Down East Maine

Reversing Falls.

Driving up the state highway, we passed through Columbia Falls and since it’s not like there was any rush, a detour to see the falls sounded good. Off the main highway, we followed the little road into the village. A Monday morning in Maine isn’t a busy time, especially in these non-tourist destinations. Not that there was much to see, the falls were more of a ten-foot length of rapids on slow motion. I let the dogs out anyway. Stevie wasn’t happy to be locked inside. I’ve realised it’s not that he wants to walk per se, it’s just that he doesn’t like being left out. This time though, I didn’t have the patience to worry about a wandering cat. Sorry, Steves.


Back on track, the rain splattering on the windshield, the morning passed slowly as we headed north. With a picnic in a layby by the rivers and estuaries, my tension eased. The sky remained mostly dark and dismal but we were comfortable in the van. Cozy even. Stevie lay on the bed with Rosie as Harold’s claimed the passenger seat these days. I read a little, drove a little, and drank multiple cups of coffee. Finally, all 80 miles later, we reached Pembroke. Turn right down a local road with no signs and follow that for another five or so miles. Reversing Falls Park is the goal.

It’s not so much a park but wild area on the spit of land leading into Cobscook Bay. Reversing Falls gets its name from how this huge bay off the Grand Manan Channel is filled though this one pinch-point of land. The tides fill the bay and the roar of the incoming water is impressive, a steady white noise, over the rain on the tinroof of our camper van. I lean back and watch the Atlantic Ocean reclaim the bay in front of us. Waking from a nap a few hours later, the silence takes me by surprise. With doors open, the four of us walk through the tall grass to the waterfront. The bay is dead calm, no rushing water, no rapids, no falls, just a mirror of gunmetal blue water. I crouch down and wonder at this quietness. Rosie flies past chasing a squirrel. Harold barks at a seal. Stevie hunts (and catches) a mouse. All is good in the world.


Once the bay fills, there is an hour of complete balance, the water is steady and silent. Then the tides turn and slowly the ripples return as the bay begins to drain back into the ocean. The momentum builds and suddenly the water level hits that critical point, the tipping point, whereby the rapids are heading in the opposite direction. Reversing Falls. It’s incredible to watch this ebb and flow. Stunning really.

Camping here is free and wild. There are no toilets, showers, water source, but the state has set up three or four dispersed camping spots with a trash can and firepit at each. They’re about a qharter mile from each other and we can’t even see the other vehicles. The first night, we’re down by the water’s edge, right in the parking lot unfortunately, but it’s better than in a rules and regulations kind of campground. Here the critters, mine, are free to roam, pee and poop in the grass as often as they like, and no need for a leash.
Well, it sounded good.

Coffee in the morning next to a fire on our own. My kind of morning. The dogs and Stevie are all out wandering around, the bay is filling and the sky cleared up over night. Should be a good day. It’s not even six yet I’m rested after a night in the camper cuddling pups and cat after a bowl of chile before bed. Harold and Stevie return and lay at my feet, hoping for eggs and cheese. Rosie though?

Rosie though. I finally put down the coffee and look for her. She’s up the hill behind the meadow, slowly and painfully hobbling down through the grass to me. She’s not walking right. I race up to her. Her mouth, face, legs and paws are thick with quills. A porcupine got her. Fifty or so quills have paralysed her. I pick her up and carry her to the van and lay her inside. She wimpers. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

Harold and Stevie jumped inside the van, knowing this was serious. Even Stevie, he climbed up to his shelf and watched. I threw in the cookstove, breakfast forgotten, filled my mug with the rest of the coffee and closed the doors. Where to?
Smartphone in hand, luckily I could get online. Three vets within an hour of us. One to the north, open every other Saturday, it didn’t say which ones. Closest though, I drove slowly out of the park on the dirt road through the woods, following directions back to Highway 1 and took a right, aiming north. Twenty minutes later, I drove past a big anonymous building, turned back and pulled in. Rosie didn’t react. Harold stared at me, quiet and worried. I sipped the rest of the coffee. Let’s hope.


Ninety minutes later, the staff showed up and finally one came out to say they’d opened up. “How can we help?”

When I tell them, Maude says she’ll call the vet herself to come in early. Apparently, the staff run the place on their own to start each day, the minor details and then at ten or so, the vet would come in: “She lives nearby, don’t worry.”


Rosie is not a friend of vet clinics. Just trying to get her to be sedated can be a trial but this time, it’s easy. One poke in the butt and within ten minutes she’s passed out on the floor with her head on my lap, mouth full of quills.


$328 later, I walk a barely functioning/ barely walking Rosie back to the camper and pick her up and place her on the bed. Her face is swollen, her tongue hangs out, and her tail wags faintly. Harold and Stevie both want to get out but I don’t have it in me. With a wave from Maude, we head back to the Falls with a stop at the supermarket for ice, some clam chowder for my dinner as well as a six-pack of local beer and not forgetting bones for each of the dogs and a can of wet food for Stevie. Anything to keep us all quiet while Rosie recovers. It’s going to be a lazy afternoon at camp.


Reversing Falls is empty and this time I’m able to set us up in the trees uphill from the waterfront, overlooking the islands and Cobscook Bay to the east of us. With low grass, big trees and good sized firepit, this is a good place to stay for a few days. The weather holds and so with doors open, the critters lie in the sun and shade. I read, drink, then nap. Rosie sleeps most of the day prefering the van. Harold picks the biggest bone and wanders off on his own. The day passed easily although the threat of porcupines kept my adrenelin levels high. The beer helped with that.
We’re pretty much on the border with Canada. This is the furthest eastern land in the States, and so one of the two towns that claim to be the eastern most communities was the destination. Rosie felt better the next morning and so we were back to exploring. I’d set up the campsite with our gear though, claiming that high spot for us as we took off for the morning. Stevie jumped in, Harold let Rosie have the front seat, and he lay on the bed with another bone. Life was good.

Eastport is truly a port town with old brick buildings dating back to the 1800s. It was already eleven by the time I got us there although it was breakfast I craved; it’s not the distances that take the time to explore the Maine coast, it’s the odds and ends of country lanes that beckon me, distract me, driving for the sake of driving. It’s also when I’m most creative, ideas fill me and the notepad on my lap is often filled on each of these roadtrips of mine.
Eastport stretched along the ocean bay, a grey day mostly but other tourists also wandered around with cameras and kids. I left the pets in the camper under some shade and walked to the café Waco for a full breakfast and weak coffee. The patio looked out onto the fishing boats passing by, this was a working town and not a fancy marina. I could imagine life here in the dead of winter, with locals hustling between café, library, and supermarket, no lingering in a biting snowstorm. This was an old town making the most of three months of tourism before hunkering down on their own for the rest of the year. I liked it. The main street was only a few blocks long, the red brick buildings two or three stories high with large windows facing out east. A statue of a fisherman stood in the little park at the junction of the two main roads, all was within walking distance, and so with a full belly, I grabbed the dogs and took a wander around town. The library was impressive, a stand alone building with steps up and into a warm and surprisingly large collection of rooms filled with books, magazines and even computers. Outside they’d set up six long tables with a book sale, unfortunately covered with tarps due to the drizzle. Other businesses included a pet store and with some cash in hand, I let the dogs pick out a treat each. We walked past a café, a couple of galleries, some with photos and others oil paintings of the local landscapes. Beautiful work.


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