Farms and fields line lovely Townhouse Road north of Whitefield.
Photo Credit : Sara Gray
MAINE FOLIAGE DRIVE
Distance: about 40 miles round trip
Sometimes those long lines at Red’s Eats, that colorful little roadside seafood shack in downtown Wiscasset, can stretch almost to the Sheepscot River bridge. That’s why the Midcoast town of Wiscasset is the perfect place to detour off the busy road and onto what your dad used to call “the scenic route.” This back-road drive along the Sheepscot River to North Whitefield and back takes roughly an hour without stops—or days if you fall in love with the area and want to linger.
From Wiscasset, Route 218 follows the Sheepscot back in time, with glimpses of the gentle river at Head Tide in Alna and Kings Mills in Whitefield. As the two-lane blacktop winds through an increasingly rural landscape of fields and forests, pastures, bogs, and sandpits, Route 218 passes the 1811 Lincoln County Museum & Old Jail; the Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington Railway Museum; the handsome 1789 Alna Meetinghouse; and then on to historic Head Tide Village, where poet Edwin Arlington Robinson was born in 1869. Head Tide is a worthy stop, but sightseers, like armies, travel on their stomachs, so our primary destination is a bountiful farm store out on Townhouse Road in Whitefield.
On the way, the beauty of a scenic route like this one is that it involves constant choices. Do we stop to check out Roger Majorowicz’s abstract metal creation at Iron Horse Sculpture as we enter Kings Mills? Do we pull into the farmyard on Townhouse Road where folk artist Paula Benne advertises hooked rugs for sale? If so, a gallery of funky floor coverings awaits. Meanwhile, Townhouse Road breaks out into a glorious farmscape of big red dairy barns with silver roofs and silos. The Sheepscot General Store at Uncas Farms up ahead on the right is one of Maine’s best farm stores. Festooned for fall in cornstalks, pumpkins, gourds, and autumn flowers, it’s also the center of community life for miles around. In addition to its own garden harvest, the store carries a cornucopia of local farm products: kimchi and sauerkraut, organic chickens and ducks, dilly beans and fiddleheads, organic pork and raw honey, cheese and yogurt.
While the store’s bakery offers delicious confections, one of Maine’s best pie bakers, Phyllis Wheeler of Green Hollow Orchard, is located just across the Sheepscot River on East River Road, our return route, carrying 218 back down to Kings Mills. Wheeler won blue ribbons for both best blueberry pie and best apple pie at the Maine Agricultural Trade Show in 2013. At her unpretentious little shop she sells the two dozen or so pies she bakes each day. Just one bite of her deep-dish four-berry pie is alone worth the trip.
Finally, for the adventurous (and thirsty), the Sheepscot Valley Brewing Company, out on a poorly marked dirt road known grandly as Hollywood Boulevard, is a great place to pick up a pint or a half-gallon growler of Pemaquid Ale, a deep-mahogany brew handcrafted by Steve Gorrill since 1995. Just be sure to call ahead if you’d like to visit this one-man microbrewery.
And that’s how a scenic drive up the Sheepscot to Whitefield reveals the authenticity of small-town Maine—where the natural, the local, the historic, and the handmade all conspire against the virtual reality that has come to define so much of modern life.
Maine Fall Foliage Drive Directions
From Wiscasset, take ME 218 North to Whitefield. Bear left on ME 194 West; then an immediate right (north) on Townhouse Road to ME 126. Bear right on ME 126 East for 1 mile; then bear right on East River Road (ME 218 South). Bear left on ME 194 East; then, where 194 makes a sharp right, bear left on Hollywood Boulevard instead. Either ME 194 South or Hollywood Boulevard will get you to Head Tide Village; from there bear left on ME 218 South back to Wiscasset.
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