August 9, 2011

It's Worth the Trip: Recipe for the perfect summer getaway

By JOHN CHRISTIE

If you'd like to sneak away for three or four days on a getaway that could include virtually every Maine summer delight and even a visit to another country, here's a suggestion that has been a tradition for our family several times a summer for more years than I care to count.

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East Quoddy Head lighthouse is accessible only around low tide.

Photos by Marty Christie

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The famed West Quoddy Head lighthouse is perched on America’s easternmost point of land.

It includes, among other things, hiking, camping, kayaking, biking, golfing, puffin-spotting, whale watching and international travel -- all within four hours of our midcoast Maine home.

Just head east on Route 1 until you reach tiny East Machias, where you'll turn right on Route 191 and follow the bay down to Cutler. There your getaway should start with a trip out to Machias Seal Island with Capt. Andrew Patterson of the Bold Coast Charter Co. to see the largest puffin colony on the Maine coast. You'll not only see these unusual birds, you'll see them up close -- a special experience.

Once back on the road, you'll reach the parking lot for the Cutler Coast Unit of the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, about halfway between East Machias and Lubec, for your first hike. This 12,000-acre paradise includes the best of everything you'd expect to find in Washington County: blueberry barrens, peat lands, forested ledges, thick woods, grasslands and meadows. But the real reason to try this hike is the steep, jagged cliffs that tower above the ocean along 4.5 miles of completely undeveloped coastline.

There are two loops, one 5.8 miles and 9.8 miles, both of which are great hikes, but you can experience the best of the area by following the trail for about a mile and a half right down to the cliffs, with a view of Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick, and return on the same trail back to your car. This is our customary choice, as there's so much more we want to cram into our short getaway. If you do the longer loop, you'll notice that there are three remote and primitive tent sites out on Fairy Head that you might consider for a future visit.

Once back on Route 191, keep your eye out for Boot Cove Road on your right. It will take you past the trailheads for several more delightful hikes in the network that make up the Cobscook Trails. Boot Head Preserve and Hamilton Cove Preserve are both rewarding short hikes. If you don't do them on your first visit, make a note to include them on your next.

Next, continue along to the famed red and white striped West Quoddy Head lighthouse, perched on America's easternmost point of land. There, in 532-acre Quoddy Head State Park, you'll find more trails leading along the bold outcroppings above the ocean and another view over Grand Manan Channel.

Then it's back through Lubec, a town experiencing a renaissance of sorts since the demise of the sardine canning industry that fueled its early growth, with new little shops, places to eat and other attractions. Here you'll embark on your international travels as you cross the short bridge and pass through Canadian customs -- don't forget your passport or ID card! -- onto Campobello Island, NB.

Enough off the beaten path that it never gets crowded, the island is perhaps most famous as the site of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt's cottage and the 2,800-acre Roosevelt Campobello International Park. The residence, a magnificent 34-room "cottage,' where FDR spent many summer vacations away from Washington, is the centerpiece of the park. It stands as both a memorial and a symbol of the close friendship between Canada and the United States, and both countries share in the funding, staffing and administration of the park.

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