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Introduction to
Maine:
An Explorer's Guide

by Christina Tree and Elizabeth Roundy


He who rides and keeps the beaten track studies the fences chiefly.

-Henry David Thoreau, The Maine Woods, 1853

Back in the 1920s, "motor touring" was hailed as a big improvement over train and steamer travel because it meant you no longer had to go where everyone else did-over routes prescribed by railroad tracks and steamboat schedules.

Ironically, though, in Maine cars have had precisely the opposite effect. Now 90 percent of the state's visitors follow the coastal tourist route as faithfully as though their wheels were grooved to Route 1.

Worse still, it's as though many tourists are on a train making only express stops-at rush hour. At least half of those who follow Route 1 stop, stay, and eat in all the same places (such as Kennebunkport, Boothbay or Camden, and Bar Harbor)-in August. Although this book should help visitors and Maine residents alike enjoy the state's resort towns, it is particularly useful for those who explore less frequented places.

When Maine: An Explorer's Guide first appeared in 1982, it was the first 20th-century guidebook to describe New England's largest state region by region rather than by tourist towns listed alphabetically. From the start it critiqued places to stay and to eat as well as everything to see and to do-based on merit rather than money (we don't charge anyone to be included).

In the beginning it didn't seem like a tall order; but over the years-which coincided with a proliferation of inns, B&Bs, and other lodging options-we've been including more and more of Maine from Matinicus to Madawaska and from the White Mountains to Campobello, not to mention all of Route 1 from Kittery to Fort Kent.

In all, we now describe more than 500 places to stay, ranging from campgrounds to grand old resorts and including farms as well as B&Bs and inns-in all corners of the state and in all price ranges. We have also checked out many hundreds of places to dine and to eat (we make a distinction between dining and eating); and, since shopping is an important part of everyone's travels, we include exceptional stores we've discovered while browsing along the coast and inland. We have opinions about everything we've found, and we don't hesitate to share them. In every category, we record exactly what we see, again because we charge no business to be included in the book.

Guidebooks either atrophy and die after an edition or two, or they take on a life of their own. We are relieved to report that by now Maine: An Explorer's Guide has introduced so many people to so many parts of Maine that it has become a phenomenon in its own right.

Born in Hawaii, Chris grew up in Manhattan,lives in Massachusetts and is addicted to many Maines. As a toddler she learned to swim in the Ogunquit River (the third generation of her family to vacation in Ogunquit) and later watched her three sons learn to swim in Monhegan's icy waters, then to sail at summer camp in Raymond and paddle canoes on the Saco River and down the St. John. Before beginning this book, she thought she "knew" Maine, having already spent a dozen years exploring it for the Boston Globe, describing the charm of coastal villages and the quiet of inland mountains and lakes. For the Globe, she continues to write about a variety of things to do, from skiing at Sugarloaf and Sunday River and llama trekking in Bethel to sea kayaking off Portland and windjamming on Penobscot Bay. But after 18 years, some 90,000 miles, and eight editions of the book, Chris no longer claims to "know" Maine. What she does know are the state's lodging places (she also coauthors Best Places to Stay in New England), restaurants, and shops, from Kittery to Calais and from Monhegan to Kokadjo and Grand Lake Stream.

Elizabeth was born and raised in the Bangor area, and she took Maine for granted, never appreciating its beauty and uniqueness until she returned after moving out of state for a few years. She has lived in the Bangor area, Augusta, Bar Harbor, and the Portland area and has spent time in "camps" on lakes with her family as a child; one of her favorite spots remains a large lodge overlooking the ocean on Sandy Point, where she spent many special summers. She, too, thought she knew Maine, but in the course of this research realized that she was wrong, that there are many less traveled areas that even a native can overlook, places she had avoided with misconceived notions of how they would be, only to be pleasantly surprised. She also discovered some amazing history she had been missing but won't soon forget.

Maine's history continues to fascinate both of us. We are intrigued by the traces of ancient Native American habitations and pre-Pilgrim settlements, by colorful tales of 17th-century heroes like Baron de St. Castin (scion of a noble French family who married a Penobscot Indian princess), and by the state's legendary seafaring history, well told in the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath (where a total of 5000 vessels have been launched over the years) and at the Penobscot Marine Museum (in Searsport, a small village that once boasted of being home to a full 10 percent of all American sea captains). And, of course, there is the heady saga of the lumbering era (dramatized in the Lumberman's Museum)in Patten, which finally ensured Maine's admission to the Union in 1820, but not until Massachusetts had sold off all unsettled land, the privately owned "unorganized townships" that add up to nearly half of inland Maine.

We are also fascinated by the ways in which 150 years of tourism, as much as any industry, have helped shape Maine's current landscape. Guidebooks, incidentally, have played a prominent role in this process.

Tourism has always been-driven by images. In the 1840s Thomas Cole, Frederick Church (both of whom sketched and painted scenes of Mount Desert) and many lesser known artists began projecting Maine as a romantic, remote destination in the many papers, magazines and children's books of the decade While Henry Davied Thoreau's The Maine Woods was not published until 1864, many of its chapters appeared as magazine articles years before (Thoreau first climbed Katahdin in 1846) and in 1853 Atlantic Monthly editor James Russell Lowell visited and wrote about Moosehead Lake.

After the Civil War Maine tourism boomed. Via railroad and steamboat, residents of cities throughout the East and Midwest streamed into the Pine Tree State, most toting guidebooks, many published by rail and steamboat lines to boost business.

Male "Sports" in search of big game and big fish patronized "sporting camps" throughout the North Woods thanks to the rise in popularity of fly-fishing and easily maneuverable canoes, women were able to share in North Woods soft adventure. Splendid lakeside hotels were built on the Rangeley Lakes and Moosehead and farms took in boarders throughout the Western Lakes region. Along the coast and on dozens of islands hotels of every size were built, most by Maine natives. Blue collar workers came by trolley to summer religious camp meetings and the wealthy built themselves elaborate "summer cottages" on islands and around Bar Harbor, Camden and Boothbay Harbor. Developments and sophisticated landscaping transformed much of the (previously ignored) sandy, southern coast.

Although it's difficult to document, it's safe to say that Maine attracted the same number of visitors in the summer of 1899 that it does in 1999. This picture altered little for another decade. Then came World War I, coinciding with the proliferation of the Model A.

The 1922 founding of the Maine Publicity Bureau (renamed the Maine Tourist Association in 1999), we suspect, reflects the panic of hoteliers.(founder Hiram Ricker himself owned three of the state's grandest hotels:The Mount Kineo House , The Poland Spring House and Sam-O-Set ). Over the next few years these hotels went the way of passenger service and "motorists" stuck to motor courts and motels along Route 1 and a limited number of inland routes

By 1968 when Chris began writing about Maine for The Boston Globe , much of the state had dropped off the tourist map and she has chronicled the reawakening of most of the old resort areas in the decades since. Whale watching and white water rafting, skiing and snowmobiling, windjamming and kayaking, outlet shopping, the renewed popularity of country inns and spread of B&Bs have all contributed to this reawakening. Maine is, after all, magnificent. It was just a matter of time.

Between the 8th and 9th editions of this book, the extent of waterside (both coastal and inland) walks open to the public has increased dramatically. It's interesting to note that this phenomena of preserving and maintaining outstanding landscapes-- from Oqunquit's Marginal Way to the core of what's now Acadia National Park, was also an offshoot of Maine's first tourism boom.

While the number of Maine guidebooks has once more proliferated too, we remain proud of the depth and scope of our's. We strive not only to update details but to simplify the format and to sharpen the word pictures that describe each area.

The book's introductory section, "What's Where in Maine," is a quick reference directory to a vast variety of activities available within the state. The remainder of the book describes Maine region by region. The basic criterion for including an area is the availability of lodging.

Note that "off-season" prices are often substantially less than those in July and August. September is dependably sparkling and frequently warm. Early October in Maine is just as spectacular as it is in New Hampshire and Vermont, with magnificent mountains rising from inland lakes as well as the golds and reds set against coastal blue. It's also well worth noting that the inland resorts of Bethel and the Sugarloaf area are "off-season" all summer as well as fall.

Maine is almost as big as the other five New England states combined, but her residents add up to fewer than half the population of Greater Boston. That means there is plenty of room for all who look to her for renewal-both residents and out-of- staters.

We would like to thank Ann Kraybill in particular at The Countryman Press for shepherding This monster manuscript through the many stages to publication of the ninth edition. Chris owes thanks, as always, to Virginia Fieldman in Jonesboro, also to John Willard and Toni Blake for help with the Moosehead area. Victor Block and Evelyn McAllister for the Rangeley Lakes Region and Robin Zinchuk and Wende Gray for Bethel, and along the coast, to Sue Antal of York, Pat and Jerry Houlihan in Ogunquit, Karen Arel in Kennebunkport, Steve and Marcie Normand in Brunswick Brunswick and Mary and Frank Shorey of Bailey's Island, Jamie Kleinstiver and Kim Peckham of Boothbay Harbor, Bobby Whear of Daramiscotta Mills, Beth and Warren Busteed of Pemaquid Point, John Murdock of Monhegan, Lynn Smith of South Thomaston, John Foss of Roxkland, Gail Reinertsen and Fred and Bena Pillsbury on Vinalhaven, Jim and Sally Littlefield and Bette Noble of Brooksville and Ann and Bob Hamilton of Brooklin and to her ever-helpful and long suffering husband, William Davis.

Both Chris and Elizabeth would like to thank Nancy Marshall for her unfailing help with sources throughout Maine and Greg Burke for his help with the Southern Maine Coast.

We would also like to thank all the people who have taken the time to write about their experiences in Maine. We can't tell you how much your input-or simply your reactions to how we have described things-means to us. We welcome your comments and appreciate all your thoughtful suggestions for the next edition of Maine: An Explorer's Guide. Note the postage-paid insert in the book for that purpose. You can also contact us directly by e-mail: ctree@traveltree.net .

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ALSO WITH PROGRAM 1: MAINE IN PRINT | EARLY EXPLORERS & MYTHS | VACATIONLAND | FEATURED INTERVIEWS

HISTORY TIMELINE | ARTS & CULTURE TIMELINE | NATIVE AMERICAN CULTURE | CLASSROOM | HISTORY LINKS | SITE INDEX

 

HOME: The Story of Maine on the Maine Public Broadcasting Network was made in partnership with the Maine State Museum. Major funding was provided by the  Institute of Museum and Library Services, a federal agency committed to fostering innovation, leadership and a lifetime of learning. Additional funding provided by Elsie Viles.
Major funding for previous seasons of  HOME: The Story of Maine was made possible by a grant from Rural Development, a part of the USDA. Special support is provided by The Maine State Museum and Northeast Historic Films.