Saturday, July 5, 2014

No Place Like Home

I was at a potluck (we have a lot of those around here) and someone asked me if I was still paddling every day- either before work in the morning or in the evening. I answered “no” pretty quickly, and said all the paddling I was doing was basically work- mostly research for the guidebook. At the time, I was rushing to finish a deadline (I’m working on AMC’s Best Sea Kayaking in New England for Appalachian Mountain Club Books). The potluck came after a long day of writing and gallery work (missing another nice day of paddling) which came after a research trip, where I’d paddled every day, all day, sometimes multiple trips a day with a drive in-between.

Yes, paddling is fun and writing is usually sort-of fun, but it can certainly get to be work, especially when you do a lot of it. But as soon as I answered, a bit grumbly, that no, I hadn’t been taking those short one to two-hour before or after-work excursions, it made me remember those wonderful little trips into my own backyard, the Stonington archipelago, and I realized I’d been a fool to miss-out on the beautiful early summer mornings, or those evenings when the twilight lingers well after the sunset reddens the clouds over the Camden Hills.

As Rebecca and I drove home, I mentioned the conversation and she suggested we go for a paddle first thing in the morning. “But my deadline,” I said. It was only a day or two away, and as soon as it was done I’d be leaving again. Somehow we rationalized it, and in the morning launched at a decent enough hour. We headed straight out, and soon enough were approaching Steves Island.  

Over the past couple of months I’ve been paddling along Cape Cod, off Martha’s Vineyard and along the rocky southern edge of Narragansett Bay. I’ve paddled within sight of the Manhattan skyline and beneath the skyscrapers in Boston as well as along the North Shore, and every time I return home, I’m reminded why we live here. If I’m driving in daylight, I get that first brief glimpse just outside of Belfast where Route 3 crests a hilltop and Penobscot Bay appears spread out into the distance. Then at Caterpillar Hill you can pull-off and really have a look: the bridge arches over to Little Deer Isle and beyond rises the hilly shape of Isle au Haut, while the Great Spruce Head archipelago stretches out toward the Fox Islands and the three blinking red lights atop the wind generators on Vinalhaven (since by now it will undoubtedly be dark enough). There’s so many islands it’s hard to tell where the ocean begins.

But approaching Steves Island completes the picture. The treetops slope downward to the west, pruned by the prevailing winds, and the granite ledges reach out like welcoming arms, guiding you in to a sandy pocket beach between them. We walked the perimeter of the island, picking up the few odds and ends that had accumulated since the MITA clean-up a week earlier, and marveled at the solid feel of granite beneath our feet and the crisp, spruce-scented air.

It felt good to be home.

Here are a few snapshots from some of the places I've paddled lately:

 Gay Head Cliffs, Martha's Vineyard.

 Washburn Island, Waquoit Bay, Massachusetts.

 North Monomoy Island, south of Cape Cod.


Nauset Marsh.


 South Monomoy Island.

 Sandy Neck, Barnstable.

Wreck Island clean-up.

Thimble Islands, Connecticut.

Falkner Island, Connecticut.

Norwalk Islands, Connecticut.

Fishers Island Sound, Connecticut, New York & Rhode Island.  A RICKA club excursion.

Boston Outer Islands.

And then last week, I returned home to re-hang the gallery, and instead Rebecca and I joined our friends over at Sullivan Falls- a smaller day there, but the current and waves were perfect for plenty of easy surfing. We paid for it by re-hanging the gallery in the wee hours that night and into the next day- but it was well worth it.

It's been a great experience so far- some of it a bit lonely (there's too many shots of my lone kayak on beaches) some of it among new friends and a few old friends. The days have been long, stretching into the evenings as I work on notes in the campsite and ponder my next day's route by headlamp as I struggle to stay awake. And today, as I sat here in the gallery, a group of boisterous paddlers from Massachusetts came in and reminded me of how much paddling there is out there to discover. I can only get to a fraction of it, but I'm trying to make it the best fraction I can.


Gary said...

That book should be a good read.

Unknown said...

What can I say? Your bring out all those beautiful images and write beautifully about those wonderful places to paddle. And then, you find out that there's no place like home. And - you and Rebecca are so lucky to live in such a wonderful place to call home.

Philip Koch said...

What a beautifully expresses sentiment:

"I can only get to a fraction of it, but I'm trying to make it the best fraction I can."

Really enjoyed this post. Your comment that writing is "sometimes fun" reminds me of how making paintings can fit that same description.

Also last summer when I was up for my show at Isalos Fine Art I had a ball at the Caterpillar Hill overlook you write about. Got a good drawing from it I am meaning to turn into an oil painting.

BaffinPaddler said...

Beautiful pictures and awesome story to go along with the journey of your book. Sometimes the best part of travelling is, you enjoy being back home even more :) Happy trails. Please don't get too tired. Cheers and best wishes from Canada :)

Michael Daugherty said...

Thanks for reading and for the kind comments. I stopped by Caterpillar Hill again late last night: full moon, glimmering patches of ocean between the dark island shapes, red lights winking atop the bridge. I certainly was in the "too tired" range, but sights like that have a recharging effect.

Unknown said...

Oh, boy, I know the sight and the feelings.

Caroline said...

Wait, that was me, Caroline.

"Oh, boy, I know the sight and the feelings."