Fundy National Park

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Alma Harbor close to sunset at nearly high tide. Photo – J. Propst

I must admit – I experienced very little of Fundy National Park, but the campsite (we stayed at Headquarters, right down the road from Alma, New Brunswick) was a great location for exploring the tides of the Bay of Fundy and the tiny town of Alma. The sites were close together, but many had electric hookups and wifi access. Clean showers and bathrooms, and nice kitchen areas if you wanted to cook indoors. There was even a wood burning stove, which I would have had no clue how to use it, but could see the benefit of during cold camping season.

 

 

About a five-minute walk or drive from the campground was the tiny town of Alma, population 213 (or so). It’s a small fishing village that seems to rely on tourism and lobster fishing for it’s survival. There were a couple of tiny motels, B&Bs, a few small lobster shops, and my favorite place,

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the Buddha Bear Coffee Shop which featured 12 taps of local craft beer (primarily from New Brunswick and PEI), and a food truck style pop up with smoked oysters and chowder.  Needless to say, when we discovered craft beer, we visited both days we were in Alma! The Buddha Bear is housed in an old church and is soon to be a brewery – any day now Holy Whale Brewing will begin their foray into the craft beer scene.

 

 

Some of my favorites at Buddha Bear included a Pumphouse radler of grapefruit AND tangerine juice, a Trailways IPA, and a couple of session IPAs from breweries I can’t remember (seriously, the beer was that good…. ).

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Alma Harbor at sunrise. Photo – Jenni Propst (don’t worry, I cropped out the Trump flag one of the lobster boats was flying…. I came to Canada to avoid you, #45!)

On my first morning in Alma, I woke up at 5:20am to venture down to the harbor for some sunrise photos of the lobster boats I’d already fallen in love with.  It was high-ish tide, going out, so the boats were still fully submerged in the water.

 

The Bay of Fundy tides are the most dramatic in the world – high tide had the boats floating at a normal dock height, but at low tide, there was no water under or around them, and they rested on the ocean floor. It was truly a sight to behold.

 

Though sunrise wasn’t the most colorful I’ve seen, the moment when the sun lit up the sides of the lobster boats was pretty awesome. Just like I did last summer at Mormon Roy waiting for the sun to envelop the front of the barn, seeing the sun hit the boats took the breath out of me. Man, I love light. I love the magic of it. I guess it’s a good think I work with light for a living!

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Alma Harbor at low tide. Holy cow, those lobster boats are out of the water! Photo – Jenni Propst

And then there was low tide – not amazing light, not amazing photography, but holy cow – the drastic change! It was amazing. The Bay of Fundy is like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

 

 

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Portland Beer

The craft beer industry in Maine has really blossomed since a 2011 law made it okay to serve and sell beer in 4oz to 16oz samples in brewery tasting rooms. Before that, all beer had to be consumed in bars and not at the site of creation. There are over a dozen breweries in the city, and it ranks as one of the top beer destinations in the country (don’t worry, my heart is still in Asheville!)

 

After our duck boat tour (at around 11am) we visited the first brewery of the day – Sebago Brewing Company. Overall, their beers were good. These were my favorites:

Simmer Down – Session IPA 4.9% – 47IBU

Frye’s Leap IPA – 6%, 55 IBU

 

Austin Street Brewing

IMG_6597Austin Street was a tiny brewery in the shadow of Alagash’s giant facility. It was one of the breweries I was most looking forward to visiting in Portland, and it did not disappoint. They had four beers on tap, and offered generous 5 oz samples for $2 each. Their Patina Pale Ale  (5.3%, 40 IBU) was my favorite – crisp and delicious and incredibly refreshing.

A close runner up was the Kon-Tiki, an American Pale ale (5%, 40 IBU) with a fruity flavor palette.

Honorable mention to Rally, a 3.8% Session IPA that was easy drinking and incredibly tasty.

Austin Street’s assistant head brewer is a woman – one of the only in all of Maine from what I understand, and kudos for that (not having only one woman, but for Austin Street having her!)

 

 

Sharing the same small industrial building was also Foundation Brewing. I’m glad I visited, but am not sure it would be worth a second trip. They were playing (too) loud music, and their beer was meh. The music was so loud you couldn’t have a conversation with the people at the table. Maybe that was a ploy to increase turnover? Or more than likely the “sound system” was just poorly designed in that the bartenders weren’t in line with the speakers and kept turning it up to hear their tunes. The brewery was mighty popular, but they managed to handle the crowd quickly and efficiently, so that is a plus.

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Allagash Brewing

 

Across the street from Austin Street and Foundation was Allagash. Since I’d had their white before many times, it wasn’t on my list of must-tastes when I arrived in Portland. But everyone at Austin Street and Foundation said we had to visit and I’m so glad we did! The tours for the day were “sold out” (though not really, since they were free!) but they were still giving away free samples. Each of us got a token and a hand stamp that we turned into the bar for a free flight. As in four, four ounce pours of beer each.

 

IMG_6601Allagash is probably the oldest craft brewery in Maine, having been around since 1995. They can brew 70,000 barrels a year (compared with the 1994 Highland Brewing in Asheville, which brews about 50,000 a year). The tasting room featured a great outdoor patio, flower arrangements on every table and free beer. FREE BEER!  We each got to sample four beers – Allagash House, a bourbon barrel aged tripel, a Chardonnay aged saison and Hoppy Table Beer. All were very good.

A Day in Portland

The Fun

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Portland Head Light – Photo by Jenni Propst

We spent the day in Portland and met up with one of my favorite college friends, Suzanne, who I hadn’t seen in a few years since she moved to Boston from Asheville. We went on a DUCK tour, and enjoyed learning about the history of Portland, seeing the tallest building in the state of Maine (16 stories, in case you were wondering!), and cruising through the harbor where we saw some seals, lobster boats and a few wooden schooners. Our tourguide was fantastic – knew a lot about the city’s hockey team (they are moving to the ECHL after being in the AHL for many, many years – my condolences, Portland!) and pretty much everything else about the city. He’s a native, and works as a college librarian and was bursting with fun facts. Of course, when he talked about the city symbol being a Phoenix all I could think of was Fawkes and Harry Potter, but I’m a nerd like that!)

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Portland Head Light at Cape Elizabeth, Maine. Photo – Jenni Propst

We also took a drive through south Portland to Cape Elizabeth to see the famous Portland Head Light. This is the iconic, lighthouse view of coastal Maine – sailboats in the distance, rocky cliffs in the foreground, and of course a lighthouse. It was a great side trip out of the city.

 

The Camping

Bradbury Mountain State Park is a tiny park just outside of Freeport, Maine, about 20 minutes from Portland. It’s close to LL Bean (and thank goodness for that, because my camping pad sprung a leak our first night!). There were only a dozen or two sites in the entire park, and all seemed to be pretty lovely and of varying sizes. There were three teardrop campers there our first night, and that’s always a good sign!

There were no hookups and the sites were too small for big rigs, so that was a certainly a plus for someone in a 9’ long tiny trailer. The only noise problems we encountered were dogs – so much barking. I wish I had a dog I could bring camping (my own has been banned, by me, because he gets so anxious and miserable when taken into the woods) but if my dog behaved the way the ones in the campground did, I wouldn’t bring him out ever again.

The campground featured the two nicest vault toilets I’ve ever experienced – seriously, I forgot I was pooping in a hole and not a flushable toilet. (Sorry for the TMI, y’all, but everyone poops!)  They also had a very nice, well-lit dishwashing station, not that we had to wash anything with all of Portland’s great food options available to us.

There were also showers – no flush toilets, but showers. Each had a sink and mirror and was super clean. It was nice to take my first camping shower of the trip!

 The Food

OK, I know that Portland is a foody destination. But we kept it pretty simple (and delicious). We had breakfast at a place called Bill’s Pizza on commercial street… $1.99 for two eggs and toast, or $3.99 for a stack of homemade Maine blueberry pancakes. I am not ashamed to say I ordered both!

For dinner, after brewery hopping, we went to a place called Po-Boys and Pickles. I had blueberry voo-doo wings. They were delicious and stained my fingers purple from the fresh blueberries. (Shh… don’t tell anyone I’m usually a vegetarian, but hot wings are my weakness!) They were served with a side of homemade pickled vegetables, and on a scale of 1-5 stars, I’d give them 10! I ordered a to-go container and ate them for breakfast the next morning. (Again, not ashamed! They were delicious!!!)

 

All in all, Portland was a pretty incredible day. I could have spent a week there – it does have the same charm that Asheville does (but my hometown has way more, and way better breweries – sorry Maine!)

Maine Beer Company

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love hops and my love of IPAs grows stronger every day, but when I looked at the offerings online at the Maine Beer Company, I was a bit skeptical. Of the eight beers they had on tap, six of them were IPAs or pale ales – I wasn’t sure that a brewery could do that many beers of similar styles and impress me with more than one or two.

 

Boy oh boy was I mistaken!

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First of all, the brewery has huge solar panels out front, and the first thing I noticed was their mission to giving back to their local community and the world. They give 1% of all sales (not profit, SALES) to a different non-profit every month. They seem to really want to make a difference in the world, and we need more people and companies who feel this way! So about $3 of what I spent on Friday night went straight to a non-profit helping people and the environment. Pretty cool, if you ask me!

 

Four IPAs, and all were dramatically different (and most of their beers had pretty hilarious names!)

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Hands down, my favorite beer on the menus was Another One. And I had Another One after I had Another One. It was a higher ABV then I tend to prefer (7%) but it was absolutely perfect. Smooth, not too bitter, a beautiful golden hue. Not too heavy and incredibly refreshing. Brewed with cascade, citra and simcoe hops, the resulting flavor was slightly fruity and delicious.

 

Lunch was also delicious (and yes, Lunch was the name of it). MBC classified Lunch as an Ameican IPA, with 7% ABV and IBU of 62. Typically 62 is about as high on the IBU spectrum as I tend to enjoy, and this one was outstanding. It’s an east coast style IPA and I could taste subtle bits of pine (I love pine-y beers!).

 

Pilot 15 was the brewery’s only saison offering. Light and crisp, just like I like them, it was a very drinkable beer.

 

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Special shout out to a third IPA, Woods and Waters. It was a 6.2% ABV and is a small batch that the brewery made to commemorate the new Katahdin Woods & Waters

National Monument. Honestly, I can’t believe three of my favorite beers from a brewery were IPAs…. two years ago I didn’t like a single IPA anywhere, let alone all of a brewery’s offerings.

 

Bethlehem Brewworks

One night in Bethlehem, and we ventured to the Bethlehem Brew Works. They had a great beer menu, ranging from a tasty wit, a couple of different IPAs (of varying strengths and styles), a really tasty pale ale and even a blueberry beer that was truly fantastic, and I am very skeptical of berry flavored beers.

 

I got a flight of six beers, all nice 4-5oz pours. They had about ten on the menu, plus some special bottles. All of the six I tried were enjoyable, particularly the Alice Mae session IPA, Hop Regime IPA, Steelgarden Wit and the Blueberry Belch.

 

I must also say that the brewery’s artwork and labels were truly fantastic. Each label was humorous and creative. I hear the graphic designer behind them works for Crayola, which is just down the road from the brewery!

 

I’ve visited a lot of breweries and craft beer establishments, but would have to rate the Bethlehem Brew Works as one of the best, primarily because of the amazing staff who served us, and our bartender Mikey in particular. He was friendly, went out of his way to take care of us, and was a truly knowledgeable beer host. There is nothing more frustrating than a bartender (especially at a brewery!) who doesn’t know a lot about beer and doesn’t have a passion for it. Mikey was awesome, and made the visit so much fun. He offered suggestions and was able to recommend different styles for us to try, and even told us about the craft beer scene in Bethlehem and the Lehigh Valley area.

 

IMG_5360If you get a chance to visit this place – and I sincerely hope you do – make sure you get an order of their house made pretzels and beer cheese soup dip. Holy cow. I think I died and went to gooey in the middle crispy on the outside bread heaven when I took my first bite. They were the perfect addition to a night of craft beer tasting!

 

Go to Fegley’s. And ask for Mikey – he will make your day even more enjoyable!

Great Maine and Maritime Adventure

I’m pretty lucky – I have visited literally dozens of countries, and the majority of the US states (45, to be exact, at the time of this writing.) One thing remains the same though – no matter how many states, provinces and countries I visit, I want to see more, and re-visit the places I’ve already been. Travel is like that. It’s addictive and it makes you crave traveling and exploring even more.

 

Tomorrow begins a nearly four-week journey to a whole lot of places I’ve ever been, specifically Maine and the Maritime provinces of Canada.  Four national parks (three in Canada and one in the USA, two state parks and a couple of provincial parks are all on the agenda. It’s a trip I’ve been planning for a year now, inspired in part by an awesome couple I met last summer in Banff who said the Atlantic provinces were their favorite place they’d ever been (Newfoundland, specifically, and unfortunately I had to cut that province from my itinerary due to time – it deserved an entire two weeks plus travel time to and from, and I didn’t have that to spare.)

 

The planned route is as follows:

 

Stop number one – hotel in Bethlehem, PA to make the most of the drive. There are a couple of breweries I’d like to check out, so it’s a good (more than) halfway point.

 

Bradbury Mountain State Park near Portland, Maine – Brewery tours and lighthouses! My 46th state.

 

Fundy National Park – Amazing tides, scallops and lobster

 

Halifax, Nova Scotia – Breweries & lighthouses.

 

Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia – Fiddle music! Whale watching!

 

Prince Edward Island – Clam digging, Anne of Green Gables, Red sand beaches (and a couple of breweries!)
Acadia National Park – Photography. Sailboats. Sunrises and Sunsets.

 

Smugglers Notch State Park, Vermont – Breweries. Cheese. Billboard free beauty.

Top Ten of 2016: Two Jack Lake

Number 1: Sunrise at Two Jack Lake

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After sunrise on the hike back to the campsite. This is probably my favorite photo. 
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The view from my tent, just a few meters away from the lake. 

By far, the most awesome campground I’ve ever stayed at is Two Jack Lakeside in Banff National Park. It was a small campground with only two sites actually on the lake that could accommodate an RV (and I use the term RV very loosely when referring to my teardrop camper!) I was able to get one of them for four nights last summer, and it was awesome. Waking up only a few feet away from a crystal clear lake and seeing the iconic Mount Rundle in the distance was just the tip of the iceberg!

 

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On our third morning there, my dad and I woke up at about 4:30 am and hiked a couple of miles to the far side of Two Jack Lake for the perfect view of Mount Rundle. When I think of Banff, this mountain is the one that I picture. It towers over the Banff townsite, and when framed behind a pristine reflection in Two Jack Lake, it’s even more perfect.

 

We watched the sun rise for quite some time, seeing the pink sky overtake the top of the mountain with a soft mist on the cool water, and a dusting of clouds in the sky. I found so many great vantage points of the lake, and am really happy with the photos I took that morning.

 

The water isn’t turquoise, and there weren’t lightning strikes or rainbows like some of my other photographs, but it was a fantastic morning. I’ve traveled to so many incredible places, but Banff will continue to be my very favorite place on earth. I’ve visited three times, but see at least that many more visits in my future.

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The color of first light is breathtaking. I love the Canadian Rockies! Photo – J. Propst