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Flags fly in the center of town at Old Orchard Beach.

Will and I stayed only one night in Maine, in a great little place on Old Orchard Beach, just south of Portland. We found a cute diner and had a yummy breakfast, then explored the beach. It was empty due to the season. The sun beat down, but it was a chilly May morning.

Old Orchard Beach in Maine.

Photogenic pier into the Atlantic Ocean.

Along our westward route leaving the beach, we sought out a short trail that promised a waterfall. The trailhead to Cascade Falls was easy to find and we began walking the short loop, admiring the new plant growth along the trail. I particularly liked the fiddleheads – new fern fronds. Apparently you can eat them, but I never have. The weather was lovely with a few bursts of sunshine, and we soon left the loop and went down a hill to the base of the falls. A family was already there, with two little boys who played with trucks and shovels in the mud at the base of the falls.

Fiddleheads along the trail.

It looked like winter storms had brought some trees down recently, and the view of the falls was somewhat blocked, but it was still pretty. There was a dark copper colour to the water, and we talked a little about what might cause it. I recall streams and lakes this colour when I lived in Vermont and Massachusetts, so it must be something about the soil in New England that causes it.

The water was a rich coppery red.

I liked the reflections on the water.

Cascade Falls beyond downed trees.

The red water makes it look dirty, but I doubt this is pollution, and suspect it’s minerals in the water.

It was a lovely trail, but short, and we soon left to go find a more substantial trail. I had spotted one in a list of trails called Bauneg Beg Mountain, that promised views. I thought it would be fun to hike to a mountaintop in Maine, because the rest of the two-week vacation would be in low elevation places. Soon we found that trailhead too. There was only one other vehicle at the trailhead, and two people stood at its raised hatched showing the inside filled with gear, and reviewed some documents. From their discussion, they seemed to be preparing for some kind of trail maintenance.

This “mountain” peaks at 866 feet, so it’s not representative of the kind of mountain that Maine really has to offer. There are 13 peaks in Maine above 4000 feet and one above 5000 feet. But the trail was beautiful and the land was heaped with rocks that add interest to a trail. There were a couple of marshy areas, but for the most part it was drying up from winter. Much of the incline is gradual, but after a short section of steep incline over boulders, we were treated with a wonderful view. It was better because at that point in the season, trees were not fully in leaf, and the views were more clear.

Near the beginning of the trail, we passed stone walls that reveal old property boundaries.

I love catching blossoms along trails. Spring is always the best season to find flowers.

Looking up at boulders beside our trail.

This is the “mountain peak.” In the west, we would call this a hill.

Panoramic view from Bauneg Beg Mountain. As you can see, our view is better while there are no leaves on the trees.

We had completed the loop in only 1.6 miles, and gained nearly 300 feet. While a somewhat short and easy hike, it was enough to feel good about getting into the car and heading south again. We crossed the New Hampshire border, blinked, and then crossed the Massachusetts border. States are small over here.

We prepared to drive across the state of New Hampshire….for a few minutes.

We headed out toward Gloucester, found our room for the night and got the proprietor to prounouce it for us: Wingaersheek Inn.

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…”

One of my many guises

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