Category Archives: Memorable Moments

Shares stories triggered by a current entry.

Tracks By The Barn

I know that I ended my last post with no more bear stories.  Well, I just found bear tracks in the thin layer of dirt next to the big barn doors mentioned in the last post.  Sooooo, I have tell a story that should have been in the last post.  Forgot about it until this morning.  It’s hilarious.

I was hiking in the Appalachian Trail in the Smoky Mountains with a friend.  We ran into a group of six hikers taking a lunch break at a shelter.  The Guy (don’t remember his name) had to share what happened that morning.  The group was staying at the previous shelter about 15 miles away.  It was late April and the bears were beginning to awake from their long winter slumber.

The group wasn’t together per say, just been meeting up off and on.  They were all at the last shelter except the Guy.  He came in late and there was no more room in the shelter for him to squeeze into.  He pitched his tent in front and found a spot for his pack in the shelter where it would be safe from the bears.

All of the shelters in the Smoky’s have chain link fences across the front with a secre locking mechanism.  The Smoky Mountains are a busy place for tourists, creating tension between man’s food supply and demands of the bears.   A night in an open shelter makes for easy picking on the part of the bear.

The bear encounter for Guy took place in early morning.  Guy rose early to head “nature’s” call.  A bear came into the clearing heading for Guy’s tent.  I guess the lack of food in the tent ticked off the bear.  The amount of anger leads me to believe the bear was a female (being funny).  She shredded his tent and Guy ran for the port a potty and locked himself inside.  Well, being very disatisfied, the bear walked over to the port a potted grabbed and shook it.  Guy fell to the bottom and braced his feet against the door to protect himself.  One last shove left the port a potty on its side.  Guy didn’t mind a bit.  The bear ran off into the brush, most likely to find another victim just for spite.

Here are some photos of the bear tracks imprinted on a thin layer of dirt where work had been done for the driveway.   Click on image to view full size.

 

Ursus americanus

“A bear went over the mountain.  A bear went over the mountain.  A bear went over the mountain . . . to see what he could see.”  The song goes something like that.  Well I just read a blog from over many mountain ranges west and “saw” a few great bear encounter stories.  The blogger triggered a gaggle of bear stories on my side of the mountain.  (You may find plenty of typoes as too tired to edit.)

Bears Like Toothpaste.

I met a young fellow who was working on the Appalachain Trail during the first of my two trips.  He told me about a time when he and a few friends slept at the shelter in which I would be resting. A bear grabbed his pack in the night.  It was leaning against the end of the shelter just inside the entrance.  The young man found it nearly fifty feet away.  The bear totally trashed his pack but only ate the toothpaste, leaving the food untouched.

Outa My Diner.

I was eating berries along a ridge in the Smokey Mountains.  A loud Hurrrrumph sounded on the otherside.  “Okay, I’ll move on down the line.”

A Bear to Sleep By.

I slept with a bear in camp in Virginial once during my second hike of the Appalachian Trail.  A young bear joined my camping space 15 yards away.  I chased him/her off a couple of times but he really liked what he was eating.  I ate well away from where I was going to sleep, which was on the ground under a tarp help up like a pup tent via trekking poles on each end.

I split my food back into two separate ones after finsihing my dinner and another try to chase the bear away.  The bags were hung up a branch of two trees, far from each other.  I changed my clothing, put them in a stuff sack and hung it up as well.

How does a person sleep on the ground when a bear is dining so close.  Well, I was exhausted after hiking 22 miles.  I couldn’t help but fall asleep.  However, I did create a mental safety margin.  Instead of “counting sheep,” I said over and over “If you feel warm breath on your face, don’t move.”  “If you feel warm breath on your face, don’t move.”  I figured the bear may become became curious about this body lying on the ground.  If such would be the case, then remaining statue still would be a great idea.  Imagine a bear gazing at your sleeping form.  One move would send curiosity into greater action.   Perhaps, a swipe of one of the bear’s massive clawed paw.  Uh, Oh, no more face!

In the Night.

The previous story reminds me of a time when I was sleeping in a hammock at one of my “hide-n-sleep” places.  I was on a ten day bicycle vacation riding from Shelburne, NH up to Fort Kent, Maine and back.  I always find a place to hang the hammock in some trees along the roadside and do so in a place of concealment.  Once I find the place, I wait for zero traffic before running myself, bike and trailor into the hidden place.

I was hard pressed to find a place before dark as I was riding along a very large lake with home after home crammed next to each other along the shore.  The opposing side of the road was high ledges.  I waited until almost dark before running into a tiny space of wild vines, thick shrubbery and a few trees, finally.  It was around eleven pm that the sounds of something crashing through the shrubby area permeated my brain.  I was still asleep so nothing registered until a subconsious thought woke me into conscious clarity.  It was a bear!  I hopped up out of the hammock in time to see the bear in shadow.  I clapped my hands loudly while stomping on a dead branch.  The large dark figure took note and left me alone.  What if I hadn’t awakened?  Whew!

Running Bear.  

There was also the time early in the morning on a New Jersey ridgeline trail.  I was out and about backpacking during the second week of April.   Most nights were cool but this night was a bit warm to keep the closed.  I was lazy and left the door open instead of unzipping the screen.  The nightl critters hadn’t been around much, so no worries.  Pre-dawn my subconscious mind homed in on the fact that “something” was in the tent with me.  The “something” was rattling my pack.  At least, that’s what it seemed to me in my semi-sleeping state.  I sat up and yelled.  I’m not sure what kind of noise I made, be words or a shriek.  Who knows for I never woke enough to see the “critter.”  I did sense it in the air.  Must have done a 180 before hitting the ground running.  I never did find out what the “critter” was.

Well, I prefer to hit the trail early and did so right away.  The trail on the ridge was enjoyable.  I kept quiet to soak in and feel the world.  A dark upturned stump  lay ahead of me.  A few more steps sent the stump running down the west side of the ridge.  From now on, note that the dark root system of downed trees are not always what they seem.  “The bear went over the mountain.”  ha ha.

Bears in Northern, NH.  

At home, the bear population is plentiful.  In fact, there are some well set rules to help prevent messes.  Bird feeders are down by tax day, except those who take them in at night.  The are not put up until the birds need the help.  Some times that’s a bit soon so we refrain from filling an of the fixed feeders and use the hanging type.  We bring them in at night.  Garbage must be inside a well secured area.  Bags are not put out on trash day until within a half hour of actual pick-up.  Seems to work most of the time.  My garbage is in cans inside a rather large barn.  My place (caretaker’s quarters) is an addition on the back of this huge barn.  The front rail doors are closed at night and the pedestrian door is checked as the latch doesn’t always work.  Well…..  one night, I heard the crash of one of the metal cans.  Guess the bear was real hungry as he had pried open the large doors.  He didn’t factor a door opening, light turned on, and a loud, “Get outa here!”  Scared the night-lights out of him.  I walked out to the partially opened doors and saw the bag lying a few feet away.  I could see the bear in shadow.  He was in the inner circle of the driveway among the trees.  He just stood there.  If I could see his face, I imagine his expression would be that of shock and dismay.  He was big or seemed to be in the dark.  I bent down to clean up the mess and found the bag intact.  I said, “Thanks for not breaking the bag,” put it back in the can and closed the doors.

Okay, the bear has gone over the mountain quite a bit here.  One more story.  It’s one of my favorites and took place up here on the farm.

Territorial Dispute.  

It was a bit of a drought year due to little snow and rain for a couple of years.  Everyone and their cousins were coming to our large fields of wild blueberries restaurant.  I saw deer, coyotes, foxes, a coywolf, rabbits and more.  Of course, the bears came too.  There was one bear in particular that loved, loved, loved blueberries or had been starving for several years.  I’d see him early morning until around nine am.  He’d be back by lunch and stay until around three pm.  Guess what?  He would come again in the evening, around six to seven pm.

Our relationship was going well.  If he was in the fields, I would remain in the yard or on the trails.  He stayed out of the yard area.  I enjoyed his company for much of the summer and then he broke the rules  in late August.  Yep, I was looking out the window and noticed big mama bear with her two cubs feeding in the backfield right against the woods.  No wonder she’s huge.  She knows how to protect herself.  Believe me.  She was huge.  The largest I’ve ever seen.  Back to my other bear.  He was sneaking up along the eastern side of the field on a heading toward the north rock wall.  There is an openning to the yard near the garden shed.  I walked out of the barn and saw him ambling toward the spot via a cluster of trees behind it.  I clapped and yelled when he came into sight.  “My space not yours.”  Get!”  The bear backed off and I knew he wouldn’t give up the territorial dispute that quickly.  He’ll try to come in from around the otherside of the garden shed.  I went back to the barn and grabbed a wooden stake of about six feet in length.  Yes, six feet.  I still had one in the big barn after winter.  (We use them as guides for plow trucks in winter.)  I held the stake horizontally in front of me, about chest high.  I shook it and waved it out, up and down while saying, once again, my space not yours.  The bear ran behind the vegetable garden and up the large spruce tree.  I stood in place for about ten seconds before backing off.  I hid behind the large cherry tree and watched him climb down.  Yep.  He’s not done.  There is one more avenue at ready, the Birch garden.  I stayed in the shadows until his attention was focused on his next move.  Sure enough.  The Birch garden.  I ran out of my hiding place waving the stake wildly over my head, like an inverted pendulum.  The bear tore off for the road, crossed it and ran into the woods.

He was back to his routine the next day and did not try for the yard again.  I stayed in the yard and on the trails and he in the field.

Please note that if Mama bear tried that, I’d open the door to my house and say help yourself and I’m outa here!  Please also note that black bears are not pets and are dangerous.  With that said, “don’t try this at home or anywhere” fits this story.  The only reason I held my ground is becaue of our long standing relationship that had gone so well.  Had he charged.  Well, Okay.  You can have the yard but your too small for me to welcome you inside my home.

You would love to read the stories by the blogger who started this whole thing.  Call it her learning experiences.   Click here to go to post.

Below are pictures of the bear from last story.  You can see how much he grew withing a couple months.  Must be the super-charged blueberries.  Click on photos for full screen view.

 

Underway

It’s a perfectly wonderful day.

IMG_1038

Blue sky, pale against the ocean.

I walk back to camp after saying my fairwells and photographing my rock discoveries. I wonder who will be able to figure out the mystery of the formations on them?

Oh, it’s such a nice day. Warm with a light breeze. I get to leave the island!  I make quick work of dismantling camp and packing Abbie B.   She is ready to go too. So, I release her tether to the tree and stow the rope before turning her around to drag across the sand to the water, which isn’t far.

A gentleman from Cliff Island lands right after Abbie B and me are on the water.  I’m sealed in, gloves on, and paddle ready.  We hold our position as he lands and offer a hello to him.  The man smiles and then comments on how much he misses the buildings that have been destroyed mostly by vandalism and weather.  I feel sorrt for him.  It is difficult for anyone to lose a persoanl connection with history, especially when the time period spans over many year in time.

My attention turns to Abbie B who is patiently waiting.  Okay, lets go and a paddle blade breaks the surface of the sea.  Neither of us are in a hurry to arrive at our next destination, Bangs Island.  We’ve been land-locked for too long and simply want to float upon water and   explore every sight along the way.  The most surprising is a Monarch Butterly flitting across the open water toward Long Island.

You got to be kidding!  I know the Monarch migrates great distances and have seen them by the hundreds while living in South Dakota during this period.  One very windy day grounded the Monarchs during this time.  There was a tree row behind the house I lived in at the time.  What a happy surprise that greeted me during a walk that led through this particular row.  I was surrounded by Monarchs hanging on the leaves of the tree’s branches.  Hundreds of them covering nearly every inch of free space.  Their wings were folded hiding the brilliant orange color that draws many people to see them.

Back to “You got to be kidding!”  It’s one thing to paddle across the open waters of a fair distance between islands, but to be such a small creature in flight.  It looks as if he or she is heading for Long Island.  Wow, so far on wings that seem so fragile.  I’m rethinking my impression of the Monarch right now.  Amazing!  Truly amazing.

I take one last look at the towering rocks on the south side of Cliff Island.  The are magnificient.  I would like to return for a visit to Cliff Island and its people.  I’m intrigued by their lifestyle of being one of the smallest working islands in Casco Bay and the kindness shown to me on the day I seriously needed to tank up on water.  By Cliff Island.  Sigh.

I turn my attention to Hope Island which lies due west of Cliff Island.  I passed just the southern tip of it on my way to Jewell Island.  Seems like weeks ago but only a few days in reality.  I noted some pretty bright red roofs on the island then and paddle up close to the east side of the island to run along its length.  Man, those buildings are red and what in the world are the ones with “normal” colors but bright red roofs too.  We almost need special glasses to dull the shine.  I say we because I feel that Abbie B’s senses are as shocked as mine.  I have no clue as to what is going on with this place and make a mental note to find out when I return home.

I did just that and learned that Hope Island is owned by John and Phyllis Cacoulidis under the shelter of Scorpio Island Corporation.  The couple are millionares form New York City.  Click for Source. I don’t agree with their taste in color but it is their right to decorate their home and buildings as they like, Yuck!  However, I do agree with their complaint regarding taxes.  The huge hikes in tax rates over the past ten years or so are strangling the locals people, who live and worked on these islands for generations.  What I don’t like is how the Cacoulidis’ have gone about a reduction in taxes.  They have worked several schemes but the first and kind of humorous to me is that the tried to succeed from the town they belonged to  CHEBEAGUE, Maine – A year ago, annoyed that property taxes on Hope Island had more than tripled, its sole occupants, a New York millionaire and his wife, sought to escape taxes by seceding from the town. They argued that their remote mansion, boat house, and helicopter pad should constitute its own town, and that therefore they should be able to set their own tax rate click here for source and more info.  I also agree with the Town of Chebeague challenging the Scorpio Island Corporation and Phyllis Cacoulidis in court regarding modifications to the island that are contrary to EPA laws and Codes of Chebeague.  Click here for source and detailed information.

I have no reason to dislike the Cacoulidis’ as people, just the two actions as stated above.  The island belongs to them and they may decorate as they wish, LOL.  I do believe that there will always be bad blood between the Cacoulidis’ and the Town of Chebeague.  I wonder what the stories, yarns and other nonsense will sound like a century or more from now.  Ah, more lore for the history of Casco Bay, Maine.

I only found one free photo on-line, which is below.  However, I did find a site that has aerial views of Hope Island as a product for sale.  Here’s the link for viewing them in lieu of seeing them here.  Hope Island Photos.   (Once there, click on any of the images with Red roofs for a full size view.)  You may also use Google Maps.

Photo credit baslow Foter CC BY-SA

 

A Silly Moment

I find this scene inside my head, while relaxing inside my tent.  I can’t help but have some fun.
A mischievous moment under the sun, as the rain shrinks down to a little misty drizzle.

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Giggling girl just out of site.  This photo world holds its breath.  
Uh, Oh.  Cartwheels and Handsprings across the foreground!

Osprey

Here I am inside my tent after a really long day and a short nap was all I needed.  I thought I’d sleep more but it isn’t forthcoming.  I look at my watch and see that the end of this very long day has many more hours.  It’s only three ten pm.  Makes sense.  My day began in the wee hours of the morning.

The kids are having a great time.  I can hear them laughing and carrying on.  I don’t mind.  It’s great to know that children are having fun.  A group of them passes by occasionally while I write in my journal. (Lots to catch up on.)  One of the leaders attempts to hush the kids as the pass by.  I poke my head out, “Make all the racket you want.  I love it.”  And so it was.   The comings and goings of kids off to explore the island and return for food and fun.

I spend time reviewing charts while writing.  It’s fun to see where I’ve been and routes taken to reach destinations.  I mark places on them where something of interest caught my eye and then make note of it in my journal.  I return to my first camp here on Jewell Island and find a few scribbles.  “Deer tracks in the Punchbowl at low tide – two sets, both female.”  “Two Osprey.”  Oh, yes.  I saw one when entering the forest on my way to the towers.  The other at the southern tip of the island.  “Loons, many between Cliff and Jewell during my return trip.”  “Two species of Gulls.” And of Course, the “Great Blue Heron” fishing in the Punchbowl.

There are no photos as I didn’t have the appropriate equipment.  I do think it is important for you to see what my friends look like.  That’s right, friends.  I love them all and they each have there own unique characteristics.  More importantly, they live, love, get mad, play games, eat and generally everything that we do, except for destroying their environment and ours.  I’ll begin with the Osprey.

I’ve had the privilege of living in places where they abound and it’s nice to say that because like many birds, DDT nearly wiped them out.  They seem to be making a pretty good come back which is good news in my book.  I have two great stories of encounters with the Osprey.  The first is during my first years living in Wisconsin.  I discovered and fell in love with Door Country.  A lot of other people enjoy the area as well and the campgrounds are full during peak vacation season.  I decided to take my roommate up for a few days bringing my canoe as always (Wenonah Jensen 17′).

We established camp and slept well as usual.  The next morning showed promise of a happy wonderful day.  I decided we should paddle in a place away from the popular places.  So the canoe was secured atop the truck, my friend was secure as well but inside the truck.   I immediately headed for a road that led to the opposite side of the peninsula which is what Door County is.  I found a nice wide bay to paddle into up toward the northeastern tip and drove to a spot adequate to put in.  Quick work was made of that and we were off.  My friend was a bit nervous as she had never been out on a large lake before.  She did fine and we easily made it over moderate waves into the bay.

The first thing we noticed was an Osprey perched high on the dead branches at the top of a very tall tree.  We paddled on and all the way in until the muskrat trail became too narrow for the canoe.  Wow, we were in for a treat on our way back out.  We barely made it to the area where the Osprey was when a large bird bombed his way down to the water and snatched a fish about twenty feet in front of us.  My friend had a front row seat!  The fish in the talons of this mighty hunter flashed silver-like in the sun while the Osprey flew higher on up, back to the branch.  We sat still watching him eat his meal.  Now, that was a fine day.

Photo credit: ghelm4747 / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Photo credit: ghelm4747 / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Photo credit: keithcarver / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Photo credit: keithcarver / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Door County is within the red marker and the blue dot is where we paddled and saw the Osprey

Door County is within the red marker and the blue dot is where we paddled and saw the Osprey

 

My second story occurred within Quetico Provincial Park in western Ontario Canada, just north of Minnesota’s Boundary Water Canoe Area.  It is all the same watershed.  I did personal guided trips up there for friends over several years.  There were for four of us on this trip (I never take more than that.).  We were laying over at Twin Lakes for a rest day and shelter from the rain which subsided by mid-afternoon.  Steve went out in his canoe to fish and Velvet joined me in my canoe to explore the marshy areas.  Deb stayed in the tent napping.  At some point, Steve called out while pointing to the top of a tall Pine tree right above the tent where Deb was resting.  Oh, My!  We watched “Wild Kingdom” in action.

The next belonged to a Bald Eagle who had caught a fish.  The guy hadn’t been there more than a few seconds when an Osprey dove on top of him.  The two fought hard and without rules.  The  Osprey easily won the battle and the Bald Eagle flew off while the Osprey enjoyed a meal in the Eagles “living room.”  Suffice it to say that the Osprey is a fierce bird, especially when it comes to fish.  The only food they eat and they like it fresh.  Hence, the Osprey is often referred to as The Fish Hawk.

Photo credit: Friends of Seney National Wildlife Refuge / Foter / CC BY-SA

Photo credit: Friends of Seney National Wildlife Refuge / Foter / CC BY-SA

 

Back in the Tent

I finally let go of the sea and head to the tent.  There, I change into something warmer.  The VHF radio is to my right but I stop myself from reaching for it.  Why do I have to know what the reported conditions are a this moment?  Let it go.  I lie down inside the tent and close my eyes.  Thoughts of what I’ve been witnessing as to the rising tide infiltrate my mind.  I see sailing vessels of all shapes and sizes hightailing it to the nearest haven of safety.  They aren’t running from the tide.  It’s the wind, which is offshore as usual during this time of day.  My, my, it is in a hurry expanding its strength, becoming highly focused and more intense with each passing moment.  What is fueling it?  I reach for the radio once more and stop myself. . .   Let it go.

It is easier to close my eyes this time and even more so to stop thinking, wanting to know what’s going on in detail.  There ya go.  Breathe.  Be gentle.  A few moments pass or maybe more than that.  I don’t know nor do I care.  It’s just how it feels to me and that’s important.  I hear the waves tumble and see white foam exploding against the dark blue and greenish liquid upon which they ride.

I want to go out and play, like I’ve done so many times.   Oh, how I love the water.  I love everything about it.  I like being in it, immersed in its reality.  I have a healthy respect for all bodies of water but I am not afraid.   My favorite game is to wait for the action and the bigger the better and then put on a life jacket and swim away from shore.   It’s hard work reaching a special place out in such mayhem.  One so far out that everything on land looks very, very, small (As a youngster, the “far” for me frightened many an adult.).  I always smile when the time comes to fold my arms across my chest and lean back, allowing the force of nature to carry me back to shore.

Right now, I’m on an island surrounded by an excited sea.  I paddled here inside a craft that sits so low in the water that my lower half is beneath its surface.  The rest of me barely reaches above the height of buoys that mark lobster traps.  I sense how small I am and how big the world is through a lens far different of that of a hiker humbled by the wind on a mountain or cycling against some pretty nifty headwind for miles and miles on very flat land, or in a canoe not far from where the wind dropped to the ground in the form of a tornado.

More tomorrow for now I must rest among memories about the wind rather than water.  I’ll share where I wander upon my return.

Protected Cove

The Cove when I arrived

The Same Cove Today

The Same Cove Today

 

 

Hungry

I have no idea what time it is nor do I care.  Suffice it to say that I find it a hindrance like dragging around a ball and chain.  I am using time on this trip for only the prediction of tide and weather. Ah, the compromises one has to make.

I take my leave of the Punchbowl and head for camp.  A thick stand of Rose rugosa, “Beach Rose” is along my route.  They are considered an obnoxious weed in the United States.  It grows with gusto robbing space and nutrients from native plants.  According to Wikipedia, Rose rugosa was introduced to America in 1845 and the first report of Rose rugosa far from where it was introduced occurred in 1899 on Nantucket Island.  Presently, the plant has overtaken the shores and islands of New England States.  Wikipedia Source

I’m happy to see them at the moment because I’m hungry.  Goodness, my meager diet is already becoming a nuisance.  I want flavorful food and more of it.  But for now, I’m happy to feast on some Rose Hips.  I pick a few and eat them where I stand, careful not to consume too many at one time.  I learn that the pulp and seed are filling, quieting the voice of hunger.

[There isn’t much to the rose hip as it mostly pulp and seeds.  However, it is extremely healthy providing vitamins A and C, plus Calcium and other nutrients. Click for more info.]

The hunger I am starting to experience reminds me of my first hike of the Appalachian Trail, click for info.  I thought I’d done a good job preparing food for this hike.  A lot of research was done, including food logistics.  The information turned out to be woefully lacking and hunger became an entity in itself .  His character was single minded, intrusive, demanding, and the instigator of dreams.  One dream focused on the value of food –  I own a pick-up truck and in the dream I had taken it to a garage to be worked on.  When the owner asked for payment, I opened the back, reached in and pulled out four loaves of home-made bread and gave it to him.  Another dream was about eating.  It contained every detail of me making a chocolate cake.  Much of the time focused on spreading a heap of creamy chocolate frosting.  I was very slowly laying it on in fancy swirls.  Then,  I cut a large piece from the cake and right when I was about to take a bite, my hiking partner woke me up.  Boy, was I mad!  and felt like punching her at the time.

Little Chebeague

Soft amber light gently touches my face, waking me slowly.  The solace of the silent moon from the evening’s landing remained with me through the night.  It was in my dreams but my sleep was so sound that I do not recall this nor any dream.  But I sense the power of its presence and can’t help but lay hold of time, suspending it as a fragment from the broader scheme of reality. My mind’s eye efficiently gathering every nuance of the scene before me, a boat’s motor, a wisp of air, sand and trees, water lapping the shore, changing light and the energy of auras.  I’m so glad to be here.

I visited Little Chebeague Island during last year’s practice trip and fell in love with the place.  The weather was not the greatest, with the threat of rain and dismal light for taking pictures, and a second set of camera batteries dying.  Oh, did I mention attacking ants?  Ouch!

I walked the trails anyway as well as the west shore at low tide.  Asian Bittersweet and Black Swallow-Wort were obliterating trees and shrubs in an ominous choke-hold.  Trails were overgrown and old broken down or vandalized structures were difficult to see, especially the Pritchett Cottage.

Pritchette Cottage   Pritchett Cottage   Overgrown Field  Overgrown Path

CLICK ON PHOTO FOR ENLARGEMENT

[I enjoyed the rest of my exploration in spite of dead camera batteries and sprinting to the tent for refuge from the incoming deluge.  The rainstorm provided a good show of lightning on the water.]

I finally crawl out of the tent.  I have a unique way of doing so because of a knee injury.  It doesn’t like to bend so on my knees, swivel and crawl out the door with a straight right leg.  An interesting feat due to the small size of the tent door.  Kayaking with the knee isn’t a problem but walking on it is another story.  I brought my “big guns” brace for support but it was still a challenge walking on seaweed covered rocks.

The water is back to a blue reflecting the color of the sky.  It is calm having few ripples, especially in Chandler Cove where the water is still.  I walk along the sand looking for the trail to the privy where I stop to see the Navy Firefighting practice apparatus.  That’s right.  The US Navy took over the island during WWII to train every sailor how to fight fires aboard a Navy Ship. Approximately 1500 sailors trained here.  However, the primary use of the island for the Navy was recreation.  Many sailors spent time on Little Chebeague before shipping out.  “the United States Navy used the island as a recreation and training site during World War II. Soldiers enjoyed ball fields, boxing rings, and a skeet range.”   From a WordPress Blog, click here for more information.

Navy Fire Fighting      Click here to see more photos and detailed description of the Navy’s Firefighting School.
CLICK ON PHOTO FOR ENLARGEMENT

After returning from a visit to the privy, I gaze at the sand inspecting it to find something of interest.  Ah, little sneaky.  A set of raccoon tracks lead from the water and up the beach into the grass.  Buggers, is a better comment as last year I ended up at war with the creatures.  I didn’t know they could swim and definitely have an opinion about it.  RACOONS ARE BANNED FROM SWIMMING!

You see, my first night during last year’s practice trip was spent on the southern tip of East Gosling.  I arrived just before dark, found the one spot to set up a tent, dragged what I needed up and quickly made camp as darkness descended.  It was a warm night so I left extraneous gear outside the tent, including my food which was wrapped tightly inside a dry bag.  Clank!  Bam! Rattle, Rattle!  What? (It sounded like Number 5 rifling through the mobile snack stand in the movie, Short Circuit.)  I ran down quickly to find a raccoon inside my kayak and chased him off.  He couldn’t pry the hatches open but he did crawl up under my bow in search of a nighttime snack.  The only thing he found was a small sack that contained canned tuna and sardines.  Buggers!  He’d chewed several holes in it.

Now, I was worried about the food up by the tent.  I grabbed a section of my spare paddle and ran back to camp.  Whew, it was still there.  The paddle section lay next to me as I tried to get some sleep.  Not more than a few minutes went by, when I heard the raccoon again.  He had my bag and was dragging it into the bushes.  I yelled and smacked the ground with the paddle and he dropped the bag.  How bold these critters are!  The food bag spent the rest of the night inside with me.

I was able to move from East Gosling to West Gosling as the Sunday crowd had left the large and beautiful campsite.  I declared war on the raccoons, threatening capture and impaling one on a stick that was stuck in the sandy beach.  You know, like certain native people’s did to warn off their enemies.  I prepared for the oncoming war an hour before dusk by booby-trapping the cockpit of the kayak, made ready the spare paddle shaft and collected some rocks, plus a light that is bright and will flash.
1 ready    2 ready   4 Ready  5 ready  Guess what.  This raccoon was stupid which is good.  He came early.  It was dusk but well before dark.  I slapped my kayak with the paddle shaft and tossed a rock at it.  Up the tree he went.  I stood watching him with all the patience in the world.  Each time he tried to come down the tree, I smacked my kayak with the paddle shaft and yelled at him.  No go for the coon.  He was going to learn who’s the boss, ME!  I wouldn’t let him come down, nope and not until I say so.  — He tried to hide among the shadows of the tree branches in order to sneak down once it was dark. Bright Red light time.  There’s nowhere to hide.  — I kept him there for about a half hour and let me tell you. When he came done from the tree, he sprinted away, never to return.  I won!

Well, I never saw or heard a raccoon last night.  It probably helped that my hatches are double secured and that I bungie a dive flag over the cockpit opening.  I chose the dive flag as a cockpit cover because I dream of being a diver some day.  Probably won’t happen as that’s expensive. However, learning to free-dive is possible.

My slow inspection for critter tracks continue as I meander back to camp.  There isn’t much to see besides bird tracks.  A gull lands on the shore while I tidy things up.  She or a juvenile gull allows me to snap off a few shots of her/him with my camera.  How nice.  Hope to see more shore birds and be able to photograph them as well.

I eat a quick breakfast, Grapenuts drowned in protein powdered milk and two scoops of peanut butter, then grab my camera and head out to explore Little Chebeague once again.  Wow, what a surprise!  My mouth gapes open.  Someone cleared the invasive vines away from the trail, nice!  What’s this?  Sign says, “Caretakers Cabin.”  I follow the side trail and sure enough, there’s a cabin. No one is home so I head back to the main trail of.  However, I meet Christine within a few minutes.  She and a friend are working on the engine of a brush mower.  They say they didn’t need help.

What’s up with the caretaker’s cabin?  That’s where I live now.  Where are you from?  Near Falmouth.  What’s up with the work?  The MITA (Maine Island Trail Association) partnered with the Park Service to rid the island of the invasive vines and restore it (as much as possible) to what it was during the 1800’s, except for the buildings.

Little Chebeague was originally a recreational area for Native Americans who lived on Great Chebeague during the summer.  According to Bill Caldwell “Chief Madockowando was top man on Chebeague Island when the first white settlers came in the 1600’s….they caught fish…killed a seal or two…” (Islands of Maine Where America Really Began).  And like the residents of today, they crossed the sandbar between Great Chebeague and Little Chebeague at low tide to enjoy the expansive sand beaches, picnic, swim and so on.
IMG_4838  Sandbar extends about 200 feet.

IMG_5786     IMG_5785

The 1800’s portray Little Chebeague having a few summer cottages, a farm and a hotel for visitors.

I continue to walk the paths, amazed at the progress Christine has made in just a couple of months.  Fields are being opened up, vines cut away from shrubs, and trees saved from the Asian Bittersweet.  Vroom, Vroom, Vroom, chainsaw now at work.  Christine is a little thing but certainly has a big work ethic.  I see where the vines have been cut away from trees already and also so many more to go.  Small areas are cleared around large trees.  One even has a board swing hanging by ropes from its branches.  Dilapidated buildings clutter clearings.  Vandals and age are burying them into the soft dirt.

The tide is slowly rising but there is still plenty of exposed shore on the west side of the island.  I walk here as I did last year but able to use my camera more.  It’s a strange feeling to visit the past. One that is only a year old.  I’d love to be able to go back in time and see the real past, beginning with the Native Americans.

Camp is down and Abbie B prepped to go and me working on be ready too.  A park ranger stops by to chat.  A nice fella sharing his knowledge of the islands he cares for so much, expounding on their natural beauty.

It’s such a lovely day.  I’m planning to head north to Bangs Island.  I wasn’t able to stop there last year and really want to see it.  No, you should paddle over to Jewell Island.  I ponder a moment and agree that the sea is calm enough to make the crossing.

We make a little more small talk before parting company.  I finish putting on paddle gear and slide Abbie B down to the water.

**See next post for a gallery Little Chebeague photos.  They include ones from last year too.

The Late Escape, Day 1

I’ve been behind on everything since February and today is following the pattern.  I want to leave around eleven this morning.  I know, wishful thinking with so much to accomplish before freedom has a chance to bloom.  My plan is to finish up anything Marie needs help with which shouldn’t take long.  Farm work and the lawn will voraciously eat up time.  Now, It’s noon and I have yet to do one more thing, download and print navigation and tide charts.  I hoped to have had them done a couple of weeks ago with tentative plans, routes and mark-ups completed.  Hope is the key word and I knew then as I know now that this wasn’t a realistic expectation.

So, here I am downloading the maps and charts, loading them one at a time in Photoshop to crop and resize for easy use.  This is taking way to long!  I’m keep telling myself that vacation has begun.  What I am doing is a part of it.  This strategic thinking is meant to quiet the pressure of  the “Let’s get out of here!” screaming from a place deep inside of me.  I so want to be gone; to leave behind everything that cannot be done until I return.  It’s difficult but deep breathing and focus help as I listen to the printer’s machinations.   The last page falls to the floor.  I scoop it up and place it on the large pile, proceed to roll the stack, shove it inside a thick plastic bread bag and then into a winter trekking thermos holder.

The van is already loaded in a haphazard manner.  Large items are strewn around a plastic bin filled with numerous  items waiting to be organized.  I chose not to do so before leaving.  I just want to escape this place, to run from all my concerns and forget them for a while.  It feels great to be finally sitting in the driver’s seat and making my way out the driveway.  Good bye world and hello pleasant living.

The drive to Cape Elizabeth is tedious and boring.  I feel stressed and just want to arrive and get out on the water.  I occupy myself with singing and should say to my friend Sally, thanks for loaning me your van.  She and her husband were so gracious as to let me have it a couple of days before leaving.  It made the last few days of getting things done less stressful.  We will be meeting on Sunday at Portland’s East End where I will put in from the beach.  But, first a day on Richmond Island for some practice and then stay at Fred’s to organize the mess shoved in the back of the van. Some items are for the trip and others to have when I return.

There’s the ice cream place.  Yea, I’m finally here!  I turn into Fred’s driveway for a short hello and to show him Abbie B.  We chat for a bit and he informs me that the house is available for me to stay Saturday night there.  The original plan was for me to spend Friday and Saturday night on Richmond Island but they were closing down for the season so one night was all I could have.  I’m grateful that the Sprague’s allowed me to have the one night.  It pays to be friends with good friends with them.

I drive down to Kettle Cove where there is a kind of ramp for easing a vehicle down to Crescent Beach.  It’s a good place to unload and launch.  I hop out of the van and begin untying Abbie B from the van’s rack.  A young couple stop by on their way off the beach.  They admire and ask about Abbie B.  I’m happy to answer their questions and feel a great pride in her.  More time passes, forty-five minutes of it, before I’m free to continue readying Abbie B.

Abbie B is unloaded and carefully placed on the sandy beach.  A woman scares me silly as I turn around with an armload of gear.  Gear that I’m hastily shoving into Abbie B’s holds.  She also asks many questions and I answer each one while working at forming a mood that exudes patience and understanding.  A half an hour passes.  The sun is racing to the horizon.  I must stop talking and get going.  I don’t want to paddle in the dark.  I finally tell her I have to leave.  She wishes me good luck and relief washes over me.

The last of the gear is given a haphazard shove into Abbie B’s aft  hold.  The van is parked up in the lot and I change into my paddling gear.  I have on long underwear,the a chafe shirt, neoprene boots and gloves, a farmer Jane wet suit and dry top.  Peculiar glances from curios people cast there gaze upon me.  I could care less.  I just wanna get out of here!

Keys to the van are the last item put in the day hold.  I zip my life jacket, grab my paddle and drag Abbie B out into the water.  I straddler her bow as I push her forward and then drop myself into her cockpit.  Sprayskirt is attached and off I go.  I’m officially escaping life and it feels good.

The wind significantly picks up  as I head farther out from shore.  The swells aren’t bad and only a few are breaking.  The sun is beginning to set.  I find it easy to maneuver through the piles of water and easily make my way around to the beach campsite on Richmond Island.  I am met with a stronger wind and mild surf crashes on the beach making for a tricky landing.  A few boats are anchored close to the breakwater where the sea is near calm.  So, I take my time in choosing where and when to hit the beach.  I don’t want to embarrass myself the first time out and I didn’t.

My legs feel like rubber.  Body, mind and soul are drained of energy.  I’m finding it difficult to haul Abbie B above the tide line.  I’m just plain exhausted from the stress of the past few weeks and the life sapping activities of the day.  I finally get her up and tied to a rock.  The sun is now gone but the moon is at half and it is easy to see.  I feel no compunction to be neat and orderly.  I just don’t care.  I toss only what I need in a heap on a flat area of the beach.  I hate camping in the sand!  It gets into everything but I don’t blame the Sprague’s for limiting me to this particular area of the island.

The wind gathers strength as the minutes tick by.  Good grief, I’m wrestling with the tent, fighting to keep it from being ripped out of my hands.  The struggle reminds me of the time I nearly took to the air via a tent rainfly.  This story took place during my first hike of the Appalachian Trail with a friend back in 1993.

[We were a day’s walk from Smokey Mountain National Park and had camped next to some trees on the side of a narrow ridge.  There wasn’t much of a choice due to darkness and the start of a heavy rain.  It poured heavily all night long and was still drizzling as we packed up camp in the morning.  We got under way fairly quickly and found the shelter we were heading for within ten minutes.  I guess we should have kept going a bit.  We waited until the sun came out reading the log book to pass time.  Some of the entries were quite humorous.  Such as, The Honey Mooner’s (trail name)had lost their spoons and were using sticks to eat with.  We finally met them three weeks later and the sticks were still in use.

We moved on within the hour and came to a grassy bald high above the valley below.  The day was warming up and we were in full sunlight.  I decided that this would be a great place to dry out our gear.  So we spread it out, turning items often until they dried.  The tent was an easy matter.  Set it up.  My friend took care of that and I decided to dry the rainfly by holding it at an edge and into to the wind.  It wasn’t a strong wind but we were on a heavily sloped bald which made for a great updraft zone.  The fly flapped in the air making a snapping sound and I changed its angles by moving my hands around the edges.  It did dry quickly but I had a funny idea to try just for the heck of it.  I grabbed the fly by three corners and put myself below it.  The rising air current filled it and lifted me up so that my feet were leaving the ground.  I quickly let one hand go and hit the ground with a thud.  I pictured myself soaring with the turkey buzzards and then ending up in some trees way down in the valley.  I imagined finding a road and hitching a ride where I’d meet my friend at the shelter right before the edge of The Smokey’s.  Now, that would be a tale!]

Richmond Island From Kettle Cove

 

 

 

— This is all I have time for today.  See ya tomorrow.