Winter in Maine

Ten activities to get me out of the house this winter.

A few weekends ago we were surprised with unseasonably warm temperatures. We jumped on the opportunity to enjoy dinner alfresco with friends. It was beautiful and all the sweeter because we know those days are numbered.

Winter is coming and with the pandemic’s second wave in full force, it’s inevitable that there will be less opportunity to go out. The problem is that I live in Maine. When winter arrives it will bring snow, ice and incredibly cold temperatures.

Where does that leave us during a pandemic?

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Three Days Exploring the Moosehead Lake Region of Maine

While we were supposed to be in Scotland in September, COVID had other ideas and instead we planned a last minute staycation. It does help to live in Vacationland during a pandemic.

For this trip we decided to head to central Maine and spend a few days near Moosehead Lake before heading towards Mt. Katahdin and Baxter State Park. It’s an area we don’t explore as often as the coast since it’s further away for us but our revamped vacation plans meant it was the perfect time to explore the North Woods of Maine.

Day 1

We arrived in Greenville Maine on an atypically cool August day with strong winds dropping the temps even lower. We had taken our time driving up and stopped often along the way including a visit to Turning Page Farm Brewery in Monson . My husband and I enjoyed a summer session and brown ale respectively while relaxing at one of the picnic tables in their beer garden. We  enjoyed watching their playful herd of goats while eating a couple of bratwursts along with our craft beers.

We arrived in downtown Greenville in the late afternoon and checked into our suite at the Dockside Inn and Tavern. The accommodations were gorgeous with plenty of space to spread out and relax. Since the weather wasn’t cooperating, we opted to get take out from the nearby restaurant, Flatlanders,  bringing the fried chicken and fresh cut friends back to our suite.  We enjoyed a relaxing evening watching movies in the cozy living room and resting up for our more adventurous plans for the next day.

Day 2

After a quick breakfast in the room, we headed out to Lily Bay State Park for our first hike. Their shoreline trail which goes between the beach and the campground is about 2 miles each way. It’s a relatively flat and easy path getting a little more root infested as you approach the campground but still manageable. The trail hugs the Moosehead Lake shoreline although inland a little so in most parts you’re only getting small glimpses. There were plenty of opportunities to get closer to the water’s edge by following the various offshoot paths from the trail.

After our successful morning hike, we headed to lunch at Stress Free Moose Pub & Cafe located on Pritham Ave just a short distance from our hotel. The wind had finally died down a bit and the weather warmer, so we were able to  enjoy a delicious lunch on their upper outside deck. I started with a cup of their clam chowder. It was a thin style chowder which I actually prefer. It was delicious. Knowing we’d be doing more active pursuits later in the day, I went with something lighter for my meal and enjoyed their spinach, walnut, strawberry, mozzarella and chicken salad. My husband got the smoked trout plate. Both meals were excellent.

We had a few hours before our Moose Safari which we had booked the previous day at Northwoods Outfitters Moosehead Lake so my husband napped while I did a little more shopping in downtown Greenville. After our brief break, we regrouped and grabbed an ice cream from The Dairy Bar and headed to Northwoods Outfitters to meet our guide.

Our Guide, Steve, introduced himself and gave us the rundown on the plan for the trip. Because of COVID, all  tours were private so it was just the three of us. We masked up and headed into the van. Steve drove up Lilly Bay Road crossing onto gravel roads when we hit paper company territory. The tour started at 3:30 pm which is a little early to spot moose as they typically don’t come out to eat until dusk but Steve expertly navigated the unmarked roads checking out various known Moose spots.

Having no luck on our initial pass, we headed to a remote pond and a waiting canoe. My husband and our guide were the paddlers while I sat in the middle, camera in hand. We explored the beautiful, wild lake as we waited for the sun to set. After circle around on of the islands, in a small, shallow cove my husband spotted our first moose. She was snacking along the shoreline and the guide was able to quietly navigate us in for a closer look. She was mildly interested in us but for the most part wrote us off as no threat and continued to eat her dinner. We watched her for a while before paddling back to the launch spot and returning to our vehicle for the ride home.

The sun was setting so as we headed out, and passed the spots we had visited earlier, we had more luck seeing additional moose grazing by the forests edge. First another female, then a mother daughter pair and lastly a small young buck snacking on the salt left behind from the winter snow plows. 

In the end it was a successful moose safari and a wonderful opportunity to really take in Maine in all her remote beauty. 

That night, a friend had posted on Facebook that a Moose ran across the road in front of her as she was driving home. You don’t necessarily need to search out moose in Maine but it’s certainly nice to see them relaxing by the side of the pond rather then jumping in front of your moving vehicle.

We made it back to the hotel just before 8 and ordered takeout from the Dockside Inn and Restaurant which we enjoyed back in the room. Exhausted but happy.

Day 3

Before heading to our next stop near Baxter State Park, we had one final day in the Moosehead lake area. We grabbed lunch at Kelly’s Landing on their outside deck overlooking the lake. It was a beautiful spot with delicious food. I especially enjoyed my chicken Alfredo flatbread. It was a brief stop though as we had tickets for the 12:30 pm Katahdin Cruise on Moosehead Lake.

Fortunately, it was a quick drive to the dock and we arrived at the departure location in plenty of time. With COVID, boarding was more structured. They called us onto the boat by passenger groups one at a time allowing ample space between everyone. Seating was outside and we got a spot along the side of the upper deck. It was breezy but beautiful and we enjoyed the leisurely three hour cruise with incredible views of the lake and surrounding landscape.

While sad that we didn’t get to go to Scotland this year, it was a lot of fun to explore some of the more remote regions of Maine. It really is a stunningly beautiful area and it gave us an opportunity to reconnect with nature.

Next stop, Baxter State Park and the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. But, that’s a post for another day.

Have you taken any staycations this year?

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#AtoZChallenge | T is for Taking Risks and Saying Goodbye to My Comfort Zone.

On my flight back from a recent business trip, I reached Boston and had to change planes for the final leg up to Portland. I hadn’t paid much attention when making my reservations, so was a little surprised when I saw that the plane we’d be taking for the final leg was a small five-seater and that the open cockpit meant we’d be able to watch the pilots in action. I was definitely guaranteed a window seat. The flight was thankfully uneventful, and what struck me most was that I couldn’t have even gotten on the plane ten years ago. I had too much anxiety about flying.

I had anxiety about a lot of things, but in the last ten years I’ve realized that the more I push myself beyond my comfort zone and challenge myself the more my fears ease.

Comfort zones act like our friend, but they’re really not. They’re the frenemy who holds you back. I’m not saying I’ve swung to the other extreme of becoming an adrenaline junkie and only doing things that make me uncomfortable. It’s about finding the balance. I still love hanging in my comfort zone as much as the next person but now I push myself out on occasion and take more risks. I’ve never been happier.

So how to challenge myself this year?

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#AtoZChallenge | I is for Islands and a perfect summer day on Monhegan.

There is something magical about a perfect summer day. It stays in our memory with such a force that we can easily return to it and relive the moments to brighten more dreary ones. Our trip to Monhegan Island was one of those days.

After a foggy boat ride out of New Harbor, we reached Monhegan Island where the sky was bright and clear. We immediately set off on the 4.4 mile Cliff Trail, which circles the outer edge of the island and opens onto one amazing ocean view after another. It is the embodiment of the rugged Maine coastline. Below is a slide show of images from our trip:

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#AtoZChallenge | H is for Hiking with goats another tail tale from the trail.

There was a moment when I was focused on the trail ahead but sensed that there was someone close behind. Seconds later one of goats sprinted past, fully engaged on exploring the wooded countryside, far less interested in us than we were in them.

This past September, on a mild fall day, we found ourselves enjoying an educational and relaxing hike with a sweet, well-mannered tribe of Alpine dairy goats at Ten Apple Farm.

The day of our hike started off with a light rain, so our hosts flipped the schedule and we started off in the barn where we learned about the farm and the goats. It was hard to stay focused, even though the information was interesting.

As the farmer told us his stories, one of the smaller goats in the pen behind him kept repeatedly jumping straight up while bleating and crying as she desperately tried to see over the top of the pen. She’d get a fleeting glimpse of us and then disappear only to return seconds later to peek again. It was clear that our hiking companions would have some energy.

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