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It’s no secret that I’ve spent my past couple of summers in the forests of a camp in Fryeburg, Maine. I’ve been seeing several social media posts lately about the Fryeburg Fair that just happened in the past couple of weeks, so I’ve finally felt compelled to finish this post after weeks of having it in my “Drafts” folder. About two months ago, I drove out of camp to begin the journey back towards home and it’s been long overdue that I write about my summers in Fryeburg.
Ah, good old Fryeburg. No matter what route brings you into Fryeburg, it’s easy to just think of it as another tiny town in rural America. There are a few things you can expect once you cross the state line from New Hampshire – a couple of small gas stations, the main street with a hardware, a restaurant, and some other small businesses, a Dollar General, and a giant plot of land known as the Fryeburg Fairgrounds. If you know where to look, there’s even a small regional airport – where a major air race ended and I got to see the planes! In the center of town, you’ll find one of the oldest boarding schools in America, Fryeburg Academy. With a population near 3,400 (which I never would have guessed!), the town spreads out over approximately 65 miles of land and water. Speaking of water, the beautiful Saco River weaves its way through and around the town. In the summer, it’s not unusual to witness an abundance of people canoeing, kayaking, and floating down the river in tubes or hot pink flamingo floats. If you’re lucky, you might even witness Stephen King shopping at the local Rite Aid (wasn’t me this time, but I’ve heard stories).
That just scrapes the surface of Fryeburg, Maine. It may not sound exciting to some, but there’s just SOMETHING about it.
“Did you ever see a place that looks like it was built just to enjoy? Well, this whole state of Maine looks that way to me.” –Will Rogers
Seriously. Trees, water, rocks, the sky, any maple product you want, the accents on the local people – like I said, there’s just SOMETHING about Maine. For the 8-9 weeks that I’m there in the summer, there’s always an abundance of summer activity happening in the area, not to mention that all of the camp staff descends upon the town from all over the world. Staffers from all over the United States, Spain, England, Australia, New Zealand, Venezuela, Hungary, Israel, and other countries converge in this rural place. Add the touristy people who are just visiting the Mount Washington Valley area and you’re in the middle of one very eclectic melting pot in New England.
If you’re wondering about some more specific aspects of Fryeburg, and my overall Maine experience, I’ve got some highlights for you below!
In Fryeburg (and really all of Maine, I’d think), the summers are incredible. Warm and sunny by day, chilly and crisp by night and the same at sunrise. On July 4, 2017, I posted on Facebook about wearing a t-shirt, hoodie (with my hood up), shorts, sweatpants, and socks to sleep because the nights and early mornings were so cool. In the summer of 2018, we couldn’t stop sweating because it was so warm and humid. The weather is, indeed, the weather. That said, the natural beauty of Maine makes up for the odd weather. I’m also in Indiana where it’s been 88 degrees for several days in October, so nothing surprises me!
View of the Saco River
Nature & Outdoor Activities
So much of Maine is a really uncharted territory. Fryeburg and the surrounding area is no exception. With mountains, forest, fields, lakes, rivers, and winding roads as far you can see, it’s easy to see why nature and outdoor enthusiasts flock to the area.
- Float/canoe/kayak down the Saco River.
- Climb Jockey Cap Trail.
- Look at the mountains.
- Wildlife to observe.
“There’s a quality of life in Maine which is this singular and unique. I think. It’s absolutely a world onto itself.” –Jamie Wyeth
“I would rather feel bad in Maine than feel good anywhere else.” – E.B. White
Like I’ve mentioned, Fryeburg isn’t the biggest and most sweeping metropolis. It’s a small town, but there’s more than you would anticipate. Dollar General, Rite Aid, gas stations, hardware store, thrift shop – some businesses you might expect. On the other hand, there are a few that I’m always shocked to see in a small town.
- The Oxford House Inn – The restaurant here is incredible. The few times I’ve been here have been wonderful – from the atmosphere, to view, to the presentation, they deliver. I’ve mentioned their food in another post, but it’s a MUST if you’re in town. Make a reservation STAT. It’s also a historic B&B!
- Spice & Grain – This place comes highly recommended by my camp friends. A small town with a NATURAL and ORGANIC food store!? Come on – that’s exciting!
- Fryeburg Academy’s Leura Hill Performing Arts Center – I have seen some beautiful arts venues in my time, but dang – I’d love to try directing or working on something in this space. Seriously TOP OF THE LINE and it’s in Fryeburg!
- Quinn’s Jockey Cap – Gas station, bakery, coffee, beer & liquor, great to-go food – all in one stop! Can’t beat that wherever you are!
- Saco River Brewing – We all know that I don’t want to miss out on a good brewery.
- 302 Smokehouse & Tavern – Another spot with a view, tasty beverages, good food. They often have live entertainment and trivia, so that’s always a nice surprise.
- Froagie’s Ice Cream – Another thing you HAVE to try if you’re in the area!
- Saco Valley Sports Center – Candlepin bowling! Another New England thing that I’ll never find in the Midwest.
- Weston’s Farm – This is the quaintest little country market! Maine-produced wines, meats, cheese, produce, maple syrup – they’ve got it!
- Fair Grounds Community Coffee – This was NEW last summer for me and I loved getting to stop in there a few times a week!
“In Maine, there is a deeply ingrained sense that you can always get a little more out of something.” — Tim Sample
I’ve said it above and I’ll say it again – there’s just something about Maine. Granted I’m only there for what seems like a fleeting moment, thanks to camp, it’s left a mark on me because there really is nothing like it. As we say at Forest Acres, “you’ll be back.” One of my camp colleagues summed it up in the best way in her end of summer blog post.
“I felt like I’d been misplaced in the cosmos and I belonged in Maine.” –Terry Goodkind
On a few lighter notes, I always appreciate a few things in Maine that I just can’t get back home in Indiana.
- Lobster at a decent price. Hell, they even sell it at McDonald’s out there.
- Moxie – a Maine-specific soda. I can’t explain it, but now that I’ve tried it, it’s a treat.
- Clams that are gorgeous. Get them outside of Maine and they never look quite the same.
- Every. Single. Town. is CHARMING. The architecture, the winding roads, TINY post office buildings, etc. are all so charming.
- Water is never far away! Lakes, rivers, oceans – they’re all close by!
- Seeing a moose! Seeing a bear! Seeing fisher cats! So many cool animal sightings.
- The Maine Accent – it’s a thing. From the word “ayuh” to the lack of the letter “R,” it is fascinating to hear the locals talk!
- Harbors and coastlines – ‘Nuff said.
- BLUEBERRIES – over 90% of the country’s blueberries are grown there!
- BILLBOARDS. ARE. ILLEGAL. IN. MAINE. Did you know that!? It’s a good thing because I want to look at the scenery and not be flashed with ads every two miles.
Related: A Few Days in Portland, Maine
If you’ve never been to Maine – city, coast, mountain, whatever – I highly encourage it. Life is truly different there in more ways than one. If your travel interests include food, outdoors, history, or shopping – you can find it there. Big (kinda) city and the small towns have a lot to offer vacationers, retirees, or long-term travelers. Needless to say, I’m smitten and can’t wait to keep exploring.