Sunday, February 6, 2011

Fresh Tracks on Green Island

Wow- sunshine, temps in the lower thirties and not much wind. Not only that, but several feet of fresh snow on the ground; I had to get out. I also wanted to make the most of the snow, so I strapped my old snowshoes onto the bow and headed out.

Last weekend we'd gone to Mount Desert Island for some cross-country skiing in Acadia National Park before our late afternoon pool session with the kayaks. The skiing was amazing- miles of groomed trails on the carriage roads. Most winters lately I've been content to skip those other, non-paddling winter sports, but the snow this winter is too good to miss. We were worn-out by the time we got into the pool, but still managed two solid hours of rescues and rolling and such. The repeated practice is crucial, especially if one is paddling in winter. It's been a few months since I dipped my head in the ocean.

In the summertime, this would have been a typical after-work paddle: out around Steves and McGlathery and back. This time, as I passed Green Island just after high tide, I found myself lingering beneath the big rocks where caps of snow melted in the sunshine.

If you ignore the heaps of cast-off granite blocks and the fishing debris, the islands usually feel fairly pristine. Add a fresh coat of deep snow, tracked only by animals, and it feels almost primeval out there. Beside the pure white, the blueness of the sky and sea is punched-up to its bluest levels, and the spruces embody the meaning of the word "green". As I drifted I had this feeling that I often have while paddling- that I could hardly believe my good fortune. And I could have just as easily not gone paddling: stayed home to clean the apartment or something. So the apartment remains messy and I've had at least one moment when I consciously feel privileged to be seeing what I'm seeing. A moment like that now and then helps get one through the more mundane times.

The wind picked-up as I went around McGlathery Island, and soon, a long front loomed in the western sky- the next storm. By the time I landed on Green and strapped the snowshoes onto my kayaking boots, the sunlight had drained from the sky, and it felt like more snow could come any time.

I chose Green because it has a well-maintained trail, thanks to Maine Coast Heritage Trust and its volunteers. Without that, most of the islands have blown-down trees and undergrowth that could be pretty tough-going on foot- let alone snowshoes. I followed a loop trail through the woods, pausing at an overlook above an old quarry. As I took-in the view: a slightly higher perspective of familiar islands in the foreground, Mt. Desert in the background, it occurred to me that I'd never even hiked that trail before. It's probably less than a mile from where we've lived for nearly eight years, and I'm only just now getting there.

Amazing. And there's still plenty more I haven't seen.

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