My second few days back in Maine were markedly different than my first ones in Brunswick. As part of Bowdoin College’s first year orientation, all freshmen go out on outing club or service trips throughout Maine and even into New Hampshire and Canada. This is right up my alley as it’s all about discovering the state that you’re in. After my trip to Kent Island last year, I knew I wanted to experience it all from the other side as a trip leader, so I led a McKeen Center for the Common Good trip to communities in Downeast Maine, or Washington County. On our trip, we helped two different organizations with maintenance of their facilities which they might not otherwise be able to keep up. For some background, Washington County is the size of about Rhode Island and Delaware combined and only has 32,000 residents populating this formidable region. It is also said to be the poorest county east of the Mississippi River. The drastic differences between Midcoast Brunswick and Downeast Milbridge and Lubec where we stayed provide a good glimpse into how diverse Maine is with only a few hours of driving.
We first stopped in Milbridge and worked with Mano en Mano, an organization which looks to help the Hispanic migrant worker community that comes to Milbridge for labor such as harvesting blueberries, producing Christmas wreaths, and processing seafood. While we were there we got a chance to explore the area. Our first stop was to Spring River Lake. From this beautiful lake, you can see Tunk Mountain in the distance. Although it was a little chilly and our group didn’t swim very much, the small beach we hung out at was a nice way to wind down a day of service and driving to Milbridge.
From Mano en Mano, we drove to the Cobscook Community Learning Center (CCLC) near Lubec. We stopped on our way, though, at the Cutler Coast Preserve and hiked the coastal route to get out to see stunning cliffs. The view we had after an hour hike out was incredible and like nothing else I’ve seen in Maine yet. We spent a while here just enjoying the beauty of it before returning, and this was likely my favorite place which we visited.
We had two more recreational stops before heading back to Bowdoin. We spent some time at Mowry Beach in Lubec, right next to the Canadian border, and also had an early morning on our last day to get out to West Quoddy Lighthouse to see the first sunrise in the U.S.A from the easternmost point in the nation. Unfortunately, it was overcast and rainy when we went, but we still got to see it get light outside before everybody else in the country. Although Downeast Maine is beautiful and the views here are incredible, it is important to remember that this region is very isolated, rural, and impoverished. It is great to see, though, that there are organizations like Mano en Mano and the CCLC which are doing their part to educate and support the communities.