Monday, July 31, 2017

Exploring Downeast Maine 2/3

Day 3 - Millbridge to Lubec (158km or 98mi)

Noise of fishing boats leaving Narraguagus Bay woke me up early in the morning. The rain stopped at night but I had to pack my tent wet. I rode back to Millbridge and then continued to Harrington. It was cloudy and cool but some blue sky was visible ahead so I was hoping I wasn't about to have another rainy day.
As I mentioned earlier, I tried to stay away from main roads as much as possible. Some of those hidden ones turned out being tough but accessible, like Cates Rd in Harrington. Others simply didn't exist. Not wanting to ride along Route 1, I planned on crossing Jonesport area using Masons Bay Rd. It does exist on maps. In reality - much less so. What started as paved, turned quickly into a wide gravel road, only to be a rough forest fire road later on and eventually end up in bushes. Chased by a horde of deer flies, I had to turn around, ride back to Route 1 and admit my defeat.
Eventually, I entered Machias, although those last miles were a bit nerve-wrecking. The nice, wide shoulder between Jonesport and Machias town line is gone, which made many trucks passing me by, way too close to my comfort zone. In Machias I treated myself to lunch at Helen's restaurant and it was worth every penny. This place not only serves excellent seafood but also amazing wild blueberry pies.
To be honest, the real Downeast Maine for me starts east of Machias. This is where I entered Sunrise Trail - a long gravel road in place of former old railway, now used mainly by ATVs in summer and snowmobiles in winter. The views were spectacular but I was a bit disappointed that there was so much loose, coarse gravel on the trail, which made riding on my 35mm tires more difficult.
Even though roads were completely empty, riding on rolling hills in Downeast was tedious and I took a short rest in Cutler with its VLF transmitter antennae dominating the landscape. Then I rode along the coast stopping at tiny beaches and coves on the way - at Moose Point and Hamilton Point. These are truly beautiful spots and you won't find many people there even in the middle of high season.
Then I finally reached the easternmost point in the United States - West Quoddy Head Lighthouse in Lubec. Sun was slowly setting and I had to find a place for the night. The nearby Sunset Point RV Park was full of motorhomes but none of its tent sites was occupied. Call me a wuss but I would gladly pay (even though $30/night seemed a bit too much) to have access to a normal bathroom and a hot shower at the end of a long day. Plus, I had a gorgeous views of the bay ahead.
With my tent set up, it was time to take care of my stomach so I rode to Lubec to grab a burger at Cohill's Inn. Shortly after, with sun low over horizon and breeze from the ocean the evening got cool. I decided to hide inside my sleeping bag and call it a day.

Day 4 - Lubec to Campobello Is. to Columbia Falls (167km or 104mi)

My next day started early and I left the campground at 6:30AM. It was quiet, misty and cool. I had to start making my way back west on that day, but before that I had some other plans first. I crossed the border bridge and moments later entered Canada.
It was fun to ride on completely empty carriage roads in Roosevelt Campobello International Park. I took a longer detour south to Liberty Point and then went back north to Herring Cove Provincial Park. Next, I merged with Fundy Rd that was wide and unpaved and eventually reached Head Harbor Lighthouse. Unfortunately, by that time it was already a bit late in the morning and high tide was coming. The lighthouse is located on a rocky island and in order to get there I had to cross a beach that gets completely flooded at high tide. This means - I was there either a few hours too late or much too early to be allowed to see the lighthouse.
I started riding back and stopped at Roosevelt's private beach for a while. The nearby Roosevelt Cottage used to be a summer retreat of Franklin D. Roosevelt and his family and now is a museum. It's certainly worth visiting. I didn't bother this time as I've seen this place a few years ago already.
After another quick stop at Mulholland Point Light, I returned to United States, made my way west to Whiting, then north to Dennysville. This is where part of fun was supposed to begin. I entered a long stretch of Sunrise Trail that would take me back to Machias. Unfortunately, while views from the trail were amazing, deer flies and coarse surface were not. It's safe to say that likely the entire section of the trail north of Machias is better suited for bicycles with plus-sized tires. My 35mm tires were sinking too much into loose, coarse gravel and after I reached Rt 191 I happily abandoned the trail. That main road must've been resurfaced recently as asphalt was so smooth I couldn't believe the change.
I arrived in Machias before 5PM and scouted a few places for a stealth camp. But first, I had to resupply so I rode to Hannaford, which is located at the other end of the town. When I got there, I realized it's still quite early so I decided not to stay around Machias for the night but keep going further west.
I quickly reached Jonesboro and then took Station Rd to Sunrise Trail. Here the trail looked much more civilized - smoother, with less gravel and much easier to ride by bicycle. I could maintain speed of nearly 25kph (15mph). As I later found out, the rest of the trail all the way to Ellsworth looked like that. My theory is that there is much more ATV traffic between Ellsworth and Machias and all loose gravel have been simply swept off the trail by wheels of vehicles, while the northern section sees few ATVs and remains rougher in general.
At some point along the trail I saw a sign to Cottonwood Campground so I decided to give it a try. It turned out to be another RV park with some tent sites available as well. The owner was very nice to charge me $15 instead of $25 "because I only had a bike". The best part of this place were the bathroom facilities. To be honest, I've never seen bathrooms like these at any campground nowhere in the world. By camping standards they were luxurious and let's just say that many B&Bs don't have bathrooms like that.

It was a long day and the only one I couldn't finish with a pint of beer but what worried me more were my knees. After four days of riding up and down on rolling hills through Maine my knees were sore. Not to the point when riding is impossible but the pain was certainly annoying.

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