Muscongus

Muscongus Bay, Part Three

FOG! Lots and lots of fog. Waking up in the morning of the second day was an "Oh shit" moment. The clear bright day we previously had turned into a murky, foggy mess. Visibility was about 1/4 to 1/2 of a mile. There was no sign of it dissipating. After some consideration, Dylan and I decided to set off a short while before high tide. The hope was that there would be a minimum of current running to throw us off course. We had to paddle by compass bearing to find the islands we were heading for. We also decided to make it a short day. There was no sense in paddling around in dense fog any more than we really had to. We were to paddle out to a buoy and would then take a turn and head down to Harbor Island.

Getting to the buoy went smoothly. We found it without any problems despite not being able to see land or any other navigational guides for most of the crossing. At the buoy, I decided on a new compass bearing to follow and we paddled out. Soon, a lot sooner than I expected, we saw land and made our way to an island in the fog. We found a rocky beach and got out of the boats to explore. A short ways away we found a sign bolted to a tree telling us we were at Black Island. Whoops. We wanted to go to Harbor Island. Black Island was where we were planning to stay for the night after exploring Harbor Island.

Dylan and I went back to the boats and I looked at the chart. Turns out that I hadn't accounted for the difference between magnetic and true north correctly. I had subtracted where I should have added. After that mistake, I'm now able to finally wrap my head around the concept and I shouldn't mess it up again. We were lucky to paddle to an island so easily identified and the mistake didn't have severe consequences.

We set out into the fog again, this time on a proper course and found Harbor island without a problem. On the way we encountered several seals. Dylan explained to me that they're the dogs of the seas. I think he wants one for a pet.

We pulled up on the beach at Harbor Island and I tried to make lunch. Somehow I ended up burning Cous Cous, then instant oatmeal. I ended up settling for some beef jerky and Swedish Fish. Dylan ate a Cliff bar. He probably didn't need to eat for the rest of the day.

After an unsuccessful lunch, we started exploring the shore of Harbor Island. We stumbled across a huge amount of trash, including several lobster buoys. Further down the shore at the southern end of the island there was a collection of buoys, all of them strung up on drift wood and rocks. We saw a path leading into the woods and decided to follow it back to the boats. The path quickly disintegrated and we were left wondering where to go. We ended up stumbling through dense woods, only following small white rocks that had been placed to show the way. We passed a dozen or more strange creations on the ground. They looked like houses that were built for small animals. Dylan decided that a feral child was living on the island and built them, perhaps after a day of trapping and eating seabirds. We didn't pause for photos. The little hike wasn't very enjoyable anymore and we were beginning to feel like we might never get off this island. Thoughts of a feral child sneaking through the woods, following us and waiting for the right moment to trap us kept us moving quickly.

Eventually, after making a couple wrong turns and being lost in the foggy woods, we made it back to the boats and paddled back to Black Island. We made camp here, using an old wooden box as a table, and we explored the island. On the western shore of the island there were huge rocks on the shore that we climbed around. The fog was oppressing and we hoped it would lift by morning.

Muscongus Bay, Part Two

The trip began like any other. I forced Dylan to wake up far earlier than he wanted. He had worked the previous day but still managed to do all of his shopping and packing just a few hours before we left. He showed up with one box of instant oatmeal, one box of Easy Mac, 12 Cliff Bars and one Gatorade bottle of an unknown liquid. Dylan grabbed the bottle and while tossing it in the back of my car said, "This isn't Gatorade." "Is it piss?" I asked timidly. "Nope. Twenty five dollars of whisky." I feared the worst.

Well equipped with food and liquor, we set out, stopping at a pharmacy on the way to pick up cheap sunglasses and some water for Dylan. The only sunglasses they had were pink women's sunglasses or kid's glasses. We each bought a pair and a case of bottled water. We continued onwards.

The rest of the drive up was uneventful save for one missed turn and Dylan's uncanny ability to flood the car with strange body odors. Dylan suggested we stop somewhere to get scuba knives for killing sharks. We didn't find a place and Dylan seemed upset. When we got to Round Pond, Maine, we pulled into what we thought was the town with free parking. It was actually some other unknown boat ramp but we would be able to park the car on the side of the road a little ways away. Dylan and I spent the next 45 minutes unloading everything from the car and cramming it all into the boats. Not an easy task but we managed.

After carrying the boats down to the water, we set out. After getting a small ways into the harbor I decided to do a roll. I had never rolled a loaded boat. With all the weight in it, I had to really struggle to get the boat all the way inverted and it seemed to take forever to do so. Luckily, it practically rolled up on its own. One less thing to worry about.

We paddled over to Loud's island and stumbled across a pair of hot chicks in bikinis on a beach. The trip was off to a good start. We followed the shore of the island south to Bar Island. The shore was rocky and covered in seaweed. We decided not to land and explore the island. We continued onwards to Little Marsh island. This was where we supposed to spend the night so we struggled out of the boats despite the landing conditions being far worse than Bar Island.

Little Marsh island is puny. The only spot suitable for a campsite had an anthill in the middle of it. I snapped a couple photos and then we got the hell out of there.

Dylan and I headed up to Thief Island. The island was large, plenty to explore. It had a number of wooded tent sites which meant I'd be well separated from Dylan's funk. It even had a picnic table! After spending a few minutes on the island we realized that we weren't alone. Moles infested the place, scurrying around in the bushes everywhere. But they seemed friendly and Dylan decided not to eat any.

The first day was fun. Dylan got a nasty sunburn on his shoulders despite applying loads of sunblock. He remained upset about our lack of scuba knives. Looks like he would just have to kill the sharks with his own hands.

Part Three Coming Soon

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.