That picture on the cover? It’s Route 24. The road hopscotches from Brunswick through Harpswell, vaults onto Orrs Island, and then leaps the length of the Cribstone Bridge before coming to an abrupt halt at Land’s End on Bailey Island. The drive is one I always recommend for visitors interested in seeing the unique peninsular geography of Maine’s midcoast.
Given Route 24’s beauty, it might surprise you to learn that the road is not one of Maine’s four National Scenic Byways — or even one of its ten official state Scenic Byways. It’s just a darned pretty drive, and Maine has no shortage of those. We are blessed here with a multitude of vistas.
In my job at Down East, I spend a fair amount of time behind the wheel. I’ve explored nearly every corner of the state that is accessible by motorized vehicle and many more places that you can only see traveling by shank’s mare. But I still find myself discovering — or often re-discovering — views that leave me breathless.
Last week I found myself driving on Route 6 out of Lincoln. I usually head Down East via Route 1 or the Airline, but I was in a restless mood. I’d forgotten what boreal country it is between Lee and the hardscrabble farms clustered around Topsfield. There are stands of dead spruce where black-backed woodpeckers nest and alder swamps from which you might see a moose emerge wearing a garland of pickerelweed. Route 6 is scenic in every sense of the word except the official one.
So it is with most of Maine. On page 70 we introduce you to a handful of the state’s designated byways: five can’t-miss drives you’ll definitely want to explore, especially as the leaves begin to turn. But it’s worth taking a detour occasionally because you never know how the journey might change you.
Down East associate editor Will Bleakley found that out firsthand. As a high school student from New York City, he visited Brunswick to take a tour of Bowdoin and decided to poke around the neighboring points of land. Rounding the corner where Route 24 leaves the mainland for Orrs Island, he found himself stopped short by the view you see on this month’s cover. “It was at that moment I realized that Maine is where I wanted to spend my next four years,” he said. And those four years have now become seven.
“It’s a dangerous business,” wrote J.R.R. Tolkien, “going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
— Paul Doiron