Portland: Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Company and Museum

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.
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The Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Co. & Museum operates out of the former Portland Company Marine Complex, which built railroad equipment from 1846 to 1978.
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The Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Company is a not-for-profit organization, founded in 1992, whose mission is to preserve the history of the 2 ft narrow gauge railways that ran in the state of Maine in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Carrying both passengers and freight, these railways served the smaller communities in Maine, connecting with the full size lines in cities like Portland.
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There is a 1½ mile long railroad that runs along the waterfront of Casco Bay and parallels Portland’s Eastern Promenade. The Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad company runs rides on these tracks in their restored train cars. In the winter, they run the Polar Express here.
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We arrived just in time to take the short ride down the tracks. At the end of the line, the conductor stopped the train and let us off to peer over the barrier at the abandoned rail bridge.
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When we returned to the museum, we explored the other trains and artifacts inside the building. Sheldon Cooper and little kids who love trains would really enjoy this place. Our group isn’t really into trains, but we still had fun at this stop.
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You can see my other Portland posts by clicking: Portland Observatory, Portland Head Light, and Casco Bay National Estuary.

Location: 58 Fore St, Portland, Maine

Designation: Museum

Date designation declared: 1800s railway, 1993 museum

Date of my visit: 8/18/2015

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Bar Harbor Shore Path

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.
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The Shore Path is just outside Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor. It is maintained by the Bar Harbor Village Improvement Association in conjunction with the homeowners who have houses adjacent to the path. It is over a century old.
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On my previous visits to Bar Harbor, I’d stayed outside town and so hadn’t walked this short trail. In 2015, we stayed at the Harborside Hotel right on West Street in downtown Bar Harbor.
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We enjoyed our stay here. We had a family suite that included a semi-private room for my daughter with bunk beds and a playstation. Once we got through the annoying Bar Harbor traffic to our hotel, we parked the car and left it in their lot for the most part.
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The convenient location of the hotel puts most of what you want to do, or shuttles to what you want to do, in walking distance. The land bridge to Bar Island is right behind the hotel’s spa. You can read about this in one of my previous posts (links at the bottom of this post.)
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The Shore Path starts about a block away, behind the Bar Harbor Inn. It runs along Frenchman Bay with calming views of the boats and small islands in the harbor in clear weather.
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It’s a nice walk of about 1/2 a mile. One foggy evening, the tide was out so we added some cairns to the ones others had built on the shore. It’s not a loop, so we cut over on a path to Main Street and walked back through the town.

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You can see my other Acadia National Park Posts by clicking on the links: Park Loop Road, Jordan Pond and The Bubbles, Bar Island , Schoodic & The Waters off Acadia

Location: Mount Desert Island

Designation: Historic Path, maintained by non-profit organization

Date designation declared: 1880

Date of my visit: August 2015

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Portland Casco Bay National Estuary

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.
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Casco Bay is both a working port and a vital estuary. An estuary is a place where rivers and tides converge and marine life thrives in this ecosystem. Casco Bay is a National Estuary under the Clean Water Act which is overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency.

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Perhaps not the most scenic waterfront I’ve ever seen, there is a lot of natural beauty here mixed with gritty fishing industry and oil tankers. The Eastern promenade, which winds along the bay, is nice for a stroll. There are plenty of walkers, joggers and bicyclists enjoying the outdoors here.

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The relative calm and quiet in Casco Bay makes it ideal for kayaking and paddle boarding. We really enjoyed our sunset tour with Portland Paddle Company and our guide Kalla. It was hard work, but not so tough that out-of-shape-me and my 13-year-old couldn’t manage.

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First we paddled over to an old railroad bridge and saw some nesting ospreys.

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Next we went out to an island in the bay where we saw some seals and lots of sea birds.

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There are over 700 small islands, called the Calendar Islands, in Casco Bay.

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Then we coasted back to shore to enjoy the glorious sunset.

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At this point we were starving and didn’t want to wait to be seated somewhere. We stumbled back towards the main part of town and into the first promising restaurant we saw: DiMillo’s on the Water. The restaurant is a big ship at the end of the pier… prime location, lots of tables, we didn’t wait long to be seated.
To see my other Portland posts, click on the links:

Location: Portland, Maine

Designation:  National Estuary

Date designation declared: 1987

Date of my visit: 8/18/2015

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The Waters off Acadia National Park

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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When visiting Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island in Maine, there are lots of sights to see in Frenchman Bay and beyond. Marine wildlife, historic lighthouses and wildlife refuges are plentiful in the waters off the coast. The only way to see some of these things is by boat.

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When we visited in 2007, we took a fun, friendly and educational ride on Lulu Lobster BoatWe went out with Captain John on Lulu on a beautiful day in May. Captain John and his first mate kept us entertained with lore about the area, the seals we visited at Egg Rock and lobster fishing.
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The queasy among us were given seasick wristbands and no one was ill. We were also loaned binoculars at the seal watching point for better viewing. The tour lasts about 2 hours and was well worth it.
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Egg Rock Light , built in 1875, it is one of coastal Maine’s architecturally unique lighthouses, with a square tower projecting through the square keeper’s house. Located on Egg Rock, midway between Mount Desert Island and the Schoodic Peninsula, it is still an active aid to navigation.
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The light was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as Egg Rock Light Station in 1988. The signal is automated and the island and light are owned by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. It is a bird sanctuary and not open to the public.
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Also in 2007, we took a whale & puffin tour with the Bar Harbor Whale Watch Company. The tour began off the shores of the Petit Manan Lighthouse. This light was built in 1855 and is still an active signal, automated and solar-powered. The island it is on is a wildlife refuge with an active breeding colony of puffins. It is not open to the public.
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Somewhere on our way to the next lighthouse, we saw a Humpback whale. Whales arrive in Maine towards the end of April and migrate south to warmer waters in October.
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Mount Desert Light is on an island 18 miles south of Bar Harbor. It was built in 1847 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.  The station is managed by the College of the Atlantic and is now used as a research station for their work on finback and humpback whales.
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To see my other Acadia posts, click here:

 

 

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Location: Mount Desert Island, Frenchman Bay

Designation: National Park

Date designation declared: Lights added to NRHP in 1987 & 1988

Date of my visit: May 2007

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NRHP: Portland Head Light

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

Portland Head Light, aka the Cape Elizabeth Lighthouse was built at the direction of George Washington and completed in 1791. It is the oldest lighthouse in present-day Maine, though Maine was still a part of Massachusetts at the time of construction. It was added to the National Register of Historical Places in 1973.

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Today the lighthouse is automated and is operated by the Coast Guard, while the keeper’s house and surrounding Fort Williams Park are maintained and preserved by the town of Cape Elizabeth, just south of Portland.

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We parked by the Ship Cove beach area and walked the Cliff Trail towards the lighthouse.

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There are places along this trail where you can clamber down rough paths and walk out onto rocks for a ‘better’ view of the light (trust me, there are no bad views.) This doesn’t seem especially safe…the ocean can be unpredictable and wash you right out to sea if you’re not careful.

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That is my husband, risking the rocks, to take a picture of me taking a picture of him…because that’s how we roll…

We noticed another lighthouse out in Casco Bay. This is the Ram Island Ledge Light. It looks like a ruin, but it is solar-powered and apparently still works.

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We arrived at the light and toured the museum inside the Keeper’s House. You cannot go up in the tower.

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On the other side of the lighthouse, some rocks are painted as a memorial to the shipwreck of the Annie McGuire in 1886. The light keeper rescued the crew, providing them with the means to climb to shore. No one knows why the ship crashed into the rocks as the signal was quite visible.

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We then walked a path through the park, past some ruins of the fort batteries and back to the beach where we dipped our feet in the icy water and took a few photos of Battery Keyes, built as part of Fort Williams in 1906. The fort remained in use until 1962.

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You can see my other Portland posts by clicking: Portland Observatory Tower

Location: 12 Captain Strout Cir, Cape Elizabeth, ME 

Designation: National Register of Historic Places

Date designation declared: 4/24/1973

Date of my visit: 8/17/2015

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Acadia National Park: Schoodic Peninsula

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.
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For this trip to Acadia, we decided to visit one of the less traveled sections of the park: The Schoodic Peninsula, across the bay from where were staying in Bar Harbor.

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We took the ferry from Bar Harbor to Winter Harbor, courtesy of the Downeast Windjammer Cruise Lines, so we could experience Acadia without the crowds found on Mount Desert Island. The alternative to the ferry is a slow drive back to the mainland around the rocky coast to the peninsula. We needed a break from driving.

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The Quoddy Dam is a seasoned working vessel, not a luxury yacht. As long as you don’t go expecting a ride on a big ship like the whale watching cruises, you won’t be disappointed. We saw lighthouses, seabirds and a dolphin on the journey and chatted with one of the seamen who is retired Navy. He pointed out some of the sights to us along the way.

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When we arrived at the dock in Winter Harbor, the free Island Explorer bus was waiting for us. The driver took us to Schoodic Point, told us he’d be back in an hour and that we’d have time for lunch and still be able to make the 2:00 ferry.

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Schoodic Point is a peaceful place to watch crashing waves, explore tide pools and see unique geology. There are dark channels running through the rocks here called diabase dikes. This is unique to this side of Acadia because the Schoodic Granite has a different structure than the granite that makes up Mount Desert Island.

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Completely remote, there were only a few others out there with us. The fog was with us again so we didn’t have much of a view, but we hear you can see Cadillac Mountain from this point on a clear day.

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True to his word, the bus driver was there an hour later and he took us where we wanted to go. If only the expensive commuter transit company back home was so efficient and friendly as this free bus!

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Back in town, we walked the sleepy main street of Winter Harbor to JM Gerrish. A mix between old-time ice cream parlor and luncheonette, JM Gerrish is charming and epitomizes rural America. The locals were having lunch there along with the Schoodic tourists. The service is unhurried & friendly. The food is good, standard burgers and BLT sandwiches… on really good bread.
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Location: Schoodic Peninsula

Designation: National Park

Date designation declared: 7/8/1916

Date of my visit: August 2015

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You can see my other Acadia Posts by clicking on the following links:

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Acadia National Park: Bar Island

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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Bar Island is a tidal island in Bar Harbor, just North of the West Street Pier. It is now part of Acadia National Park (Acadia NP was established in 1916, but the boundaries weren’t adjusted to include Bar Island until 1986) and has some hiking trails running through the island. The only way to get there is by crossing a sand bar on foot or with an ATV.

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This land bridge is only accessible 1.5 hours on either side of low tide. You don’t want to be on the island when the tide comes in or you will be stuck out there until the next low tide.

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We’d seen Bar Island at high tide from the area behind our hotel. One of the locals explained that we could go there at low tide, so we checked the internet for the next low tide.

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We were lucky that low tide coincided with sunset. Even though it was foggy, the setting sun still shone through, creating a glorious diffused effect. It was such an amazingly beautiful sight.

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While walking across the land bridge, with what seemed like every other occupant of Bar Harbor, we saw some kayakers coming back to shore.

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As we neared Bar Island, we saw little stone towers everywhere. We added a cairn of our own on the beach at Bar Island and then headed back across the sand bar, not wanting to spend the night on the Island.

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You can see my other Acadia National Park Posts by clicking on these links:

  1. Park Loop Road
  2. Jordan Pond and The Bubbles

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Location: Mount Desert Island

Designation: National Park

Date designation declared: 1986

Date of my visit: August 2015

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