The ocean alone the Maine coastline is scenic and rugged, but it’s pretty brisk for a leisurely swim. So when the Deer Isle residents want to take a dip, they head to the “Lily Pond,” don their swimming caps, and make like Mark Spitz. When we visited today, some of the swimmers were impressively doing freestyle laps from one end of the pond to the other — which is a distance of at least several hundred yards.
The Lily Pond has been the swimming hole for so long that generations of Deer Islers used the same rope swing, on the same tree, to launch themselves out into the pond. Alas! Some years ago the tree broke and the rope swing was a tradition and rite of passage no longer. The locals say the Pond just hasn’t been the same since.
There are some fine walking paths and hiking trails on Deer Isle and Little Deer Isle. Yesterday we decided to try the Dunham Loop, which follows country roads that circle Dunham Point. It’s a popular stroll that is about three miles long. Yesterday some of the fellow travelers on the Loop included two mothers pushing strollers and three young people who were using rolling skis to get in some summer training for the winter cross-country skiing season.
The Dunham Loop gives you a taste of some of the varied sights Deer Isle has to offer. After you park your car you follow the road past a small marina and dock, and then bear right into the woods, where you get to breathe deep the tangy piney scent of some of the towering trees and enjoy the deep shade. Along the way, from time to time, you catch a glimpse of the rocky coastline and the water through foliage.
The road then emerges from the wooded area into an open area where the water and hills are visible on the horizon, down across rolling pastures and pine trees along the shoreline. This is an area of beautiful old farmhouses and barns — one of which had an antique pickup truck parked in front, to complete the image. After the forest, you’re exposed to the bright sunshine, and it feels like there’s lot of elbow room.
Another right turn — on the Dunham Loop, you’re like a NASCAR driver in reverse — and you head up another country road to see more pretty homes, and a pond with lily pads and a croaking bullfrog. The road dips and rises, and it”s so quiet you can hear the cross-country skiiers clattering in the distance behind you. It’s almost a surprise when a car passes by.
Another right turn, and you’re back on the road toward the harbor and the boats. There are kids playing with dogs at one of the houses you pass, where a mother holding a baby is filling an above-ground pool with water. The road moves downward and ends at a pebbled beach dusted with oyster and mussel shells and a boat-filled vista overlooking some of the neighboring islands. The Loop has been completed, and it has been a wonderfully simple and pleasant journey indeed.