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Day 62 – Thursday June 21, 2007 – New Hampshire and Maine
Today was my favorite kind of day. We were able to do a few things, we saw so much beauty and it wasn’t rushed or stressful like it would’ve been in a big city. In fact, I loved this day so much, that I am including twice the normal amount of pictures. The day started in Merrimack, New Hampshire, just outside the city of Manchester. From our hotel, we drove about thirty miles to the coastal town of Portsmouth, NH. Portsmouth lies on New Hampshire’s tiny bit of Atlantic coastline, right across from Maine’s border.
In reading our guidebook, I discovered that Portsmouth is home to a retired Navy Submarine in dry dock, the USS Albacore. It carried a crew of 55 men and was used as a prototype from the 1950’s to the 1970’s to test new technologies. I was surprised to find out that the Albacore never carried any weapons and was also the first submarine to feature a round aerodynamic design. Also, in fitting with it’s roll as a prototype, the USS Albacore was the fastest submarine in the Navy’s fleet for many years.
The submarine is housed in a small park just off of the water. Albacore Park isn’t really much of a park though. Other than the submarine, the only other thing in the park is a memorial garden, dedicated to all of the men who died in the waters off of the Portsmouth coast. We quickly left the garden, went to the visitor’s center and purchased our tickets.
With tickets in hand, we descended down into the submarine. The first area we came across after entering, was the crew quarters. To say this area was cramped, is the understatement of the year. The bunks were three deep and barely wide enough for a small woman. I can’t help but to think that claustrophobia must have set in for the crew at some point. From the crew quarters, we walked through to the officer’s quarters (not much better) and then moved on to the command and navigation area before entering the engine room. The tour ended at the engine room, where we walked across a bridge off of the submarine.
After leaving the Albacore we crossed the border into Maine. Wanting a scenic drive today, we decided to take the US-1 up Maine’s beautiful coastline in lieu of the quicker interstate. From Portsmouth our next stop was to be the historic Portland Observatory in Portland, Maine. The Portland Observatory was built in 1807 to help ship owners spot their vessels coming into the harbor from the Atlantic Ocean.
The Portland Observatory is an octagon shaped all wooden structure with each side constructed at an eighty degree angle. The angled sides make the building unique in that each floor is slightly smaller than the previous one. In addition, the building has no traditional foundation, it is weighed down by 160 tons of boulders sitting on the 1st floor of the building. A few boards have been replaced here and there, but most of the building’s white pine wood is original. With all of it’s unique design elements, this building has survived 23 hurricanes and 200 years of Maine’s frigid weather.
As we ascended the observatory’s six levels, our guide stopped on almost every one to explain a little about the history of the building. After climbing seven flights of stairs and exiting onto the observation deck, we were rewarded with a spectacular view of Portland Harbor and the city itself. While the view was stunning, it was not going to be the best view we would see today. After about ten minutes of staring at the beauty in all directions, we back tracked down the stairs to the entrance. During our walk down, I struck up a conversation with our tour guide and a woman on the tour who was a local.
As the topic of conversation came to our trip, my new friends were excited to provide us with suggestions. After finding out our immediate itinerary (and that we didn’t have time to see Acadia National Park), the woman suggested that we visit Mt. Battie, which was not to far from our hotel. Without much else to do, we headed for Mt. Battie, to see what all the fuss was about. Mt. Battie sits just outside of the New England fishing village of Camden, ME. From the bottom of the hill, near Camden, ME, it was a 1.5 mile drive up to the top of the mountain.
When we arrived and got out of the car, my mouth dropped when I saw how picturesque the view was. The mountain looks right down on Camden and the Pacific Ocean. I don’t want to go on forever here, but this was just about as charming and awe inspiring as a view can get. After seeing the southern part of Maine today, I would have to say it is the most beautiful state that we have seen so far. The scenery in all directions is beyond words. They don’t call Maine Vacationland for nothing.
After about thirty minutes at Mt. Battie, it was time to go down the mountain and towards our hotel. As we drove inland towards Augusta, I was surprised to see that the scenery continued to inspire. We finally pulled into our hotel around 8:30pm to settle in for the night. Tomorrow we are going to drive north to Quebec City, Quebec. According to our tour guide at the Portland Observatory, Quebec City is like a taste of Europe. He said the French influence in Quebec City is so strong, that it feels just like being in France. I am looking forward to it!
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The Coomer Family
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