Book Review: 'Best Nature Sites: Midcoast Maine'

Posted Wednesday, January 25, 2012 in Sustainable Maine

Book Review: 'Best Nature Sites: Midcoast Maine'

"Best Nature Sites: Midcoast Maine"

by Tony Oppersdorff and Kyrill Schabert

Waterline Books, Jefferson

192 pages,  $24.50

reviewed by Steve Cartwright

If you love being outdoors in unspoiled natural beauty, this is the book for you. It’s a dream book. You could spend a lifetime visiting all the pretty places described and photographed here. Even if you could visit all of them in a year, you’d want to go back again.

I can say that with some authority since I know many of these special, protected places first-hand, having lived in midcoast Maine for about 40 years.

Clearly, these collaborating authors share my passion for natural places, and for the region we gratefully call home. Kyrill Schabert published the book from his home in the tiny lakeside town of Jefferson; photographer Tony Oppersdorff, who I’ve followed for years, lives in Lincolnville where he and I both serve on the board of Tanglewood/Blueberry Cove 4H Camp and Learning Center.

Friendships aside, this is a valuable little book, easy enough to carry with you on your travels. It offers maps, easy-to-follow directions and fascinating tidbits of information, whether historical, botanical, cultural or marine. As we explore our region, its rivers, ponds and streams, we are, like the water, led down to the sea.

You can learn about the pretty white flower called Labrador tea, follow the alewives on the Damariscotta Mills fish ladder, explore the wildlife of Weskeag Marsh, and learn about wild rice, horseshoe crabs and harbor seals.

The book is laid out like a series of articles, all of them intriguing and different. If nothing else, "Best Nature Sites" reminds us that we live in a natural paradise, and far-sighted groups and individuals have worked hard to protect and preserve some very special places.

Those sites start with the Cox Pinnacle in Brunswick, a bit of wildness near town, to the Stover Preserve in Belfast, along an undeveloped stretch of the Passagasawakeag River. By the way, I only recently learned how locals pronounce it: Puh-sag-a-sah-walkee. Or just call it the Passy.

In between are such fascinating places as the ancient Native People’s oyster-shell middens on the Damariscotta River, known as the Whaleback midden and dating back some 10,000 years.

One of the prettiest – I’ve learned never to say prettiest, oldest, biggest, etc. – spots is Beech Hill in Rockport, where amid blueberry fields the stone Beechnut cottage has a sod roof and you can see much of Penobscot Bay and its islands.

All of the places in this book, I believe, are free and continuously open to the public. And that is a very wonderful thing. It's something to celebrate, along with the arrival of this handy guidebook, full of small discoveries.

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