A few months ago I made yet another major life change by moving back to Maine, this time to Portland rather than any of the more remote regions in the north. After a busy summer of working on the Appalachian Trail apps, the next step is to settle into life in the big city and try a more traditional profession for a while. The transition has been a shock to my senses, so I’ve spent most of my free time heading to the mountains. There have been many hiking trips that I haven’t documented here. Don’t worry, I’m not abandoning this blog– I’ve just needed a lot more private time in the past few months.
Now that the mountains are glazed with snow and ice, I’m trying to squeeze the last of the dry-weather outdoor recreation out of the coast on my bike. Last weekend, my hiking/biking buddy, Hans, and I saddled up to see what we could find. We headed first to the shores of South Portland, at Bug Light and Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse. Both lighthouses look directly across the busy harbor to Portland and Falmouth, and in the summer are mobbed with visitors. On this 40 degree morning, only a few hardy souls ventured out.
The southern coast of Maine has similar rugged, rocky shores to what I grew up with on Penobscot Bay, but the similarity ends when you take into account the much larger population in the south. While there is still plenty of open coastline set aside in parks and public spaces, there’s no escaping the fact that about fifty times more people live near Portland than around all of Penobscot Bay. On a warm, sunny day, I wouldn’t be caught dead on the coast around here. I just can’t handle being around so many people. But the other day, with grey skies in the morning and the temperatures brisk, the coastal parks were almost as relaxing as the quieter shores Downeast.
We stopped next at the Portland Headlight and Two Lights State Park, bookending the eastern coast on Cape Elizabeth. The ritzy suburb of Portland seemed considerably more like the Maine I know, once we got out of sight of the industrial waterfront and the housing developments. Soon enough, everything we passed was either a farm, a vacation home, or a commuter home. At least there is some small upside to the gentrification, which is that there’s a nice, quiet area to roam just outside the city.
We skipped the giant sandy beach at Crescent Beach State Park, and crossed the Spurwink River into Scarborough. Yet more of the mixed vacation/commuter houses greeted us, but also more coastline and quiet neighborhoods to bike through. By now, the sun had come out and the roads were filled with almost as many cyclists as cars. The clouds disappeared without a trace, leaving only crisp, clear skies of the kind you can only find in New England in late fall.
For the return trip, we turned onto the East Coast Greenway, a good portion of which runs between Portland and Kennebunk as a rail trail. Since moving here, I’ve been on part of the Greenway almost every day, riding ten to fifteen miles to avoid driving in city traffic and to hold onto some semblance of sanity. The air in the city might not be as fresh as in the mountains, but it’s still Maine– this is no megalopolis concrete jungle. Looking out the window from any building, you still see more trees than houses.
I’ll probably keep quiet on the blog for a while still, as I’m working on some bigger projects for 2014. Top priority is going toward improving the AT and PCT apps, and working on a New England day-hikes app. After that, plans for some big hikes in the summer are under way. More on that as plans get worked out.