Maine– Leaving Green Footprints

Passing through Portsmouth, New Hampshire, it was just a quick jaunt up the highway to Portland, Maine. I had heard lots of great things about the small port city, and was excited to check it out. That first afternoon I ambled around the old brick and cobblestone streets, exploring along the waterfront lined with sailboats, the bays and harbors dotted with little green islands. After a run around the Back Bay Trail and the perimeter of the city, it became clear that Portland wasn’t going to be a great place for any of the Blue Spruce seedlings. That would have to wait for the weekend. Meanwhile, I was contended to make my way north and south along the coast, stopping every few miles at the next rocky cliff-rimmed bay adorned with lighthouses, old forts and the vast Atlantic stretching endlessly east.

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I had been hammering out a lot of mileage lately, and kicked the weekend off with one of the best workouts of my career, cruising through over twelve miles in a little over seventy minutes. Excited by the success and ready to explore further, Turtle and I made our way north to the innumerable small islands sprinkled liberally along the Maine shoreline. Everywhere we went was rife with pine trees, and I made sure to pick out areas further inland with softer soil, away from the sandy and rocky soil nearer to the water. The landscape was different than most I had ever experienced; coastal, yet cool and temperate, and thick with forests interspersed by sprawling salt marshes. I had no problem finding plenty of places for the tiny tree-lings; much of Maine lies directly into the ‘hardiness zone’ for Blue Spruce (which explains the numerous full-grown Spruce I saw all around!).

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The next day back down in Portland, I was approached by a friendly guy in a bright orange shirt and red cap who introduced himself as Rod. At this point, I’ve become accustomed to people approaching out of the blue and asking about the bright green van, which for the moment was sitting along the curb parallel to the bay. Turns out Rod is quite the world traveler himself, and we spent hours talking about the wonders and the challenges of exploring new places, experiencing new cultures and the general goodness of people that you find no matter where you go.

Just a few weeks ago Rob Greenfield, one of the awesome guys who has made Green Footprints possible, held one of his famous ‘Food Waste Fiasco’ events in my hometown of Raleigh. Inspired by this call to action against the atrocious state of food waste in America ($165 billion is thrown away each year), I decided to take my own advice and incorporate one more sustainable behavior into my everyday routine. Or at least give it a try. So Turtle and I trundled over to the nearest grocery store, but instead of parking in the front, I rolled around to the back. The first thing I saw was an enormous compactor protracting from the rear of the building. Rats. But as I got closer, I noticed dozens of bins labeled ‘organics’ lined up past the compactor. I parked, hopped out and lifted the lid of the first one cautiously. Full to the brim or orange rinds. Even more discouraged, I was ready to pack it in; but just for good measure, I peered under the lid of the next bin. I couldn’t believe it. It was stacked full of perfectly good, shining, unbruised, perfectly ripe eggplants, zucchini, tomatoes, apples, plums, potatoes, plantains… you name it. I happily loaded up a sackfull, and in less than five minutes, I had over 15 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables. (Don’t worry, I washed them all. And yes, they were delicious!)

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Just before heading back down south I capped off the rest of my mileage along Maine’s Eastern trail, fliting through the shady forests and sprawling fields and inlets of reedy salt marshes. I’ll have to pass through a small spur of southern New Hampshire, but next stop: Massachusetts!

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