Monday, June 22, 2015 Road Junkies 0 Comments

MAINE COURSE, Chapter 4.
Days 4-5.  Bangor, ME to Ellsworth, ME

After finally getting to sleep after the concert was over in BANGor Saturday night, we awoke to a steady rain on Sunday, wishing the rain had begun about 12 hours sooner. The forecast called for rain all morning, followed by an afternoon of rain before a rainy evening set in. We took that as a hint and decided to spend the day working on some projects that needed our attention. Thanks to laptop computers, your projects follow wherever you go in today’s world.

By noon, it was time to check out of the Courtyard rain shelter in Bangor and drive the 30 miles back to Ellsworth, where we would spend the night. Our plans to spend Sunday at Acadia National Park had been scrapped by the weather, so we spent some time in the afternoon outlining what we want to do for the remaining days of this trip before we go home on Saturday.

According to our revised agenda, we got up early Monday morning and left Ellsworth about 7:30, driving northeast on US-1 toward the Canadian border. Our destination was the Roosevelt Campobello International Park on Campobello Island, off the coast of Maine in the Bay of Fundy. Part of the Canadian province of New Brunswick, the island is about nine miles long and three miles wide.
FDR Bridge from Lubec, Maine, to Campobello Island, New Brunswick
Originally settled by Native peoples, the island passed through French hands and into British.  In 1767, Captain William Owen, a Welshman who lost an arm while fighting for the Royal Navy in India, traveled to Halifax with his friend and fellow officer William Campbell.  Lord Campbell had just been appointed governor of the British colony of Nova Scotia, and was persuaded by Owen to award him one of three islands in the Bay of Fundy as a royal land grant. As an homage to his benefactor, Captain Owen threw in a couple of o’s and named the island Campobello, aware from his classical education that in Italian, campo bello means beautiful field.

By the 1850s, the island began attracting visitors because of its natural beauty, mild summer climate, and proximity to large American cities of the Northeast.  As its popularity grew, a group of Boston and New York businessmen bought most of the island from the Owen descendants with the intention of developing it as a resort for wealthy Americans and Canadians. They built three large hotels on the southern end of the island and subdivided the area around them into seaside building lots.

Their timing was impeccable.  It was the height of the Gilded Age, when the very rich enjoyed an abundance of leisure time and vacations lasted all summer.  James Roosevelt, his wife Sara and one-year-old son Franklin first visited Campobello in 1883.  They were so enamored with the island, they bought a land lot, had a house constructed, and became summer residents by 1885.  Many years later, Mrs. Roosevelt bought the cottage next door as a wedding gift for Franklin and his fiance Eleanor.

Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Cottage on Campobello
The future president spent every summer on the island throughout his childhood. After marriage, he and Eleanor continued the Campobello tradition by summering there with their own children. It was on the island where Franklin learned and later taught his own children sailing, hiking, canoeing, and golf.  Campobello was also where he was stricken with polio at age 39.  Even after it became difficult for him to travel to the island due to his health and political responsibilities, Eleanor continued taking the children and later grandchildren there,

After Eleanor Roosevelt's death, the Dutch Colonial cottage was donated to the American and Canadian governments for the purpose of establishing an international park to honor both Roosevelt and the long-standing friendship between the two nations.  Additional land and four other remaining cottages were purchased, increasing the park's size to 2,800 acres.

With its mix of American and Canadian staff, we found the park extremely well-managed and maintained.  All the interpreters in the cottages were quite knowledgeable and engaging.  They eagerly shared information about other spots to visit on the island, leading us to eat lunch at the park's own Fireside restaurant and visit East Quoddy Head on the northern tip of the island.  By the time we arrived, the tide had just started coming in, restricting access to the lighthouse island.

Incoming tide blocks walking route to lighthouse.
Before leaving the island and going back through border crossing, we found a half dozen letterboxes planted in and near the park.  Back across the FDR Bridge into Lubec, Maine, we realized that Campobello is something of a New Brunswick—and Canadian—exclave.  To reach the island from the mainland of New Brunswick by vehicle, one must either drive through Maine or take a series of two ferries, one of which operates only in summer.
West Quoddy Light Station
Before leaving this extremity of Downeast Maine, there was one more letterbox we wanted to find—at Quoddy Head State Park near the peppermint-striped West Quoddy Head lighthouse.  The first lighthouse on this spot—ironically the easternmost point in the U.S.—was built in 1808 under the orders of President Thomas Jefferson.

View from the coastal trail
Our search took us on the coastal trail, a moderate challenge through a boreal forest with some spectacular views—cliffs that drop down 60’ to a stony beach with waves crashing over massive rocks.  The letterbox was about a half-mile up the trail, but the views were so magnificent, we continued another mile or so to the end of the trail before doubling back.

No way to make the hosta grow out blue?
On the way back west on US-1 to Ellsworth, we couldn't resist a stop at the Wild Blueberry Land, a blueberry-themed shop and bakery.  Though we were pausing for just a photo op, somehow a couple of blueberry muffins hitched a ride with us when we departed.

Tomorrow we plan to spend the day exploring Acadia National Park, just 15 miles away in Bar Harbor.
Roosevelt Cottage Stats
  • Size:  7,200 sq.ft.
  • Total rooms:  34 (including 18 bedrooms and 6 bathrooms)
  • Year built:  1897
  • Price paid by elder Mrs. Roosevelt for the house:  $5,000 (furnished)
  • Lighting:  kerosene lanterns (no electricity until the 1950s)
  • Heating:  7 fireplaces + kitchen stove
  • Telephone:  nope

Canadian border crossing station on Campobello
Hubbard Cottage, one of four other remaining summer homes
Large oval window in Hubbard cottage dining room
Hubbard back lawn
Roosevelt cottage dining room 
The Roosevelts and their children at Campobello (elder Mrs. Roosevelt between the couple, as she often was)
With this sign, an insubstantial chain is all that's needed to close the trail to the lighthouse when tides roll in.
Stamping in on a rocky beach
Leaving a little something behind
Lubec, Maine from FDR bridge