Those few hazy-hot-humid days were too hot to do anything strenuous, like long hikes. Today, finally there was some relief in the form of a slight break in the heat. It was still too humid to enjoy something like the Ocean Path or Connors Nubble, but it was a good day for the Thuya Gardens.
We drove to Northeast Harbor and parked in the lot across from the hiking path. There is a road that visitors can drive up, but unless I’m going up at sunset, I prefer to walk. The steep trail winds up the mountain, past two overlooks that provide perfect views of the harbor – the prettiest one on the island. They’re so neat that some years Joseph and I get sandwiches, walk up to the top overlook and enjoy them and the view. We didn’t think about doing that today…and I wish one of us had suggested it.
At the top of the hill, on the way to the Thuya Gardens, is the Curtis House, a place I love to visit. Curtis was a co-founder of Northeast Harbor and the house was the summer retreat for him and his tiny family. When he died, he willed the house and the surrounding property to a trust. For as many times as I’ve been here, as i passed by it, I couldn’t miss the chance to see the Curtis House again. Joseph had no interest in joining me. He went right to the gardens
One of my favorite parts of going through the house is hearing the volunteer-for-the-day talk to first-time visitors. I usually lurk in the background or slink stealthily up the stairs, as I listen to the newbies’ questions, and the guide’s answer. Invariably I learn something new. Today was no different.
While chatting with the on-duty volunteer, I learned why Curtis House no longer closes after Labor Day – which it did until just a couple years ago. I always wondered why – because it’s a great place for visitors, and the island gets lots of them in the fall. Turns out that the women who run it are all school teachers – well, they used to be. So when the teacher-volunteers returned to the classroom, the place closed. Now it stays open until the end of September because those dedicated volunteers retired from teaching. Now they have the time to continue their volunteering into the fall.
Once I had my fill of the Curtis House, I joined Joseph in the gardens. These are beautiful gardens, meticulously maintained by the volunteers. There is a small gazebo, a pond, a short path around the gardens as the Maggie Godfrey pavilion. She was the deceased spouse of Peter, who takes us on his boat when we are on MDI. Joseph and we sat there for a while – the pavilion is a good place to get the “big picture” of the gardens. Before I left the gardens, I walked around the path. I’ve done it before, but this time I discovered a door. The words “Eliot Mountain” are carved into it. I wondered what happened on the other side of that door…it was a trail, but to what?
As I was leaving, I saw one of the volunteers near the utility shed. I asked him about the Eliot Mountain trail. He explained that it went to Little Long Pond. I got excited! It’s a new path (new to me) to a trail I’ve walked many times. Maybe I’ll try it tomorrow.
After a while, Joseph and I had our fill of flowers, overlooks and harbor views, it was late afternoon and we were ready for a drink. Our plan was to go the Docksider at Southeast Harbor. We drove there and, on a whim, I suggested to Joseph that we try another bar, the Upper Deck. It’s a place we pass by each year, but have never stopped in for a drink or food.
We walked into The Upper Deck and immediately I liked the laid back “townie” atmosphere. We had to wait to get a seat at the bar, but the place appeared to be jumping. Turns out that most of the people at the bar were there to honor one of its regular patrons, a man who had a massive heart attack on Sunday, on the wharf that’s just down the driveway from the bar.
I guess because it must have been obvious we were not locals, people came to chat with us. We talked to Debbie, the owner and bartender, and her mother, Roberta, who is the “local talent.” Roberta was performing on the deck during happy hour.
We also met Moe, who we couldn’t figure out if she worked there or not…because she was clearing tables, pouring water behind the bar and other stuff. She didn’t work there but was a “regular” at the Upper Deck. Another local joined us, a lobsterman. After exchanging some “hellos” we found out his parents own Seaside Cottages, right next door to our Windward Cottages. We laughed and chatted with everyone until just after sunset.
Once back at the cottage, we watched a couple more episodes of Stranger Things. And I’m looking forward to some better weather!
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Every year, for the last 19 years, I trek to Maine. Find out what keeps me returning year after year in The Maine Diaries.