Frigid February on a Small Maine Island

It may be the shortest month of the year, but as we continue to deal with mountains of snow and frigid temperatures here on the island, February seems to be lasting forever. This is one of the few times that I can remember stalwart Mainers actually getting fed up with the weather. A few have taken off for warmer climates, but the rest of us are resolutely hanging on and waiting to turn the page on the calendar. We’ve finally had a few days without snow, although we are due for another six inches later in the week. Right now the cold is the biggest problem…well below zero last night and more chilly days and nights expected. Life has pretty much come to a halt on the island. It’s too cold even for the hardy lobstermen to venture out on the water, and pretty much the only people on the roads are the plow drivers, oil truck drivers, and workmen doing odd jobs like shoveling off roofs. So, how does one spend one’s time when it’s too cold to do much but hunker down inside? Those of us who work at home have no problem keeping busy. Deadlines don’t disappear because of the weather, and in some ways it’s good to work without a lot of distractions. When I sit here in my office in summer, looking out at the sailboats and lobster boats bobbing by, it’s a lot harder to keep my mind on my job. When June comes and our summer people return to the island, there will be lots of questions about why on earth we stayed on through such an historically bad winter. I guess the only answer is, “If you have to ask, you’ll never understand.” The stubborn New England personality is certainly part of it…we don’t like to give in or give up. And as I’ve mentioned before, there’s a certain pride in withstanding whatever Mother Nature throws at us. Nonetheless, spring will never be more appreciated than it will be this year. It’s less than a month away, and while it’s still way too soon to pack away the winter woolies and boots, I did a see a robin yesterday. There’s hope!

Dreaming of a summer lobster bake in Maine. Photo (c) Nathaniel Hammond
Dreaming of a summer lobster bake in Maine. Photo (c) Nathaniel Hammond

Stay warm wherever you are.

Late Summer in Maine

I like to hold on to every possible moment of summer, so I’m not quite ready to give in to fall yet. After all, there are still nearly three weeks of the best season of the year to enjoy!
Here on my small Maine island we’ve had wonderful weather for the past two weeks. The sun is shining brightly today after a foggy start this morning, and there’s still plenty of beach, boating,

Sunrise over Rockland Harbor, Maine (c) Karen Hammond
Sunrise over Rockland Harbor, Maine
(c) Karen Hammond
and hammock weather to take advantage of. I hate rushing through the seasons. Nothing annoys me more than having the kids get out of school at the end of June and then seeing the back-to-school ads a week later.
Fall in New England has its own special charm, of course, but I’m going to enjoy these waning days of summer before I start thinking about pumpkins and fall holidays. How about you?

Springtime in Maine

At last…the first full day of spring is upon us, the sun is shining, the birds are tweeting ecstatically and we can almost overlook the still-huge mounds of snow blanketing our small Maine island. There are no signs of summer tourists yet, and with another big snowstorm on tap for next week, it’s unlikely that we’ll be seeing them any time soon. At this time of year, I think all of us (about 100 brave souls) who live here year round give ourselves a virtual pat on the back for making it through another winter. And this winter was exceptionally cold and snowy, even for New England.
As I’ve chatted about before on this blog, those of us who love New England in general, and Maine in particular, wouldn’t live anywhere else. The seasons of the year do mimic our lives when you think about it…springtime when everything is fresh and new and anything is possible; summer when the world, and we, are at our peak; autumn when life both outside and within slows down and we become more contemplative; and of course winter, the sunset of the year and of our lives.
Speaking of sunsets, the vernal equinox sunset was spectacular. It’s the kind of scene that has inspired so many Maine artists and writers through the years. Let’s hope there are many more gorgeous sunsets to come as spring arrives on our

Spring sunset over a small Maine island copyright N. Hammond
Spring sunset over a small Maine island
copyright N. Hammond
quiet island.

February: The Longest Month

An island tree after a recent snowfall. Photo copyright Nathaniel Hammond
An island tree after a recent snowfall.
Photo copyright Nathaniel Hammond
There’s an old joke that February is the shortest month of the year because New Englanders couldn’t stand it to be one day longer. This year February has seemed particularly long–in the last week alone we’ve seen sub-zero temperatures, several light snowstorms, clear, sunny days, and a thunderstorm. But tomorrow the month finally comes to an end and we can welcome March and, perhaps, some early signs of spring.
Here on my small Maine island the deer are so desperate for food that they have devoured huge chunks of my holly bushes and I expect they are waiting ravenously for the first tulips to poke through the ground. That will be a while, however, as the snow drifts are still several feet high in the gardens. I can feel the mood around town lightening as the days continue to grow longer, the snowstorms grow lighter, and the sun shines more brightly. Today as I look out my office window, sunlight is breaking through the cloud cover and the sky is pale blue instead of gray. And on my early morning walk I heard a few birds chirping and actually spotted a robin. Spring is coming and my quiet island will awaken again.

Leaf-peeping in New England

Fall colors near Rangeley, Maine.  Nathaniel Hammond photography.
Fall colors near Rangeley, Maine. Nathaniel Hammond photography.

Throughout New England, color is just about at its peak now, bringing thousands of leaf-peepers to enjoy the show.  In Maine, the best colors tend to be in the northern part of the state. I especially love the Rangeley area where, along with the beautiful trees, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll spot a moose or two.

We’ve just had several days of Indian summer. The leaves are glorious, and once they fall, we’ll all be looking ahead to winter. That’s fine with me.  Unlike most New Englanders, autumn has never been my favorite time of year.  It’s beautiful to be sure,  but there is something about the fading light  and shortened days that makes it a very melancholy season. Winter, despite the cold and snow, somehow seems a lighter, brighter, time of year…..perhaps it’s the winter holidays, perhaps it’s the contentment of having time to tackle a new book or other long project, or maybe it’s the thought that spring can’t be far behind. And I do love spring with all its promise, and summer, which has always seemed a time of fulfillment.

See, I told you that fall brings out the melancholy musings!

August on a Small Maine Island

Curtis Island Light
Curtis Island Light

It’s been a long time since my last post.  July found me on a long cruise along the New England coast while  savoring beautiful weather all the way.  Here on my small Maine island, summer is at its peak with late flowers in bloom and gorgeous, breeze-filled days to enjoy.  Very soon, things will begin to change as summer visitors head back to their permanent homes and our little village reverts back to the 100 or so of us who live here throughout the year.  And shortly thereafter, fall will arrive.

But for now it’s time to savor all the best of a Maine summer and the lazy, sun-filled days of August. There are more lobsters to eat, more country fairs to attend, more boat rides to enjoy, and more swims to be swum.  To step outside on an August morning like today’s is to understand why so many people vacation in Maine and sometimes decide to move here permanently.  Whoever came up with the state slogan: “Maine: The Way Life Should Be” must have been thinking of a day just like this one!


Summer in Maine

Pleasure boats bob on their moorings in the beautiful harbor of Camden, Maine.
Pleasure boats bob on their moorings in the beautiful harbor of Camden, Maine.

At long last, summer is well underway here in Maine and with the Fourth of July right around the corner,  visiting families and tourists are arriving daily. It’s been a bit damp and rainy, but predictions are good for the holiday weekend and all its activities. Here on my small Maine island, I now see cars from far-away places, very different from winter when there are only about 100 hardy souls here.  Pleasure boats are bobbing on their moorings, the local eateries have opened for the summer season, and life is good ….indeed, as the Maine motto says, it’s “The Way Life Should Be.”

If you’re planning a trip to Maine or elsewhere in New England, you might find my book, Backroads & Byways of New England: Drives, Day Trips and Weekend Excursions helpful. I just had a nice note from a group of six travelers from Australia who are using it to plan their trip to Maine with stops in the other New England states.

However you spend your holiday, be safe and enjoy!

Springtime in Maine

Sea smoke rises over the water on brisk April morning in Maine
Sea smoke rises over the water on brisk April morning in Maine

After a snowy winter, it’s great to see tulips and daffodils popping up at last and trees getting their first buds. That’s not to say that we don’t still have some cool days ahead as winter breathes its last gasps of cold air. From my office window this morning, I watched sea smoke rise over the water….a phenomenon that hapens when cold air moves over warmer water.  It’s an eerie kind of fog that shrouds everything in a silvery light.  It soon passed as the day began to warm up, but it’s a reminder of how fickle New England weather can be. My little Maine island remains quiet for the time being, but before long the first summer people will be arriving to open up their summer homes and another busy summer will begin.

If you’re planning a trip to Maine or elsewhere in New England this summer, you might want to check out my guidebook, Backroads & Byways of New England: Drives, Day Trips and Weekend Excursions (Countryman Press) for ideas of things to see and do along with some very easy-to-read history of the area.  Happy spring and happy travel planning, everyone!

Evergreen, Colorado

The charming main street of Evergreen, Colorado.
I just returned from a family wedding in the charming town of Evergreen, Colorado. The snow-capped Rocky Mountains were breathtaking, even if the temperature did hover around 70 degrees! It’s a lovely place with great restaurants, its own mini-boardwalk lined with charming shops, and picturesque views everywhere you look. Lots of beautiful parks where elk roam freely, too. Would I trade it for Maine? Not for a moment. But it’s a great place to visit and filled with friendly, welcoming people. Surprisingly, a lot of them are young people from New England who have moved West for a while to try out a different part of the country. To a person, those I met mentioned missing the colors of a New England fall and, especially, the sight and sound of the ocean. It will be waiting when they return–once New England is in your blood, you never lose it.

Summer’s End

Tomorrow’s autumnal equinox marks the official end of summer and the beginning of  the beautiful fall season here in Maine.  Autumn in New England always seems like a time for reflection after a hedonistic summer of swimming, boating, hiking, and yes, lots of lobsters and pina coladas on the deck.  Today I’m thinking about the ways in which the changing seasons reflect the seasons of our lives — spring, with its youthful promise;  summer, when nature, and often our lives, reach their peak of beauty and activity; fall, when it’s dark by 3:30 PM, encouraging concentration on everything we need to accomplish; and winter, when life slows down–at least after the holidays–giving us a couple of months to focus on major projects and prepare for when the cycle of life begins again with the first crocus poking through the earth and the first robin sighting. It would be impossible for someone like me, with 12 generations of New England blood flowing through her veins, to live someplace where the seasons didn’t change.

But enough contemplation! Fall is terrific in Maine and the leaves are changing rapidly in the northern part of the state–about 1/3 of the way toward their peak color in Aroostook, Piscataquis, and Somerset Counties.  Follow the leaf-changing process or sign up for a weekly update through at least Oct. 17 at

At you can learn about Ranger-led foliage hikes and canoe/kayak paddles at historic sites and state parks.  And coming right up on Sept. 28-30, check out the more than 60 events and activities planned for the Great Maine Outdoor Weekend, including hikes, canoe trips, trail walks, and bike rides at

For lots more information about fall in Maine and all there is to do, go to

Sorry, no photos this time. I’ve been busy at home with assignments, but will soon be out enjoying the foliage and sharing some pictures with you.  Meanwhile, enjoy the scarlet and golden days of autumn.