Thursday, May 25, 2017

Lunch On Steves Island


We paddled straight-out from Stonington, toward the familiar, wind-stunted shape of Steves Island, and it felt strange to me, realizing how long it had been since I’d launched from Colwell Ramp and followed this route that had once been my after-work getaway out to the islands. Despite the forecast of increasing winds, the air felt clear and warm; it finally felt like spring, and the activity at the ramp  - guys launching floating docks and then a seining dory – added to the feeling of a new season upon us. We crossed the Thorofare, aiming toward Steves Island with Isle au Haut lurking in the background.

Owens had come down from Colby College, where she would graduate in only a few days and then head-off to lead a month-long trip along the north shore of Lake Superior. It was good to have a guest who wanted to make the most of her time in our backyard.

We were in the habit of remarking that it looked nice out there, but we had this or that to do instead of paddling. There’s always a ‘this or that,’ and since this might be Owens’ last paddle on salt water for awhile, we had a good excuse to get out there.

The previous day she and I had paddled from Greenlaw Cove, where Rebecca and I had spent the last seven months house-sitting, and taken a loop around the east end of Eggemoggin Reach. Today though, we’d been drawn back out to the Stonington archipelago.

Moments after we passed Green Island, the wind picked-up, warm and sudden. We’d been thinking we might look for some splashy spots farther out, but the wind was now in our faces, and as we approached Steves it looked so inviting that we just had to land. It seemed we might not find a better spot for lunch, sheltered from the southwest winds on  a sunny ledge in the lee of a granite outcrop.

Of course we had to circumnavigate the island on foot first – a ten-minute meandering walk.

There is something about Steves Island that makes it seem more idyllic than other islands. It is only two miles from Stonington, tucked-in among a sheltering neighborhood of larger islands, but it's just far enough to feel apart from things in town. Maybe part of the allure is its tiny size, the way it doesn’t let you forget you’re on an island. Or it could be its pocket beaches, composed of crumbled and bleached shells, nestled between smooth granite ledges that soak up the sunlight and invite you to linger and just take it in. And of course the four MITA campsites are all sublime. When we lived in downtown Stonington we could see Steves from our apartment, its sloping shape almost iconic against the familiar hilly background of Isle au Haut. On the water, the island seemed to draw me toward it like a tractor beam.

Back when we lived in town, I was the island adopter for the Maine Island Trail Association, and I usually brought a garbage bag to pick-up whatever bits and pieces I might find. But I realized that most visitors to Steves felt about it like I do, and they took care of it as if it were their own, which is in a sense true of this state-owned gem. It was reassuring to me, looking-out from our home in town, to have this magical place always out there waiting, and at times I fantasized about what it would be like to spend a summer camping on one island after another, all for the price of a MITA membership – a fantasy that provided the seeds of the trip we’ll be taking this summer.

After lunch we meandered back to town: George Head, Sand and Crotch Islands, the Thorofare. Having ‘lived away’ (in Deer Isle) for a bit, I thought the village looked particularly nice: the colorful houses descending the hillside around the harbor, the fleet of lobster boats, now mostly returned for the day, the trees leafing-out in myriad shades of green. And it is entirely possible that I enjoyed returning to the mild hustle and bustle of Stonington (it seems that way when you've been out in the quiet islands) more than when I lived there.

MITA's annual clean-up on June 17th has enough volunteers (you can get on a waiting list) but there's still room to sign up for our Wreck & Round Island clean-up through Island Heritage Trust and MITA on June 18th. As we have for a few years, Rebecca and I and perhaps others will guide this free trip (including kayaks and gear, courtesy of Old Quarry Ocean Adventures).

Want to read more about Steves Island? Check-out this article I wrote for AMC Outdoors Magazine about paddling with a family to an island on the Maine Island Trail - in this case, Steves Island. You can also click on the Steves Island tag below, and it should bring-up a few blog posts. It's tough to imagine that I haven't already written at least one "Lunch on Steves" post.

Thanks to Rebecca Daugherty for most of these photos

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