Muscongus Bay, Part One

You'd expect people from Maine to talk just like everyone else from New England. Like, you know, normal. But that's not the case. Once you get into the dense woods of the state, particularly the area known as Downeast Maine, you start to hear some pretty crazy ways to pronounce words. Bangor, a decent sized city in Maine is not pronounced the way you'd think it would be. Rather, it's pronounced “Banga.” Mount Desert Island, home to Acadia National Park, is pronounced “Mount Dessert (like a delicious after meal snack) Island. Crazy, I know. So when I decided to spend a few days paddling around Muscongus Bay, I knew that I had to avoid saying Muscongus to any of the locals because surely they wouldn't know what I was talking about. I'd be saying it all wrong. It's probably pronounced “Muscanngus” or something equally silly. The trip, which turned out to be four short days of paddling on beautifully calm water, had been in planning for about 10 months. Last August I paddled with a friend using one of his boats on a very short trip along the Coast of Mount Desert Island. Here, we stopped at a small island to take a break and consider how silly we were for paddling around in what was undoubtedly shark infested water. On the island, which couldn't have been more than half an acre, I came across a small sign stuck to a tree. The sign explained that the island was part of the Maine Island Trail, a “trail” of islands spanning the entire coast of Maine. After returning back to our campsite later that day, relieved to have miraculously avoided being eaten by sharks, I decided that I wanted to take a trip along a portion of the Maine Island Trail, camping on islands along the way. It's easy enough to have wanted to do this but there were a couple of things in the way.

I didn't own a kayak or any of the things that you need to paddle a kayak in cold Maine water and not die. Actually, I did have a dry bag, but it had a hole in it. So it wasn't any good anyways. For the next ten months I learned everything I could about kayaking. I bought a boat, a paddle, a life vest, a waterproof radio, flares and a whole bunch of food. I took classes with a local kayak outfitter. I learned how to roll the kayak upright after I capsized it. I even carved my own paddle out of a piece of cedar. Then I bought another boat. I even joined a semi-local paddling club that taught me even more stuff about kayaking. I lost 2 pairs of sunglasses at two different ponds in New Hampshire. I got sunburnt everywhere. I learned how fast my hands went numb when I paddled in only recently thawed rivers. I read up on treating hypothermia and how to pack poop off an island. I was ready to go.

To increase my chances of not dieing on the trip I brought along Dylan. A long time friend, Dylan's just about the only person I know that I can convince to come along on my silly adventures. For two months prior to the trip I spent one day a week teaching Dylan everything I could about kayaking so he wouldn't be paddling around in circles all day. Seriously, he could paddle in a straight line the first few times he went out. I wasn't too worried about Dylan dieing. When he was in High School, Dylan went for a run. Jogging happily along on the sidewalk a passing car swerved to avoid a dog in the road. Instead of hitting the dog, the driver hit Dylan. The windshield of the car was destroyed and the roof was crumpled from Dylan rolling up onto it. After dusting himself off, Dylan continued his run. He complained of a sore leg the next day.

What Dylan lacked in paddling skills he made up for with massive amounts of strength and blind perseverance. Originally he was going to borrow a family friend's boat for the trip. After having the offer of the boat rescinded, he was offered full use of a boat and all associated paddling gear by Ed Collier, a local photographer www.edcollierphotography.com. I had been helping Ed out with some video for the Fitchburg Longsjo Classic and mentioned our plight. He offered up his stuff without hesitation. Crazy cool guy. I bought a new boat just prior to the trip and Dylan was able to use my old boat but Ed's assistance was invaluable while I was teaching Dylan.

With everything ready to go, Dylan and I set out on our trip to Muscongus Bay.

The upcoming trip report will be much shorter and to the point. It will, of course, include photos.