Karenhammond's Blog

January 16, 2017

A Maine Island Winter

Happy New Year, everyone. Here on the island winter has definitely made its presence known, although less forcefully than some years. We’ve had a few cat-trackers (the locals’ term for a light dusting of snow–just enough for a cat to leave its paw prints in) and plenty of cold weather, but overall it’s been an easy winter so far. That will no doubt change as we move into February.
It’s a good time to take on a new project….writing a book, doing a major house cleaning, or taking on some job we’ve been putting off during the warm-weather months. On the other hand, with the holidays over, many islanders think about getting away to someplace warm. I’ve mentioned before that the little island store once had a tongue-in-cheek sign out reading “If you’re not here during the winter, you don’t deserve to be here in the summer.” It’s true, I think, that New Englanders in general, and Mainers in particular, take pride in what we can endure. Just part of the psyche from days gone by, I suppose, when guts and self-reliance got our ancestors through the long, cold winters.
If you are coming to Maine this winter, you’ll find plenty to do, including skiing, snowmobiling, ice fishing, skating, sledding and so forth, with no crowds and a totally relaxed atmosphere. And nothing beats sitting by the fire at one of our cozy inns with a glass of wine and the innkeeper’s cat in your lap. As I write this I’m looking out at one of the glorious sunsets that make island living so enjoyable any time of year. Wherever you are, stay warm and

Sea smoke drifts around a small Maine island dusted with snow.  Photo (c) Karen Hammond

Sea smoke drifts around a small Maine island dusted with snow. Photo (c) Karen Hammond

enjoy the season of new beginnings.

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July 21, 2015

Castine, Maine

My apologies for the delayed post, but it has been a happily hectic summer with lots of company, time in, on, and around the water, and plenty of fresh Maine lobster and Maine wild blueberries.
Visiting the quaint village of Castine is always a pleasure. It’s a tiny town of about 1300 people and home to the prestigious Maine Maritime Academy, a 4-year college that prepares students for careers in the merchant marine and other maritime careers. If you visit Castine, you’ll no doubt see the cadets walking around town in their uniforms.
The town itself was originally home to the Tarentine Abenaki Native Americans, now known as the Penobscot Nation. One of the earliest white explorers in the area was Samuel de Champlain in 1612. At various times over the ensuing centuries, the flags of France, Great Britain, Holland, and the US flew over Castine as they fought for control. When you visit, watch for the plaques along the sidewalks that tell Castine’s interesting story.
Today many people visit to view the lovely Federal and Greek Revival Homes and the stately American e

A lobster bake on the beach is a highlight of  summer in Maine. Photo (c) Nathaniel Hammond

A lobster bake on the beach is a highlight of summer in Maine. Photo (c) Nathaniel Hammond

lms that shade the streets. On your way to Dice Head Light (you can walk around it, but not enter it) be sure to stop in at the little Wilson Museum, packed full of local artifacts. Castine is also home to the oldest US Post Office (built in 1814) in continuous use. It’s a handsome building, well worth a stop.
Back here on my small Maine island, life has settled down momentarily before the next wave of visitors. We’ve had some hot and muggy days, but with memories of last winter still in everyone’s mind, I haven’t heard a single word of complaint. We’ll enjoy every minute of summer in Maine, and wherever you travel here, I’m sure you will, too.

June 16, 2015

Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor, Maine

I’ve just returned from a long sail along the Maine coast and thought I’d share a few suggestions for those of you planning your own visit here. Acadia National Park, established in 1916, is on the bucket list for most Maine visitors, and with good reason. Its more than 49,000 acres are home to a wide variety of animals, birds and butterflies, and at least 160 varieties of plants.
Hikers will enjoy 1,528-ft. Cadillac Mountain and the panoramic views from the top (go on a clear day if you can). You can also take guided walks or carriage rides through the park, bike on many of the trails, or go kayaking or birdwatching among many other activities.
The park is located on Mount Desert (pronounced “Dessert”) Island, which also boasts the busy tourist destination of Bar Harbor. Here you’ll find shops selling everything from funky t-shirts to high-end jewelry and just about anything in between. Watch for unusual gifts like chocolate-covered blueberries, blueberry wine, Native American-made items, or tourmaline jewelry made from the official gemstone of Maine. Future college students may want to check out College of the Atlantic, a small liberal arts college.

A glacial erratic seen along the Bar Harbor Shore Path. (c) Karen Hammond

A glacial erratic seen along the Bar Harbor Shore Path.
(c) Karen Hammond

And no-one should miss the handsome Abbe Museum with its extensive collection of Native American artifacts. Walkers will enjoy the Shore Path that winds between several Bar Harbor mansions and the ocean. The glacial erratic (large boulder left by a receding glacier) shown in the photograph here is just one of the many interesting sights along the rocky shoreline.
So much to do, so little time! This barely scratches the surface of all there is to see and do in the area. I return year after year, always finding something new, and will be back again in the fall when I find the park to be especially beautiful.
In my next post I’ll take you to the quaint little village of Castine. But for now I’m content to be back on my little island, coaxing much-delayed flowers into bloom at last, and looking forward to the official start of summer.

March 24, 2015

Springtime Comes to a Small Maine Island

Well, not quite. The calendar says we are a few days into spring, but with temperatures hovering between 7 degrees and the mid-20s, we know we have a way to go. Still, I can feel the soft touch of spring just beneath the cold air as I walk around the island each morning.
Finally, the island is no longer silent. Birds have returned and the early mornings are filled with chirps and calls. A dove has perched on a wire outside my office for the past few mornings, enjoying the early spring sunshine. We’ll have to wait a little longer for flowers, however. Several feet of snow still blanket the yard, so there’s no chance of snowdrops poking through. Who knows, we may be seeing crocuses in July! But we’re definitely on our way to good weather and recent glorious sunsets have made the long wait worthwhile.
It’s time for vacation planning. Living in Maine–Vacationland– makes it easy, of course, and I’m looking forward to several long sails along the coast and stops at some of my favorite places like Camden and Castine. If you’re planning a stay anywhere in New England, you might want to check out my book, Backroads & Byways of New England: Drives, Day Trips, and Weekend Excursions, for tips on off-the-beaten-

An early-spring sunset is our reward after a long, cold winter. Photo copyright Karen Hammond

An early-spring sunset is our reward after a long, cold winter. Photo copyright Karen Hammond

track places you’ll enjoy.

October 2, 2014

Fall on a Small Maine Island

A busy schedule and a family illness have kept me away from my blog for a bit, but I’ll be working to catch up. Fall has fully arrived in Maine, and here on the island it’s one of the prettiest I can remember. The maples are just coming into their peak color and the contrast against the evergreens is spectacular. Every doorway, including my own, is sporting some kind of fall decoration as we transition from the bright colors of summer to fall’s more earthy tones. I love redecorating for the seasons, and if I hadn’t become a writer, I probably would have worked as an interior decorator. It’s really a stress reliever to swapfall flower arrangement around everything from pillows to pictures as the seasons change.
Meanwhile, most of our summer residents and visitors have departed, although a few will remain until Columbus Day. Things are definitely quieter as the island settles in for the fall months and the long winter ahead. One of our two island stores has closed for the season; the other has changed hands, but fortunately will continue to remain open throughout the year.
I’m looking out my office window at a maple that is blazing scarlet in the late afternoon sun. I’ll enjoy every minute of October, which is always a lovely month here. As I’ve written before, I’ve never liked gloomy November, except for the wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.
If you’re looking for something to do in Maine over the holiday weekend, I can suggest the Damariscotta Pumpkinfest on the midcoast, a great family event. I attended last year with some young family members who loved every minute. The painted giant pumpkins created by local artists are quite a sight, and the pumpkin races (yes, people really race on the Damariscotta River in hollowed-out giant pumpkins) are a hoot. For more info go to damariscottapumpkinfest.com.

March 28, 2014

Spring Comes to a Small Maine Island

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March is certainly not going out like a lamb here on my small island in Maine. On Wednesday high winds blew down trees and took out electric lines for more than 12 hours, as if winter were not giving up without a fight. But I’m happy to report that as I walked around the island today, still bundled in a winter coat, hat, gloves, and two scarves, I could just feel the soft fingers of spring beneath all that bluster. So, maybe, just maybe, we can talk about something besides the weather.
First, though, I do want to give a shout-out to all the small towns like mine across America where people pitch in to help each other. I routinely check in on an elderly widowed neighbor, but it was my turn to accept help during the recent lights-out. My husband was out of town on a business trip, the temperature was in the 20s, and I couldn’t get our cranky generator started. Thank goodness for the mechanically-inclined lobsterman up the street who came to my rescue. When you live in a remote area like this, everyone’s talents are needed and appreciated.
On to April. A few more lobstering boats are showing up in the harbor although our summer visitors are still keeping their distance until the snow disappears and it warms up. We really won’t see most of them until June, although a few will rumble across the bridge late next month and throughout May. Finally, it’s time to at least think about gardening, boating, and all the good stuff that comes with living in Maine or elsewhere in New England. If you’re looking for vacation

Maine lobster boats like this one will soon fill the harbor.  Photo copyright N. Hammond

Maine lobster boats like this one will soon fill the harbor. Photo copyright N. Hammond

ideas, you may find just what you’re looking for in my guidebook-for-people-who-don’t-like-guidebooks: Backroads & Byways of New England: Drives, Day Trips & Weekend Excursions. Happy vacation planning, wherever you dream of visiting.

February 27, 2014

February: The Longest Month

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An island tree after a recent snowfall. Photo copyright Nathaniel Hammond

An island tree after a recent snowfall.
Photo copyright Nathaniel Hammond

There’s an old joke that February is the shortest month of the year because New Englanders couldn’t stand it to be one day longer. This year February has seemed particularly long–in the last week alone we’ve seen sub-zero temperatures, several light snowstorms, clear, sunny days, and a thunderstorm. But tomorrow the month finally comes to an end and we can welcome March and, perhaps, some early signs of spring.
Here on my small Maine island the deer are so desperate for food that they have devoured huge chunks of my holly bushes and I expect they are waiting ravenously for the first tulips to poke through the ground. That will be a while, however, as the snow drifts are still several feet high in the gardens. I can feel the mood around town lightening as the days continue to grow longer, the snowstorms grow lighter, and the sun shines more brightly. Today as I look out my office window, sunlight is breaking through the cloud cover and the sky is pale blue instead of gray. And on my early morning walk I heard a few birds chirping and actually spotted a robin. Spring is coming and my quiet island will awaken again.

April 3, 2013

Springtime in Maine

Sea smoke rises over the water on brisk April morning in Maine

Sea smoke rises over the water on brisk April morning in Maine

After a snowy winter, it’s great to see tulips and daffodils popping up at last and trees getting their first buds. That’s not to say that we don’t still have some cool days ahead as winter breathes its last gasps of cold air. From my office window this morning, I watched sea smoke rise over the water….a phenomenon that hapens when cold air moves over warmer water.  It’s an eerie kind of fog that shrouds everything in a silvery light.  It soon passed as the day began to warm up, but it’s a reminder of how fickle New England weather can be. My little Maine island remains quiet for the time being, but before long the first summer people will be arriving to open up their summer homes and another busy summer will begin.

If you’re planning a trip to Maine or elsewhere in New England this summer, you might want to check out my guidebook, Backroads & Byways of New England: Drives, Day Trips and Weekend Excursions (Countryman Press) for ideas of things to see and do along with some very easy-to-read history of the area.  Happy spring and happy travel planning, everyone!

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