At Settlement Quarry

You’d expect an island with a town called Stonington to have an old, abandoned quarry somewhere. But, since most quarries are low-lying places — the whole point of quarries being to dig down into the ground, of course — you wouldn’t expect to find an old quarry atop a hillside, with a commanding view of more than a dozen islands. But that’s what you get when you venture up the trail to the Settlement Quarry on Deer Isle.

Settlement Quarry is one of a number of sites that the Deer Isle preservationists have turned into cool hiking jaunts. It’s an easy stroll up the old Quarry road, and once you reach the top you can admire the view, then take another trail through the surrounding pine woods. We chose the path that wound in and around the impressive piles of castoff granite, which are slowly returning to their forest state, with pine trees sprouting from the crevices.

With the breeze off the water, and pine trees everywhere, you’ll just have to look at the photos and imagine how fresh and crisp the air smelled.

Advertisements

End Of The Season

The lobster season in Maine is over for the year. Those tasty crustaceans get a break for the holidays — and a chance to grow and replenish before next year’s season rolls around — and as a result the Maine countryside is awash in yellow. That’s because the old-fashioned wooden lobster traps you see in some seafood restaurants have long since been replaced by these bright yellow, metal traps, which are a lot more durable. The traps are all removed from the water during the off-season and are stacked just about everywhere.

Maine lobstermen and lobsterwomen work very hard, even during the off-season Along the coast you see enormous pick-up trucks, the lobster fisherman vehicle of choice, carting mounds the yellow lobster traps from dockside to workshop, where they will be examined, one by one, and repaired over the off-season. Our neighbor here has 500 of the traps, which he says is the legal limit. The traps are neatly stacked on pallets, and he uses a front loader to maneuver them into his workshop for repair. They’ll keep him busy this winter.

Seagull Over Stonington

Kish and I took a brisk morning walk today. It is a fine, glorious day, with a bright blue sky and seagulls wheeling overhead.

Being a Midwestern landlubber, seagulls still intrigue me, with their downy white feathers and aerial acrobatics, but the locals pretty much loathe them. They tolerate seagulls because the tourists expect to see them — what’s a port town without seagulls? — but they know seagulls are trash-eaters that like nothing better than picking at a dumpster for spoiled food and then coating your lobster boat with rank seagull poop. The outward appearance of seagulls is a lot more attractive than the actual reality.

Seagulls are kind of like Hollywood that way.

Night Sky

I’m not saying the Stonington is out in the boondocks, but it’s really not close to any big city.  The village itself hugs the coastline, and the views from most places look out over the bay, granite outcroppings, and apparently primeval forest.

So, that means there’s not a Target or Home Depot only a few minutes away, which I guess is an inconvenience of sorts.  But is also means that there isn’t a lot of light at night — which means you can get a new, different perspective on the night sky.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the nights when it is clear, I’ve been enjoying sitting outside, staring slack-jawed at the night sky of Stonington.  It’s different from the night sky of Columbus.  Where the night sky in Columbus is a kind of dark gray color, due to the many bright lights on the horizon from downtown buildings and surrounding houses, the color of the night sky in Stonington is deepest ebony — like a shroud of black velvet.  In Columbus, you see a few constellations, like Orion and the Big Dipper, but most of the stars simply aren’t visible due to the light pollution.  In Stonington, where there really isn’t any appreciable light pollution, the stars blaze with a brilliant white color, as if someone is standing with a flashlight behind that black velvet shroud, shining the light directly through pinpricks in the fabric.  Even dimmer stars stand out in sharp relief, and I’ve seen constellations that I haven’t seen since I was up in northern Canada years ago.  I have no idea how many individual stars are visible from our deck, but it’s got to be thousands, if not tens of thousands.  And the blackness feels empty, and limitless.

And the Stonington night sky gives you a fresh appreciation for how the Milky Way got its name, too.  The spread of stars along the band of the Milky Way does look like a river of spilled milk.  Even if you can’t make out individual stars or galaxies, the Milky Way is noticeably lighter than the surrounding, deep-black space.  Looking at the brilliance of the Milky Way, it’s easy to conceptualize our little planet as just one rock at the rim of a great galaxy.

When you gaze at the Stonington night sky, you quickly understand why our human ancestors going back to caveman days were fascinated by the night sky, and the stars.  I may need to get a telescope.

Exploring Deer Isle

Today we stopped at the Island Heritage Trust office. It’s one of those great old-fashioned places that is crammed to the rafters with hiking trail pamphlets, postcards, bird-watching books, maps, binoculars, note cards with island scenes engraved on the front, guidebooks, whale-watching brochures, and every other form of island life accoutrement you can think of. Our purpose in visiting was to find some good hiking trails and information about scenic parts of Deer Isle — of which Stonington is part.

After loading ourselves down with Deer Isle hiking brochures and a really nifty map that cost only $2.64 (with tax) we set out for our first destination — Sandy Beach. I figured this had to be a misnomer, because it’s hard to imagine sand existing on this rock-ribbed, granite-encrusted peninsula. But it does, as the photograph above shows. There’s not a lot of sand, to be sure — but there is real sand. And, of course, there are all kinds of cool, massive granite rock formations along the beach, too.

You can actually swim at Sandy Beach if you choose to. I think I might try it, say, for a nanosecond on the hottest day in August, and then sit on those rocks, bask in the sunshine, enjoy a picnic lunch, and savor a cold beer.