An autumn ramble in the western mountains of Maine

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EIMG_4590ven though the color is a bit from peak, it’s still gorgeous in the Bethel area. If you’re looking to slip away for a day or two, you won’t go wrong here in the next week or so.

My overnight began with a backroad noodle through the village- and lake-speckled rural countryside between m Augusta and Bethel. Trust me on this: Arm yourself with a DeLorme Map and Guide and just mosey through Leeds, Turner, Buckfield, Sumner etc. The rewards are well worth a few wrong turns; actually getting lost is half the fun.

IMG_4577Once in Bethel, I met a friend for lunch, a pulled-pork sandwich at BBQ Bob’s Orange Trailer, adjacent to the Good Food Store on Route 2. Despite retreating to a car to finish lunch due to an afternoon sprinkle, I give this picnic table enterprise high marks. Wasn’t too crazy about the cornbread, but the pork was delish.

Then off to the Crocker Pond House, an architect-designed B&B down a rural byway off Route 2. What a find! Stuart (he’s the architect) and Ellen Crocker’s B&B blends angles, projections, big windows, balconies, soaring spaces and intimate places into a cozy whole. Family rooms have sleeping lofts for the kids, a great idea. So quiet at night, too. How quiet? While in the living room, I could hear the soft psiu psiu of the cats padding down the hall. And outside, acres of undeveloped land, with a big lawn, a private pond, and trails deep into the woods. And breakfast? Stuart’s magnificent blueberry pancakes.

For dinner, I hit $5 burger night at the Jolly Drayman at the Brier Lea, an extremely popular Monday night happening in Bethel. No little patties here, these are big burgers topped with lettuce, onion, and tomato and served with a generous side of fries. All for $5.

IMG_4682Next morning, I wandered around Bethel, then drove over Paradise Hill, a must for foliage viewing without stress. Drive out past the Bethel Inn, then keep going, bending to the left on Paradise Hill Road. It climbs up to a ridge with panoramic mountain views off both sides, before dropping. At the T intersection, turn left and you’ll be back in downtown Bethel. A quick loop, but one with big rewards for leaf peepers.

Lunch: S.S. Milton. First time I’ve returned since it replaced Mother’s ages ago. I’ll definitely make it a must on my returns to Bethel. Good food, well prepared, friendly service, and a comfy space: a warren of small rooms in an old Victorian on Main Street. IMG_4587

Next stop, Cafe DiCocoa for chocolate chip cookies (yup, these rival those at Old Gourmet for top honors so far) and tea for the road. (Note to self: Return in winter for one of the ethnic themed prix fixe dinners).

IMG_4706Final stop, in Turner at Nezinscot Farm. What a gem, a family farm/fiber store/frommagerie/cafe/and so much  more. I purchased farm-made cheese, meats, relish, pickles, Anadama bread (some of the best I’ve had, right up there with that from Friar’s Bakery, in Bangor) and yes, a cookie (excellent!, a contender).