Maine – Day 3: A Trip to the Desert

I don’t know about you, but when I think of the desert Maine is not the first place that comes to mind. In fact, I’m not sure Maine ever would’ve come to mind had I not seen the “Desert of Maine” on Roadtrippers. I’d never been to the desert before, so I had to check it out.

Brittany poses with sign to Desert of Maine.

Posing next to the sign before entering.

Like I said, I’d never been to the desert before, so here’s sort of what I was expecting. Desert = Sand. Flat. Hot. Humid. Hard to walk on. Now I realize it is early fall in Maine, so hot and humid weren’t deal breakers for me.

There was a sign over a building next to the parking lot saying “tours start here.” Crap, I thought. Am I really going to have to pay to see some sand? Really? Well, there didn’t seem to be anywhere else to go. As I walked in the shop I saw a huge sign boasting $12.25 tours. Despite driving there specifically, and this being my only major adventure of the day, I was not paying $12.25 to go on a tour to see some sand. It just wasn’t happening. I decided to ask the nice lady at the counter if I had to pay for the tour to see the desert or if I could just go wander around.

She informs me that the tours are done for the day, despite it being 4:28 p.m. and the sign saying last tour is at 4:30 p.m. She says I can walk around for $6.25 and then says “let’s make it $6 so you don’t have to look around for a quarter.” Well, I did come all the way out here…deal. So I paid my $6 and got a little green sticker proving I had done so. The lady gave me a map and told me the loop was about a mile.

I walked through the barn museum first to get a little history. From what I learned, no one was really sure why the Desert of Maine came to be, though there were many theories. Today, the thought is that glacial deposits probably formed a lake and when the Tuttles, the original owners of the farm that used to be the Desert of Maine, failed to rotate crops properly it led to top soil erosion and started exposing the sand. The erosion continued until hundreds of acres were covered by sand. Or at least, that’s what I gathered from watching the video on the Desert of Maine website.

For all the claims about how much the desert had grown I was super underwhelmed. I mean, look at all these trees:

Picture of the desert of Maine, lined by trees on the far side.

I didn’t expect so many trees in the desert.

At one point I thought, I’m pretty sure I could run from one side of the desert to the other in ten seconds and I’m not even a fast runner. At least, I figured I could run from where the trees stood on either side of the desert-looking part of the desert. Presumably there is more sand under the underbrush near the trees, but it just looked like a forest to me.

So, for all my assumptions and expectations about the desert, here’s what I actually got: Desert = Some sand. Flat-ish. Not too hot. Not terribly humid. Pretty compacted after a recent rain and super easy to walk on. Lots of trees.

There were signs like the one below throughout my walk, and had I not stopped by the barn museum first and seen pictures of the partially covered Spring House I would’ve totally called shenanigans.

A sign stating "Buried Spring House: Buried beneath this dune is a Spring House built in 1938 and completely covered by 1962."

Apparently sand has completely covered old farm buildings on the property.

So yeah, if you’re into signs telling you things are buried under the sand, and a completely underwhelming amount of sand, then definitely go check out the Desert of Maine. To be fair, I didn’t do the tour, and perhaps that really makes the whole thing worth it, though for $12.25, I’m not sure it would’ve been any better. In fact, had seeing the Desert been free I probably would’ve enjoyed it a lot more than I did. I think I’m just a little sore I actually spent $6 to look at some sand in the middle of Maine, even if it was kinda pretty:

View of the Desert of Maine with trees on either side.

It’s pretty, just not what I expected.

Brittany looks up at a camel statue at the Desert of Maine

Camel at Desert of Maine

Side note: I did appreciate the camel you could take pictures with. And they had other things to do like play Disc Golf, and kids under 12 could dig for gemstones and got to keep three of them, which could be made into jewelry at the shop. They also had a spot to make your own sand bottle. I guess I just got there too late in the day, and was too old and too alone to enjoy most of what they had to offer. Oh well, I’m still glad I checked it out. One less thing on my bucket list.

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