Archive for the ‘In and Around Camden’ Category

More Midcoast Maine Swimming Holes: Goodies Beach in Rockport Harbor

January 24th, 2016 by camdenmotel

Goodies beach

By Katja

I think the first time we heard about Goodies Beach was from Leah, our head housekeeper, who talked about swimming there during low or retreating tide, when the water is warmer. She didn’t call it Goodies Beach though (I’ve never heard anyone use that name); she probably just referred to it as the beach at Rockport Harbor. Leah is an early riser – for hardy Maine standards, “early” is about 4 am, maybe even sooner – and sometimes she used to swim before she came to work (although I think that was before our time here. Now she seems to prefer sunrise clamming to swimming). It was late fall by the time we discovered the beach in person: it’s a small sandy strip next to the Harbor Master’s house, seemingly in hiding not only from the road, but even from the parking lot. Of course by hat time it was too cold to swim (for anyone other than Polar Bear Plungers); so it took us another seven months to finally test the waters.

A perfect June evening!

A perfect June evening!

Hanging out in Harbor Park, early evening

Hanging out in Harbor Park, early evening

The day was hot, housekeeping had just gotten done, check-in time hadn’t officially started – and we knew we needed something to keep us going through the rest of the day.We decided to put up a sign at the office door and play hooky for an hour. We drove with the top down, stopped at a kids’ lemonade stand, and by the time we got to the beach (about five minutes later) we felt like we had no more cares in the world than a kid on a summer’s day. For an hour, anyway.

I usually warm up a bit in the sun before swimming in cold water, but there wasn’t much time, so in we went, past the kids playing by the shoreline. Oh boy — it was cold. (Do half of my swim posts contain a sentence like that? Probably). And yet ours were not the only heads bopping along with the buoys in the harbor; a few others seemed just as anxious to get the swim season started.  Here is one thing that’s so great about swimming (there are many!): even if the water or air are a bit too cold, the way you feel afterwards just can’t be beat. I think it’s about being immersed in another element, water not air, and then you return – cleansed, massaged, transformed – to your regular, non-liquid world. Something like that. On that day, our “Goodies” dip gave us exactly what we had come for: a big boost for the rest of the day, and the feeling that summer had definitely started.

Goodies Beach - the only time I've seen it crowded!

Goodies Beach – the only time I’ve seen it crowded!

There are several things I like about Goodies Beach: although it’s small even for Maine beach standards, it never feels crowded or noisy, not even when two or three small groups of people are there at the same time. If the parking lot looks busy, it doesn’t mean the beach is: many come to hang out in the park or go out on the schooner Heron, which leaves from Rockport Harbor three to four times a day. Sometimes special events like fundraising meals or small wedding receptions take place under a large tent in the park, but they hardly ever affect the beach. Also, you can swim close to the anchored boats and have a nice view of the opposite shore with its beautiful homes and woods. There’s even an apple tree by the beach, so in September you can share the water with premature apples that have tumbled down the sandy slope. Restrooms, showers, hoses to clean off dogs or feet are all available, and even a small washer/dryer area. I’ve never seen anyone use it, but I’m sure there is a reason for its existence: probably boat people?

Our first summer here I spent a lot more time at Laite Beach in Camden than at Rockport Harbor; this past year it was the other way around. My swim season started late this summer:  I didn’t even try for an ocean swim until July.  I had badly sprained my ankle in March, the healing process was slow enough to lose at a snails’ marathon, and I had to relearn many things, including how to be barefoot (I often wore water shoes instead). As a local friend and fellow innkeeper told me, I had disobeyed the golden innkeeper rule: you can’t break or sprain things! You need to be able to move around at all times, especially if you own a big building like we do.  Most beaches in Midcoast Maine are rocky, so I didn’t have a lot of choices for my first beach visit of the year: Rockport Harbor is one of the only sandy ones I know. (Laite Beach is both sand and fine gravel, but it has more steps and hills to negotiate before you get down to the beach. The kinds of things you have to think about when you’re not stable on your feet).

Anyway, my first beach outing was on a hot July afternoon, and the only other person, at first, was a woman just arriving in her kayak. During the time she parked it and rested for a bit, I had the water to myself. Not that I needed it for long – it seemed just as cold as the previous year in June. But I did swim, a hair-only-half-wet prelude swim to a longer one a bit later, after a warm up in the sun. The next time my eyes scanned the water, I saw kayak woman swimming leisurely out by the boats, entirely unfazed by the temperature. Two moms with offspring had also arrived, and the kids – super cute 5-10 year old girls – were exploring the water in the multiply creative way kids do at the beach. I have to confess I don’t usually find kids’ play relaxing to watch and listen to (not if it involves a lot of shrieking and screaming), but that day it was. I briefly wondered whether that was because everyone around me was female – but no, that wouldn’t make sense; women are often louder and less peaceful than men (although little girls usually seem to be quieter than little boys – when they play together, anyway).

Still, this beach seems like a very female space in my experience. It’s small, protected, enclosed and feels safe, and the main visitors are younger women with their kids, as well as middle aged and older women who like to swim. One unusually busy day this past summer,  I counted almost twenty heads on the beach –  all of them female except for one little boy and one father with his family. Even the harbormaster is a woman, and so is at least one of the people who work in and around the harbor master’s house (the assistant harbor master?). She’s always willing to help with one thing or another, talks to everyone, seems to know all the locals, and gives advice to tourists.

Whether feminine or not, Goodies Beach is almost always peaceful – not because it’s always quiet, but because most everyone who comes here seems to have left behind whatever else they may have going on. I remember  one day when I was by myself and yet had to listen to a guy on his boat screaming into his phone – but generally, it seems like there is something calming about the place. Maine is full of calm places, of course (Woods! Mountains! Hundreds of lakes! Places without people!)– but even popular spots with small crowds of visitors can often feel relaxing in Maine. Siobhan thinks that visitors here are more respectful, more capable of adapting to the local nature and culture than in other touristy places where she’s lived and visited. If that is true, I wonder if it’s because Maine has a powerful effect on people, or because people coming to Maine are already of a different breed than, say, the average tourist in Myrtle Beach or Atlantic City. I saw an article recently about what your vacation says about your personality or character type. It claimed that introverts are more likely to head to the mountains on vacation, while extroverts prefer the beach. That sounds a bit simplistic to me – if only for its implied definition of “the beach” as something warm and Southern or tropical, populated by thousands of roasting bodies flaunting their tans and taking them back to the bar for margaritas and more socializing. Most beaches in Maine don’t even remotely fit that description. Maybe this article would consider Maine as a whole a vacationland for introverts – perhaps with the exception of Lobsterfest crowds and groups of family and friends renting vacation homes. But if so, does that mean the majority of our guests are introverts? I never got that impression – unless you define introverted as  quiet and considerate to others!.


Unscientific digressions aside, Rockport Harbor Beach became my go-to beach for hot sunny days: it’s close, convenient, sandy, relaxing, and it works well for swimming during all tides (except perhaps at the peak of high tide, when there is barely a beach). The water had warmed up a lot by August, and seemed warmer this year than at Camden’s Laite Beach; it doesn’t have as many cold pockets to swim through. And even in the middle of September it was still just as warm as in August. For a longer beach afternoon, I would recommend Laite because it’s much bigger, but Rockport has fewer tourists (if any). And both have a lot of boats to feast your eyes on. (They both run out of sun in the later afternoon, and they both have occasional pollution warnings, which many people seem to ignore)

fox on the run food truck  food truck rockport beach

Around the harbormaster’s house to the side of the beach, there is an elevated grassy park area with benches (part of the Marine Park). People bring their lunches, books, cameras, and dogs to this area, and some sit on the ledge right next to the beach having a picnic, feet dangling above the water. During high tide I sometimes saw kids jump into the water from there. For a few hours a day, until Labor Day, a food truck next to the harbormaster’s house sells salads, fish tacos, burritos, Cuban and Vietnamese sandwiches, and even desserts. I’ve never tried anything there, but it looks fun and better than your average food truck. When it wasn’t warm enough to swim yet (or not warm enough anymore) I took my yoga mat to the park, for sun, relaxation, and for whatever exercises my ankle didn’t complain about.

Mother daughter regulars at Goodies Beach

Mother daughter regulars at Goodies Beach

That’s what I was up to one beautiful late September day when, after about a hundred ab crunches, I realized it was a lot warmer than I had expected. Meaning, it would be a lot more fun to swim than to look at the water from above, even if that look was upside down, from a downward dog position. I was lucky: my backpack still harbored a swim suit and my goggles from a previous outing. It was low tide and I had the beach to myself at first. The water was colder than the week before, but no colder than at the height of summer the year before – and still very swimmable. I might’ve kept my head a little drier than the previous week, but it still felt as amazing as it had all summer. And afterwards it was warm enough to lie around in a wet bathing suit for almost a half hour. Watching the only other visitors, a young woman teaching her daughter how to look for hermit crabs and other goodies, I got a distinct end of summer feel. The thought crossed my mind that this might’ve been my last ocean swim of the season – but it didn’t even make me feel sad. Endings can be fine if they’re good ones – and this swim had been a very good one indeed.

Rockport Harbor from the deck at Saltwater Farm

View from the deck at Saltwater Farm

P.S. I should probably add that Rockport Harbor is a great place to visit year-round, not just when you can play in the water. There’s the statue of Andre the seal, the Rockport Opera House next to two excellent restaurants with views onto the water (Shepherd’s Pie and Saltwater Farm); and the weekend after Camden’s Christmas by the Sea, Rockport has its Marine Park Christmas celebrations, complete with tree lighting, hot cider, homemade cookies and other goodies, luminaries lining the streets, pictures with Santa, and the best fireworks we’ve seen in years. The water can be very pretty in the winter too, when it’s cold enough to have frozen into shiny geometric plates of ice.

Ice in Rockport Harbor

Christmas fireworks in Rockport Harbor - photo by PenBay Pilot

Christmas fireworks in Rockport Harbor – photo by PenBay Pilot






Swimming Midcoast Maine: Rocky Pond and Snapping Turtles

December 27th, 2015 by camdenmotel

Swim Access at Rocky Pond

Swim Access at Rocky Pond

by Katja

I have no idea how Rocky Pond got its name: there is no rocky shore or rocky beach, and not a lot of rocks in the water, from what I can tell. Maybe it’s just “Rocky Pond” because it’s in Rockport, or West Rockport, to be more exact; although if that’s the case, then nearby Maces Pond (which I wrote about last year) should probably be “Rocky Pond II.”

A small turnoff at the side of Route 17, just South of 90, plays the role of parking lot for visitors of Rocky Pond, and a partial clearing with soft pine needle underground leads to the lake. There is more space to hang out by the water than there is at Maces Pond, so you’re also more likely to find someone other than yourself there. But in my half dozen or so visits this past summer, two families swimming with their kids was the most crowded I ever saw it. Twice there was a young couple just sitting by the lake, and another time a woman was watching her daughter swim. For my own swims, I always had the lake to myself, and it was fabulous. The temperature was just about perfect every time; and the play of light and colors seemed to make this lake even more scenic than Maces Pond. But something about it puts me a little on guard when I go there by myself, maybe because it can feel like an eerie fairy tale setting, with the dark trees and forested beach. In the modern version of this vision, I can see a crime scene unfolding there, straight out of Unsolved Mysteries or a Lifetime movie:  two young girls, let’s say, taking a dip in the pond to cool down during an afternoon bike ride, never to be seen again; only the bikes, hastily thrown against a tree, remain as witnesses.

Well, maybe not that bad. But I do think about someone coming by while I’m swimming, stealing my car keys and leaving me stranded. Maybe I should look into a waterproof key container? As long as I know how not to lose it in the lake…

Imagined crime scenarios aside, Rocky Pond is a beautiful swimming spot. I’d love to swim all across the lake some time (once I have that key container…), but that’s not necessary for a great experience. The water is clean, fresh, and perfect on your skin – and even though the road is close by, it can feel like you’re swimming in your own private lake. One day I wanted to show Siobhan, so we stole away for an hour during housekeeping on a quiet midweek morning in September. Two fishermen had arrived before us, and they weren’t too thrilled about the arrival of two swimmers about to disturb their prey. So they started to talk about snapping turtles – probably thinking we were silly women tourists who would be scared away by any mention of Maine wildlife. (I wonder if they would’ve acted quite the same with a family, lest they be accused of trying to scare kids away from a fun swimming trip). We got the feeling they just wanted to get rid of us, and for that reason alone, we should’ve stayed. But we didn’t exactly feel like undressing and getting in the water in front of them – and then Leah, our head housekeeper, had warned about turtles too (she still likes to do the “scaring people from away” thing with us occasionally). Most of all, even if the chance was small, we didn’t really want to lose our toes. Last thing I needed with my still recovering sprain was another foot problem. So off we drove, down the road to Maces Pond, where we luxuriated in having an even bigger body of water, all to ourselves.


Or so we thought, until we saw a car pulling in by the side of the road. Yup, it was the fisher guys again, probably on a tour of ruining swimming spots for swimmers and trying to make them fishing spots instead. We’d asked them about turtles in Maces Pond, so they must’ve known we would go there. Creepy! Since we obviously had no idea how long they’d stay, my plan was to just get out and ignore them. But I ended up agreeing with Siobhan’s plan: just to stay in the water and make as many splashing noises and movements as possible so they wouldn’t be able to fish. After all, if they could ruin our swimming plan at Rocky Pond, we might as well ruin their fishing plans for Maces Pond.

Well, it worked. One of the guys didn’t seem to be into it; the other was the turtle storyteller. He did cast out his pole, as if in a little phallic power display, just to annoy us for a while or make us feel uncomfortable. But he gave up eventually, having caught nothing, and off they went, probably to the next swimming hole. We drove back later than expected, imagining the story we might have to tell potential early walk-in guests: Ugh, sorry we weren’t here. We had to splash around in a lake to shoo away some fisher men; I’m sure you understand…

Could I ever have imagined such territorial encounters in Maine? On the Jersey Shore, sure, people fight over a few square feet of sand on the beach, or over the position of a yoga mat in the gym – but two men against two women over two otherwise empty lakes in Maine?? That’s pretty absurd.

P.S. I did some snapping turtle research after this encounter, and found that they aren’t out to look for trouble. They only snap when provoked, and usually stay at the bottom of a muddy lake or stream looking for prey. Several people I know grew up swimming in Rocky Pond, among them my physical therapist. He said that there is no danger from turtles unless you try to provoke them. “You gotta be a stupid kid trying to poke them – then you can worry about toe attacks,“ he told me. “Everyone else is safe.”  I made a few more visits to the pond and had a lovely swim each time.  My toes have yet to meet a turtle.

P.P.S. Snapping turtles can get very big though, up to 35 lbs, and they look kind of scary, like a prehistoric reptile. See pics!

A snapping turtle in Acadia National Park

A snapping turtle in Acadia National Park

Spring Fever in Camden, Maine

April 28th, 2014 by camdenmotel

It's a white tree, but it isn't snow!

It’s a white tree, but it isn’t snow!

Spring in Maine isn’t known for much to write home about – mostly because there aren’t enough visitors to write home to anyone! Everyone is more interested in the end of the season– fall foliage – than in the beginning of life here in spring. We can’t blame them – fall is a lot more colorful, and there aren’t any dirty remnants of snow to ruin the scenery.  Spring travelers in general don’t seem to want spring; they want summer. Ever heard of a popular spring break destination that doesn’t involve beaches and pools? Except for skiers, spring travelers have had it with winter, and spring just isn’t different enough, except in places that didn’t have winter. And everyone knows Maine had winter. Many even think that Maine still has winter in spring – or at least mud season. Well, we’re not gonna lie: it’s got some of both. But it also has a lot more spring than we expected! Even if it’s the kind of spring writers and poets often describe as moody and fickle, like Charles Dickens does in Great Expectations: “it was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.” We’ve had some of the same warm sun/cold wind combos as Dickens’ 19th century England – so maybe Maine isn’t all that different. Only a bit slower (“hot” wouldn’t quite be the word for the sun we had in March).

Mainers can be pretty cynical about spring, and not just in order to scare newcomers like us. If you google “signs of spring in Maine,” you’ll probably come across lists like this one from

“Ah, spring. The green, green grass, the colorful flowers, the graying slush …Well, one out of three ain’t bad. So far this year, spring hasn’t exactly sprung just yet. But while I’m not a native Mainer, in my decade living here I’ve figured out the subtle signs of spring arriving in Maine. They include:

We start to throw open our windows to “air out the house” on warm days (any days over 40 degrees).

We switch from snow boots to rain boots.

We bundle up warmly — to head to Dairy Queen for a treat.

We start looking at the gardening catalogs, fully believing that somewhere under all that snow is a lawn waiting to come back to life, and flower beds ready for planting.

We leave off the hats and mittens — though not the parkas just yet — when we go outdoors.

The snow has finally melted enough to excavate the Christmas decorations.

The potholes look like something created when a meteor struck earth.

It’s still sunny after dinner (if we eat early).

The dogs are (sorta) willing to go outside voluntarily again.

When someone says “salt” we actually think of the food version first for a change.


And Erin Donovan describes Maine springs in the Bangor Daily News: “Winter is slow to release its grasp, removing only one icy finger at a time from our brittle necks. Just when you think it might be time to retire your lumpy and layered garb, winter will grab you by the collar and cackle, ‘You need to go to the gym for a few more weeks before those come off.’” (March 23)

Daffodils on a recent hike

True – the natural harbingers of spring can be a bit slow here. We have yet to see a tulip, other than in the form of potted plants, and daffodils are still in full bloom at the end of April. Until just recently, crocuses were still in charge – now they have some competition from small blue flowers whose name we don’t know. But considering that it was the coldest winter on the Maine coast since 1940, spring is doing a pretty decent job. On the 11th of April we were wearing shorts and working outside around the inn all day. (It was pretty amazing how effectively we both kept finding outdoor chores and postponing indoor ones). Wintering birds like ospreys have returned to the area (we wouldn’t have noticed, but we go by our housekeeper’s eyes and ears); and the snow, for the most part, is gone (save a stubborn dirty pile at the back of the parking lot, which is looking increasingly anorexic every day). And anyone who’s tried to ice skate on a lake in the past month better know how to swim.

And then there are the human signs of spring – where spring fever is even more noticeable.

While a handful of shops downtown still have limited “winter” hours, most reopened weeks ago, when boxes of new merchandise anxiously waited to be unpacked in stores like The Smiling Cow and The Village Shop. Restaurants have been re-opening or come back from their short March vacations – Long Grain re-opened April 10, Saltwater Farm is serving dinner again, on weekends; Atlantica is back with new menus, and Fresh has new (and wonderful!) owners and an exciting new menu. Boynton McKay, one of Camden’s all time favorites for breakfast and lunch has changed hands as well, hands that make all the popular classics as well as ever. (Lots of our regulars love this place – and have even been known to ditch our continental breakfast for some serious eggs or pancakes there.) Cellardoor Winery is now open Thursdays through Sundays in both locations – Rockport and Lincolnville, and starting Mother’s Day, will be open daily. Peter Ott’s Steakhouse just opened its new doors on the ground floor of the Grand Harbor inn right in time for Easter weekend, and has a cool new website and name (Peter Ott’s On the Water) to match. The Owl and Turtle bookshop has had new owners since the end of February, and now has a cool new café as well.  Just a few months ago, Selena and Ricky stayed at Towne Motel during their house inspection – and already they’ve bought and remodeled a popular Camden hangout place! Go Owl and Turtle!

Easter still outside the office, with pansies and forsythia

One of our housekeepers has been bringing us large bundles of forsythia, which bloom in almost no time. One bunch was recently transformed into an outdoor Easter bouquet with decorative eggs. It shares the table outside the office with our first pansies, which have taken over the basket that still housed a wintery pine arrangement three weeks ago. And, in anticipation of summer afternoons eagerly awaiting guests, we finally put up the new hammock seat we got at Once a Tree during Christmas by the Sea! Somehow we see ourselves doing curb-side check-ins this summer. And of course, it’s also for guests – we’ll try not to hog it.;)

Speaking of whom: our recent guests have been a fun and diverse bunch; from spontaneous spring walk-ins to boat people gearing up for the season, from builders and contractors working on local projects to island people coming for errands and getting stuck because of weather or ferry schedules, or just because they want to. We even had some guys coming to buy elver eels during the elver eel harvest this week. We’d never even heard of elver eels, much less of how lucrative a business they are here every spring. Innkeeping can be very educational indeed.

At least half of Camden seems to be working on projects to get ready for summer. We still have a few makeovers going on ourselves, big and small – stay tuned for details in our next newsletter and blog post! And do come visit in spring sometime – just because mother (or teenage?) nature is a bit confused and hormonal in spring, doesn’t mean she has nothing to offer. Maybe she’s just trying to offer something for everyone, winter and summer fans alike. When else can you have your first ocean-going guest (a recent Australian visitor of ours) the same week as another quarter inch of sleet and snow?

There is a German saying Katja grew up with, “April April, der macht was er will” – April, April, it does what it wills.  Maybe if we let nature do what it wants in the spring, it’ll let us do what we want in the summer.:)



Hosting the Toboggan Nationals Contestants!

April 5th, 2014 by camdenmotel

For Everyone who already misses winter (anyone out there??) or wants to give it a proper send-off!

Our automotive guests at dawn

Our automotive guests at dawn

Tailgating on Hosmer Pond

Tailgating on Hosmer Pond



Down the Chute!

Down the Chute!

The view from Hosmer Pond

The view from Hosmer Pond

Not a sign we see every day...

Not a sign we see every day…

“You’re gonna have a lot of fun,” Rick and Jane, the previous owners of the Towne Motel, told us when asked about the Toboggan Championship weekend in the beginning of February, and about the guests we could expect. Many of these guys, we heard, have been coming to the championship for years if not decades, and almost as many have stayed here at Towne Motel each year. And of course, like every other venue in town, we would be fully booked, which is always a “beautiful thing,” as Rick would say. Especially after the quiet weeks of January.

We hadn’t had a lot of snow during the previous weeks, but just on cue, a big storm hit Wednesday before the big weekend, and we spent most of that day engaged in snow removal activities. (i.e. a few hours of back-straining sweeping and shoveling and moving snow around). We wondered whether our Thursday check-ins would make it up here  – after all, the entire East Coast had once again been snowed and iced over. Some called to say they might get here later than planned, but no one canceled – massive outages back home be damned (or escaped). These guys and gals just HAD to be here for Toboggan weekend, and they were.

Clearly, we needn’t have worried about them. These guys drive serious cars – all trucks and jeeps and Explorers; none of that winter sensitive stuff without four wheel or all wheel drive. The problem wasn’t for them to make it here; it was more about getting all these vehicles parked in a lot without clearly visible lines between parking spots, while snow mountains were taking up space around the perimeter. It worked out – just about – probably because the University of Connecticut Toboggan team said they weren’t planning to drive an inch until check-out. So they, together with us, parked in the back, in random, haphazard, diagonal fashion (not quite like parking and driving in Rome – if only because our cars were bigger – but close). The parking lot felt very important and muscular that weekend – all that vehicular testosterone. Not that there weren’t female guests; they just didn’t drive feminine cars -if there is such a thing. After all, toboggans had to be transported, along with cleaning and winter supplies, and whatever else is needed for a partying championship weekend in freezing temperatures.

Because that’s what the Toboggan weekend is like here in Camden, not surprisingly: COLD, but with a cold-be- damned- let’s-party-outside-for-three-days-anyway attitude. We watched a video of it on YouTube last year – it felt as crazy as it felt cold. We couldn’t wait to see it in person this year.

Before we could, though, we met our tobogganers. Two couples from Pennsylvania, the PA state champions and their toboggan virgin friends, were among the first to check in on Thursday, and the last to leave on Monday. The PA state champions were the winners of the previous year’s best crafted toboggan. The first morning, they showed us their two beauties – all splayed out across the bed in their first floor room (good thing they had placed their own blankets underneath, wisely preventing any house- or innkeeper heart attacks): shiny, polished wooden specimens, with colorful cushion upholstery for comfort. They looked good enough to win again, but what did we know about toboggan design??

For whatever reason, they didn’t win this year. But they did get far into the championships, so that when we finally made it to the Snow Bowl for the final races, we ran into them at the top of the hill (the athletic part of tobogganing being less the descent “down the chute” than the climb up to the top of the chute, toboggan in tow). Had we tried to go Saturday (when we were much too busy with housekeeping and baking and guests), we would’ve taken the $2 shuttle from the Camden Village Green –  there wouldn’t have been enough parking. Even on Sunday, every driveway within a mile of the championship posted a huge No Parking sign (in Jersey, they would’ve rented out even the tiniest driveway for a hefty parking fee). But actually, by Sunday afternoon, many of the eliminated teams and their supporters had left, so there was plenty of (muddy) parking. But there was also still a lot going on, especially in Tobogganville, a little makeshift snow village of food stands, hot cider vendors, a bonfire for warm-up, a cell phone charging station, musicians, sponsor tents, and truck beds selling toboggans and related items. The final races for the 2 person teams had just begun, so we watched, listened, took pictures, and climbed up to the launch area to see the beginnings of launches and not just the fast zoom through the chute. We concluded that the quick drop to the chute, followed by a rattling ride would probably not be good for our backs. But we haven’t ruled out forming a team with our housekeepers for next year. We’d just have to make sure to be eliminated by Friday check-in time. J

The Toboggan weekend is full of offbeat people and events. While the 2014 Olympics in Sochi were having their opening ceremony, Tobogganville had its happy hours: the Down the Chute beer and wine challenge from 3 to 7, nicely wrapped around the optional 2 and 3 person division first runs, which were from 4 – 6:30. Nothing like a nice cold beer when you really need it – and who doesn’t, on a 20 degree  late afternoon??

As anyone knows who’s ever been to or read about the Toboggan weekend, the team names seem to be what it’s all about. More than 400 teams competed this year, most of them not too seriously, at least if their names and costumes are any indication. There were, for example, the liquor teams: Free Beer, the Flying Beer Boys, the Rum Runners, Whiskey on Ice, or “3 Jackasses and a Dumbo Walk into a Bar.” Lots of bathroom jokesters, too: Gas-X, Skidmarks, Chute or Get Off the Pot, Scared Chuteless, or the Red Ashed Baboons. And word gamers:  Ice Scream, Toboggageddon, the Throbbin Bobbins 1, 2, 3, and 4; Two Soggy Boggin Boys, Sled Zeppelin, The Greatful Sled, Just Chute Me Now. Well, you get the idea: the Tobogganers don’t take themselves too seriously, and they come with a devil may care attitude towards winter: if you can’t beat it – and you sure couldn’t this year- join it. (And yes, they are about testosterone. But there were a few all female teams too: the Valley Kingdom Babes, Grandma and the Girls, Desperate Housewives, and Hot Women on Wood, to mention about half of them)

Entertaining as it was to watch the different styles of barreling down the chute, it was also cold, so we needed to get moving. And what better place to take a walk than a frozen lake? Hosmer Pond, where the tobogganers end up at the bottom of their runs, was frozen solid, and if we had had any doubts, the many trucks and SUVs on the lake reassured us. There were snowmobiles, winter bikes, skis, and pretty much any wintery type of transportation you can imagine. And yet it was still a pedestrian’s paradise: no crosswalks necessary to cross the whole lake, and even in the midst of a busy winter carnival, we got that peaceful Maine feeling walking all along the pond’s perimeter, smelling the pines and the sunny fresh winter air, imagining what the summer houses would look like a few months later, with their boat docks and swimming decks.

Quebec and the Europeans have carnival to make it through the last weeks of winter; Maine has a  carnivalesque equivalent just a few miles from Camden. Check it out if you never have; you might just get hooked! But reserve early – more than half the town’s rooms are booked out before Christmas.

We’ll leave you with a few tips for first time competitors from the Toboggan Nationals Website (

  1. Wear old clothes
  2. Be sure costume is not too bulky
  3. Consider wearing goggles and/or helmet
  4. Keep face covered
  5. Plan to stay all day, there’s lots to do and see and food for sale at the lodge and at the Toboggan Chute


And here is a piece on some of the fun costumes this year:



Pies on Parade

February 24th, 2014 by camdenmotel

p on p On a very cold Sunday a few weeks back, we experienced a uniquely-Midcoast Maine form of winter fun: the 10th Annual Pies on Parade, in nearby Rockland.  We’d seen ads for Pies and spoken to a couple of past participants, but we didn’t quite “get” the concept of this giant pie sampling at various businesses in Rockland.  Now we know that the only way to get Pies is to do it: to gorge yourself on pies and tromp around in the cold and get into the spirit of antic fun and pie camaraderie. 

As is our usual M.O, we didn’t decide to go until long after tickets had sold out (they go on sale the day after Thanksgiving–when you’d think the idea of yet more pie would have zero appeal.  Not so).  But through an insider contact, whose identity will remain secret, we scored two last minute tickets.

Did we mention it was cold?  Like, really cold; and the sidewalks were icy.  At 1:00–the start time for Pies–those sidewalks were pretty empty (except for the ice).  Well, we said, it’s just too cold; of course people aren’t going to come out for this!   Wrong again.  The crowds built and built, and by three, every pie-donating business was packed and we had to struggle through a sea of down coats to reach the next offering. 

We began our journey at Captain Lindsey House, a historic B&B owned by the Towne Motel’s former neighbors, Ken and Ellen Barnes, former captains of the Steven Tabor windjammer.  Ken shared some fun stories about Towne Motel (more on that in another post) and it was great to meet them and see their beautiful property. Siobhan drooled over the book-lined study overlooking the back garden. 

And from there, it was a three hour pie odyssey to, we think, almost ALL of the 25+ Rockland businesses that had donated samples of pies in support of the Area Interfaith Outreach Pantry. We read later that 60,000-odd pieces of pie had been consumed.  Totally believe it.  It was a true pie frenzy and at some point, we forgot the cold (or were too pie-insulated to feel it) and got caught up in the zany spirit of the event.  It fel like a cross between a scavenger hunt and an adult trick-or-treat.    At the Breakwater Winery tasting room, where we sampled some wine and had cheese and grapes in addition to pie, a fellow participant captured the beauty of the nibble-and-run (to the next nibble) afternoon: “I could eat like this alllll day!” she exclaimed  And so we all did.  Some highlights for us: cottage pie at Rock City Cafe, key lime and coconut tarts at the Winding Way B&B (loved their cottage-style rooms), something amazing with sausage and blue cheese at Rustico, puffin-shaped cream puffs at Project Puffin, and the best pecan pie we’ve ever had, at Berry Manor Inn. 

Berry Manor was our final stop, and a  perfect end to the afternoon. The common rooms were warmed by fireplaces and filled with tables of people happily indulging in one last slice of pie and a cup of coffee.  We really enjoyed meeting innkeeper Cheryl Michaelson and hearing her stories of the Berry Manor’s famous Pie Moms.

The Rockland inns were booked solid for the weekend.  And even though Pies is a Rockland event, we’re hoping to lure some pie-eating guests to Towne Motel next year.  Rockland provides a shuttle for the event so maybe we will too: to quote the innkeepers who organize Pies, no one should be driving under the influence of pies! Many, many pies.  







We Love Our Mount Battie

November 28th, 2013 by camdenmotel

Fitz Henry Lane, Camden Mountains from the South Entrance to the Harbor 1859

Fitz Henry Lane, Camden Mountains from the South Entrance to the Harbor 1859

mt. battieMt BattieMt Battie

During one of our first weeks here at Towne Motel, in the our front office Visitor book, we found this comment left by guests from Chicago: “We love our mountain!” We were touched by the connection our guests felt to Camden’s Mount Battie, but at the time we didn’t quite get the “mountain thing.”  We’ve always been water people–ocean, lakes, pools–thus our attraction to Mid-Coast Maine as we inn-shopped.  Thus, before we moved to Camden in September and became the owners of Towne Motel, we thought of Mount Battie asMt Battie kind of an “extra”–a bonus feature of Camden.

But Mount Battie has cast her spell on us, and now we love our mountain, too.  When Siobhan opens the front door for breakfast each morning, she pauses to look at Mt. Battie, which is different every day and throughout the day.  In October we watched her blaze with color. In the mornings she is sometimes shrouded with fog, then suddenly clear.  On Tuesday, she wore a mantel of snow for the first time.

Much as we love looking at Mount. Battie from below, it’s even better to experience her first-hand: hiking the trails in Camden State Park and breathing in that heavenly pine smell, or standing atop her summit, looking at a spectacular, not-to-be-missed (as we tell our guests) panorama of Penobscot Bay.

Mt BattieOn Thanksgiving night, the Christmas star was lit on Mount Battie’s tower, to shine over Camden every night until New Year’s.  And yesterday, for Katja’s birthday, we hiked up (from our front door!) to the tower and spent some time with our star.  Then we hiked back down and, when darkness fell, looked up to see her come alight again.  Magical.





Pre-Thanksgiving Weekend Special!

November 17th, 2013 by camdenmotel

TM special post

When it comes to holidays, most people are in one of two camps: those who can’t wait for the shopping, feasting, and family to arrive; and those who can’t wait for January 2nd. This coming weekend, November 22-24, The Midcoast caters to both camps.

Come to Camden for a weekend of art and culture – to get into the holiday mood, or simply for a peaceful getaway before the craziness descends upon you! Stay with us that weekend and enjoy a deluxe pre- holiday continental breakfast with festive decorations. When you stay a second night, get 10% off both nights!

Three special artistic events await you:

“Live from Red Square,” an opera at the Camden Opera House Saturday 8 p.m.

“Le Corsaire,” a ballet captured live at the Bolshoi Ballet and transmitted from
Moscow to Maine – the love story of a young Greek girl, a slave trader, and a pirate!
At the Rockland Strand theater, Sunday 2 p.m.

The Fifth Annual ArtFullGifts arts and crafts show in Northport, featuring the
creations of 50 New England artists. Enjoy their talents and get a head start on
holiday shopping at the same time! At Point Lookout Resort, November 22-24

The Towne Motel is a five minute walk to the Camden Opera House, and a fifteen minute ride South to Rockland or North to Northport.

Check out these links for more info!


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