|At least the first day was nice!|
Wow, that was epic... in the truest sense of the word. It was everything an adventure could be and should be. In some ways it was the greatest trip of my life, in other ways it was absolutely miserable and frightening.
A little background... The Maine Island Trial is a kayaking trail that goes from Portland to Manchias, Maine. (Portland, Maine, that is!) Last year I did a 100 mile trip across and around Penobscot Bay which included Isle au Haut, Vinalhaven, North Vinal. That trip was as nice as a trip could ever be: sunny, warm, clear weather and calm seas for 4 days. This trip's goal was to do another 100 mile of the Maine Island Trail from Stonington to Bar Harbor and back. It was quite the opposite of the first.
|Incredibly thick fog|
Day 1: Calm Winds and Fair Seas
It always takes a while for me to get ready and I set forth at 10:00AM on the first day. Boy was it every beautiful. Coastal Maine is like a northern Caribbean. There are thousands of islands on a jagged coast each inviting exploration and relaxation. The currents were light and I made most of the larger crossing in no time at all. Whats truly wonderful about the Maine coast is that you can island hop as much as you would like- most are state owned or public. I stopped on 4-5 islands the first day; most of the time it was just for the hell of it! Once I stopped and just read my book for an hour. I stopped on another island and drank a beer!
|Drinking a beer on some forgotten island|
Day 2: Stormy Weather to Bar Harbor and Back
The next day I awoke to a light fog. It wasn't unmanageable but it did make the going slower. Fortunately it cleared off by 9AM. At this point I began kayaking around Mt Desert Island. This is the main island which Acadia National Park is based on. Its the 6th largest island in the country and is a wonderful place to kayak. I went right under the single bridge that connects Mt Desert Island to the mainland and continued to hug the coast.
|A very cliffy section just east of Salsbury Cove|
Unfortunantely after I rounded that last cape on my way to Bar Harbor, the wind and waves began to pick up. Kayaking in the wind is like swimming in quicksand. You know you're going somewhere but its hard to tell, especially on the ocean. That was disheartening but I made it into Bar Harbor.
As opposed to the quintessentially Maine-ish towns of Vinalhaven, North Haven, Stonington and Isle au Haut, Bar Harbor was heavily touristed and had the feeling of staleness. I walked into town to resupply on food and it was positively jarring. One moment I'm paddling the free and unspoiled coastal wilderness and the next I'm fighting my way through thousands of ill-prepared tourists complaining about the high price of souvenirs. It was like eating a expertly prepared fillet Mignon for lunch and then going to McDonalds for dinner. I don't mean to complain; Bar Harbor is probably a wonderful place for most but it certainly doesn't suit my tastes! I was happy to leave.
The currents still plagued me but I decided to head back the way I came and enjoy riding the tide for a while. I only had enough time kayak back to the original island I stayed on the first night.
|Kayaking in Fog....|
I hate fog.
I would take 7 days of rain over 1 day of fog. I awoke on the 4th of July to the worst fog I've ever been in. Thinking it would clear off by 9AM again I stayed on my little island until then. It never cleared.... It just hemmed me in. It was imprisoning.
Complaining about it wasn't going to get me closer to Stonington so I set forth into the fog. I had to study my charts like I was preparing for the test of my life. When your on the ocean and on a coast as variable as Maine's, the slightest miscalculation will render you completely lost. My refusal to rely on a GPS has produced good skills with a compass and map though. It was slow, but at least I knew where I was going.
|This was my view for most of the 4th of July|
This is the terrible and wonderful thing about mountaineering and long distance kayaking, the two sports I am most fond of. Most of us like to think we're in control of everything in our lives, myself included. Truthfully, we are in conrol of very little.
Fourth of July night was a miserable night for me. I slept on a beach and could hear the jubilee of fireworks and celebrations off in the distance while I was essentially stranded in fog and rain. The mosquitoes and sand flees were relentless.
The day started off again with more heavy, thick fog. Once again I was put in the precarious situation of making blind crossings. I was more confident now and thankfully, the fog began to clear after 9AM. I was back to happily kayaking along a beautiful coast! The final crossings were not nearly as stressful and I was able to make it back to Stonington safely and in one piece.
|Back to calm winds and flowing seas|
After packing up my car and kayak I instinctively plugged my home address into the GPS. It was so simple, I laughed.