It was a day when the sun rose in the rear view mirror and set in the front windshield, framed by the trees lining Interstate Route 80 in western Pennsylvania. A day when your butt gets sore from sitting in a car seat for hours as you roll down highway after highway. A day when you’re reminded just how gross and crowded highway rest stops can be. When you move from sports talk shows dealing with Boston teams to talk radio about New York teams to chatter about Pittsburgh teams and finally careful takes on Cleveland teams. When you start in an oceanfront town and end up in the heart of the Midwest. When you realize there’s a classical music desert from Boston to Pittsburgh but you’re never out of earshot of Christian music or conservative talk radio. When you get a sense of just how big the country really is.
One very long day, and 1,000 miles covered. And now it’s finally over.
When you get a chance to get away from it all, you should take full advantage of the opportunity. I’ve been trying to follow that principle and get in a few last hikes around Deer Isle before we have to head back to civilization.
The Edgar Tennis Preserve is a pretty good place to appreciate nature in all its quiet, colorful glory. We’re at the tail end of the season, so there aren’t many hikers to share the trails — which means the Preserve is as quiet as the world gets. It is as if the moss and the ferns and the pine straw on the trail swallow any random bits of noise, and all you’re likely to hear is the whisper of the breeze through the branches of the pine trees towering overhead. If you like silence — and who doesn’t, from time to time? — this is a good place for you.
And the colors are brilliant — even if they are, for the most part, shades of green. The leaves of the trees and the ferns are clinging to the last bit of 60s temperatures to maintain their green finery to the last, until the fall colors finally emerge. If you were looking for a particular shade of green, this would be the place to come — the Preserve has the entire spectrum covered, from the deep green of the pine trees in shade to the bright, sun-dappled green of the moss and ferns as they are hit by rays of sunlight.
You can follow an old country road down to the foundations of a long-abandoned salt water farm where apple trees planted by the settlers — with green apples, of course — mix with the encroaching forest. A small footpath winds down to a tidal pool, where the water is clear as crystal and looks green itself, thanks to the algae-covered rocks below.
Last night we did some exploring and drove to the far end of Little Deer Isle. There you will find the Pumpkin Island Lighthouse, one of many scenic whitewashed lighthouses that dot the craggy Maine coastline. This particular sentinel warns mariners of the shoals along the northwest entrance to the Eggemoggin Reach, a popular waterway that connects Penobscot Bay and Blue Hill Bay.
It was a beautiful day, with clear skies and only a slight riffle on the waters of the Reach. The Pumpkin Island Lighthouse is one of those places that seems untouched by time, and a still afternoon was a good time to enjoy its calm, quiet beauty.
The leaves are starting to turn on Deer Isle, and these ferns on the loop around Dunham Point are leading the way. I had no idea that ferns could be as beautifully colorful as, say, birch or maple leaves. Walking past them was like walking past campfire flames.
Just last year, it bore the straightforward but dismissively insulting name “Dump Road.” But the same impulses that caused someone to come up with “pre-owned vehicles” rather than “used cars” and to rebrand the Patagonian Toothfish into Chilean Sea Bass were brought to bear, and “Dump Road” became the considerably more upscale and environmentally friendly “Transfer Station Road.” There’s still a town dump on the road, of course, but that’s beside the point. Dump Road deserved a better name.
What Deer Isle road is next up for a new moniker? Weedfield Road, perhaps? Let’s see . . . how about Wilderness Trace? Or maybe Natural Lane?
On our recent visit to the Edgar M. Tennis Preserve on Deer Isle, Russell, Betty and I not only had our first exposure to the tremendous scenic beauty found on the Preserve, but I also had my first exposure to the world of letterboxing.
Letterboxing, according to the Urban Dictionary, is an interesting combination of hiking, orienteering, travel, and sharing adventure with fellow hikers. The goal in the letterboxing world is to find waterproof letterboxes that are kept in scenic places like the Tennis Preserve — some of which are harder to find than others. When you find the letterbox, you’re supposed to leave a message, stamp the message book in the letterbox, and also stamp your own letterboxing book so you can keep a record of all the letterboxes you’ve visited. Not being aware of the world of letterboxing, or that the Tennis Preserve had a letterbox, I didn’t have a letterboxing book with me when we came across the Tennis Preserve letterbox, so I couldn’t stamp my own book. We did, however, leave a message and used the cool shell stamp to record our visit to the letterbox. Fortunately for us, the Tennis letterbox wasn’t hard to find, either.
It was fun to thumb through the Tennis Preserve letterbox notebook to see how had visited — we were surprised to learn that somebody had been there before us on the day of our visit, even though we were hiking early in the morning — and I think letterboxing would be an enjoyable, and very healthy, hobby. Any pastime that gets you out of the indoor world and into the fresh air in places like the Tennis Preserve has got to be beneficial, both physically and mentally. And the stamps are pretty cool, too.
This week Russell, Betty, and I took a hike on the Edgar Tennis Preserve — one of the nicest trails in Stonington. You can walk on the rim of the peninsula, getting a chance to explore the shoreline and some of the tidal areas, or choose one of the trails the cross the peninsula and take you inland through piney forest and meadow.
Whichever way you go, you’ll enjoy lots of fresh air, some beautiful views, interesting colors — particularly at low tide, as it was when we visited — and exposure to some of the diverse ecosystems found on Deer Isle. There are lots of good hikes on Deer Isle, and the Tennis Preserve is one of the best.