New England ’08

Desert of Maine in Freeport.

This year’s trip was actually somewhat planned out beforehand. Planning is, surprisingly, not a bad thing. During all our previous trips, we always somehow missed out on Maine, be it due to bad weather or just unable to find anything of interest to go see. This time around we did a bit of research and found a few unique sites to find, so we made it a point to focus most of the trip on Maine. Recently becoming Dark Tower junkies and having read some of Stephen King’s other works probably had something to do with the sudden interest in Maine too.

One thing I noticed immediately was that living in the Poconos now, the drive was noticeably shorter. I no longer have to go anywhere near New York City or deal with the Parkway or I-95. That was a nice change. On later trips I became more and more reliant on the NY Thruway anyway.

While I had some stuff in Maine picked out, I wanted to find stuff in other states for the drive there and back. While poking around and looking up geocaches, I discovered there was a ghost town in southern New Hampshire I didn’t hear of before – Monson.

Monson was bigger than most ghost towns I’ve seen previously. When the land the town is on was slated for construction, residents bought up some of it to preserve as much of Monson as they could. I read there was a small cemetery there but was unable to find it. All in all, an interesting stop. I was hoping for more than the usual rock walls/foundations deal, but it is what it is.

The Desert of Maine in Freeport was a place I’d been wanting to see for quite some time, so we made sure that was part of the trip. Finding out it had its own campground, we also decided to stay there the first night. This turned out to be somewhat of a perk; we learned campers get to walk the Desert for free. That would have to wait for the next day though, as it was already almost dark. We set up the tent and then drove back into town to check it out a little bit. When we got back to camp, the temperature had dropped quite a bit. It was no surprise we were the only tent campers that night. We would find out in the morning that it went below freezing.
Good thing my sleeping bags kick ass.

So the next morning we walked the Desert, which is actually glacial silt and not sand. There’s a barn from the original farm (whose owners’ poor farming techniques are what caused the topsoil to disappear, revealing the silt underneath) which is now a small museum. Seeing trees half buried in “sand” is cool, but there’s not much else to the place. If you can appreciate a geographical anomaly, check it out. If you don’t like the idea of walking around on and looking at sand for an hour, you probably won’t want to go. I’ve lived by the beach most of my life, so it really wasn’t a big deal. Having trees here and there really killed any notion of it being a desert; it was more like dunes to me.

Freeport and nearby Yarmouth actually had a few points of interest (in the form of roadside oddities), so right after our Desert shindig we had 2 more stops before heading farther north. Just down the road a few miles was the Freeport Big Indian, and as the name implies, he’s a very, very big Indian (Native American, sorry). Not much else to say about him.

And just down the road from that, in Yarmouth, is Eartha, the world’s largest globe. It’s 1:1,000,000 scale, 4 stories, rotates, and revolves. Appropriately, it’s in a map store.

Eartha as seen outside the DeLorme map store. Yes, that’s 3 floors of glass enclosing it.

After all the roadside silliness, it was time to head farther north. First stop was to an allegedly cursed tomb. A strange shape that resembles a boot showed up on Colonel Jonathan Buck’s tombstone. This somehow became the origin of stories about curses and witches. That’s about the gist of it. Pretty much anyone will tell you it’s all crap.

Next up was the Penobscot Narrows Observatory, which sits 420 feet (insert lame ‘getting high’ jokes here) in the air and is actually atop one of the bridge towers.

Not much to say about it; I thought it was neat and had some great panoramic views. If you’re not afraid of heights or feeling the tower shake in the wind, take the ride up.

Right next to it was Fort Knox, which is the only place I’ve ever gone to that actually encourages you to bring a flashlight and explore. I did so gladly.

While it was really similar to other forts I’ve been to, just about all of Knox is accessible.

After spending the whole day in Maine and visiting 6 places, it was time to start heading west to Vermont. For the first time since ’05, we stayed at White Birches in New Hampshire, but since we got there pretty late at night, we got a cabin. And like ’05, we headed up the road to Mr. Pizza again where I had that oh-so wonderful White Mountain mudslide. 3 years was far too long.

The next morning we actually backtracked back to Maine to see a little place I’d wanted to see for years. It’s not a big deal, but it just fits the site’s wandering theme so well. Added bonus – some of the towns mentioned in The Dark Tower are nearby. The towns listed on the World Traveler Sign are all actual nearby towns, by the way.

Finally, on to Vermont for the most unusual cemetery I’ve yet to come across – one for ice cream flavors. It’s no secret Ben & Jerry’s has some peculiar flavors, but sometimes they are a little too peculiar. Some of those low sales stepchildren have wound up ‘buried’ next to the factory, in the aptly named flavor graveyard.

And that was it. We went home.

Author: Stu