Where the Mountains Meet The Sea
What a difference a day makes! The sun was smiling down at us in Camden when we awoke the next day. Goodbye fog and rain, hello sun! Perhaps with a sunnier, brighter perspective of this quaint town and its surroundings we’ll learn why Camden considers itself the “jewel of the sea”.
First order of business was breakfast at the Marriner’s Grill on Main Street which had decent reviews. Even if the reviews were wrong and the food wasn’t that great, we could sit outside, enjoying an awesome view of the harbor while listening to the roar of the waterfall, flowing underneath the restaurant. I had my usual eggs, bacon, home fries and a delicious blueberry muffin while Rob had eggs, bacon and blueberry pancakes. Really good, reasonable prices, great view on the deck and excellent service!
After breakfast we walked down towards the harbor. Overnight the 112 foot yacht, Omnisea, had arrived in Camden Harbor. It’s sleek gleaming hull added a little bit of glitz next to the older sailing schooners and dwarfed the nearby array of dinghies, smaller lobster/fishing boats and private pleasure vessels. A minor yacht among the glitzy 150-300′ private yachts we usually see in Newport, RI, but here a major presence.
“Where the mountains meet the sea” is a claim made by many places along the Eastern seaboard including Camden. However, here it is more than just a saying, it is a true fact. From Florida to the Bay of Fundy, the mountains meet the sea on the Atlantic coastline in only two places – Camden and Mt. Desert Island (home of Acadia National Park & Bar Harbor), both of which are located in Maine. Certainly not evident yesterday in the midst of the drizzle and fog, but on this bright sunny day looking up from the harbor there she was, the 800 foot Mt. Battie, regally standing guard over the harbor. Great day for a drive up to the summit!
But first another walk around town. We made our way up the hill towards Harbor Park and Amphitheater near the Camden Public Library. Sitting on the highest point on Main Street and constructed in 1928, the Public Library, a Colonial Revival structure, was declared a National Landmark in 2013. The Amphitheater has been used for craft fairs, weddings and concerts or can be rented for private parties, business gatherings or charitable events – it is quite lovely. Across from the library is the two acre Harbor Park with its sweeping views of the harbor. Curved walking paths lead from street level to the shore. Nice walk on such a pretty day!
Did you know that Camden over the years has gained notoriety not only because of tourism but also because of Hollywood? I didn’t. In 1956, when Rodger & Hammerstein’s Carousel was made into a movie, parts of it were filmed in Camden. Remember the then racy and scandalous movie, Peyton Place, a story about adultery, sexual abuse, murder and lies? Pretty steamy material back then, sparking a lot of outrage in 1957 when film crews transformed the small mill and summer resort town into a movie set. Among the other movies and TV shows filmed there were: portions of The Man Without a Face starring Mel Gibson in 1993, Stephen King’s Thinner in 1996 (King is a from Mainer), In the Bedroom starring Sissy Spacek in 2001 and the TV soap opera Passions which aired from 1999 to 2007 and used Camden for shots depicting the fictional town of Harmony.
So much for Hollywood, back to our story….leaving downtown Camden, we headed back to Camden Hills State Park to take the 1.6 mile auto road (located next to the campground) to the summit of Mt. Battie. Note that there is an entrance fee for the auto road but it is definitely worth the fee and the short drive! Campground residents have access to the auto road and entire park for no additional fees.
The scenic vista atop Mt. Battie, offers panoramic views of Camden, Penobscot Bay and surrounding islands and on a clear day, even Blue Hill Mountain in Blue Hill , ME and Cadillac Mountain at Acadia National Park. Nearby Mt. Megunticook (1385 feet), the highest peak of the Camden Hills and the second highest coastal mountain along the Atlantic, can be accessed via a moderate climb on a foot trail.
When we arrived at the summit of Mt. Battie, it was fairly crowded, I guess being such a beautiful day everyone else had the same idea we did. What spectacular views in every direction both from the ground and from the top of the tower invoking lots of “oohhhs” and “aaahhhhs”. Even though the photos don’t do the view justice, it’s better than my trying to describe it in words.
Not only is the scenery beautiful but the summit is where the historic stone mountain tower is located. In 1897, Columbus Bushwell, a Camden resident, built a carriage road to the top of the mountain which today is part of the 25-mile hiking trail system in Camden Hills State Park. Then in 1898, Mr. Bushwell built a turreted house which he named Summit House which was opened to the public as a hotel. According to Maine An Encyclopedia, “the Mt. Battie Association purchased the Summit House in 1899 and turned the building into a clubhouse and social center.
During the peak of Camden’s carriage trade days at the turn of the century, Summit House was visited by many notable people, including the daughter of Theodore Roosevelt. Mr. Roosevelt himself came to Camden many years later to climb the mountain.” A fire destroyed the Summit House in 1918 and two years later, the remains were torn down.
In 1921 the current stone tower was erected on the same spot where the Summit House once stood and has a plaque indicating it was dedicated to the men and women who served in WWI . The 26 foot tall structure, designed by Parker Morse Hooper, a Camden summer resident, is almost an exact replica of an existing tower found in Newport, Rhode Island.
Another plaque on the tower is dedicated to Edna St. Vincent Millay, a resident of Camden, commemorating the writing of the poem, Renascence (the verse is inscribed on the plaque), which she supposedly wrote as she enjoyed the view from Mt. Battie.
With our minds overloaded and exhausted from absorbing the majestic views, it was finally time to head back down the mountain.
But our day wasn’t over yet. On the campground trail map we noticed that the nearby Shoreline Trail was only 0.3 of a mile, designated easy and was just across the street from the campground in the day-use area of the State Park.
As we started out, in my head, I silently started whining – how can they call this easy? Maybe it was to a mountain goat but certainly not for us two legged humanoids. Pretty steep trail! Sure I could deal with going downhill but what about the climb back up? That sure as heck wasn’t going to be easy (actually it wasn’t bad). But as soon as we got to the trail, the whining in my head stopped, replaced by thoughts of how lovely and serene it was as we meandered along the cliff at the waters edge and best of all we had it all to ourselves! As it turns out the trail itself was very level and easy, it was just getting to the trail that involved navigating the moderately steep incline. This part of the park would be a great place for a family outing.
By now it was late in the afternoon and we needed some nourishment. Earlier in the week, I had made a reservation at the award winning restaurant, Primo, located in nearby Rockland, Maine. Many years ago I had read about this restaurant but when we visited the area, the timing was always wrong – it is only open Wednesday through Sunday. So it has remained on my bucket list. But after reviewing the online menu, we figured it would cost us at least $150 for dinner. When we were both working we might possibly have done that, but now – did we want to spend that much on one dinner? Nope, we decided, so I cancelled the reservation, guess it will continue to be on my bucket list. Instead we had a much cheaper and delicious meal. Sorry you’ll have to wait until the next post to find out where and what we ate.
I’m adding Camden to my list of places to go 🙂