Imagine a long, white-sand beach, a brilliant blue sky, and a gentle breeze on weekday afternoon in late summer. A very old man?probably at least 85 or 90?his face creased by years of weather, walks along the beach. He has a well-trimmed white moustache, and, as he trudges along the hard-packed sand, there is a faint smile on his face. His gait is determined, but not stoic. He wears a loose red-and-white checkered button-down shirt that, mostly unbuttoned, flaps in the breeze against his sand-colored khakis. His stride is distinct, feet dragging slightly, which leaves a unique footprint pattern in the sand. It takes many minutes, but the old man covers a lot of ground?at least a mile?and eventually disappears around a bend.
A man and woman appear, going in the opposite direction. From a distance, one might mistake them for teenage sweethearts, but this man and woman are most certainly middle-aged. Wedding rings glint on their fingers. They walk arm-in-arm for a few steps, the foamy surf flickering at their feet. The man whispers something in his wife's ear and she is seized by hysterical, uncontrollable laughter. The couple stops walking. Giggling, the woman begins to tickle her husband, who suddenly joins her in laughter so intense they both gasp for air. After a moment, the couple recovers, walking along the beach again, toward the late afternoon sun. They put their arms around each other, but cannot seem to get close enough. Eventually, they give up walking and just embrace, the surf lightly lapping at their ankles.
A little girl in an oversize maroon t-shirt kneels at the water's edge, building a sandcastle under the watchful eye of an older woman, her grandmother perhaps, who constantly reminds her not to go any further into the water. It is prudent advice, as there is often a strong undertow in the waters off Popham. Prudent or not, the grandmother's nagging is too much for the little girl. She splashes her grandmother, who is mightily displeased and has no qualms about sharing her feelings. Loudly. The little girl splashes her again. The grandmother stops scolding, perhaps shocked by the cold water and then, suddenly, lightly splashes the little girl. After a moment they are both all wet and all smiles.
Certainly Popham attracts such a diverse crowd because people find it pleasant to spend a day at the beach, sunbathing, reading, swimming, walking, or kayaking. But there is something intangible and wonderful that draws them to this three-mile-long beach in Phippsburg, Maine. The sea air breezes with a sense of clarity and vitality. Popham is an amazing place that seems to have the capacity to magically transport almost anyone into a calm, serene state.
Popham Beach State Park is 529 acres of natural beauty, including about three miles of sandy beach on the Atlantic Ocean. The beach is situated between the mouth of the Kennebec River and the mouth of the Morse River. Popham's unique geographic form allows one, at low tide, to walk out to sandbars and even a nearby Fox Island. The mounting tide must be carefully watched by those who venture out, lest one become stranded.
Sunsets at Popham Beach are often fantastic shows of color and fading light. As the sun sets, shades of red, purple, and orange streaks of luminous color lay across the palette of a darkening sky. The full extent of the western sky is almost completely visible from certain parts of the beach, and one can watch the glowing orb of the sun slowly disappear behind a small line of perennially-green trees. After the sun sinks below the horizon, the sky's remaining light quickly fades. Soon, the stars and the planets fill the heavens. Due to the lack of light pollution at Popham, the universe beyond earth is particularly vivid. With the sound of the lapping waves and the view of the luminous night sky, it is hard not to feel serenity.
The sun rising out of the ocean at Popham Beach is an exceptionally beautiful sight as well. A completely unobstructed view of the eastern sky makes for a dawn that leaves one filled with awe.
Popham is worth visiting in all seasons?its beauty is visible during more than just the warm summer months. On frigid winter days when snow covers the sand, the beach is deserted. The rare soul who ventures to Popham in the middle of winter finds 529 acres of exquisite beauty in perfect isolation.
It is late in the afternoon. The waning sunlight glimmers off a frothy sea. The tide comes in. The old man's footprints slowly fade away.