Friday, December 31, 2010

In My Footsteps: Trip 93: Lubec, Maine

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 93:  Lubec, Maine
October 5, 2010

            The eastern-most town in the United States, Lubec is a very small town with some really big attractions.  As small and remote as Lubec is it was actually one of my main destinations during my time in Maine.  For one thing it was as close as I could get to Canada without a passport.  Second it is the home of a place I had been waiting to see for quite some time as well: West Quoddy Head Lighthouse.
West Quoddy Head Lighthouse
            Getting to Lubec was an adventure all its own as it sits 150 miles from Owl’s Head which is where I made my home base during my Maine trip.  Granted it is not that difficult to find as the drive consists of staying on Route 1 all the way there but the towns become fewer and further between once you pass through Ellsworth.  After I passed through Machias there was nearly nothing in the way of civilization but for sprinkles of homes and a few stores.  It may sound boring but to me it was a beautiful and peaceful trip to an anticipated location.
            West Quoddy Head Lighthouse was a place I had seen photos of but had never expected to actually stand in front of.  It is called West Quoddy Head because there is in fact an East Quoddy Head Lighthouse located on Campobello Island across Lubec Channel in New Brunswick, Canada.  What makes West Quoddy Head unique is its red and white stripes which make it look like a big brick barbershop pole.  Built in 1857 the lighthouse sits on the grounds of Quoddy Head State Park, just east of the town of Lubec.  It is a very remote area, much like the town of Lubec is as well, which is something that adds to the sort of mystique that West Quoddy Head Lighthouse has for me. 
Entering Lubec
            It was an unbelievable experience from the beginning as the parking area is up on a hill from the lighthouse so I had to walk down as it slowly got larger until I was able to reach out and touch the big barbershop pole.  There is a monument marking it as the eastern-most lighthouse in the eastern-most town in the country.  Bordered on the north by a chain link fence since it sits above a cliff there is a great view across Quoddy Narrows to Campobello Island.  It was the first time I had seen anything but United States soil, despite the fact that I did not step foot on it.  Not having a passport I did not wish to get into any trouble for a few photos.
            For those who wish to make the trip to Lubec last, which I recommend, there is the Quoddy Head Station only a few minutes from the lighthouse.  It is a restored Coast Guard Station which now serves as an amazing motel.  There is room for thirty people and offers fantastic rates and views.  As I was snapping photos of this spot I remember that The Beatles ‘Hey Jude’ was playing on my IPod and I found myself lost in the moment of the big finale standing in the middle of Quoddy Head Road soaking in my accomplishment of actually making it all the way to Lubec and West Quoddy Head Lighthouse.  I will never forget how I felt at that point in time.
Franklin D. Roosevelt Bridge crossing into Canada
            The town of Lubec has the honor of not only being the eastern-most point in the United States but also of being the smallest town I have visited thus far with just over 1,600 people.  It was named for the town of L├╝beck, Germany and incorporated in 1811.  Being that it was as close as I was going to get to Canada I decided to push that limit by parking at one of the many boat launching spots along Lubec Channel.  This one along Commercial Street had a breakwater stretching out into the channel which gave me an awesome look at Mulholland Point Lighthouse only a few hundred feet across the water on the shores of Campobello Island.
            Mulholland Point Light, red and white like the Canadian flag, was built in 1884 and was used to aide in navigation until the completion of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Bridge was completed in 1962.  The bridge’s navigational lights made the lighthouse obsolete and it was decommission shortly thereafter.  Campobello Island is forever linked to Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt who owned a summer cottage on the island although Eleanor visited it more than FDR once he became President.
Mulholland Point Lighthouse
            While standing at the end of the breakwater shooting the lighthouse I was also privileged to see three seals fishing in the rapid current of Lubec Channel.  Having not seen many seals in my life I was just as fascinated with watching them play and dive for fish as I was with being so close to the Canadian border.  I was so close that I could see the cars being stopped on the other side of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Bridge at the border guard station.
            It was fitting I thought that I had gone literally as far as I could go in the United States and was standing there with the entire country behind me.  Ironically as well was the fact that this day was the warmest of all of the days I had spent in Maine despite it being so far north.  Lubec may be the smallest town I have visited so far in my travels but West Quoddy Head Light helps to make it one of my favorites.  Even though it is a long trip out for most people I believe that the charm of the eastern-most town in the United States makes the trip worthwhile.  Have fun and happy traveling!

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For a short video featuring West Quoddy Head Light and Lubec, Maine check out my YouTube page: Lubec, Maine

DirectionsWest Quoddy Head Lighthouse:  Take Rt. 1 up the coast toward Lubec.  In Whiting when Rt. 1 is aka River Rd., turn right onto Rt. 189.  Follow 10 miles, turn right at S. Lubec Rd.  Take a slight left at Quoddy Head Rd., follow it to the parking lot overlooking the lighthouse.
            Commercial Street Parking Area:  Take Rt. 1 up the coast toward Lubec.  In Whiting when Rt. 1 is aka River Rd., turn right onto Rt. 189.  Follow Rt. 189 into Lubec, turn left at Eureka St., turn right onto Commercial Street.  Parking area is on left where Commercial St. meets Pleasant St.  Mulholland Point Light is straight across the water. 

ReferencesQuoddy Head Station
            Visit Lubec


Chessie Crowe Gartmayer said...

I am sorry you did not visit Campobello Island, as it is truly beautiful ( )

If you stop at the US border, they will let you back into the US without any hassle. They 'have to' let you back into the US as you are a citizen.

On the Canadian side, there is rarely problems entering--maybe a fire arms or liqueur / leaving anything questions.

The US side will let you have a 'day pass' if you stop by first, then only scold you if you drive over without asking them.

Campobello Island is truly beautiful, a destination not to miss.


Christopher Setterlund said...

Hi Chessie, I wish I had known that while I was up there. I thought that if I showed the border guards that I was a travel writer they might let me pass but did not want to risk it. That will be another trip for another day.

Unknown said...

Glad you enjoyed Lubec. I do want to point out that standing by West Quoddy Head Lighthouse looking east out to sea, you are looking at Grand Manan Island about 10 miles away. To your left (north), around the point, you can see Campobello Island.

Some of us like to think that Lubec was a Passamaquoddy name referring to the Narrows between Lubec and Campobello, which just happened to sound like the German city name.

Christopher Setterlund said...

The Native American name would make a lot of sense since so many places I have visited in New England have their names directly from Native American words. I did love Lubec, West Quoddy Head Light is my favorite place I have been so far.