A Turtle’s Spot

It was a beautiful day today—bright and sunny and about 70 degrees—so we decided to take Betty on a lunchtime walk down Indian Point Road to the beaver pond. When we arrived we noticed this baby turtle (in the lower right hand corner of the photo above) sunning itself on a lily pad, without a care in the world.

I hope the turtle enjoyed its prime pad position, because it won’t be able to do so much longer. When the turtle reaches its full-grown size the lily pad won’t support its weight, and it will have to crowd with the adults onto sturdier logs or rocks when it wants to sunbathe.

In The Inland Mist

Recently I’ve started trying different routes on my morning walk, just to mix things up a bit. One new route takes me away from the shoreline and downtown Stonington and instead follows Route 15 up the hill to Cemetery Road, then across the interior of the island, and then back down the hill toward home on the Greenhead Peninsula. That inland, tree-lined route gives a decidedly different perspective on our little town.

On foggy mornings, like this morning, the mist rolls up the hillside and encases the countryside in a blurry, moist white blanket. It gives the landscape a kind of mystical look that makes for a very pleasant, and very quiet, walk. Earlier this week, on a similarly misty morning, I saw a large herd of deer that included a few youngsters that hadn’t lost their spots nosing around in this same spot. I surprised them as I walked past, and they looked up, startled, and then bolted gracefully into the tree line and vanished into the mist.

Over The Susquehanna

We’re in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania for a wedding. Lewisburg is the home to Bucknell and is located along the west branch of the Susquehanna River. The Susquehanna is the longest river in the eastern United States and runs from a lake in New York through Pennsylvania and down to the Chesapeake Bay.

It was a moist, misty morning, and my view of the river as shown above reminded me of the Hudson River school of landscape painting. As it passes Lewisburg, the Sus is very wide and calm. It was quite a drop from the bridge to the surface of the water, though so I steered toward the inside lane as I walked across.

Four-Masted Fun

Yesterday morning we drove to Bar Harbor to get a taste of travel on a large sailing ship. Our destination was the Margaret Todd, a 150-ton schooner that carries passengers on a two-hour cruise through Bangor harbor and into Frenchman’s Bay beyond.

The adventure started with a long walk down a ramp to a floating dock and then a climb into the boat. You had to be careful because the ramp, dock, and boat were all moving with the swells in the water, and you didn’t want to fall in—the temperature of the water, which follows a current flowing from the north, is barely above freezing.

We sat along the sides of the schooner, so as to avoid being doused by any water that had been deposited in or on the furled sails by last night’s visit from tropical storm Elsa. As the voyage got underway, the crew invited volunteers to help hoist the sails. Russell contributed his muscle to help get one of the sails fully lifted and secured and got some applause from the other passengers. Once all of the sails had been hoisted the ship headed out of the harbor on sail power.

We first passed an island in the harbor and some lobster boats. It was a brilliantly sunny and clear day, so visibility was at maximum. Even so, I was not able to see the bald eagle’s nest that the captain swore was on an oak tree on that island. Come to think of it, I have never seen any bald eagle’s nest that anyone has ever tried to point out to me. Actually seeing a bald eagle nest and bald eagle in the wild will have to remain a bucket list item.

As we sailed past the island the captain pointed out this bell buoy, which is the only one in the harbor. Even though the waters were left calm in Elsa’s wake, the roll of the tide caused the buoy to sway back and forth and the clapper to strike the bell. The bell makes a cool, very distinctive clang, which would be a signal to any fogbound mariner that Bar Harbor is near.

Out in Frenchman’s Bay, we were out in open water with a wide, dramatic sky above, although we were surrounded by islands, the Schoodic Peninsula, Mt. Desert Island, and the peaks in Acadia National Park. We saw a group of some small dolphins swim by, showing their dorsal fins above the surface of the water, and we enjoyed the sunshine and the feel and sounds of a sailing ship, as the sails creaked and shifted in the light breeze.

There weren’t many boats out on the bay, but we did see this picturesque boat sailing past one of the islands. As we headed back to Bar Harbor, the Margaret Todd pointed directly at some of the mountains of Acadia National Park. That’s Mount Cadillac, the tallest peak in the park, on the right in the photo below.

The Margaret Todd is docked just below the Bar Harbor Inn, an historic hotel. Guest were eating on the veranda and enjoying the sights as we pulled in. Invigorated by the sea air, we headed into a jammed Bar Harbor for lunch. Our walk on the crowded streets of Bar Harbor reminded us of just how remote and quiet Stonington is.

On The Boil

Lobsters can get hot. When they are fresh from the lobster pot, steam cascading from their shells just after being deposited from the pot onto a lobster trap, you need to let those bad boys cool before you begin cracking shells and dealing with the boiling water to be found in every crack and crevice.

Fortunately there is a pretty scene, looking out over the islands off of Burnt Cove, as you wait for the steam to dissipate and the lobsters to cool. You take a sip of your wine—more than one, actually—and revel in the setting sun before you start to crush those shells and extricate the tender, succulent lobster meat. You see the setting sun carve a fiery torch into the surface of the salt water, and you wonder why anyone would want to be anywhere else at this special moment in time.

Then the sun sinks lower, and you understand Homer’s reference to the wine dark sea, and you relish the taste of the absolutely fresh, steaming lobster meat, and you hope that this summer will last forever, even as your conscious mind knows that it cannot.

Relishing The Cool Of The Morning

Like much of the rest of the country, Maine generally, and Stonington specifically, is experiencing a heat wave, with temperatures in the 80s in the coastal areas and 90s inland. But unlike the rest of the country, Maine isn’t really equipped to deal with high heat. None of the houses in our area are equipped with central air conditioning, for example, because there is absolutely no need for it during a typical summer, when you expect highs in the 70s during the day and lows in the 50s at night.

That means Mainers deal with the heat using the techniques many of us remember from our pre-air conditioning childhood. A heat wave is a time for wide open windows and ceiling fans, and wishful hopes for a hint of a cool breeze to sweep through the room. It’s a time to stay outside a bit later as the sun goes down, until the mosquitoes drive you indoors. It’s also a time to savor the early morning moments of cooler air before the sun rises and the heat is cranked up again. And the views just before 5 a.m. aren’t bad, either.

Heat waves are a challenge up here, but eventually they end. In the meantime, the ice cream shop downtown is making a killing.

On The Trail At Mary Moore Searight Metropolitan Park

Yesterday morning we enjoyed a hike at Mary Moore Searight Metropolitan Park, an enormous, sprawling park on the outskirts of Austin. It had rained early in the morning and rain was forecast for the early afternoon, so our plan was to dodge the raindrops and do our hike when the air was cooled by the rain that had just passed through.

The Searight Park encompasses lots of different kinds of habitats. There are wooded areas, meadows, and even a shallow canyon that was carved out of the native limestone by a small creek. There are dozens of different trails, one of which follows the rim of the canyon and features some impressive drops, as shown above. No guardrails or fencing, of course!

The creek bed itself is a very pretty area. The creek has formed small pools that feature lots of small fish and some colorful algae. Richard and Julianne’s dog Pretty enjoyed a refreshing dip in the water, as did another dog. The limestone was still wet after the rain, and in some algae-covered areas it was slick and you really had to watch your step.

The park includes an area where the creek has been dammed, creating a deeper, wider stream. This area is popular with kayakers, although none were out on the water when we passed by.

Much of the park consists of large unmoved meadows that are designated wildflower areas, as shown below. In some areas the native grasses are nearly shoulder high, and give you a sense of what the prairies must have looked like long ago. There were still some wildflowers in bloom, but we apparently had just missed the prime time to visit, when the whole area was bursting with color.

Still, there were some flowers to appreciate. One variety I had never seen before, shown below, is the Castilleja plant, colloquially known as “Indian paintbrush” or “prairie fire.” The plant is native to the western part of the Western Hemisphere and is found from Alaska to all the way down to the Andes in South America. It’s a pretty and distinctive flower with bright petals that look like a paintbrush, which explains its nickname.

The Mary Moore Searight Park is a great park to have nearby, and our hike yesterday barely scratched the surface. We’ll be looking forward to heading to other parts of the park on a future visit.

Colorado River Cool-Off

It’s been in the 90s in Austin, and pretty humid, too. But it’s nice when there’s a river that’s handy. In Austin it’s the Colorado River —not the one that goes through the Grand Canyon—and people were taking full advantage today.

There were tons of kayaks, rafts, and floats on the water, and hardy teenage boys were jumping off a pedestrian bridge into the river. Not a bad option on a hot day!

Amidst The Mist

Fog is a curious phenomenon. For one thing, sounds seem to carry differently when Stonington is socked in by a heavy fog, as it is this morning. The growling sounds of the lobster boats heading out to sea seem to be amplified by the moisture in the air, so that it sounds as if the boats are very close by when it is clear they aren’t. And familiar scenes look different, too.

But the visual effects of fog can also be surprising, and varying. Sometimes it renders things, like the boats at anchor above, blurry and indistinct, like a grey aquatic dreamscape. In other places the fog acts as a kind of backdrop that frames the structures in the foreground, giving them a different cast. The old dock and green boathouse below, located next to the post office, are a good example of this effect. I’d never paid much attention to them before, but amidst the mist they look spindly and delicate and haunting.

Fog makes the morning walk more interesting for me, but makes the morning work more treacherous for the lobstermen.

The Path To Barred Island

They say that timing is everything. In the case of the hike to Barred Island, that’s literally true.

We’ve taken the rooty trail out to Barred Island multiple times, but when we’ve reached the vantage point of the photo above we’ve always encountered a full channel of frigid, leg-numbing seawater—which is why it’s called Barred Island. But on our hike on Sunday, we timed our arrival perfectly, and instead of seawater we found that at low tide a sandy, golden path had appeared, beckoning us over to Barred Island itself.

Once we got to the little island we learned that there were no interior trails, because of an ongoing restoration project. The only option for the visitor is to scramble around the shoreline, which can be treacherous due to slick, algae-covered rocks along the channel separating the island from the mainland. You really have to watch your step, and our sturdy, gripping hiking shoes came in handy.

Once you turn the corner and start to circle the island, the rocks—primarily striated granite—become larger, sun-baked, and a lot easier to navigate. In this area of the shoreline we saw a small furry critter—perhaps an otter?—scampering among the rocks. At this point of the circumnavigation of the island, you begin to see the other islands, and the lighthouse out in the Penobscot Bay.

On the far side of the island, the big rocks give way to a stunning collection of different kinds of smaller rocks, which meant that careful attention to path planning and foot placement was important. It was fun to hop from rock to rock and enjoy the colorful mosaic of the different colored rocks in the bright sunshine. If you like rocks and subtle colors, it’s a very cool area.

Following the shoreline inevitably took us back to the sandy spit linking the island to the mainland. We were glad we timed our visit so as to finally allow us to cross over to Barred Island and see what it had to offer. And speaking of timing, as we noticed the sun moving slowly toward the western horizon and glimmering brilliantly on the water, after a full day of yard work and hiking, we decided the timing was also perfect for some soft-serve ice cream.

Wildflower World

Early June is a pretty time in Stonington and throughout Deer Isle, thanks to the wildflowers that have just started to bloom. This hillside next to the Stonington Opera House is typical. The slopes are too steep to tend, so it’s a survival of the fittest battle between the weeds and the wildflowers. Fortunately, sometimes the wildflowers win.

Day’s End In Castine

We drove over to Castine to grab some food and listen to some live music. Castine is a pretty seaside town that is a lot bigger than Stonington. And Castine is very much of a recreational boating town , whereas the boats in Stonington’s harbor are almost all working craft.

Usually the Castine harbor is filled with sailboats and motorboats. By the end of the day, however, the boats are gone, and the harbor seemed vast and totally empty under a yawning sky that was trending towards twilight—except for one rogue boat.

Framed By The Fog Bank

We haven’t had a lot of fog in Stonington so far this summer. Earlier this week, though, a fog bank that was a real pea souper rolled in and thoroughly blanketed our little promontory on the Greenhead peninsula. Last night it was clear, but when Betty and I went for our walk this morning, it became obvious the fog hadn’t gone away—it just withdrew to a more strategic position offshore, creating a situation where it was bright and sunny ashore but grey and obscured on the bay. When we passed the mailboat dock, we could see the fog out there, squatting on the surface of the water, clutching the more distant boats in tendrils of mist, and making it impossible to see even the nearby islands in the harbor.

On days like this it’s hard not to think of the fog as being almost like a living thing.