Looking west from Mt. Battie at sunset. Photo by Josh Christie

Recently, my husband, Paul, and I were walking along a path. Evergreens lined the dirt walkway, which bordered a steep, rocky coastline.

It was June. A sunny day. We were alone, except for the sounds of birds singing and the waves washing up against the stones.

We were at Camden Hills State Park. Let me say it again. We were in Camden, alone.

We did appreciate the moment.

Not the reason for it, of course. I would rather have the usual hordes of tourists here than to be enduring this pandemic, which is showing little sign of slowing down in much of the country. I sympathize with the small business owners who are losing money because of the dearth of visitors.

At the same time, this is an ideal opportunity for Mainers to enjoy Maine.

Last summer I wrote a column about the yearly influx of people from away.

“For nine months of the year, we are just Maine,” I said. “Then, in summer, we are Vacationland.”

In a typical summer, we have to be patient if we want to go somewhere on Route 1 on the weekend. Then there’s the turnpike. When our parents were still alive and living in southern New England, Paul and I would try to time our trips to pick them up and bring them here, but it never worked. Invariably, we’d get stuck on the turnpike on a Friday afternoon.

I am lucky. My time in the summer is flexible, as I’m a school librarian. (Paul is retired, so all his time is flexible.) We can take day trips during the week, when the crowds are often thinner. But the road calls to me on sunny Sundays. Usually, I’d have to weigh the pros and cons of venturing out into Touristville.

Not this past weekend. It was looking like a rainy week ahead, so we wanted to take advantage of the good weather and headed to Georgetown. First we hiked at the Maine Audubon sanctuary. There was one other person there, whom we did not see until he got into his car (with Maine plates). Then we headed over to Reid State Park for lunch.

Oh, what luxury! I have not been to an ocean beach on a Sunday in years, and lake beaches only rarely. This beach was fogged in, yet there were a fair number of people there. But crowded? No. We took our lunch to a picnic area, where the tables were appropriately physically distanced. I found this to be both amusing and reassuring.

As I munched, I reflected on the joy I was feeling at being safely in the presence of others. And without a mask! Though I am a staunch supporter of mask wearing, the most social thing I do nowadays is grocery shop. Not only is it difficult to carry on a conversation through a mask, we’re not supposed to be interacting there anyway.

Back at Reid, four other tables besides ours were occupied, and people were going to and fro to Todd’s Point. The arrival of summer weather certainly has made it easier to withstand social isolation. Since Paul is in the “at risk” category, we haven’t ventured out to eat (except for takeout). We usually enjoy visiting museums in the summer, and are avid filmgoers, but those activities are out for now.

The great outdoors is what we have, and luckily, Maine has an abundance of it.

A few weeks ago, we went down to Port Clyde, where we hadn’t been for years. We ate our lunch at Marshall Point Light. When we walked around the little nature trail, we had it to ourselves. A couple wandered on the shore below our picnic table, one man taking photos of the other. A solitary woman sat at another table and looked out to the sea. They all disappeared, and soon another couple arrived, but came nowhere near us.

I contrasted this experience to our visit to Owl’s Head Light last year. That park was crawling with visitors, including one family that was speaking Italian. In the gift shop, the cashier was telling another family how to get to Marshall’s Point, and giving them dining suggestions.

I enjoy people watching and was not discouraged by the crowd at Owl’s Head in 2019. In normal times, it was what I expected. But again, I deeply appreciate the chance to enjoy Maine’s exquisite coastal areas in relative solitude. I will never forget these moments I’m experiencing now.

Our day in Camden started with a trip to the summit of Mt. Battie. There were a handful of people coming and going. When we ventured across the street to the other side of the park, we saw a total of two cars. I took a photo behind two empty Adirondack chairs at the top of a long, empty lawn that sloped to Penobscot Bay.

It was an easy drive back through town, with little traffic.

Yes, it’s bittersweet. But, now more than ever, Mainers need to be out enjoying Maine. We are indeed blessed.

 

Liz Soares welcomes email at [email protected].

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