Desert Of Maine
Maine residents insist that it doesn't rain all the time in their state, but you wouldn't know it from our visits. Horrible blinding downpours; it just works out that way. So, what better time to visit that mainstay of New England tourism, that arid anomaly -- the Desert of Maine.
The story is that a couple of hundred years ago, bad farming practices on this farm near Freeport destroyed its protective layer of grass. Sand dunes crept across 40 acres of once arable land.
In 1917, enterprising Henry Goldrup bought the land and began to exploit its unique characteristics as a tourist attraction. The present owners bought the Desert in 1982, and continue the tradition. Today, a large gift shop provides entry. You can take a narrated tour, wander on your own path, or enjoy the wasteland from the picnic area. Or maybe not!
"Every weekend's been beautiful up until today!" insisted the gift shop lady, but the London Fog outlet down the road hints at a different story. Between torrents, we scamper over dunes to peer at half-buried shacks, camel statues, sand, and more sand. The Sahara effect is tarnished by perfectly healthy, green trees visible in all directions. More than a local dirt biker's pleasure pit, but somewhat less than a "desert" by any stretch of the imagination.
A pleasant surprise awaits in a sheltering barn -- the Sand Museum. Small samples of sand have been collected or donated from all over the world. You can gawk at vials from Atlantic City's beach; White Sands, NM; magnetic sand from Lappollar, Chile; and from President Eisenhower's Gettysburg putting green. The collecting seems to have stopped many years ago.
Another bright spot -- an excellent gift shop. Our pick was the Desert of Maine snow globe with the ocean liner inside (instead of a camel), "a mistake at the factory" offered at discount price! Not exactly the "ships of the desert" they had in mind....