Monday, September 1, 2008

Bear & Hardhead Islands

It's one of those moments: we're at the top of an island, a chunk of rock that rises straight out of the ocean, softened on top by a lush tangle of low, wind-blown vegetation. In the back of my mind, I'm aware that, miles away in Stonington, there's a sign on my gallery door that says "Open in Early Afternoon." It's one-thirty. We hadn't planned on coming to this island, never mind landing and hiking up to the top, but here we are, and the feeling is overwhelming: the beauty and intensity of the place, as well as the fact that I'm able to be here at all, and will soon be sitting at my desk in the gallery, working. All I can say is "man, we've got it good here."

We'd cartopped the kayaks over to Sylvester Cove. Rebecca was loaded-up for a week out on Bear Island, where she's renting a house with a bunch of other women, mostly artists. Brighid and I used it as an excuse to paddle in a different neighborhood. Despite forecasts for 15-knot winds, gusting to 30, we pointed west, toward the light on Eagle Island, and headed into the wind.

It was certainly breezy. I took my hat off and tucked it inside my pfd. We passed Hardhead Island to the north, which looks awesome and otherworldly with its cliffs and lack of trees. It would be tempting to say "barren", but the top is thick with lush foliage.

We passed Eagle Island, with its lighthouse on the point. Butter Island provided a windbreak before we plunged into the wind again, passing through the Barred Islands and landing at Bear. Rebecca was the first of her group to arrive- the others were all coming on a powerboat. The island has been in the same family, which includes the likes of Buckminster Fuller, since 1903, and is occupied by family members and a few renters throughout the summer. We met the caretaker and a woman showed us around before Brighid and I headed back.

With the wind at our backs, the paddling was a bit easier. Despite my anxiety over getting the gallery open, Hardhead Island was too awesome-looking to pass up.

We hadn't planned on landing; it was hard to imagine with those cliffs rising out of the sea, but suddenly we were passing a perfect little beach. The island is state-owned, and closed during nesting season, which was just over. We landed and took a quick walk up to the top.

We paddled beneath the cliffs on the south side. Above us, a row of nests rested upon a ledge.

We saw no other kayakers on the entire trip. And no lobster boats: only sailboats and recreational powerboats. By mid-afternoon, I was back in the gallery, chatting with people about art, and Brighid was working at Old Quarry.

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