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"Monhegan is one of the last pristine bastions of coastal nature remaining in the United States.."
- Greg Salow

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USA

Monhegan Island
by Greg Salow, Portland, Maine, USA
Jan 7, 2000

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Imagine hiking on a distant island. Bright orange butterflies, purple flowers, and bony spruce trees surround you. This island is the home to over 100 kinds of exotic birds and more than 600 varieties of wildflowers. Imagine breathing in the raw, salty air. Perched atop a 160 foot cliff, you gaze out to the endless, wild ocean below.

You might expect to find a place like this on some faraway island in the Pacific. To the surprise of many, such a place exists off the coast of Maine. It is called Monhegan Island. Monhegan is one of the last pristine bastions of coastal nature remaining in the United States. The island lies nine miles off mid-coast Maine. While getting there takes a bit of planning and effort, it is certainly worth the trip.

To get there, you catch a morning ferry from Port Clyde, Maine, which is located two hours north of Portland just off of Route 1. I arrived at the pier early one foggy September morning. Hungry, I asked the dockhand to recommend a place to grab breakfast. The white-bearded dockhand resembled Skipper from Gilliganís Island. He said slowly, "If you wanna eat somethen, you gotta go ovah theyah around the corner to the stoha. But I canít promise you itís open.

Needing to kill time, I followed Skipperís advice and bought some goodies at the general store. The checkout lady bore no resemblance Ginger or Mary Ann. In fact, this woman carefully ignored my greeting. She didnít even bother to look up as she handed back the change. Puzzled, I checked to make sure my sure my fly was zipped. No problem there. I shrugged and walked out armed with a donut and beef jerky breakfast just in time to board the boat.

The ferry takes only people and pets. No vehicles from the mainland are allowed. In fact, Monhegan is streaked with a narrow dirt road barely wide enough for lobstermen to haul their catch in pickup trucks. Most locals drive golf carts.

The island first gained popularity during the late 19th century when artists flocked to it. Today, there are 75 full-time residents who mostly fish or support tourist-related businesses for a living. Several artist studios still stand. But unlike many Maine tourist destinations, the visitor sees dirt roads lined with lobster traps and fishing nets rather than paved roads lined with candle shops and boutiques selling plastic lobsters. Thousands of people visit the 1 1/2 mile long island each year. Birders, hikers, writers, artists and loners pass through in search of New England paradise.

and Greg's about to meet his Juliet.. yes for real

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