Monday, August 20, 2007

Maine Land

After I finished the excellent Greenland comprehensive course (at 5pm), I raced home, grabbed a quick bite to eat, transfered the Q-Boat from H's car to the egg, loaded H's kayak onto the egg, showered, and hit the road for Stonington, ME. I was pooped, so H took the helm of the egg and guided us through the lonely ME night to Old Stone Quarry Campground where the rest of the crew was soundly snoozing to dreams of the glorious kayaking to come.
We arrived just after midnight and set about locating our tent site. The directions: go to the main parking lot and set up your tent in the corner site. In the day light, after we had gotten some sleep, these directions made perfect sense...
We spotted what we thought was our site off to the far side of the parking lot. It had a nice fire pit and an enclosed food area. We were pretty sure that this set up was far too posh, but we rummaged through all of the stuff for clues anyway. Then we crossed the parking lot to where we found three little tent perched on the edge of the road. H spotted a RI Audubon Society mug and decided that this had to be the right place.
Our site located, we pulled out the Taj, an EMS Nova 4 that our kayaking friends gave us as a wedding present. Wisely, we had set it up in our back yard a few days earlier and didn't have to puzzle out the assembly in the dark while sleep deprived. For such a large tent (it has a screened entry room), the Taj is a snap to set-up. Three poles slip into well marked sleeves and the tent is erect. The real difficulty lay in finding a large enough flat spot for its perch. We wound up settling for a gentle slope that put our feet just below our heads. We could fix it in the morning.
After a sound, but cold, slumber, H and I woke to find the rest of the crew mulling about making breakfast. P & L made pancakes, bacon, and coffee on RB's two burner stove. You could hardly call it camping. The food was dinner quality and the setting was outdoor patioesque. It was hard for me to even think about getting into my kayak.
One other twist was sapping my motivation. There were diverse goals to be worked out. H & I, along with P & L, were content to camp at Old Stone Quarry and do day paddles. The sites, while not ideal, were functional, the two burner stove made cooking a snap, and the cars made zipping into town a breeze. In addition, we were not keen on the idea of packing up our kayaks, spending a good part of the day ferreting out a camp site, unpacking our kayaks, and setting up camp. There was also the issue of needing to pack out all of your waste products. (Not to mention that I was being a bit paranoid about not having done proper planning for a wilderness camping trip.)
CC, Bubbles, and RB wanted to do some island camping. It would be an adventure and definitely more picturesque than Old Stone Quarry. It also meant that we could venture farther out into the islands on day paddles.
We decided on a compromise plan. Today, we would just do a day paddle to reconnoiter possible island camping and return to Old Stone Quarry. If we found a good spot to camp, we'd pack up the kayaks tomorrow morning and camp out on the island tomorrow night.
With a rough plan laid out, we carried our kayaks down to the launch and set off to see the islands. The conditions were lovely - almost no wind, plenty of sun, and just a tinge of coolness in the air. It didn't take long for Bubbles to spot a pod of porpoises feeding along our path.
We meandered around the islands with CC playing the role of navigator. She had marked up her chart to indicate which islands had camping possibilities. H also had a chart and did her best to keep track of the group's location.
Before lunch we stopped at one island to investigate the camping sites. CC & Bubbles surveyed the island while RB pulled muscles from the rocky shore. The rest of us just floated around enjoying the views.
For lunch we stopped on a long sand spit extending out from one of the many islands in the harbor. This island was occupied by a couple with a friendly, and hungry, black lab. The dog enjoyed our lunch stop with us. Bubbles made sure the dog didn't starve for food or attention.
After lunch, we headed across Merchant's Row to check out Harbor Island. According to CC's chart it had plenty of camp sites and we could have a fire. We found the island occupied by a few campers that were planning on leaving the next day. It offered plenty of excellent camp sites and great views. We also met a very nice couple from Jamestown who were sailing along the ME coast with their blind dog. They were using the island as a doggy park for the evening.
After seeing Harbor Island, we decided that we would return tomorrow for camping. It was well worth the effort of packing up the kayaks and lugging all of our waste out.
We chose a different, more direct, path back to the campground. We were all getting hungry and there was one more island camp site to check out.
Back at the campground, I decided to try my roll. I figured that I wouldn't get too cold and could just pop on some dry clothes. The water is that cold and I was only wearing a light rash guard... By the time I was back on dry land, had the kayaks safely pulled up above the tide line, and had unpacked the dry clothes, I was starting to feel dangerously cold. My typically addled mind was slipping into full fledged addledome. As quickly as possible, I scooped up dry clothes, ran to the shower room, and soaked in a very warm shower to reheat. It took a while in warm, dry clothes for me to feel completely normal.
For dinner, RB cooked up a spicy shrimp and tomato-sauce dish that he capped with steamed muscles.

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