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.

Sunset Lobster At The Burnt Cove Boil

Tonight we paid our first visit of the summer to the Burnt Cove Boil. This classic outdoor venue operated by owner Jake McCarty became a favorite of ours last year, and I’m happy to report that it’s still terrific.

Why is the Burnt Cove Boil great? For one, you get a great view looking straight west at the sun setting over the islands in Penobscot Bay. For another, you eat sitting outside at picnic tables, and there’s just something fun and kind of magical about eating outside on a cool evening. And for still another, the natural remains of your meal get tossed back into the water, to return to the marine ecosystem. If you don’t think it’s fun to fling an oyster shell or crab claw or lobster tail into the seawater after you’ve finished with it, you’ve got another think coming.

But here’s the best thing about BCB: the food is excellent, and Jake is a great host. Tonight we started with local oysters, followed by stone crab caught about a mile away, then corn on the cob and lobsters caught just offshore. Everything was absolutely fresh, and that’s a big part of the reason why it was delicious. We used some rocks —also local—to crack open shells and made a merry mess of our picnic table.

While we waited for our next course to cool we enjoyed the quiet of the cove and the setting sun reflected on the water next to our table. The sky had cleared a bit and it was pleasantly warm in the sunshine. It wasn’t a bad view, either.

By the time our lobster arrived our paper trays were pretty well drenched, but we carried on anyway, ripping the steaming lobsters to shreds in search of every last morsel of succulent lobster meat. And after the lobster came the piece de resistance—individually wrapped ice cream sandwiches for dessert.

By the time we polished off our ice cream sandwiches and took our last swigs of Allagash White, the sun was a blaze of golden glory sinking low to the west and the seagulls were bobbing on the surface of the water. it was a beautiful scene to top off a great meal.

“Yes,” we thought, “we’ll come here again.”

Blue Skies, Again

After three solid days of rain, you wonder whether the blue skies will ever come again. And when they do, as they did with this morning’s sunrise shown above, it is a beautiful thing to see.

The sun rises early here in Stonington, on the far eastern edge of the Eastern time zone, which means there is a good/bad tradeoff on sunny versus rainy days. When the skies are clear, the first peek of sun over the horizon blasts through the heavy curtains of our east-facing bedroom and wakes me without fail. That means I get up earlier and earlier until we pass the longest day of the year. When it’s rainy and gloomy, in contrast, I can sleep later, and I don’t need to water the plants, either.

I’ll still take the sunny days.

Cutting Through The Mist

It’s been rainy and cool all weekend, and today fog and a ground-hugging mist were added to the mix. Fog and mist don’t stop the intrepid lobstermen of Stonington, however. Betty and I watched this solitary fisherman navigating cautiously through the murk and returning to dry land—although, given the wet conditions, it would be more accurate to say “solid ground”—this afternoon, just before another cloudburst drenched us all.

Low Tide On Indian Point Road

Kish says I am a creature of habit. She’s absolutely right, of course: I’m about as wedded to routine as any non-OCD human could be. But every once in a while I like to mix things up a bit.

Today, I decided to vary my walking route. It’s a cold, damp day in Stonington with lots of rain in the forecast, and I wanted to get a decent amount of exercise before the raindrops start falling. So when I reached the top of the Granite Road hill I turned right, rather than my customary left, and rambled down Indian Point Road, heading away from downtown. It’s a winding street the hugs the shoreline then jogs inland.

It was low tide, which means the scenery looks a lot different than it does at high tide. I liked this vista of a homeowner’s dock left high and dry by the retreating seawater, pointing out at the boats at anchor and the many small islands in the harbor.

A Purple Riot

If you like purple—and who doesn’t?—Stonington is a great place to visit right now. The lupines have bloomed earlier than their traditional Father’s Day arrival, and the vast majority of them are purple. Couple the lupines with the lilac bushes and their fragrant purple flowers, and you have a sweet-smelling purple festival in the works.

Why have the lupines arrived early? Some locals say it’s because we’ve gotten less rain than usual, some say it’s because it’s been sunnier than normal, and some say Mother Nature just decided to give us a post-COVID break and let us enjoy some pretty flowers earlier than she usually does.

On A Clear Day

I’m always astonished at how far you can see on the clear days in Stonington. On the last part of my morning walk I climb Pink Street, which winds ever upward, cross School Street by the old schoolhouse that is now a community center, and then jog over to the aptly named Highland Avenue. That street bends in the direction of the harbor and, after you pass a few homes, stacks of lobster traps, and piles of lobster buoys, you suddenly emerge into the open, far above the harbor and the houses on Main Street below, and are rewarded for your climb up Pink Street with the sweeping vista shown above.

Standing at that point and trying to take it all in, you feel like you can see for miles—and you can. Isle au haut, the island with the notch in it in the background, is about 6 miles away from this point. And all of the islands and boats in the foreground are so distinct you can see individual people moving on the boats and individual trees on the islands rustling in the breeze.

It’s as if you’ve never really seen something clearly before. On clear days like this one I always wear sunglasses because everything is so breathtakingly bright.

Shades Of Gray

We had an interesting sunrise this morning. The sky was cloud-covered, but the clouds were thin enough to allow a fair amount of sunlight to illuminate the harbor. The diffuse sunlight left the water looking like hammered metal and cast all of the boats resting at anchor into shadow, thereby creating a landscape that, with a battleship gray dock in the foreground, covered pretty much every shade of gray in the gray rainbow–from pewter to slate, lead, flint, charcoal, dove, and every other shade of gray you can imagine.

It was a beautiful scene as I stood there at the edge of the expansive dock in the early morning stillness and quietly took in all of the awesome, overwhelming grayness. I like this picture of the scene very much, but even so it doesn’t fully capture the live moment.

Buoyish Charm

Every where you turn in Stonington, you’re likely to see lobster buoys—the colorful plastic bobbers that float on the surface of the water and mark where a lobster trap can be found on the ocean floor below. The lobster buoys have different color combinations so the lobster captains can easily identify their traps as they chug alongside in their boats to haul them up.

When the buoys aren’t in the water, though, what should you do with them? Some people pile them in colorful heaps on their property. Others, like this homeowner, make more creative use of the buoys. Why have a plain old chain-link fence when you can have an explosion of color to mark your your property line?

Island Gull

Seagulls are a big part of the ambiance in Stonington. When you’re down by the harbor they are always swooping around, stark white against the blue skies, and their cries provide a contrast to the deep basso thrum of the lobster boats chugging in and out. From time to time gulls will even circle around our house on Greenhead, and when you see them up close you realize they are very big birds. There’s a reason they were among the flying horrors Alfred Hitchcock featured on The Birds.

One of the things I admire about seagulls is their attitude. They act like they own the place. The seagull in the photo above reflected that ‘tude as he perched on one of the rock outcroppings in the cove near Greenhead Lobster. He casually surveyed his domain on a cool but sunny day and pronounced it good, before taking wing to dive bomb some of the boats.

On The Rocks

One of the interesting things about living in a remote area is that you see things you would never see in an urban area. Like this scene, for instance, where an ark-like boat has been pulled up onto the rocks bordering the shoreline near on of the inlets on the Penobscot Bay. I particularly like the fact the one of the buoys is attached—even though the vessel is on dry land.