Blueberry blues

DSC_2765God blessed way, way, way downeast Washington County with a land- and seascape that rivals almost anywhere in the world.

Craggy headlands crown rockbound shores; deep forests hide pristine lakes and rushing streams; finger-like peninsulas are pocketed with rough-and-tumble fishing villages; hidden coves cosset wooden wharves piled with traps, lines, and buoys.

Complementing it all are blueberry barrens, rare coastal peat bogs, stunted jack pines, soaring spruce, and gentle fields. It’s a land rich with wildlife, sealife, and nature-based recreation: hunting and fishing, hiking and mountain biking, puffin-sighting and whale-watching cruises, kayaking and canoeing.

What God didn’t provide are jobs.

Most folks piece together a living by the seasons: working in the woods, fishing, clamming, raking blueberries, tipping for or making wreaths, crafts, tourism. But this year has dealt them blow after blow.

• the recession (as if times weren’t hard enough)

• layoffs at the region’s paper mill and the ever-present threat of permanent closure

• low price on lobsters, which has caused many a lobsterman to pull his traps

• red tide, which has closed clamming flats

• rain and fog, which have wrecked havoc on just about everything (boating excursions canceled, campers heading home, farmers’ fields flooded, roads undermined)

And now comes the Valdensinia leaf spot, a fungus that’s threatening the wild blueberry crop.


The stream of tourists has slowed to a trickle. I say, weather be damned. If you’re looking for a getaway that’s rich in natural experiences yet low in costs, head to Washington County. Sure it’s a bit of a drive; yes, you have to pass by a lot of other Maine treasures; but trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

But you might want to bring an umbrella and galoshes.


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