Today’s post properly begins in 1972 on a surprisingly warm, late August afternoon, when I was fifteen and nearing the tail end of yet another Couch family vacation. Our family made something of a specialty of long and elaborate road trips, meticulously planned and yet carried out always at break neck speed. Two nights in one place was a long stopover. Tent camping. Campfire meals. Family of six. I don’t know how we did it—or really even why. This was not a style dictated by the limits of the family bank account but I think rather by a certain, albeit Puritan-tinged, spirit of adventure. We took long trips across the entire continent every summer. (Though it coincided with us, the children, aging out of long, open-ended summers, the family seems to have finally met its match later that decade—car camping for six weeks in Mexico. While it would provide stories of all kinds for the rest of our natural lives it would also prove to be our very last epic road trip…)
But enough with the scene setting. Back to Blue Hill. Earlier on that long-ago day, we disembarked in Bar Harbor from the Blue Nose Ferry, arriving back in the US after two weeks in Canada’s Maritime Provinces. An hour or two later our car broke down—as luck would have it in the little town of Blue Hill. There we were, stuck for the afternoon. I explored every inch of that gorgeous place and by the end of the afternoon I had fallen in love with this quintessential New England village. But I am a lover of places—and was so even then—so being in love meant really no more than adding this name to an already very, very long list.…or so I thought...
Within a few years, though, I would return to Blue Hill and now, more than 40 years later, count it as one of my most ‘returned to’ places—and certainly one of my most loved. This is because I married into a family that did not go on long family car trips. They were of the other sort—the sort that found a spot and made it their own--in this case, mid-coast Maine. For many years, this meant a month at Oakland House, the kind of luxe simple summer in New England place that I suspect no longer exists. By the time I came on the scene however the family owned a beautiful 40 acre farm on Deer Isle, just down the coast from Blue Hill. From that house, going ‘in town’ has always meant going to Blue Hill. I have come to know the town very well over the years and I have also learned to appreciate it as far more than just one more pretty place.
Blue Hill has one of my favorite-ever literary bookstores, Blue Hill Books; maybe the best-ever county fair, The Blue Hill County Fair; a renowned chamber music festival, Kneisel Hall; one of the best fine restaurants in Maine, The Arborvine; my all-time favorite clam shack, The Fish Net, and more galleries than you can count. All this in a town that the 2010 census listed as having 2686 inhibits.
It was also home for many decades to Rowantree Pottery. Begun in the late 1920’s by Adelaide Pearson, a young woman of progressive spirit and proud Boston lineage, Rowantree’s produced distinctive hand-thrown pottery for 75 years. Though Rowantree closed in 2009, it is still so closely associated with Blue Hill that it is hard to mention one without the other. Fortunately for the contemporary visitor, Rackliffe Pottery, founded by Rowantree alums, operates not far from the original Rowantree Pottery.
I seem to end every post with the same advice: ‘Go’, and this will be no different but I mean it as the highest compliment to Blue Hill when I say there’s no rush. Blue Hill is not frozen in vacation amber—nor would one want it to be—but it does have a timeless charm that I for one have been savoring for what has turned out to be more than half of my life beginning with that long ago day...
Oh and though I have never been in need of a place to stay 'in town', The Blue Hill Inn gets rave reviews so I'd say one more reason to go...don't you think?