As big as the other five
New England states combined, MAINE barely has the population
of tiny Rhode
Island. In theory,
therefore, there's plenty of room for its massive summer influx
of visitors; in reality, the majority of these make for the southern
stretches of the extravagantly corrugated coast . You only really
begin to appreciate the size and space of the state further north,
or inland , where vast tracts of mountainous forest are dotted
with lakes, and barely pierced by roads - more like the Alaskan
interior than the RV-cluttered roads of the Vermont and New
and ideal territory for hiking and canoeing (and moose spotting).
Although Maine is in many
ways inhospitable - the Algonquin called it "Land of the
Frozen Ground" - it has been in contact with Europe ever
since the arrival of the Vikings , around 1000 AD. For the navigator
Verrazano, in 1524, the "crudity and evil manners"
of the Indians made this the "Land of Bad People,"
but before long European fishermen were setting up camps each
summer to dry their catch. Francis Bacon in turn said that the
English were "worse than the very Savages, impudently lying
with their Women and teaching their men to drink drunke."
North America's first agricultural
colonies were in Maine: de Champlain's French Protestants near
Mount Desert Island in 1604, and an English group that survived
one winter at the mouth of the Kennebec three years later. In
the face of the unwillingness of subsequent English settlers
to let them farm in peace, the local Indians formed a long-term
alliance with the French, and until as late as 1700 regularly
drove out streams of impoverished English refugees. By 1764,
however, the official census could claim that even Maine's black
popu lation was more numerous than its Native Americans.
Originally part of Massachusetts, Maine became a separate entity
only in 1820, when the Missouri Compromise made Maine a free,
and Missouri a slave, state. In the nineteenth
century, its people had a reputation for conservatism and resistance
to immigration, manifested in anti-Irish riots. The state's economy
has always been heavily based on the sea, although many of those
who fish also farm, and long expeditions are now rare. Recently
they have been selling their catch direct to Russian factory
ships anchored just offshore. Lobster fishing in particular has
defied gloomy predictions and has boomed again as evidenced by
the many thriving lobster pounds.
Maine's climate is famously
harsh. In winter, most of Maine is under ice; summer is short
and usually heralded in early June by an infestation of tiny
black flies. Fall colors begin to spread from the north in late
September - when, unlike elsewhere in New England, off-season
prices apply - but temperatures drop sharply, becoming quite
frosty by mid-October.
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