Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Somes Sound cleaves Mount Desert Island nearly in half. At four miles long and about a half-mile to a mile wide, it is considered to be the only fjord in the eastern United States. To those who have experienced some of the worlds bigger fjords, it may not seem so fjord-like, but it has the defining characteristics- a U-shaped valley ground away by a glacier, and a deposit of sediment at its mouth that impedes the flow of water from adjacent seas.
Rebecca and I launched in Manset. The area is still fairly quiet. Boatyard workers were busy launching fancy boats for soon-to-arrive summer residents, but boat traffic was sparse as we crossed Southwest Harbor and headed for the sound. It doesn’t look like much as one approaches it- a narrow opening flanked by hills. We’d planned it so we could ride the tide in and be at the northern end by the time the tide turned.
We stuck to the west shore, passing the cliffs below Flying Mountain that drop straight into the water, following the shoreline into Valley Cove where the banks rise nearly seven-hundred feet in under a quarter-mile to the surrounding mountaintops. We encountered a few hikers, but we otherwise had the place to ourselves, lingering beside the waterfalls. A tourboat arrived, the passengers pointing cameras at the waterfall as a guide's voice buzzed from little speakers- a hint of the crowds to come in just a few weeks.
A tailwind picked-up as we headed further-in, quickly whipping-up whitecaps and giving us a push. This wasn’t in the forecast, and we worried a little about fighting it on the way back. For the moment though, we moved right along and the banks turned gradual and settled. We passed Halls Quarry with its houses and a boatyard and coasted past Bar Island into Somes Harbor, where we found a vast grid of empty mooring balls that will soon tether a fleet of recreational vessels.
Tucked behind Sheep Island, a few tents were pitched on the platforms at at the Mt. Desert Campground, some atop granite bluffs, one with a kayak pulled ashore. It’s about as idyllic as a drive-in, commercial campground can get- not all easy sites to launch from, but the sites, shaded by red pines and cedars, sit atop pinkish granite that dips right down into the water. We zig-zagged back up the sound, stopping for a break from the wind in Sargent Cove, and heading back into Valley Cove for another look at the waterfalls in the evening light, with the tide lower by a few feet.
At Flying Mountain, a bald eagle sat on a branch of a scraggly pine atop a cliff, stoicly enduring the taunts of an osprey and some crows. The wind died-down to almost nothing. (Later, I checked the weather buoy, which registered very little wind, so perhaps the wind was only in the sound, funneled down between the mountains. A little current helped push us out of The Narrows, and back toward Southwest Harbor.