Here's Something: Maine, the way summer should be


I think it’s safe to say, now that Memorial Day weekend is upon us, that winter is finally over and we can be confident that snow won’t be flying anytime soon here in Vacationland.

I’ve lived in Maine for almost two decades and as each year rolls by I become more appreciative of summertime. No doubt, winter is never far from a Mainer’s mind. And I’ve learned that the best mental outlook is to consider summer a temporary thaw and nothing to get too excited over; it’ll pass, as the saying goes, like a warm summer’s day.

But, putting aside the curmudgeonly bravado for a moment, summer – which we Mainers define as the time of year when temperatures don’t require a jacket – is a truly wonderful season because the state comes alive in color and you can take advantage of the beautiful natural world.

First off, just going outside in one’s own yard or traveling the roadways during the commute is a welcome respite in summer. Gone is the monochromatic wintry landscape with shades of gray and blinding white. The only color one sees from November to April, it seems, is the dark green of the ubiquitous pine tree. Spring and summer burst forth with “Life in Technicolor,” to steal a phrase from Coldplay.

This summer, I’m hoping to actually get out and do some nice things. I’ve spent the past few years working too much and spending my weekends laboring on house projects and, not to mention, this weekly column. But this summer, with new priorities on my mind, I want to get out and about even more and experience some of the sights, sounds and vistas that Maine has to offer.

I’m betting you do, too.

So what shall we do with our new-found warm weather and time on our hands? Well, the first stop should be the Maine Tourism Association. If you can’t actually get to an information center, the next best thing is to go online to find information on what there is to see and do in Maine. It’s amazing what’s out there, and there’s nothing like a pamphlet or booklet to inform a summer adventurer of what’s available.

Maine is such a huge state, it can be tough to know where to get started. But get started, one must, as Yoda might say.

How about a day at the beach? Reid State Park, Popham, Old Orchard, Mother’s Beach in Kennebunk, Sand Beach in Acadia and York Beach provide amazing outdoor respites.

I’ll diverge from the Maine-centric narrative for a moment here and praise nearby New Hampshire, too. Maine and New Hampshire stand out not only for their beaches, but they have awesome mountains, too. New Hampshire’s White Mountains are worth a visit, and worth a lifetime, just as much as Maine’s mountains are. With my brother, I’ve hiked all 48 of the 4,000-footers in New Hampshire and I’m in the process of hiking the Hundred Highest peaks in New England, most of which are in New Hampshire and Maine.

Some of the best moments of my life have come on Mt. Washington and surrounding mountains, and I hate to let another summer go by without getting up there. Maine’s mountains are a little less dramatic compared with the granite-topped Whites, but Maine’s mountains are more remote and the feeling of wilderness is what keeps the hiker coming back for more.

We’ve got beaches and mountains, and we also have lakes. I’m not a boater, but I’m jealous of anyone who has one. Now’s the time to get out in those canoes, kayaks and motorized vessels of all kinds. Some day when I get rich I’ll buy a boat – since, they say, it’s a hole in the water into which you throw money. But, until then, I’ll enjoy seeing them from shore. Either that or I’ll go on one of the Casco Bay Lines’ summer cruises. I took my mom on one last year and she was blown away with the beauty of the so-called “Calendar Islands,” since there are about 365 of them off Portland.

Summer is the time for all our outdoor sporting passions, as well. Walking, running, bicycling, golfing and tennis top my list, and now’s the time to dust off the equipment. I can’t wait.

Winter is great in Maine, especially for snow sports enthusiasts, but summer reminds us not to spend our lives cooped up in the small world we create either mentally or physically. Instead of being plugged in or watching a screen all day, this summer resolve to get outside. Or as our iconic outfitter, L.L. Bean, would say: Be an outsider. The summer thaw won’t last forever.

John Balentine, a former managing editor for Sun Media Group, lives in Windham. His column will be on hiatus until August.