Thoughts on Ellsworth and Lincoln, Maine
by Scott Warner
The Lincoln, ME transfer station
is on Park Avenue, off West
Broadway opposite the Hannaford
parking lot. On a clear day,
Mount Katahdin can be seen,
a jewel in the rough of the north
country of Maine. At other times,
it floats on mist or is shrouded
in clouds, playing peek-a-boo
with the town. It's like Kilimanjaro --
if Hemingway were a Mainer.
Coming from the coastal (and more populated) Ellsworth, ME area, I've
pondered such images. On the surface, the towns are not all that different.
Ellsworth is the "Crossroads of Downeast Maine" at the juncture of routes 1
Routes 2 and 6 cross in Lincoln.
From the two towns, both forty five minutes from Bangor, much of Maine and
even Canada can be reached in a short time. But the similarities are superficial,
like lines on a map.
A deeper look reveals much about the character and contrast of Maine, two
reasons the state attracts such a diverse population.
Millions clog Ellsworth each season toward Acadia National Park on Mount
Desert Island like hungry cattle. They stop along a strip of factory outlets,
shopping centers, and gift shops from High Street in Ellsworth to route 3 in
Trenton. Man-made attractions lure them: a Trenton zoo, Timber Tina's
lumberjack show, go-carts, miniature golf, and sight-seeing plane rides.
Restaurants serve steamers and lobsters.
Oddly, it is Nature the tourists come to see. Acadia is a pocket of wild
America with groomed carriage trails and cobbled walkways designed to
gently introduce city folk to the back country. Atop gently rounded Mount
Cadillac, one views Bar Harbor itself much as it might have looked a half
century ago, for the town won't allow glitzy advertising.
By contrast, the logging and pulp trucks of Maine's paper industry constantly
rumble and weave through Lincoln like dyspeptic dragons. It takes a while to
get used to their racket. Shopping is practical, with a Hannaford, a Wal-Mart,
and two hardware stores (three if one counts Mardens' basement). The doctors
and lawyers in town drive 4-wheel drive pickups and wear jeans. A gift store
is named "Possibilities" as though making a hopeful suggestion.
Restaurants serve meat and potatoes with or without deep frying. There is no
zoo, but one may see deer or moose in town. Timber Tina might cause a
snicker or two. While Acadia is in the middle of civilization, Lincoln is in the
middle of the wild. There are areas of town where one can hike to Canada and
never cross a road, so I'm told, and hikers can always climb Katahdin to walk
the Knife's Edge if they're bored.
Ellsworth winters are a maddening "tease and freeze," thanks to the warm
Atlantic currents. I never got used to them. It may snow in October or it may
rain into December, or there may be a two week cold snap of forty below,
teeth-numbing weather. In January there is a thaw when it may be forty
above for several days. It can snow in Ellsworth, sleet in Trenton, and rain in
Bar Harbor at the same time. Half-hearted winters drop snowfall from crisp to
slush through the beginning of April when mud season begins. The area
seems to live for the heat and tourists of summer. Fall brings vibrant colors
and "leaf peepers," a second wave of tourists.
Lincoln, however, is serious about winter, and the feeling is mutual. Once it
snows in November, the whining of snowmobile engines fills the air.
Snowmobilers ride across Mattanawcook Lake as soon as it freezes. Even
during a twenty below snap the machines run well into the night. Those who
ride onto the vast ice warm themselves in ice fishing shacks that remain into
April, and the snow sticks until May. The winters are the good, old-fashioned
Maine kind with plenty of snow and a good deal of
disappointment if there isn't.
There are more people about in the winter in Lincoln than in Ellsworth. When
the seasons change the town shifts gears as those who plow snow and work
indoors drive skidders and work in the woods.
People who don't work at the mill make money however they can. Fall is a
special treat like the bags of candy carried by the small ghouls, goblins,
and superheroes of Halloween. Kids still walk the streets in Lincoln. They
don't in Ellsworth.
While one stands atop Cadillac's pink granite to see a distant coastal past,
inland the past seems closer, almost like stepping back in time. From old
houses to old timers who think hand tools are still a good idea, I can't help but
feel that areas like Lincoln stubbornly lag behind for good reason.
Life on the coast may be faster, more colorful, and more expensive, but one
must deliberately pause to appreciate its beauty, like a polished jewel on
display. Perhaps, people in Lincoln are less awe-struck by Nature than coastal
dwellers because it is everywhere and is part of everyday life.
Certainly, they are no less appreciative. Beauty is always worth appreciating.
About the author:
Scott Warner was born in New Jersey but grew up in the Oxford Hills region of
western Maine. After a stint in the Air Force stationed in Washington,
D.C., he settled in Downeast Maine for twenty years, living in the Ellsworth
area and working in local hospital laboratories. He now lives in Lincoln
with his wife and two boys where he is a hospital laboratory manager and
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