August 29, 2013


George and Linda Smith

These are the ingredients for a fine Maine picnic: a basket full of your favorite foods, a stunning view in an uncrowded place you can visit without paying a fee and plenty of time to savor the experience with family and friends.

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Rangeley Lakes National Scenic Byway, Public Access Guides

I was astonished to open up the new Maine Coastal Public Access Guide to the Downeast Region and find a lot of trails to the shore that I’d missed in 60 years of visiting Lubec. Of course, many have been secured in the last 20 years, by the state and regional and local land trusts.

The guides have been a long time coming. They are in a three-volume set, published by the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. And they aren’t easy to locate, at least not yet.
So far, two guides have been published, one for the Downeast Region (Bangor to Calais) and the other for the Southern Region (South Berwick to Freeport). The third guide for the Midcoast Region (Brunswick to Hampden) should be ready soon. They are beautifully done and include boat launches, beaches, nature preserves, parks, hiking trails and other scenic areas.

There are maps, written directions and good descriptions of the properties. You’ll find hidden beaches, new fishing spots, seaside hikes, picnic spots and lots of access to the water.

We used the Downeast Region guide extensively on our recent summer-ending visit to Lubec. In that town alone, a dozen wonderful places are listed. Half of them were new to us. Two years ago, we drove all the way out the North Lubec Road, discovering a wonderful half-mile trail to a remote beach on Cobscook Bay. But we had no idea, until we got the new guide, that there is another trail, almost directly across the road from the parking lot that takes you on a quick quarter-mile walk to the shore with a spectacular view all the way to Eastport and beyond. And that trail was loaded with warblers and other birds.

Currently you can only purchase these guides from the ACF Department, by either stopping in at their Augusta office on the east side of the city, or by ordering through the mail. I am promised that online ordering will be available soon, and the agency is also working on external sites where the guides can be sold. Each guide costs $8.

You can obtain the guides now by sending a check for $8 per guide payable to Treasurer, State of Maine, and mailed to Maine Coastal Program, 93 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333. Be sure to specify which guide books you want. And hit the trail!


Maine's Department of Transportation once maintained nice picnic areas along our highways. Growing up in Winthrop, my family would occasionally drive to Berry Pond, in Wayne, where a picnic site on Route 33 offered a shady place to eat and swim.

Alas, budget crunches (and those are most assuredly not picnic items) closed those wonderful places. The picnic tables at Berry Pond are long gone, and those passing by would have no idea how much fun people once had in that very spot.

One of our favorite picnic spots is halfway down Hopkins Stream, between our house and Taylor Pond. A set of huge boulders sits in the stream where a bridge once crossed. Pull your canoe to shore, sit on the rocks, get out your picnic and enjoy the day. Perhaps you have a spot like this near home.

We favor sites that are out of the way, perhaps somewhat isolated. Maine has lots of those.

Several of our favorite picnic places are on Canada's Campobello Island, just over the bridge from Lubec. Campobello's Roosevelt International Park has many remote picnic spots that you can drive to, all in ocean-front settings. Our favorites are at Con Robinson's Point and Liberty Point, where you can dine at picnic tables while enjoying a view of the open ocean. And the trail from Liberty Point to Ragged Point is a great and easy post-meal walk. Be sure to check out the Sunsweep Sculpture.

The Maine coast also offers some out of the way, uncrowded spots for a leisurely and luxurious picnic. Our often-visited West Quoddy Head Light can be a busy place, but the few tables in the ocean-hugging picnic area are rarely full and the spectacular trail along the rocky shore -- with benches strategically placed -- is a wonderful before- or after-picnic activity. There is one picnic table on the walkway between the larger picnic area and the lighthouse. This is our favorite.

Head inland for two of our other favorite spots, each within a few miles of the other. On Route 4, just south of Oquossoc, are two sites that offer the best mountain/lake views in the state. The Mooselookmeguntic Overlook was completed only last year, in a project led by the Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust and partially funded by the Maine Department of Transportation's byways project. It looks to the south and west over Mooselookmeguntic Lake and all the way to the White Mountains.

The Rangeley Lakes Overlook faces north and east toward Sugarloaf and Saddleback Mountains, and is as pretty a spot as you will find in our state or any state. Route 4 is part of the Rangeley Lakes National Scenic Byway, and the drive from Mexico to Oquossoc is especially wonderful.

Another picnic ingredient that we look for is a nearby deli or sandwich shop that can supply all or most of our picnic needs. The Oquossoc Grocery Store is one of those. They've got everything you need and will package it up to fit in your picnic basket. You can also grab cold drinks there, making it unnecessary to carry along a cooler. You can make it a round trip by driving the entire scenic byway up Route 4 through Rangeley, stopping at the store in Oquossoc and taking the Route 4 portion of the scenic byway through Mexico toward home.

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