Life On The Reach

Yesterday we paid a visit to the shores of the Eggemoggin Reach.  The Reach is a channel of water that runs between the mainland and Deer Isle and Little Deer Isle.  It’s a very popular spot for boaters — especially sailboats — because the waterway runs like a road between two attractive shorelines and includes sights like the Pumpkin Island lighthouse, shown in the picture above, and some beautiful old houses on the shores, like the ones shown in the photo below.  On a warm, sunny day with bright blue skies and wispy clouds that seem to stretch into eternity, even gruff old guys in rowboats enjoy their time on the Reach.

We ended our time on the Reach with a visit to Bridge End Park, the imaginatively named park at the foot of the Deer Isle-Sedgwick suspension bridge.  (Nobody spends too much time in these parts of Maine coming up with creative names for parks or roads, incidentally — they’d rather just give you factual information, and leave the rhetorical gestures to people with more time on their hands.)  At the park you can get some good ice cream, sit at a picnic table, and watch the sailboats on the Reach cruise gracefully by, framed by the sky and the bright green bridge.  Name of the park notwithstanding, it’s a pretty little area that could move a person to poetry.

Into The Great Green Silence

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.

Name Upgrade

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?

Hiking The Tennis

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.

A Quiet, Peaceful Place

Yesterday we took a hike around Lily’s Pond. In the summer it is a popular swimming spot, but yesterday, with the season over, not a soul was around. It was totally silent, and there wasn’t even a breath of wind — leaving the water unruffled and as reflective as a looking glass.

They say everyone needs to have a peaceful, happy place to think of when they need to escape the hurly-burly rush of modern life. When I need to mentally visit that quiet place, I’ll be thinking of Lily’s Pond, just as it was yesterday.

On The Rooty Route To Barred Island

There are many good hiking trails on Deer Isle.  One of the nicest ones, maintained by the Nature Conservancy, is the trail that runs past Goose Cove to the Barred Island Preserve.  It’s called Barred Island — I think — because when the tide is in Barred Island is an island, but when the tide is out a land bridge forms that allows you to get out on the island without getting your feet wet.  You can see the spit of land that leads out to Barred Island in the photo above..

 

 

 

There’s just one problem:  the trail out to Barred Island, which runs through a dense forest, is just about the rootiest trail you’re ever likely to encounter.  That isn’t an issue for normal folks.  In fact, so many prior hikers have taken this route that the exposed roots are worn smooth by the tread of countless prior visitors.  But if you’re a foot-dragging stumblebum like me, it means you’ve got to carefully watch where you are planting every size 12 shoe, to make sure that you’re not going to turn an ankle or do a face plant on the next root system.

 

 

If you pause for a moment before you make the next careful step on the rooty route, though, you’ll realize that you’re in some of the nicest forest you’re likely to see.  And . . . it’s so quiet!  There’s not a sound to be heard, and if you’re walking on a day where there’s a gentle breeze, as was the case during our hike, not even insects will bother you.  There’s so much pine straw on the ground that, except when you’re walking on the roots themselves, it’s like you’re walking on a plush natural carpet.

As you approach the water, after a hike of about a mile, you begin to sense the salty ocean smell mingling with the overwhelming scent of pine.  Finally you emerge onto a scenic overlook that allows you to see out onto the water and the islands that are far away. It’s a breathtaking view. 

Once you get out to the Barred Island and the bay, you’ll encounter a fabulous waterfront scene.  To the right, across a gritty, pebble-strewn beach, is Barred Island, and to the left are more of those colossal Maine granite boulders, many of them algae covered because they fall into an intertidal zone. And beyond that lies the sailboat-studded vista of the bay.

On the way back, be sure to take the shoreline loop and the short detour to Prayer Rock.  The path leads us up to a flat granite outcropping that is far above the cove and the bay, which can be seen through the ever-present pine trees.  You’re not the first one to visit the promontory, of course — some thoughtful soul has built stone benches that are dedicated to some other people who loved this area and the beautiful view the Prayer Rock offers.

 

Alas — it’s time to return, back over the rooty path to where you began.  Watch your step, and be sure to hand that walking stick that you found to the next traveler who wants to enjoy the hike to Barred Island.

Not Exactly Cutthroat Capitalism

There’s a deliberate pace to life on Deer Isle that’s just different from what you see in cities. This disclosure of hours of operation on the door of a shop in the Village of Deer Isle — a shop that happened to be closed, by the way — captured the prevailing spirit perfectly.

Not open today? No problem! Just drop by tomorrow. We’ll probably be here.

At one store we visited, the proprietor was perched behind the cash register working on some acoustic guitar riffs. Chords took priority over capitalism.

The Ole Swimmin’ Hole

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.

Strolling The Dunham Loop

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.

Goose Cove

During an earlier visit to Deer Isle, one of the locals told us that a restaurant was “way the heck over in Goose Cove” — as if Goose Cove was as far away as Mars. The comment made us laugh, but it also made us wonder: just how the heck far away is Goose Cove, anyhow?

Tonight we found out. Goose Cove is about a 10-minute drive on winding two-lane roads. I guess when you live on a little island, everything seems far away. Goose Cove also is a pretty, tranquil place. It’s not hard to see why the geese like it.

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.

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.