Hewn from bedrock and shaped by glaciers, Maine’s landscape is unique, from its rugged coastline dotted with lighthouses to its pristine lakes and deep woods. Maine has always attracted individualists and adventurers, from lumberjacks and hunters, to fisherman plying Georges Banks, and to Henry David Thoreau and motorcyclists.
Lighting the Way
Our sojourn begins in Portland, Maine’s largest city. Alan (on a BMW F 800 ST) and I (on a 2014 Honda CB1100) track northeast on serene backroads, rolling past small towns, family farms, mud flats, and salt marsh inlets. The ocean here is shy, hiding from the road in backyards and woods, and the mood is relaxed until we hit U.S. 1, a major artery for summer vacationers. We turn off the slow, beaten path and find our own route to Wiscasset where we indulge in lobster rolls, a local favorite, and refuel with coffee.
Sated, we zigzag along local asphalt to the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Park. The lighthouse, squatting upon a bouldered bluff, casts its beacon of light (fueled first with whale oil, then kerosene, now electricity), 14 nautical miles into dark, foggy nights. The lighthouse is semi-retired (most ships rely upon electronic navigation these days), hosting tourists who admire the view, clamber upon the shore, and relax in the spruce grove. We shed our riding gear and wade in the cool waters of the Atlantic, joining others marveling the craggy shore. There is a story spanning eons in these striated stones, a story of tectonic forces, of the sea washing away soil to reveal bedrock, and the relentless, patient ocean slowly changing the stone into sand.
We remount and move toward the Marshall Point Lighthouse, just 13 miles away as the crow flies, but nearly 50 miles around Muscongus Bay. Geologists describe Maine’s coast as a “drowned coast.” Rising seas filled Maine’s coastal valleys at the end of the ice age, transforming them into bays and turning mountaintops into the over 3,100 islands that dot the coast.
We get to Marshall Point Lighthouse just as the sun begins its long goodbye. In the warm afternoon light it stands rooted to the rocks, a stout white cylinder of granite and brick topped with a black trimmed lantern room. It looks like it can handle anything winter can throw at it. A family has brought a pizza to watch the sunset while others meander upon the cobblestones and explore the walkway leading to the lighthouse. Tidal pools abound and are teaming with life.
We have one more lighthouse to see before our day ends. We ride northeast in the fading light and catch Owls Head Lighthouse in the dusk. Set high on a rugged promontory, the lighthouse offers a panorama of Rockland Harbor. Thick woods reach right to the shore where they give way to the rocky coast. This is quintessential Maine—the sea, the woods, the lighthouse and bedrock together, stoic and imperturbable.
With the day done, we make our way to Camden in the dark, the heat of the day replaced with an evening chill. Tonight we dine on cheeseburgers and craft beers. Life is good.