Tuesday, August 5, 2014

All I Could See From Where I Stood

The iconic view of Camden Harbor as seen from the top of Mt. Battie
For me, no visit home to Midcoast Maine is complete without a trip to the top of Mt. Battie. Perched on the edge of Penobscot Bay, Mt. Battie serves as a backdrop for the picturesque town of Camden and gives it her monicker of "where the mountains meet the sea". It is said to have served as the inspiration for Camden native and Pulitzer Prize winner Edna St. Vincent Millay's poem The Renascence. In fact, the view of the town from above is probably one of the most photographed images of Camden and is one that graces travel magazines and calendars year in and year out. It is also a place that I am intimately familiar with; a place I once called home.

Mt. Battie is located in Camden Hills State Park a 5,700 acre expanse where you can camp, hike, mountain bike, swim and simply enjoy the Maine coast. The mountain itself isn't that high, just 800 feet high, but on a clear day the views from the top make you feel as though you are much higher. A carriage road leading to the top of the mountain was built in 1897 with a privately owned hotel catering to the area's wealthy residents being constructed the following year and operated until it was torn down in 1920. A forest fire burned much of the summit in 1918 and in 1921 a 26 foot stone tower dedicated to "the services of the men and women of Camden in the World War, 1914-1918, was erected on the site of the hotel. The tower still stands today and offers those who climb its spiral staircase a 360 degree view of the area. In 1963 the state Park Commission built the 1.6 mile paved automobile road that brings the less athletically inclined to the summit. I've reached the top by both automobile and foot and regardless of how you do it once you crest the tree line, the views are spectacular.

So naturally I made it a point to make it to the top of Mt. Battie during my current visit to Maine. The first attempt was fogged out. Literally since heavy fog encased the entire town and the mountain making it impossible to see your hand in front of your face much less the scenery. The next attempt was a success with our being rewarded with sweeping views of Camden, Penobscot Bay and the off shore islands. The lingering fog hid our view of Mount Desert Island but the sights were beautiful just the same. No matter how many times I stand atop the mountain I am reminded of how beautiful the Midcoast region is. Having traveled across the globe and back I still feel the same. There really is no place like home and this is a place I will keep returning to over and over again.

So in honor of the view, here's an excerpt from Millay's famous poem The Renascence:

All I could see from where I stood
Was three long mountains and a wood;
I turned and looked the other way,
And saw three islands in the bay.
So with my eyes I traced the line
of the horizon thin and fine,
Straight around till I was come
Back to where I'd started from.

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