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Isle au Haut Adventure

Burnt Island, MaineMy latest adventure was a paddling trip from Stonington, Maine to Isle au Haut. Isle au Haut contains a large chunk of Acadia National Park but receives far fewer visitors than Mount Desert Island. The only way to get there is by boat and for me, that means paddling. I brought along my friend Dylan. You never know when you'll need someone to fight a shark. In typical fashion I loaded up my boat with camping gear, safety essentials and a select amount of camera gear. Dylan brought along an assortment of knives and booze.

The first day of our trip welcomed us with weather so pleasant that it was boring. This, combined with the hordes of pleasure boaters on the water, had me kind of disappointed. I had hoped for a wilderness adventure. Where was the wind, waves and sense of doom?

Well, the sense of doom came when we got to our campsite for the first night. The other islands that were available for camping were filled with people and we were forced to stay at a place that we were warned not to stay at. It was filled with mosquitos. Dylan said he was bitten through his wetsuit. It was absolutely awful. Only the small space we had chosen to place out tents had any respite from the little bastards. It was so bad that we didn't leave our tents until morning. Except, of course, to pop the bottle of champagne that Dylan brought with him. He filled a dry bag with seawater and ice from a thermos and we enjoyed chilled bubbly the first night.

More to follow.

Muscongus Bay, Part Four

The previous day's fog lifted overnight to reveal an absolutely stunning sunrise. The water was serene and the clouds were retreating. After Breakfast, Dylan and I set out for the northern tip of Cow Island, a crossing of about a mile and a half. The wind had picked up a bit since sunrise and it blew directly in our faces. Luckily, the water remained fairly calm. At the end of Cow Island we pulled into a small cove and took a break. We carried our boats over a small sand bar and we were suddenly at the other side of the island. Cheating can be nice sometimes.

We then went up and around Palmer Island and straight over to Crow Island. At Crow, we ate lunch and watched a group of lobster boats working. Despite moving so slowly, they create a huge wake. They were the only thing making waves in this part of the sound. We decided that we'd camp at the southern tip of Hog Island, only a short ways away from Crow.

We loaded up the boats and paddled down to Crow Island, finding what used to be a campsite. There was a large sign posted saying that no camping was allowed. It looked like they might have been rebuilding the sites. Oh well, back to Crow Island for us. On our way out we say a group of paddlers headed towards Hog Island.

Back at Crow we called up a number on a sign on the island and got a fire permit. We buit a fire below the high tide line and then we finished off Dylan's whiskey. It was a good thing we didn't have far to paddle the next day.

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