Sarah Smiley Credit: Sarah Smiley

I have often said there are no ugly places in Maine. It’s true. Ever since we moved here 10 years ago, I have yet to find a place that isn’t charming or beautiful. From the red and yellow colored mountains in the west during leaf peeping season to the lobster boats on the coast bobbing in the water, each spot looks like it’s begging to be a picture on a calendar.

It’s also true, however, that some places in Maine are more picturesque than others. Usually, these scenic spots are connected to Maine’s major towns by long stretches of road, challenging the “you can’t get there from here” motto. Maine’s most scenic, hidden gems, lie in wait at the outer reaches of twisting, hidden roads that seem to vanish behind mountains and lakes.

If a tourist ever wants to see the best of Maine, I suggest they hop onto a road that seems to promise nothing spectacular. If you travel on it long enough, there will always be something picture-worthy at the end.

I saw one of these spots last month when I drove to Eastport to pick up my older sons from a mission trip. My trip began early in the morning, before the sun came up, as I made my way through Bangor’s and Brewer’s flashing yellow and red traffic lights. Once I was on Route 9, the rising sun began to cast a glow in the sky, illuminating thick fog in front of me. The fog wrapped around pine trees and mountaintops. Even as the sun rose higher and burned off most of the mist, pockets of it still hung in the valleys, like little puffs of clouds that had lost their way.

On Route 9, I watched as morning became day. The road, just like so many other beautiful ones in Maine, snaked ahead of me, disappearing like a tail between the turns and mountains I’d yet to pass. Each time I came over a hill, I caught glimpses of the road, a small piece peeking out behind pine trees or a long stretch that went up and down like the tracks of a roller coaster.

For miles there was nothing except pine trees crowded on mountains like stadium seating. Each patch seemed to be greener than the next. But somewhere around Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge, the hills started to part, giving way to tidal areas with still, crystal blue waters and muddy beaches.

I had waited for this vision since I dropped off the kids in Eastport eight days before. On my way home that day, I was happily lost in Eastport’s charming, waterfront streets, with white churches and old, wooden homes. I rolled down my windows to listen to the water lapping against the boats in the harbor and to smell the fresh air. Then I got on Route 9, and by some fortunate GPS accident, ended up lost around the U.S. and Canadian border, alongside the Wildlife Refuge area.

At every turn, picturesque visions made me gasp and turn down my music, as if that would help me see better. I stopped more times than I care to tell you, given that I’ve lived in this state for a decade now, to take pictures on the side of the road. I felt like a local tourist, as goofy as a New Yorker walking around the city with map in hand.

Hadn’t I already seen all there is to see in Maine? Could I really be surprised by its beauty any more? Did I have to stop and take 100 pictures of a place that had always been just a few hours up the road?

No, I hadn’t seen it all. Yes, I could be surprised. And definitely I had to take all the pictures.

Each time I pulled off the road, there was absolute silence around me. There were no noisy 18-wheelers roaring past. No gas fumes or the sound of car brakes. There was just the buzzing of insects in the grass below the blueberry fields and an occasional car going quietly past.

I stood at each spot and took panoramic pictures of the mountains in the distance, the lakes at their base, and the miles and miles of blueberry fields, interrupted only by a giant boulder here or there.

One time while I was stopped, I heard the now familiar sound of a lone car approaching. I continued to take my pictures. Then I heard the other car’s wheels slow down and crunch the crushed gravel on the shoulder. I turned around to look, a little alarmed, and saw my friend Suzie, who had also dropped off kids in Eastport, parking and getting out of her car. Suzie has lived in Maine her entire life. I was embarrassed that she caught me being touristy, and I wondered if she had thought I was broken down.

But as she came up beside me, she pulled out her camera phone, too. “Can you believe this view,” she asked. “I had to pull over and take a picture.”

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