Category Archives: Solo Journeys
Trips I’ve done alone
My last day on Bangs Island ends with watching the last ember of light fall below the horizon. Mid-level stratus clouds form the canopy above me as I sit awhile longer on the old dry log at the top of the “beach.” I use the quotation marks because at high tide there isn’t much more than a couple of feet above water below the log. Crushed stone is the prime ingredient worn down by the wind, sea, and weather. Years upon years of change. I wonder which ones have been here the longest and in what form. Our world is utterly amazing. I find it hard to imagine how the diversity of the world we live on now was a single mass surrounded by the sea so many years ago. Compare the timeline with outs and we are just infants in the span of the universe.
I elect to settle down inside the tent for the utterly boring dinner. Darkness has descended. The air is warm and the night filled with the song and chatting of night critters. Click on orange arrow in picture to listen. I believe the bird call is that of an Eider Duck. There were quite a few in the area today. Photo cover for the audio is of a flotilla of females from earlier today.
The Maine Island Association (MITA) guidebook asks boaters to report areas where Eider nesting occurs. The Eider’s are not on an endagnered species list. However, nesting areas are greatly diminished due to lack of suitable habitat, meaning safe from human impact.
My photo of a pair of female Eiders isn’t very good. So here is one I downloaded.
It certainly is a critter night. The day was so nice that I left the tent doors open rather than leaving them closed with the screens unzipped. Oh boy, big mistake! I fell asleep before mediation time. Nothing new with that as I’m usually tired, even on days that I don’t paddle. My alarm went off at 9 pm. I donned my headlamp and turned it on. The sound of “jumpy things” reverberated through the tent, sounding like rain. I looked at the floor and these tiny little critters covered it popping up against the sides of the tent where they meet the floor a few inches above on the sides. There were hundreds underneath the tent jumping too. The warm day must have heated up the ground beneath the tent to wake up these tiny jumpy things, many of which decided the inside of the tent was even better. I took my meds and quickly turned off the light. Now, what? This things are inside and outside of the tent. I doubt that sleeping out on the grass will help the situation. Invitation, “Come and get me!” I settled for stating several times, “Stay out of my sleeping bag!” and then added a humble, “Please.” I zipped myself inside as if I were on a winter trek, sealing myself inside as tightly as possible. I awoke a few times in the night happy that the jumpy things obliged my request.
Morning brought an additional inspection of the state of living critters in my tent. I cleared everything out to find hundreds of the jumpy things still alive. I shook out as many as possible but a bit of a slaughter did have to take place to completely rid my “house” of the pesky things.
A little research here at home helped me locate who the tent invasion of jumpy things were. They are Terrestrial Amphipods or Sand Fleas and sometimes referred to as Lawn Shrimp as they turn orange after death. (Crustacea: Amphipoda: Talitridae) Click here for detailed inforamation.
Click on Orange Arrow as you did in the first audio clip. Note that the photo should be credited to to : Sarah Gregg | Italy / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA
My camp resides in a postage stamp sized grassy environment. These grasses cover much of the island with a density that makes exploring without adequate protective clothing impossible. The tree population is 90% deciduous scattered about in small stands. There are no trails here. I’m glad as there are few islands in the bay devoid of human intrusion.
Reminder: Click on Any photo for full-screen.
There is a Brown ail Moth Caterpillar near the tent. The are limited to the coast of Maine and Cape Cod at this time but once covered much of New England. This moth is oh so not nice as its larva eats voraciously, defoliating trees and shrubs and the caterpillar has poisonous microscopic hairs. Contact with these hairs cause a poison ivy type rash that may last from a few days to several weeks. It can become a full-blown dangerous allergic reaction in some people. Their nexts are built at the ends of branches rather than in the croch like gypsy moth. Click for source and more information.
The sky is changing from mostly clear to cloudy. These clouds are Altocumulus perlucidus which are a mid-level cloud forming at heights from 1.2 to 4.5 miles above sea level. Height is determined by the severity of atmospheric disturbance. They are formed by the accumulation of moisture and air that is forced high enough for the clouds to form. The heating of the ocean provide the moisture in this case and the upward movement of air is most likely due to convection. The perlucidus version of altocumulous clouds indicate a change in weather within six to eight hours. VHF does call for deteriorating weather and rain in the evening. Click on any of following for resource and info. Clouds online Names of Clouds WeatherOnline
I head over to my dry clothing and gear, stuff it in a bag once more, carry it back to camp and put each item in its place which is mostly in the cockpit, sealed under my dive flag “cover.” Camera in hand I walk to what’s left of my sandless beach to capture a few more scenes and plants before hiking up over the cliffs toward the south as far as possible to grab a few more photos. This shouldn’t take long as the cliff exposure is a very short distance before hitting trees, shrubs and brush. The tide is rising as well which will cut this portion off if I wait much longer. I’ll take my nap later.
Zoomed in on buoy from cliff. It’s position and movement indicates current and speed.
Enjoy the Slide show.
I capture a few more images before returning to the west side of the island.
Like a child, as all adults should be, I search your face for clues. Who are you? Where did you come from?
How long will you stay?
I lie beside you, resting on one arm. Look at that!
I poke you with my finger, nothing happens.
Hmm, are you sleeping?
I stretch out on your other side as full and long as I can.
My feet want to be at one end and my head at the other, but I don’t make it. You are too big and I am too small.
I crawl on my knees from one end to the other. I gaze across your top, to see the world as you do.
The palm of my hand brushes your back.
I feel the smoothness of your ruff.
The Monarch’s cross the sea
to feed on these.
Goldenrod and Milkweed.
I wish to show you sunrise, a view to the south, the shoring of the berm a top the “itshmus”, and a little snack before I head back to camp.
Yup, I’m still eating Rose Hips. Great stuff. Now, back to camp.
Enought pondering of the workmen on boats. I want to do some exploring while the tide is out. I walk over to where my “isthmus” is located and find that the majority of the west side is mudflat. I try walking amidst the smooth cordgrass (spartina alterniflora) to keep from sinking. The plan fails, Yuck!
I discover familiar scenes at the top of “isthmus” and along its eastern side. The broken and forgotten.
One foot perched on a rock and the other on crushed stone, worn down by wind and weather. Men at work on boats, criss crossing the channel waters between Bangs and Great Chebeague. Some stay in the vicinity while others head out to Broad Sound. This is a community of people who depend on the sea to sustain their way of life.
I read the most recent report about the sustainability of community life in respect to the health of the island, including water resources, impact of bacteria and petrol pollutants upon the aquaduct resource for water and the health of the ocean due to run off, and other causality sources that create change both subtle and drastic. This health report is quite good. Some of the problems identified are a hurdle as the cost of the work is beyond the means of the people.
I’m pleased to see a town follow, make recommendations, and act to improve the future. Our disposible society tends to focus on self-gratification at the expense of future generations. Personally, I see a world that needs to make drastic changes now or expect demise in the near future, while the recent and next few generations suffer disease and death due to what we have already done.
The men who work the sea are smart, sauvy, and inventors. Their knowledge must span the nature of the earth. They must have a deep understanding of geological history and events from the past into the present, of the atmospheric conditions and changes, how they change and why, as well as the heavens above, sun, moon and even the stars.
Men in wet orange rubber, slimy gloves, old boats and new, attending to pots, hooks, nets, cranes, engines and the sea. Weathered hats and faces side by side with the youthful, just getting started. Such men on a campus of higher learning like Harvard, Stanford, and Yale would look out of place, but I think more educated than the suits that fit in.
May the world support these hard working men who give us golden entrees, lobstar, oysters, clams, shrimp, and so much more.
The gods of the sun are more powerful than this altocumulus clutter. Helios the Titan, Apollos of Olympia, and the Roman Sol Invitus will take a half day rest as the weather forecast calls for increasingly cloudy skies with possible rain tonight. For now, I’m enjoying the pleasure and warmth of their company.
Down the hatch with boring breakfast 365. Not really, but it seems like it. Calendar Islands is one of Casco Bay’s nicknames. The title comes from the fact that early history of the Bay reports that Casco Bay was once referred to as Calendar Islands because there were so many of them. The first to advocate this name was Colonel Wolfgang William Römer in the early 1700’s. He said, “There are as many islands as there are days in the year.” The number is actually between 130 to a little over 200 depending on how many barren rocks are included in the count. So, I figure that this grapenuts, dried fruit, protein powder with water saturated milk powder has gone on long enough to count as one for each of these many islands. Yuck!
My next pleasure is a treat to washing my hair and me. Great Chebeuge with its abundance of free fresh water is only a few minutes paddle away. I brought a sliver of Irish Spring brand soap. It’s aroma makes great deodorant and rub on clothing for a more pleasant smelling body when among people in “civilization.” I also grap my tiny bottle of shampoo and a bandana for drying. We all head out the door to where I’ve hung one of the water bladders on the MITA trail post.
Oh, wow. That felt good. Whew. I think I’m now as clean as my clothing. My clothes are in better shape than me as far as cleanliness is concerned. In fact, I should get to them now before the sun gods fall into their early day slumber. I stuff everything into a dry bag and haul it down to the shore. Here they are drench in salt water to rinse off as much dirt and sweat as possible. There really isn’t much for dirt, just the residue of salt water and sweat. I lay everything out on the rocks to dry. The UV from the sun disinfects them and the rocks allow for drying.
Last year’s practice trip taught me as to why the rocks work better than hanging “stuff” on a line. The results of my fist time hanging was clothing more wet than when they were hung. Duh, the sun,wind (even just a breeze) create an atmosphere of water in the air. Quite a bit of it too. Hence, why fisherman dry their nets and other items on rocks heated by the sun enough to actually dry their stuff out. My clothing and gear dry quite well too but they need to be turned over a fiew times to expedite the process.
And then, there are my boots. It doesn’t matter how many times they are rinsed out. They are not UV clean, are always damp, and something is brewing in them. Not sure what, but its kind of scary. They’re new and I didn’t think to do what i did last year. Get a pair that my feet fit in with neoprene socks on them. The socks clean up as well as any other item and create a barrier that keeps the boots a more safe environment for my feet.
I purshased high cut ones to provide maximum support for my injured knee.
Normally, I wouldn’t wear something that tall and stiff. These were a bugger to take off. The fight to remove them is a daily ritual.
Well, here I am. My first morning on Bangs Island. A place I made an attempt to visit during my practice trip last year. The attempt was ruled out rather quickly because a strong current gripped my loaded down 14.2″ recreational kayak as soon as bow turned toward the Island. Safety first folks. The sea was perfectly calm but currents can be as dangerous or even more so than a wild ocean. First rule of self-rescue, “Know when not to go out.” My golden rule for anything.
I sit on a rock looking out over the channel toward Great Chebuege Island, remembering last night’s return trip and chuckle about my creative parking of Abbie B. She looked truly undignified. I wonder what she said about that but maybe it’s best to leave that one alone. Sorry, Abbie B.
Here’s the video clip taken within minutes of leaving Abbie B creatively parked. I added a bit light for better viewing. You will here the wind and see gentle water. Note that I am in a protected cove which means what is beyond has a bit more flavor. The tidal current pulling at a steep angle upwind of water movement was moderately strong. It was still a challenge to walk from the safe landing point over to camp. I was in mid-thigh to waist deep water whose incoming waves were hitting me on one side, waves rebounding off the rocky shore was shoving everything beneath the water outward, my feet stumbled over underwater rocks, while pulling Abbie B behind me. At least trying to keep her behind me. The wind, push and pull of surface water kept pushing her into me. A nudge from her bow hurt enough to motivate keen awareness of Abbie B’s location and making adjustments accordingly.
For my hiking friends, This is like walking broadside to a stiff wind above tree line at the same time a stonger wind at a 90 degree angle is driving the lower half of the body outward, while navigating through a rock garden. Use your imagination by adding the work of pulling a large hardshelled empty pack which is floating on a layer between the opposing forces with an empahsis on the upper broadside wind. Believe me when I say that, you don’t want to get hit by the backpack. Bruises and a bit of being beat up is the least of possible injuries. The few times Abbie B was shoved against me were just love taps from here bow. These hurt enough to keep a sharp eye on her throughout the short crossing to camp. It was a constant chore to keep her behind and off of me.
Back to my morning view, the three rafts lying just off the shore are a mystery to me.
They don’t like like a working floating dock;
such as the one in the harbor between
Little Chebeague and Long Island.
Click on photo for full screen to see the docks better
I’ve learned that these docks are owned and operated by Bangs Island Muscle Co. “BANGS ISLAND MUSSELS are hand-raised using techniques that are meticulous and labor intensive, by design. We nurture and harvest our mussels with the utmost care, relying on our worker’s knowledgeable hands instead of powerful and damaging machines to get the job done right. The extra time and effort that we put into BANGS ISLAND MUSSELS pays off in extended shelf life and premium meat quality.” From the Company’s about page. Click here for more info. It is also worth checking out their Harvenst page for a map of locations and a more detailed description of what they do. Click here. They offer a photo slide show on their home page, Click here.
The following is a gallery showing the docks, my protected home (one from surf landing point showing the length of walk and the now exposed seaweed covered rocks I walked through with Abbie Band there other is from my “private beach.”) A photo of sky from tent floor and one of the interior of the island from my outside of tent door. More on the latter in my next post. * You can view the photos full screen by clicking on any one of them.
This post links back to Finding Camp, Bangs Island.
Route from Jewell Island to Bangs Island in Red. Butterflies at locatons viewed.
Green Dot with arrow – fisherman. Blue dot is campsite.
Red line is route from Camp to beach near Great Chebeague Island Boat Yard
Red Line is back to Camp on Bangs Island. Purple Line is Wind Direction. Black Line is Tidal Current
The wind is picking up just a tad. Abbie B and me feel it a bit as we scoot from Hope Island over open water on the way to the east side of Bangs Island. We pass Sand Island along the eastern shore. I had planned to cut across to the west side of Bangs Island to the campsite but choose not too. It can’t be helped. The weather and the water are too perfect to abandon so quickly. So, Abbie B and me head for the east side where are able to relax our pace to savor each moment through the joy of simply floating, rather than paddling. Exploration is in full swing.
The vegetation on the south end is mixed forest with deciduous concentration in a few places. We find a man in a small boat fishing where the island is extremely narrow, much like an isthmus. High tide buries this ” pinched” land-bridge save a few feet that keep the island intact. What are you fishing for? He says something but with the “downeast” drawl at its best. I have not idea what he said but wish him well as if I did. We paddle on toward the Northern end of the island where it rounds off with a high sandy cliff. There is a designated camping area here. A nice place, high on a bluff with a grand view of the bay. I don’t fancy camping here. No way! I avoid such places for an overnight unless there is an absolute certainty of gentle weather. I will give up a lovely view for a safe haven in a heart beat.
Abbie B and me round the point finding the wind has moved from light and variable to around 8 knots flowing in from behind. I slowly guide us down the west side of the island. Camp should be just beyond the “isthmus” or close to it. Hmm, I’m not seeing it and add nuzzling bow up to the island in the vicinity to scan for the familiar red lid of a tupperware container. Each site has one. The name of site is on the lid. A log book, an about MITA pamphlet, kayak safety, and “leave no trace” camping practices are inside each one. Five minutes pass before the glint of red catches my eye. The container is mounted on a post for a site that is tucked in behind shrubs and trees. I park and extricate myself from Abbie B as close to shore as possible leaving her behind to check out the area.
It is a short scramble through reedy grass to reach the “beach” and a thickly vegetated area beyond that. There isn’t much space for a tent. Scratching my head, I ponder as to the flattest space for sleeping but am hard pressed to find a suitable spot for the tent. I don’t mind a few lumps but having a rock or hard lump poking me in the kidney or a lung is not conducive to sleeping. I give up and head over to the read and sign the log book. It appears that very few people seek out this place. There only three names listed for the entire season. Too bad. It’s a decent site i.e. quiet, sheltered, and hidden from view. My kind of place! Okay, go get the gear out of Abbie B. It’s getting late and I’m out of water.
The task of placing the tent is still a challenge but one with a comfortable body sleeping zone is finally found. Ten more minutes pass just for this chore. The rest is easy. Grab, carry, and toss gear according to a well established habit for the where and how stuff is organized for a pleasant stay. Now, off for the water.
I hastily push Abbie B back into the water, climb in, secure myself and head for the Great Chebeague Island Boat Yard. Daylight is waning and the crossing is a bit of a paddle so I put all I have into the trip. We make pretty good time and land safely on the long sandy beach. The tide is rising quickly causing the need to pull Abbie B as high as possible and secure her to a log. The forehatch is opened, two water bladders are grabbed and then a jog up to the restaurant/pub. Thankfully the bathrooms are level with the ground and the dining area is up a floor. I’m still in full gear, sweating like a pig and feeling quite filthy compared to this high-end suit wearing vacationers. The sink is deep enough for me to fill the bladders/4 full and top off the two liter bag strapped to my back. It’s an old platypus bike hydration system that still works well.
I am stopped by a gentleman just who is smoking outside near the building but in view of the harbor. He asks some questions and makes small talk. It is truly getting dark and chatting with this man is not on my happy list at the moment. I try to be polite but it isn’t possible to continue. I gotta go, nice talking with you. A wave and a sand kicked up behind me puts and end to the encounter. My full company of water is back in the hatch. My next move is to grab my homemade headband which has two Revere See-Me Lites. One is a white nav. lite for visibility the other is an emergency strobe. Both have a three miles visibility. I put it on and turn the nav. light on. It isn’t completely dark yet but enough to need one. Thankfully, there isn’t much for boat traffic here, so not much to worry about.
The paddle back has its own work and will not be a fast crossing. The wind is in my favor but the rising tide is producing a current intent on sucking Abbie B and me north of the island. This puts me a beam to the waves. A little finesse and some patience finally brings me to the little cove where camp is located. The surf isn’t hard but enough of problem that the only place to land is in a little quiet space around fifty yards from camp. We glide in nicely with and easy exit out of Abbie B plants my neoprene booted feet on land. Land that will soon be underwater. The best way to get Abbie B and myself over to camp is in the water. I hitch up a tow-line and wade into the water for a “hike” to camp. I pull Abbie B behind me while walking in waist deep water. The incoming wave action and rebound from the rocks creates some difficulty in keeping my footing. There are plenty of big rocks underwater that have a desire to trip me up within this push and pull and slapping of the sea against me and Abbie B. I have to turn around and reposition Abbie B every few feet to keep the elements from smashing he into me. That would be painful!
It takes awhile but we do make it to camp where the tidal influence hasn’t buried enough rock for an easy pull of Abbie B across them to the beach-like spit of land below camp. The last light of dusk has created some beautiful light conditions as well. I provide creative parking for Abbie B and run to the tent to grab my camera and snap off some pictures before securing Abbie B and settling in for the night.
It’s a perfectly wonderful day.
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.