Saturday, January 8, 2011
Putting Together the Pieces
Lately I've been launching from Reach Beach, in Gray's Cove, on the northeastern corner of Deer Isle. A launch site can become a habit. I find myself in the car, and of all the places I could launch, I head back to the same one as the day before. Maybe it's more obsession than habit. It seems that every time I'm out paddling, I leave one place that I didn't get to- an island I didn't quite have time for, or an inlet I couldn't follow because the tide ran out. And at night, I pore over the chart, and if I can't picture the place in my mind, I can't wait to check it out.
Maybe it's a weird obsession, but I find it immensely satisfying when my route re-connects or overlaps with previous routes I've paddled, and somehow the big picture starts to click together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle... a multi-dimensional puzzle that somehow manages to include changes in tides and weather and even my own experiences.
Reach Beach is public, thanks to a conservation easement donated by a generous private landholder to Island Heritage Trust. There's often someone out digging clams on the mudflats or walking on the beach. You can park your car just off the road, at the top of the beach and, unless it's an hour and a half on either side of low tide, carry a short distance down to the water. For those three hours around low water, there's a bit of a carry through the mud.
It's tough to completely avoid the mud, so I just accept that occasionally I have a long walk. Like in this photo. Low tide and sunset happened at about the same time, so I had a good long carry. I've had to spend a little extra time cleaning gear in the evening.
Reach Beach gives the paddler fairly quick access to several distinct areas. One day I crossed the Reach and followed the Brooklin shore. The landmarks gradually become more familiar- the church steeple rising above the trees from the center of Brooklin or the snowy hills of Mount Desert. Sometimes Blue Hill pokes above the trees, and that that island with the cliffs has to be Hog Island. Eventually, a glance here or there lets you know in an instant where you are.
Another day I paddled among the islands off Stinson Neck, then crossed over to the islands off of Naskeag Point. Large rafts of eiders and longtails murmured not far away, while occasional shotgun blasts thumped in the distance. I'm not the only one with New Year's rituals.
One excursion at high tide took me for a tour around Greenlaw Cove, exploring Fish Creek and all the little nooks and crannies I could find. It was a foggy day, and it felt good to follow the shore, but those inlets add-up; that turned into a fifteen-mile day.
Of course, the more I spend my evenings staring at charts, the more creative my route-planning becomes. For a long time I'd heard of people portaging "The Carryover", a traditional canoe portage route into Long Cove. I thought I'd give it a try, so I set out at high tide, carried my kayak over the road and re-launched in Long Cove.
The ice was a little thick; I couldn't get through and had to turn back. I must have been in the mood to carry my boat, though, since I managed to portage the Sunshine Causeway, paddling around Stinson Neck.
Well, it's always good to leave something undone. The puzzle, it turns-out, can never be completed; it just grows.