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Not the Portland I’m used to.

I just returned from a two-week trip to New England. Since I had never been to Maine before, Will and I started there and moved slowly south during my visit. I thought it would be fun to go to the other Portland. After spending some time in New Hampshire at America’s Stonehenge, that I talked about in my last post, we went on up north. Portland, Oregon is named after Portland, Maine by the way.

Will had found something online about fairy houses in some park in Falmouth, near Portland. We began searching for it, but all we had was the name of the island on which they were supposedly located. Google maps drew us a route directly to the center of the tiny island, accessible by a bridge, and we obediantly followed. On the island we passed through some open gates and looked around at a parking area, with buildings in the distance, but no signs helping us find fairies. Will pulled to a stop to look at the map again, and I noticed a man outside that had been staring at our vehicle and walking toward us. He came from the direction of a building with a sign on it that said SECURITY.

“Will, I think this guy wants to talk to us,” I said, as I noticed that we were in a parking lot for Baxter School for the Deaf. “Maybe he can give us directions.” As the man approached, Will rolled down the window of the car.

“Can I help you?” the man asked, in a state-your-business kind of way.

Will says in the most sincere and earnest sort of way, “We’re looking for the fairies.”

The man was perfectly still with a face devoid of any expression. He blinked. After a pause he said, “You can’t be here on campus.”

Telling the story later, Will said it was as though the security guard heard the words, decided to ignore them, and chose to state what he had intended to state in the first place. In retrospect, it is hilarious! “We’re looking for the fairies!” We must have seemed like crazy people. Ha ha!

View of Casco Bay from Mackworth Island.

We turned around and noticed what we missed at first: a parking lot to be entered immediately after crossing the bridge. There is a state public area that encompasses the beach and shore of the island, but not the center. From the lot we could access a lovely 1.25 mile trail that runs in a ring around the circular island. For a chilly evening, there were a surprising number of people there to use the trail for fitness, walking the dogs, or just to enjoy the views of Casco Bay.

With or without fairy houses, it was a nice evening to take a walk, so off we went. There are multiple places to access the beach, and we did. I was mesmerized by the rock formations we found. Will and I wished for Tara (studying geology) to help us understand what we were looking at. We chatted and enjoyed the wildlife, and waved cheerily at people who passed us multiple times going the other direction and clearly moving at a pace faster than ours.

This 1 1/4 mile trail wraps in a ring around the small island, with non-stop beach views.

We liked this old tree.

We clambered around on the beach, with its fabulous rocks.

Will in the distance. Wonderful rock formations in the foreground.

Suddenly we spotted one: a small tipi stack of sticks against the base of a tree.

Once we knew what to look for, we saw more. And more. Farther along the trail the little forest debris creations were everywhere! Some very simple, some elaborate. They were right beside the trail, but as we plunged deeper into the forest off the trail, we found more.

Fairy homes built against the bases of the trees.

Since we had visited America’s Stonehenge earlier in the day, I named this Stickhenge.

This one was so big that I fit into it! I’ve never been in a fairy house before.

Eventually we spotted a sign that explained what we were looking at, and the rules for participating. I experienced a bit of glee that something official as a State of Maine, Bureau of Parks sign acknowledged the faeries who visit the forest. I’m not religious, and find it hard to have faith in anything that can’t be scientifically explained, but I do believe in faeries. And while most of my life is practical and analytic, there is this one thing about me that doesn’t fit at all, and I’m usually too shy to mention it. But on Mackworth Island, clearly there are others who believe with me.

Officially sanctioned fairy homes.

Some fairy homes were made of simple construction.

As we hunted through the forest, we found more and more elaborate houses, often adorned with shells collected from the beach.

This one looks two stories high, with a stone patio.

While the sign cautions not to use living materials, it is likely these were collected from the ground and not picked.

This one rolls out the green carpet, between columns of pine cones.

This home has exceptional landscaping and an artistic flourish of oak leaves on top.

We had fun for nearly an hour as we explored the fairy homes. Possibly there were hundreds of them; it’s truly a sight to see. That humorless security guard should take a walk over here on his lunch break.

Leah Stetson, whose LinkedIn page says she did a senior college thesis project on island fairy houses, said in 2011 in a comment on another blog: “In Maine, there are over 60 islands with active “fairy house” villages tended by children and adults alike. Monhegan is most famously known for its Cathedral Forest (and the 50-year controversy on whether to ban fairy houses–still ongoing among island officials) but islands like Squirrel Island (Boothbay Harbor) and Bear Island (Buckminster Fuller’s island, where he built the famous geodome) in the Penobscot Bay, as well as several of the less-inhabited Cranberry Isles (e.g. Baker) have fairy houses.” Stetson may have been the author of an article in a no-longer-available post from The Compleat Wetlander, which stated fairy houses are “a 100+ year tradition in Maine, especially along the coast and on the islands, when many island communities had working farms. Traveling schoolteachers brought folk tales involving fairies that inspired islanders—children and adults alike—to build gnome homes to attract fairies in order to watch over the livestock and children during Maine winters. A fairy house traditionally included a tiny altar with a small offering, such as a coin, to pay the fairies to help the farmers…”

A happy Humpty Dumpty was put back together by Roger Tofte, according to the sign.

A happy Humpty Dumpty was put back together by Roger Tofte, according to the sign. This is no hollow claim, since some unruly guests knocked Humpty to the ground last year, and Mr. Tofte was forced to prove that he could indeed put the egg back together.

For Tara’s 18th birthday celebration, a trip to the Enchanted Forest  was requested. We went last year and loved it, so I was on board to visit again!

This enchanted theme park has moved through too-uncool-for-middle school, and has become a hip place to go, if you are a teenager. It is clearly designed for small children, with some great additions since the 1970s that will entertain the parents, but what keeps this place well worth a visit is that it slightly misses the mark, and crosses the Uncanny Valley. What I mean is, it’s just on the other side of cute, and has turned creepy in a most delicious way.

Tara and birthday friends inside the mouth of the witch. The trail continues inside, with scenes from Snow White inside.

Tara and birthday friends inside the mouth of the witch. The trail continues into the throat, with scenes from Snow White and her evil witch stepmother.

The kids peek into the windows of the tiny house of the Seven Dwarves.

The kids peek into the windows of the tiny house of the Seven Dwarfs.

The second floor of the little house holds these darling beds, a tiny rabbit, and a squirrel doing some housekeeping.

The second floor of the little house holds these darling beds, a tiny rabbit, and a squirrel doing some housekeeping.

It is so much like the idea of Disneyland that I am amazed no one has sued. Thank goodness, because the Enchanted Forest, south of Salem, Oregon, is a high-quality theme park that’s a blast for the little ones, and genuinely amusing for everyone else. All that – for an entrance fee of $10.99, and tickets for the rides at $1 per ticket.

The park is a true family effort, envisioned by Roger Tofte, supported by his wife and children, and opened in 1971. A son grew up and learned animatronics, and built for us the awkward, jerking, breathed into life-sized beings across the park. One daughter wrote and directs the comedic plays that show at the theatre, and she also wrote all the music heard in the park, which is always played on pipes.

Hansel and Gretel couldn't resist this place. Neither could Tara.

Hansel and Gretel couldn’t resist this place. Neither could Tara.

This is by far the most frightening thing in the park: animated witch beckons Gretel into the furnace, and creaking, hesitant, animatronic Gretel slowly turns her head back and forth in a

This is by far the most frightening thing in the park: animated witch beckons Gretel into the furnace, and creaking, hesitant, animatronic Gretel slowly turns her head back and forth in a “no.” Life-sized Hansel crouches in an iron cage at her feet.

It begins just past the entrance, where guests walk along Storybook Trail through a real forest, and find miniature and life-sized creations from children’s faery tales and Mother Goose rhymes. You can stand on the trail and look, but if you get close and go inside or peek in windows, that is when the real treat begins. Or the real heebie jeebies, as the case may be.

There is a Western-themed town, which is hilarious, filled with more animatronics, and named Tofteville. The kids got a big charge out of the drunken walk, where you enter a building, and follow the path out on a floor balanced on springs. There is no way to keep steady.

I think I may just love Pinocchio Town the best, a European-style village that has several animated faces that peer from shutters two stories above you that swing open. The characters gossip loud enough to hear, about different storybook characters. You can enter a doorway and follow a path through multiple buildings, peeking into holes in walls, and holes in cheese, and reading about puppetry around the world, and controlling a miniature train on a track through snowy Alps. Through one curtained window is a kaleidescope, that simply turns as long as you stand there. One window reveals a fabulous 10-foot-high Rube Goldberg mechanism that runs balls through a wire obstacle course. And who can stand resist the singing blackbirds baked in a pie?

Four and twenty blackbirds, baked in a pie. When the pie was opened, the birds began to sing.

Four and twenty blackbirds, baked in a pie. When the pie was opened, the birds began to sing.

Peek through one of the holes in an enormous piece of Swiss cheese, and you can see the home of the Three Blind Mice.

Peek through one of the holes in an enormous piece of Swiss cheese, and you can see the home of the Three Blind Mice.

Where will this lead us next?

Where will this lead us next?

Gossips in Pinocchio's Village

Gossips in Pinocchio’s Village

These inviting structures hold picnic tables, where people can eat the food they brought in, or buy from the vendors.

These inviting structures hold picnic tables, where people can eat the food they brought in, or buy from the vendors.

Rip Van Winkle sleeps on a hil

Rip Van Winkle sleeps on a hill

Jack and Jill run down the hill

Jack and Jill run down the hill

Little Red Riding Hood knocks on the door, but the wolf has already eaten Grandma

The wolf listens eagerly to Red Riding Hood’s knock.

The Crooked Man invites visitors to walk through his crooked house.

The Crooked Man invites visitors to walk through his crooked house.

Mrs. Pumpkin Eater is trapped.

Mrs. Pumpkin Eater is trapped.

The Europen-style village

The European-style village

Mad Hatter and March Hare have tea, while the Cheshire Cat looks down, grinning

Mad Hatter and March Hare have tea, while the Cheshire Cat looks down, grinning

I haven’t shown any photos of the rides, but I think I’ll save those for another day. There were too many fun photos in this post to bog it down further.

In 1960s, Roger Tofte seemed to be the only person who could see the final version in his mind’s eye. He was the target of many jokes and whispers that he had some screws loose.

Mr. Tofte can laugh at them all today, though I imagine he’s too sweet to do so. Both times we have visited the park, we have spotted him moving around, quietly under the radar, passing through doors that say “staff only” and happily waiting for toddlers to pass before he drives through on his scooter.

The Western town, named Tofteville.

The Western town, named Tofteville.

In Tofteville, a barber and his client appear startled to see me.

In Tofteville, a barber and his client appear startled to see me.

A dentist in Tofteville, getting some unruly teeth in order.

A dentist in Tofteville, getting some unruly teeth in order.

One of my many guises

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