At this point in my life, I have traveled around the world. I have seen the full moon over the Parthenon in Greece, the sunset over Mt. Vesuvius in Italy, the bright lights of the Shanghai riverfront at night, the giant Redwoods of Muir Woods in California and fireworks over the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, but equally inspiring is the view from Ames’ Knob, a little rocky mound on North Haven, a small island in Penobscot Bay, in Maine. In my humble opinioin, Ames’ Knob offers one of the the most beautiful views in the world.
My first visit to the Knob took place on my first trip to Maine in June, 1972. I was soon to get married to a Maine native, Anne Waterman, and Anne insisted, quite rightly, that I visit North Haven before the wedding. Anne’s paternal family had been living on this small rugged piece of granite for many generations dating back to just after the Revolutionary War. Her father, Richard Waterman, grew up on the island, where both his parents worked for rich “summer trouble” as the natives called their employees who came to the island in summertime. Getting drafted into the army during World War II and winding up in medical school in Kansas led Richard to a career as a country doctor in mid-coast Maine, but not on North Haven, which was too small to support a medical practice.
So Anne grew up not on North Haven, but on the mainland, mostly in Waldboro, in Lincoln Co. But her father instilled in her and her brothers a love for the island and for the family they had there. They visited their grandparents on the island as often as they could.
And every trip to North Haven would require a trek up to Ames’ Knob, Anne wanted me to visit North Haven, to visit her grandmother, but she also wanted to take me to the Knob, which was not far from Anne’s grandparents’ house in the village.
After leaving the village, there was a short walk along a country road, where, in summer, one could, if one was lucky, stop to eat a fresh raspberry or two (or three, or four). It wasn’t long before Ames’ Knob became visible up ahead and one turned off the round into a field filled with Queen Anne’s lace, ferns, bayberry, wild rose bushes, young fir trees and even wild blueberries (time for another snack).
The blend of scents is overwhelming, especially on a bright sunny day. There is a narrow path through this wildnerness which leads gradually around the base of the Knob into a small grove of pines. Mixed in with the fir trees are scattered granite projections covered with moss. These pieces of granite are not just mere rocks. They are not even just boulders. Rather they are part of the immense rock formation which a glacier long along created. Ames’ Knob is one huge block of granite jutting up from North Haven.
The granite forms a sort of staircase guiding a climber up the last few steps to the top of the Knob. The view as one leaves the pine grove and mounts those last steps to the summit is breathaking. From the top of Ames’ Knob there is an unobstructed view of not only all of North Haven, but also of her sister island, Vinalhaven, across the straight called the Thoroughfare. If you are lucky you will catch a glimpse of the ferry, which is the only form of public transportation to and from the mainland, wending its way through that Thoroughfare. Houses are visible, scattered here and there, on both islands, but the overwhelming view is that of dramatic nature — trees, water and sky blended together in a palette of various shades of blue and green framed by the greys and browns of the granite. The Camden Hills are visible on the mainland in the distance.
So that is what I saw on my first trip to Maine in 1972. Anne was right. I had to see Ames’ Knob before I could marry her. And it has been a joy over the years to take our children up to Ames’ Knob, too. Here is a photo of me with my daughter Marie on the Knob in 1978.
We don’t get to the island much anymore. Our last visit was to bury Anne’s parents’ ashes on the island, but even that trip included a visit to Ames’ Knob, this time with my daughter Julia and her daughter Dorothy. I hope that someday we can share the Knob with our other grandchildren as well. But even when we can’t visit Ames’ Knob that rock is part of our family consciousness and binds even a boy of New Jersey to the rugged coast of Maine.