And it is! Or was. Heading south on Hwy 1 from Bar Harbor with my wife and daughter, we were driving along to see what there was to be seen. And then, we passed an old building that resulted in the dreaded “You’re outvoted” chorus, so… I turned around.
Welcome to the Big Chicken Barn. I’ve been to chicken barns. They’re filthy. In the south, they’re one story buildings that eventually fall to ruin. This, though was essentially a hatchery, where chickens are raised until about 3 months old. It was built in the 1950’s and continued in operation to the latter 1960’s. In the mid 1980’s, someone cleaned it up, and now you can shop for antiques and books where 50,000 chicks once tread. Despite the old look and questionable practice of having open windows for a building with damageable stock, I was pleased that the old timbers no longer held the smell of ammonia or other reminders of its past use. In any case, let’s peek at what’s inside. Why? Because I took pictures, and you’re bored. Maybe an old peddler’s tonic would help?
How about picking up a solid investment in the environment?
The first floor is loaded with antiques. Some of these are furniture, some are remnants of old buildings, and much are the tools, knick-knacks, toys and the detritus of life that doesn’t merit the landfill simply because it’s old. Speaking of old, the first floor’s charms seem to appeal to the generation that lived with the stuff, aged, oh 70 and up. A walk down memory lane. There’s actually a good variety, and while no doubt some come to search for something specific, it’s more likely a place just to say “I had that when I was a kid, and I have an empty (fill in the blank) where I can put it.” I have to wonder about their prospects when our elderly generation passes on, as the prices don’t speak to any desire to move the inventory.
At 100 yards in length, you never forget you’re in an unusual venue – the barn construction remains apparent everywhere.
The second floor is for the books.
Or, seemingly, magazines.
“Life,” “Sports Illustrated,” and many others are kept in plastic sleeves and filed chronologically for any collection completionists out there. This one from Feb 22, 1966 caught my eye.
The sixties were heady times indeed, dating by computer. I don’t think college kids even date by computer today. Magazine racks, magazine racks, and… books. They have a collection of rare or autographed books, but in general, I thought there selection was substandard, particularly the sci-fi/fantasy. As a side note, anyone looking for used CDs shouldn’t bother stopping. Dreck.
In any case, if you’re in Ellsworth, Maine… stop by… no. If you’re ever in The Chicken Barn, then you’re in Ellsworth, Maine.
Researching the drive from Bar Harbor to Maine, there were points we considered visiting – a one hour train ride, a visit to the Maine State Prison store (which we did – woodworking), and “museum” or a collection of comic book/pop art stuff, a rock store, and… yeah, it sort of devolves. We also happened to cross Penobscot Narrows Bridge which boats the highest observatory on a public bridge in the world, which begs the question if there’s a private bridge with a higher view. In any case, we pulled over and… sorry, the observation area is closed. There’s an elevator to the tip of the nearest column in the photo below. Oh well.
This was kind of a “play it by ear” endeavor, but we knew that our next likely stop would be the Portland Observatory. To borrow from publicly available information, it’s been in place since 1807 and is the only remaining historic maritime signal tower in the U.S. Using a telescope and signal flags, it allowed two-way communication between ships and the shore, up to several hours before an arriving vessel reached the docks. Shipping companies would pay to stock their flags in the tower, which would be raised when their vessels were sighted.
The tower survived a fire in Portland in part because the area was fairly barren. That’s no longer true as the town has expanded literally next door. It’s survived disuse when communication systems improved and other lapses in maintenance, including abandonment. However, locals made an effort to restore it, and it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 and a National Historic Landmark in 2006, whatever that distinction is… In any case, they offer tours to provide a little history which is now suitably summed. Below is a model, and it’s notable that the top part can removed by crane (a feature added when repairs were made) to lower it the ground for maintenance:
The tower is 86’ tall and was built with an octagonal design to reduce wind pressure. At the main level is an access port to view the foundation. Stone blocks and other materials are laid across the wooden beam foundation to help the tower resist the wind.
Inside, here’s some “old graffiti.” Guess that’s not a new thing.
At the top, you can see the counterbalance mechanism from which the telescope was hung. It was stolen at some point.
Properly equipped, you could look in any direction (while minding the open stairway on the floor). The little step allowed access to the telescope.
And, here’s the main view if using the telescope:
Walking out on to the catwalk, the view is clearer and worth paying the admission fee.
Viewable from the tower was Portland Head Light, which was a close enough drive to make it worthwhile. It’s a park area and the postcard location for the city, I think.
Oh, and lobster rolls for dinner on a converted Ferry:
With water all around Bar Harbor and Mount Desert Island, it would be a shame not to actually get on it. This we did with Acadian Nature Cruises, one of a number of tours that send boats out several times each day. We took the 4:00 p.m. cruise, which is 1.5 hours rather than the two hour cruises at other times of the day. First, of course, you get a view of Bar Harbor from… the harbor. It’s not so exciting to see, but that’s what digital processing is for. See? Much more dramatic.
The cruise is on a double decker boat with bench seating. The host stands at the top of the stairs and narrates almost constantly throughout the tour, starting with the history of the town and the influx of the wealthy. A tour group occupied the majority of the boat, and we were fortunate to find a spot on the top right side, which was recommended by others on TripAdvisor. This wasn’t critical, but did offer a better view of the “cottages” which dot the coastline which were on the right, oops, starboard side. As a positive note, it gets cold on the water, and they do provide some loaner blankets.
Those “cottages” were said to have, by definition, at least 35 rooms, but in any case, they’re large enough, with one staffed by 14 servants in its gloried past. The names associated with the cottages include the Campbell’s soup heir, Mrs. John Ascot (who married at age 18 and whose wealthy husband didn’t survive the honeymoon – on the Titanic, someone else who didn’t survive a Titanic journey, the Macy’s family, Bill Ruger of Ruger Firearms,JP Morgan’s descendants, and Nelson Rockefeller. Rockefeller is credited with ceding much of his property and twisting the arms of his wealthy neighbors to likewise donate to form what is now Acadian National Park.
I forget which house belonged to whom, but one of the stories told was that one these had been used for the exterior shots of show, “Dark Shadows.” The internet, the authority that it is, repeatedly points to Seaview Terrace/Carey Mansion in Newport, Rhode Island for that honor. A boat ride shouldn’t require Mythbusters, but in any case, the houses appear very grand.
There were many more cottages, but a fire in 1947 destroyed most as well as virgin forests. Elsewhere, if you have read my prior post, there’s fog about, making or breaking views and photos.
Below is Egg Rock Lighthouse, located on Egg Rock island at the entrance to Frenchman’s Bay.
Fifteen minutes later, this is Egg Rock Lighthouse:
No fog. In any case, during that 15 minutes, we camped at a small rock island and snapped photos of seals.
Then it was off around the Porcupine Islands, seeing what there is to see. Like this rock face:
Click on the photo above then look in the narrow gap. Rock. Face. My opinion. Here, let me help.
In any case, bald eagles are on the scheduled rounds. A couple, at least, are trained. See a boat approaching? Head for it.
… and wait for someone to toss a fish to the side of the boat.
Three solid meals in a day. And, if eagle faces and rock faces aren’t enough, there’s dog faces.
And, if he doesn’t look like a happy dog, consider the unhappy faces of the lobsters. It’s hard to see without clicking on the picture below, but many, many lobsters are harvested here. Each buoy has a color code for its owner, and anyone messing with them risk expulsion from the island and having to eat shrimp. Seriously, these lobsters have no choice but to wander from trap to trap.
All in all, it was an informational and enjoyable trip.
Traveling to Maine, I wasn’t really looking for a National Park, or even a State one. I had been thinking a little wandering around, taking some photos, kayaking if weather permits. Of course, all that is doable in a park as well. The park was first established as Lafayette National Park, and it is said that an adjacent landowner with significant acreage would be willing to donate her land only if the property was renamed. So, instead, it’s name is derived from the French colony of Acadia which included Maine. You take the French heritage, you move some of the residents to Louisiana, and you get Cajuns. So it is said.
The first thing you should do when you enter a National Park is buy a pass. $25. Then you have choices. Drive, hike, or ride bicycles. If you’re there for a day with a pending boat ride at 4 in the afternoon, you opt for the car. There’s a lot to be seen and a lot of driving to get that done. Perhaps the first thing you’ll want to do is drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain, the tallest mountain on the East Coast and the subject of the first rays of sunshine to strike the U.S. each day (weather permitting). The view, towards Bar Harbor.
The trails are (reportedly) marked by cairns, small stacks of rock to guide hikers along their way. Otherwise, visitors seem to like stacking their own Ebenezers (standing stones), perhaps in search of something mystical or penance for that Coke can they threw out the car window when they were a kid. We saw it in the Nevada desert and we found them again, cluttering the landscape.
Regardless, it’s a great view, but lacking the majesty of major mountain ranges. It is, though, a great spot to observe the fog. Driving into Maine at night, it’s hard not to think of Steven King, their creepiest resident. Very dark, the hint of trees along the highways, warning signs for moose… And, in the morning, you awake to find the sun, drive a short distance to find yourself in the fog, and then out again. It’s gone, right? Wrong. There’s something about the area that protects the fog as it patrols the park and nearby islands throughout the day. Maybe you’re enjoying lunch (both the food and a fine Maine Brewing beer of the same name) with a “popover” (a muffin that is not content to stay in the tin), enjoying the scenic view from the restaurant overlooking Jordan Pond.
Make a little conversation, turn around, and…
Fog. Later, maybe you’re driving around the Northeast Harbor (located essentially due South on the island). Perty, ain’t it?
You drive around to the opposite side of the harbor within 5-10 minutes, where the green trees are in the picture above, look back and…
It’s a living thing. Stephen King made a fortune off of it. Whatever, it’s off to Sand Beach, the only real swimming hole as other areas don’t allow sand to accumulate.
Shorts, okay. But I think this fellow actually got in the water (I risked a finger in the liquid ice), and he came prepared to thaw. Maine folks are made of tough stock. Still, it’s a day at the beach.
Obligatory rocky Maine coast with fog:
And then there’s Thunder Hole (click the link for pictures) which is sort of the marketing photo for the area. Like the walk to Bar Island, you have to time this right as well. We didn’t.
But, keep looking, because it’s pretty clear that the next postcard worthy view is right around the corner, fog permitting.
All in all, visiting this in a day is tiring. That’s no surprise, really. I’d rather arrive a month earlier, spend a few days, hike some trails and paddle in a kayak around the place. Less seeing, more doing.