Get off I-95 and head east for a couple of miles, and you're dodging the discount-loafer-totin' masses at L.L. Bean and the other tourist-clogged shops of Freeport. Travel west, you're in the desert.

Go for the desert.

Yes, it's a real desert, though you're not likely to find another with a parking lot, a gift shop and a . . . World Sand Collection. In 1797, the Tuttle family moved onto this cursed 300-acre spread and began farming it, in the process overclearing and overgrazing the land and failing to rotate crops. Several years later, erosion revealed that the clan had stumbled upon a glacial wash plain, and sand began to overtake their property. By the 1920s, it had become a must-see roadside attraction.

Today, up to 40,000 folks still visit the Desert of Maine each year to gawk at what Mother Nature--and those poor Tuttles--hath wrought. In some spots, the sand is a few feet deep, while yards away large trees have surrendered to monstrous dunes, with only a few errant roots and branches escaping from the ever-shifting sea of white. The sand seems to go on forever, though it actually smacks into the surrounding forest fairly quickly.

And don't worry about getting pebbles in your Birkenstocks. Sid and Carolyn Dobson, who have owned the attraction for 15 years ("One day Sid called me and said, 'You want to buy the Desert of Maine?' " Carolyn reports. "How could I say no?"), offer half-hour tram rides through their little natural disaster.

Tours of the desert (95 Desert Rd., Freeport, 207-865-6962, www.desertofmaine .com) are $6.75. It's open mid-May to mid-October.