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Cape Split, Maine

R & R stands for remote and romantic at this handcrafted rental home in Down East Maine.

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Rural Retreat

Brian Vanden Brink

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Owners Pamela and Peter Mullin poured their hearts into this Cape Split rental home. A talented carpenter, Peter built the house single-handedly, and Pamela filled it with her own leaded, light-catching stained-glass windows. "They thought about everything-the scale, the ornamentation, the intimacy of the place," says Thom Lovejoy, a three-time renter.

A passion for Down East Maine led the Mullins to Cape Split, a remote and mostly undeveloped headland an hour's drive east of Bar Harbor. They built their two-bedroom house on two acres of coastal property, fitting it carefully into the rustic landscape. Peter used rich wood finishes everywhere, beginning at the front porch, with its cedar shingles, mahogany flooring, fir wainscoting, and pair of facing benches. Inside, more wood wraps the walls and ceilings, trims the windows, and climbs the stairs. Sun spills through colored and clear windows. Encased in glass, the master bedroom juts like a ship's prow above the water. Thanks to a trio of skylights, "you can lay in bed and watch the stars," says Ellen Nordlof of Virginia, who rented the Mullins' home with her husband, Bjorn, last summer. "If you crack the window, all you hear is a ripple of water against the stones at the bottom of the hill."

Abundant wildlife may break the quiet rhythm here. Moose, deer, black bears, porcupines, and foxes populate the woods. Seals and dolphins splash in the ocean. A pair of eagles that nest on nearby Eagle Island traverse the sky over the house. Last year, the Mullins carved a nature trail into 27 acres of undeveloped forest shared by the two dozen homes on Cape Split.

Exploring the wilderness is one of the draws for Thom, who calls Cape Split "Mother Nature at her best." He brings a friend's kayak for venturing in and out of coves, but visitors can rent them in neighboring Jonesport. The town also offers a sightseeing boat for puffin-watching trips to Machias Seal Island. Other activities include day trips to Acadia National Park and golfing amid the area's blueberry barrens. Though the shoreline near the house is rocky, a sandy white beach is only three minutes away by car.

No visit to Maine would be complete without lobster. Almost every harbor town has local lobstermen, and you can usually buy the day's catch right off the docks. The well-stocked Mullin kitchen comes with big boiling pots, and enough lobster crackers and picks to go around. "That's part of a summer in Maine," says Pamela. "You've got to have a red lobster to crack open."

(published May 2006)

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