temperature dropped fast.  (You have to forgive her, she is a rescue pup, and I get that the fun of roughing it may understandably be lost of on her at times.)  I bundled her round little body into two sweaters and my marmot coat, much to her horror, but it did the trick. 

Someone was very displeased with gale force rainstorm the first night and the near freezing weather later in the week.

Cooking up a dinner of stir-fry veg and sausage, beer in hand watching the watercolor sunset turn into golden hour, then the blue hour, was absolute perfection.  And sure, it dropped to near freezing temperatures.  It just meant I was wearing all the "emergency" skiing gear I had packed, assuming I wouldn't need them, and Mia was wearing the rest.  The benefits of car camping.

The night was a snuggle down one in our cozy campsite, whiskey in the hot chocolate, a book inside the sleeping bags, and listening to wildlife and water sounds on Whitings Bay which threads around Cobscook's many fingers.  We awoke to seabirds and the clear bright air that comes after a frigid night.

If this is what freedom feels, looks, and tastes like I want to get after this every week, and just stay on the road forever.  We snuggled down that night inside two sleeping bags, one of us grumbling, the other over the moon and called it a night.  Thankfully we had many more days on the road.

Where I will be if you are looking for me!
(Two more segments to follow!)

Published: October 9, 2017

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Julianne Gauron

Somerville

I am a designer working in the outdoor and health innovation space for over ten years, as well as a writer and photographer. I have lived in India, Ireland, England, Italy and Micronesia, & what I love most in all...