A wild pond near the Quebec border offers privacy to intrepid paddlers.
- By: Andrew Vietze
Robinson Crusoe would feel right at home on the north shore of Attean Pond. The wild, island-dotted lake outside Jackman is ringed by Maine Public Reserved Lands, so there's no development to be seen. Except for the occasional canoeing party passing in the distance on the return leg of a Moose River paddle, or a fishing boat motoring to a hole, it's a quiet and scenic spot with Sally Mountain rising behind and Attean Mountain to the southwest. Woods are everywhere (moose, too). The state maintains a couple of primitive campsites here on a beach overlooking Birch Island, and they rival the best camping to be found in the state. There isn't much beyond a picnic table and a fire ring - and that's precisely the point. Paddlers will find a great base for exploring Attean and Wood ponds and the Moose River; fishermen will find a great basin for trout; hikers a spectacular place to overnight after a trek up 1,000-foot Sally Mountain; and solace seekers will find solitude. The beach is splendid, the views (everything seems so far off) are magnificent. The sites are free to use, first-come, first-served, and accessible only by boat. You can put in at a launch just off Attean Road or hike in two miles on an old railroad bed that passes not far behind the sites.
Portland's Munjoy Hill has long had its own quiet garden culture. Stroll around the city's eastern end, and you'll see all sorts of pocket gardens, container gardens, and window gardens. Pick up a copy of the neighborhood's Observer newspaper, and you'll find columns on horticulture - good ones, too - and there's even a resident rose expert in these blocks overlooking Casco Bay. Visit the community on June 26 and you can get a little window into this world during the Hidden Gardens of Munjoy Hill tour, which is sponsored by the local neighborhood association. Gardeners will invite visitors to tour their courtyards, patios, and terraces, and they'll wow you with what can be accomplished in these tight confines. The event takes place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Call the Munjoy Hill Neighborhood Organization at 207-775-3050 for ticket prices and details.
Not too long ago, the idea of a sushi restaurant in Rockland would have been laughable. Even though the Penobscot Bay city was full of fishermen and fish, it was more of a fried fish, dinery sort of place than a raw-fish, ethnic eatery one. Rockland's rough-and-tumble days are gone for the most part, and today nobody thinks twice about Oh! Bento, the Japanese restaurant tucked away on Leland Street (behind the Brown Bag building). They just go there and enjoy the funky spot for what it is, which is a very welcoming teahouse serving up sushi and traditional Japanese box lunches. Owner Bay Bigelow has such a gracious way as a host that he makes regulars out of half the people who walk through the door. The restaurant got its start as a takeout in Camden serving up "o-bento" box lunches like those that can be found in Tokyo - chicken or salmon or pork with rice and a side - and its popularity grew to the point that within a year it opened a sit-down eatery in nearby Rockland serving both lunch and dinner. Some people swear by the sushi. Others dig into the "dons" - rice bowls topped with chicken, shrimp, or vegetables - or insist upon the noodle dishes. The décor is a hodgepodge of mismatched tables and chairs that's very unpretentious and very comfortable. Tables are usually easy to come by - despite all those loyalists - and the fare is dependably good. Call 207-593-9216 for more information.
Welcome to the Olympics, Maine style. Scheduled for late spring and early summer, the Maine Games are a sporting festival based on the world's most famous games, and they take place across the southern part of the state. The amateur events are in their third year, and Mainers from all ages (three to eighty-two), and from all parts of the state (160 communities) have participated in about a dozen different sports, from gymnastics to Frisbee golf. In many cases, athletes who win can move on to represent Maine at the State Games of America scheduled this July for Boulder, Colorado. Competitions take place on weekends, and anyone who wants to can enter - in fact, he or she is encouraged to. Most events are scheduled for the weekend of June 25 to 26. That's when gymnastics and swimming competitions occur at the Bath YMCA; bowlers compete at Yankee Lanes in Portland; and fencers cry "en garde" at the Saco Community Center. Track and field events will take place that same weekend at a location to be announced. Spectators are welcome at all contests, and there's sure to be plenty of drama involved as some of the state's best athletes strive to bring home the gold. Call 207-284-2003 or click over to for details.
Maine Audubon's Scarborough Marsh Nature Center traditionally opens on Memorial Day, and the organization's weekly programs begin shortly thereafter. Anyone interested in the life and ways of a massive saltwater estuary will want to step along on the "Mummichogs and Marsh Muck Walk." Obviously aimed at the youngest of naturalists, the hour-and-a-half exploration is actually entertaining for adults, too. Participants can touch mummichogs - marsh fish - and see innumerable bird species, and look beneath the water's surface to see what else lurks below. It's one of the many worthy programs Maine Audubon hosts on the state's largest marsh. The guided treks leave at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesdays and are $5 for members and $7 for nonmembers. Call 207-883-5100 for more information.
Museum in the Streets
When it comes to Maine architecture, Belfast's got the goods - street after street of stunning old Federal, Greek Revival, Queen Anne Victorian, and Italianate homes. Until recently, the small Penobscot Bay city had not one but three walking tours ready to entice those who did make the detour, each exploring a different quadrant of the city. Last fall, the local historical society installed a fourth, this one a "museum in the streets" [Down East, September 2003] with panels telling the colorful history of the uncommonly cool community. "People can come to Belfast now and really spend some time poking around," says Megan Pinette, president of the Belfast Historical Society. Indeed they can. There are thirty stops in all on the new self-guided tour, each one with a text chronicling some facet of the past here. Some pause before places of architectural interest, others at sites where something notable went down in the past. They add up to a fascinating glimpse of the city. "We could have had a sixty-panel tour," says Pinette. "But we kept it to thirty. We wanted a nice mix of commercial and waterfront properties and homes as well. But," she jokes, "we had a lot of hills to deal with." Pick up a map of the tour at the historical society's headquarters on Market Street, at the local chamber, or at any one of a number of businesses downtown, and while you're at it, grab the other walking tour maps as well. Call the historical society for more information at 207-338-9229.
- By: Andrew Vietze