“Did you pack the sleeping bags?”
That’s usually a question I ask when we’re packing the Subaru for a camping trip to the Bigelows, or preparing to load the front hatch of my kayak for a multi-day paddling trip down the coast. But tonight there were no kayaks or cars. Our bike panniers were freighted for a short, six-mile pedal to the beach in anticipation of watching the “Super Moon” rise over the Atlantic. This perigee moon was supposed to be 14% bigger, and 30% brighter, than other full moons in 2012. That meant no skyscrapers or apartment buildings would obstruct our view. On the beach though, the slight haze off the water and occasional gulls are our only distractions. No telephone wires, cell phone towers, hum of traffic or competing light.
We parked our bikes at Beach Avenue - a small parking lot along Mile Stretch Road in Biddeford Pool. Aptly named, Biddeford Pool is a large tidal pool at the mouth of the Saco River. During the summertime and migratory seasons, birders flock to the pool and surrounding marshes to study the herons, swallows, hawks, eagles and other feathered beasties that inhabit the abundant, tall grasses along the beaches and river. The water is usually bustling with activity including lobstermen and women hauling in traps, clam diggers raking for meaty bi-valves, and kayakers paddling around Wood Island during high tide. At low tide, the pool empties, and dime-sized hermit crabs scuttle around in search for pockets of water and heaps of seaweed under which they can hide.
We set up on the far side of Fortune's Rock Beach, careful to pick a spot beyond the rocky ledges that succumb to the surf during high tide. This is my favorite place to read, especially during the winter, curled up on the beach in a sleeping bag like a cocooned caterpillar. Fortune's Rock and the surrounding stretch of beach are a rare mix of tubular waves sought after by surfers and boogie boarders alike. Miles of uninterrupted coastline, sandy shores and craggy tide pools are accessible to both the locals and the out-of-towners. But tonight the action is in the sky. We settle into our sleeping bags and wait for the moonlight show.
7:30pm: The moon’s alabaster arch peeks up over the horizon. This celestial imposition forces me to look past the frothing waves and take in the enormity of the Eastern skyline. It’s a salient reminder that Maine’s allure is as much about what we have to offer - mountains, beaches, islands - as it is about what is noticeably absent from our skyline and state.
9pm: I zip deeper into my sleeping bag, eyeing the now pinkish-orange orb looming over the water. A carpet of gold reflects over the ocean. It does look dramatically bigger, but it’s the brightness that catches my attention. Small pools of water all across the remaining beach catch the glow, and shine back at the moon.
10:30pm: The sharp cry of a gull wakes me from my sleep. Looking out to the horizon, I see the full moon heavy in the sky….
11:36pm: Full moon [sleep].
5:30am: Sunrise. We shake the dew off our bivys and catch the first rays of sun coming across the Eastern seaboard. It takes less than 20 minutes to bike home. Before even unpacking our panniers, we’ve begun to harness the dog and pack the car for a day hike at Mount Agamenticus.
This accessibility to the water, woods, islands and peaks is one of the many reasons I continue to love living in Maine. I’m never far from where I want to go.
Biddeford Pool is a large tidal pool where the Saco River meets the sea. It hosts lobstermen and vacationers alike, and is an excellent place to explore Maine's salt marshes. Many species of birds and wildlife call these lush, muddy banks their home, and the East Point Sanctuary is considered to be one of the premier birding spots in the Northeast.
Wood Island is the site of Maine's haunted Wood Island Lighthouse. Known for its characteristic alternating green and white flashes, this lighthouse has been a Maine landmark since the early 1800s. Reachable only by sea, tours are available with a reservation. Otherwise, the island and lighthouse are not open to the public.
Fortune's Rock Beach is only about 20 miles from downtown Portland, Maine's largest city. This sandy, 2-mile stretch of beach is a popular place to lounge or enjoy wave sports. You can go surfing, body surfing, skim boarding and surf kayaking.
Portland has a contemporary urban scene with great restaurants, brew pubs, unique shops, arts and culture. Get more information at: www.visitportland.com.
Mount Agamenticus, the "Big A," is a growing 10,000 acre Conservation Region located in Southern Maine. This protected area offers recreation for every season. There are many trails for hiking, biking (you can rent bikes in the area), horseback riding, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and guided nature walks. Hunting and extensive bird watching activities are also offered. Being so close to the coast, the views alone are exceptional.