August 08, 2023

The Big Chicken Barn & Other Adventures in Mid-Coast Maine

I’ve said before that it doesn’t take much to make us happy.  A pretty and private campsite, a leisurely cup of coffee, scenic vistas, intriguing walking or biking paths, the sound of running water or ocean waves, fresh regional foods – all can be easily enjoyed without much effort or expense.  When we arrive at a destination, it’s often with a scavenger hunt type of list loaded with places that we think we’ll find interesting, good possibilities for a picnic lunch with a view and fun-filled activities we might want to try.  We’ve survived many an outing on nothing more than peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, granola bars and iced tea or water, but those PBJs are quickly swapped out for regional foods and unique dining opportunities that we come across by happenstance.

On the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, Alan and I began our day with another scavenger hunt list.  We have no idea whether or not other tourists do anything similar and, frankly, we don’t care.  To each his own.  Our particular brand of exploring suits us just fine, and we happily set out with our list of destinations.  The list included a couple of towns west of Ellsworth (the Gateway to Down East), so maybe we should consider Sunday’s adventures to be Up West.  Or Out West.  Never mind.  Instead of going “that a way,” we decided to head “this a way.”

The working harbor in the tiny town of Corea

Our first stop was, actually, just a tiny bit Down East.  The small town of Corea, Maine, is really small with a population of just under 200 people.  I had read that the harbor was particularly picturesque, and knew that the Wharf Gallery and Grill was a popular lobster shack kind of place on the docks.  Since Corea was less than 15 minutes “Down East” from our campsite at Schoodic Woods, we headed over there first, just to check out the restaurant on the wharf.  If it held any appeal, we planned to have an early lunch, and then tackle the remainder of our destinations.  Parking was tight, but it definitely looked like our kind of place – a hand-lettered menu on a whiteboard and picnic tables on the dock overlooking the working harbor promised a casual, low-key meal.  Unfortunately, one of the local lobstermen informed us that the Wharf Grill didn’t open for the season until the following day.  Our hopes for a unique and enjoyable dining experience were dashed.  But not for long.

Bad timing at the Wharf Gallery & Grill

You might recall that, in my last post, I mentioned we had stopped for an evening meal at Helen’s in Machias when we were exploring Down East the day before.  Since we hadn’t been able to fit in a slice of pie for which Helen’s is so very well known, I made it my business to add a pie stop to Sunday’s itinerary.  Helen’s has a second location in Ellsworth (link HERE), and I knew we’d be passing through on our way to Sunday’s destinations.  Sometimes, the soft breezes of fate blow perfect opportunities our way, and it would be foolish to ignore them.  And that is how we came to have pie for lunch.

After picking up the dessert menu, I immediately ran into a problem.  I had been planning on a slice of Helen’s award winning blueberry pie.  After all, Maine is known for its abundance of blueberries, and those found wild in Maine taste almost nothing like the blueberries we get at our local farm market.  But, there on the dessert menu was a graham cracker cream pie – something I had never heard of before that moment in time.  Similar in appearance to a coconut cream pie, the graham cracker cream pie was vanilla flavored with a thick graham cracker crust.  (Okay, so maybe we had stopped by the dessert case on our way to our table to check out the offerings.)  Do you see my dilemma?  Blueberry pie or graham cracker cream pie?  What to do?!


I asked Alan if he would split a piece of blueberry pie, in addition to his own slice of pie.  (I already knew what he was going to order.  He’s a sucker for chocolate cream pie and I had seen a scrumptious looking slice in the display case.)  My cohort in crime, to my complete surprise, said no way.  He figured one large slice was plenty.  Aaarrrgh!  Back to my dilemma.  Blueberry or graham cracker cream?

Chocolate Cream

When our server took our order, I asked for coffee and a slice of blueberry pie.  Then she turned to Alan, and I had to say, “Wait, I’m not done yet.  I’ll also have a slice of graham cracker cream pie.”  Alan looked incredulous.  But, honestly, it was lunch time and I was hungry.  If we were going to have pie for lunch, I figured in for a dime, in for a dollar.  What’s wrong with two slices?

Graham Cracker Cream

When our three slices of pie arrived, Alan couldn’t text the kids fast enough.  After all, I’m that mom whose kids had healthy meals every day and who monitored their treats when they were young.  I did get some blowback from Kyra (along the lines of, "OMG! MOM!"), but Ryan jumped right on the pie wagon with me.  Of course, I offered to share my slices with Alan, and he did take a taste of each, as I recall.  What I remember for sure, though, is that I ate every single bite of both of them – and they were absolutely DELICIOUS!

Three slices and a text

An intentional digression:  Before you call the diet police, let me assure you that I really do watch both the type and number of calories I take in.  I still clock in at my wedding weight of 115 pounds – and that wedding was 40+ years ago.  If I indulge, like I oh so obviously did at Helen’s, I’ll make up for it at other meals.  And I walk or bike nearly every day.  So no worries, please.  Although it’s very much appreciated, I can assure you that there is no need for concern.  Wink, wink.

Stuffed with pies, we waddled back to the truck and continued on down the line.  Our next stop was on the western outskirts of Ellsworth - The Big Chicken Barn Books & Antiques (link HERE).  I was told that this e-n-o-r-m-o-u-s barn used to have a really big chicken statue out front.  Whether the shop got its name from the chicken statue or from the fact that it had really been a big barn for chickens, I do not know.  However, the Big Chicken Barn is, indeed, big.  The bottom floor is filled with antiques; the upper floor is filled with books.  I really don’t know how much time we spent there, but Alan and I wandered through the lower floor finding many items we recognized from our childhood home and from the homes of older relatives.  It was rather disconcerting to realize that so much of the detritus of our lives was considered to be “antique.”  I didn’t think we were that old but, apparently, we are!

I told you it was big.

Alan, who is not the reader that I am, chose not to explore the upstairs with me, so I didn’t dawdle.  All the while I was walking the upstairs length of the barn and looking at row after row of books, I was thinking of my friend, Patty.  If Patty had been with me instead of Alan, we’d probably still be there, walking around with armloads of used books to purchase.  While there were a couple of items in the lower level that I could easily have been convinced to buy, in the end, I left the shop with just two Maine license plates.  They were on sale, and my total expense was less than ten bucks.  Between the books and the antiques, it could have been a lot worse.

Bookshelves ran the entire length of the Big Chicken Barn.

From the Big Chicken Barn, we meandered over to Bucksport, Maine, in search of the Waterfront Walkway.  I sincerely appreciate the towns that make visitors feel welcome, and provide them with easy access to the local points of interest.  At the Waterfront Walkway, a parking lot was easily accessible, and restrooms were available at either end.  The citizens of Bucksport obviously work hard to keep the Walkway clean and attractive.  The Veterans' Memorial, a magnificent monument to local veterans from the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard and Merchant Marines, graced the edge of the parking lot.  Like the Lost Fishermen’s Memorial in Lubec, it was a poignant reminder of the tremendous losses faced by local families and the Bucksport community over the years.

Veterans' Memorial - Bucksport, Maine

The Waterfront Walkway was just under a mile long, and followed the shoreline of the Penobscot River.  Across the river, we could see Fort Knox, (no, not that Fort Knox, but one of the best preserved military installations in New England), and the Penobscot Narrows Bridge Observatory.  Both are open to visitors.  With plenty of benches along the way, the Walkway was exceptionally welcoming and a delightful place to spend an hour – or several.

A view of the Waterfront Walkway from near the parking area

Y’all know that we’re avid boaters.  In boating, navigational lights are required from sunset to sunrise, including side marker lights that can be seen for one nautical mile from dead ahead to 112.5 degrees aft.  The light on the starboard side of the boat (the right side of the boat as you’re standing in it and looking toward the front – or bow – of the boat) is green; the light on the port (left) side is red.  As we came upon the Bucksport Marina while strolling along the Waterfront Walkway, Alan noticed that their office porch lights were red (on the port side) and green (on the starboard side).  That special touch brought a smile to my face; I admire that attention to detail.  Someone’s sense of humor is very much in evidence at the Bucksport Marina.

Definitely feeling welcome at the Bucksport Marina

Do you remember I mentioned in my last post that Castine was my favorite small town in Maine?  Do you want to know why?  First of all, there was that $1.2 million dollar waterfront home that caught my attention.  I’m not really a “summer home” kind of person but, if I was, the Castine zip code would be right up my alley.  What really and truly won me over, though, was the tiny town’s waterfront area.  Alan and I had come across a number of Little Libraries during our travels in Maine, and we found an unusually creative one in Castine.  How can you not fall in love with a town that interweaves its love of books with its love of the water like this?

The Castine waterfront offered a large parking area, public restrooms, a wide-open view of Castine Harbor, and a sprawling wooden deck on which the Harbormaster’s office was situated and which offered a number of picnic tables overlooking the water.  While we were lounging around the docks, Alan and I watched a 35’ sailboat, take on fresh water and a few family members, and head out again on a beautiful blue sky day.  And we laughed as the tiny tour boat, “Lil Toot,” with its candy-cane striped awning zipped back and forth across the harbor.

Notice "Lil Toot" behind the sailboat

The tiny town of Castine (population of just over 800) is also home to the Maine Maritime Academy.  While many of us are studying to become accountants and electricians, teachers and computer techs, students here are pursuing degrees related to the sea and life in, on and around it.  Courses of study include Coastal Marine Environmental Science, International Logistics Management, Marine Engineering Technology, Maritime Management, Oceanography and Vessel Operations & Technology.  Life along the coast is much different from the lives that many of us lead.

The welcoming waterfront in Castine

Our last stop before leaving Castine was the Dyce Head Lighthouse at the mouth of the Penobscot River.  Although this sweet little gem is privately owned, visitors are permitted to photograph the exterior, as long as they remain in public areas and respect the residents’ privacy.  Having already visited a number of lighthouses on this trip (with more to come), I think it’s safe to say that lighthouses, just like our National Parks, all have their own special personalities.  Dyce Head seemed to say, "Look at me!  I'm adorable!"

Shhh!  Don't disturb the residents!

Since the scrumptious pie we had at Helen’s was a long look away in our rearview mirror, Alan and I turned our thoughts toward an evening meal.  We decided to stop at Tracey’s Seafood in Sullivan (link HERE), about 15 minutes from our campsite on the Schoodic Peninsula.  The Tracey family runs their own lobster traps, and digs their own clams.  Guests reap the benefits of fresh seafood and 2 for 1 specials on lobster rolls.  Alan and I ordered four lobster rolls for a total of $40.00 (thanks to the 2 for 1 deal) and a side order of onion rings.  Although we could have enjoyed our meal right there at Tracey’s, either indoors or at one of their outdoor picnic tables, the views of the Route 1 traffic weren’t exactly appealing to us.  We much preferred our quiet, wooded site at Schoodic Woods, so we brought our tasty treats home with us.  It seems like lobster rolls, just like lighthouses and National Parks, have their own personalities.  The lobster rolls from Tracey’s were smaller and, perhaps a little less stuffed with lobster than those we enjoyed at Thurston’s Lobster Pound over on Mt. Desert Island.  That being said, they were just as tasty and offered plenty of value compared to the price of $26.95 for a single lobster roll at Thurston’s.  Would we go back to Tracey’s?  Absolutely!  (Thurston’s, too!)  Plus, its location makes it a convenient stop on the way home to Schoodic Woods.  So far on this trip, I haven’t met a lobster roll I didn’t like!

Tasty takeout from Tracey's!  (The onion rings were excellent, too!)

Our week at Schoodic Woods was winding down to a close.  We had just two more days left before we moved on to Freeport.   Monday (Labor Day) would find us chilling out at the campsite and on the Schoodic Peninsula.  Tuesday would the last day we’d spend in Acadia National Park proper.  As always, there were more adventures to come.  




  1. Pie for lunch? Oh yeah, I'm right there with ya. Although, I can't say I'm at the weight I was when I got married 40 years ago ... sigh. Kudos to you.

    1. Thank you, Ingrid! You know that expression, "Life's uncertain; eat dessert first?" First time I put it into play - and not sorry I did. 😋

    2. I bet that pie was delicious! Putting a few of these places on the list for the next time we visit Maine. Especially the Big Chicken barn! Mary - we would have been there for quite a while between the antiques and the books. I try to stop by every library in towns that we visit. They always have used books for sale! I really enjoy your posts Mary - so much great information that you share with us all - Your book reading friend. 😃

    3. Omigosh! That pie was SO delicious! No regrets at all. The minute I saw all those books, I knew you would love the Big Chicken Barn. With the fun of browsing through all the antiques and then taking the time to go through all those rows of books, we could have spent half a day there, easily. Happy to know you're enjoying the posts! I think you guys would love Schoodic Woods Campground - it's right up your alley.

  2. Such cool and unusual things you discover! II only we could have the return of the gift of youth and the energy it brings. And if you keep showing things like those pies and lobster rolls, I'm going to have to turn you in to the fat police. I gain weight merely looking at them! Great post, as usual, Mary.

    1. Please don't turn me in, Mike! I'm having way too much fun sampling all the regional foods we come across. I will admit that I don't like to cook, so I especially enjoy finding great eateries along the way. As for cool and unusual things, whenever I hear or read about an attraction or activity we may enjoy, I add it to a list of travel notes broken down by state. That provides plenty of fodder for the "scavenger hunts" we like so much.


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