First signs of summer at Land's End

After New England Sees Worst Floods in 70 Years, we finally had a day of sun for the first time in what seems like weeks. To celebrate, we went on our annual pilgrimage to the Maine coast to commemorate the incipient onset of summer.

It's a beautiful drive to Bailey Island. From Brunswick, Maine, take Route 24 south about 13 miles. Just 2.4 miles long, barely a half-mile wide at its widest point, and with only about 500 year-round residents, Bailey Island is the epitome of the rugged beauty of the Maine coast.

No real tourist attractions to see... just stacked lobster traps, piled up lobster buoys, and scattered lobster boats. But it's the prettiest scenery I've seen in this state, and since there's no shortage of that here - trust me - that's really saying something!

Still, this humble finger of land jutting out into Casco Bay, composed really of a chain of three smaller islands - Great Island, Orr's and Bailey - actually boasts more than one claim to fame.

Turns out that Harriet Beecher Stowe, of Uncle Tom's Cabin fame, wrote The Pearl of Orr's Island: A Story of the Coast of Maine in 1862, apparently one of the earliest examples of Maine "local color" fiction. According to the Orr's Island Campground official site,

"Orr's Island is named for two brothers--Joseph and Clement Orr--who came from Ireland... Joseph Orr built his homestead in 1756 on the land that is now occupied by Orr's Island Campground. The home is said to be the oldest on the island. His home, which still stands, was made famous in a book... by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Mrs. Stowe visited the area while her husband was a professor at Bowdoin College in nearby Brunswick, Maine. She created a tale of the islands using fictional characters living in real homes."

In addition, the islands also feature an important architectural landmark! Built in 1927-28, the Cribstone Bridge between Orr's and Bailey Islands features a "cob pile" form of construction and - as the tablet at the bridge claims - "this 1,150 foot bridge is an exceptional engineering solution to meet unusual conditions and is the only one of its type in the world. Open split Maine granite cribwork permits free flow of swift tidal currents, boat traffic, withstands saltwater exposure and ice floes." What's more, the bridge is composed of thousands of tons of 12-foot granite slabs, held together by the sheer force of gravity! It is rightfully counted in the National Registry of Historic Places, as an official National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, and is even featured in Structurae, an international database of significant structures, a testament to Mainers' classic and seemingly paradoxical "intricate simplicity"!

It's such a lovely drive that we'll likely wind up returning a couple more times to "Land's End" on Bailey Island whenever the good weather finally manages to take hold. Maybe we'll see you there...

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