These four MITA members are making waves on the Trail and in their on-shore lives. Stay tuned for more Members in the Spotlight throughout the year, on our blog and in our Island Trail biannual newsletter!
Member since 2014
Some people get a little sensitive when you ask their age. But Ellen Shockro doesn’t mind telling you that she’s 72. Nor should she. With 350 open-water races, 68 triathlons (including two Ironmans), and 5 Peaks-to-Portland swims under her belt, the California-based MITA member is actively proving that age poses no boundaries to what you can do in the water.
Raised in New York State, Shockro went to camp in Maine as a child. About 15 years ago, she and her husband, a boater, bought a house in Stonington. Each year they stay from April to October.
“We love it there,” says Shockro, who holds a PhD in Chinese History, and retired as a professor of History and Humanities at Pasadena City College. “It’s a place where you really can become a part of the community.”
Shockro wakes at 4 a.m. daily to work out year round. During her stays in Maine, she walks, runs, and savors her swims at Lily Pond on Deer Isle, and at the beaches maintained by the Island Heritage Trust. Each week she heads to the Downeast YMCA in Ellsworth for a masters swim class.
Last year when she heard about MITA, she quickly became a member. She is going to start kayaking more this coming summer, and is looking forward to exploring more of the Maine Island Trail by boat.
“The idea of an island trail is so remarkable – I love it,” says Shockro, who spends winters in Corona Del Mar, California. “I would love to try to swim it from island to island.” If anyone could, it would be Ellen.
Member since 1992
They include: Maine Conservation Voters, Land for Maine’s Future, Southern Maine Conservation Collaborative, Portland Land Bank, Oceanside Conservation Trust of Casco Bay, Portland Trails, and the Maine Islands Coalition.
Happily for MITA, he has also devoted his considerable energy to the Maine Island Trail. That includes keeping an eye on Jewell Island, the 221-acre uninhabited island off the coast of Cliff Island.
“We look out at Jewell, and we kind of feel like it is under our wing,” says Berle, who operated a construction business on Cliff Island for 34 years.
An avid kayaker, sailor, power boater, and advocate for low-impact use of the islands, Berle has visited several dozen MITA sites, and been a frequent volunteer at MITA cleanups and other activities.
“I’m a big fan of MITA, and I love to contribute any way I can,” says Berle, who splits his time between Falmouth and Cliff Island.
“MITA gets people out on the islands who might not be out there otherwise. They get to see what beautiful places they are, and who knows where that may lead. They can become [adopters], volunteers on cleanups, or help fight invasive species… That is totally happening, and I think MITA is the delivery medium for that.”
Member since 2004
But it was an experience on the Maine Island Trail that led to a turning point in his career, and the exploration of an entirely different frontier.
He has been visiting Maine since childhood, and in recent years has been on expeditions to a number of MITA sites, including Cross, Ram, and Little Cranberry Island, to name a few. Along the way he fell in love with sea kayaking, and the beautiful wide-open views that only paddling in Downeast Maine can offer.
“You can truly get away and get a real sense of remoteness Downeast,” he says. “Everything just opens up.”
He’s even made MITA clean-ups into mini-vacations, like the one on McGlathery Island that began with a campout, and was followed by a circumnavigation of Isle au Haut.
“Picking up trash isn’t on top of anybody’s list of fun things to do,” he says. “But you take this junky-looking shoreline that had been covered in plastics, litter, and old lobster buoys, and after a couple of hours, it looks pristine. You get this real sense of satisfaction from it.”
While on vacation in Islesford in August 2003, Huth rented a kayak and headed for Little Cranberry Island, without a map, compass, or appropriate clothing – wearing only a cotton t-shirt and shorts. About two miles from shore, fog rolled in, and he lost his bearings.
Fighting panic, he reached for clues about where he was and how to get home.
He noticed that the wind was coming out of the southeast and the swell was coming from the southwest. He heard a grinding noise that the waves were making as they crashed against the rocks on a nearby beach. He knew that the lobster pots are generally set at a certain depth and took note of the wakes that the buoys created by the incoming tide.
“The whole time I was just trying to figure out ways of keeping myself oriented in the kayak.” He made it home safely (and promptly beefed up his safety supplies).
A few months later, while paddling in Nantucket Sound, Huth was bedeviled by fog again. He made it back to shore, in part by relying on the natural cues he’d taken during his Maine trip. But two women who were paddling less than a mile from him had not been so lucky. One was found dead the next day. The other was never found.
The incidents opened up a whole new field of work for Huth. They led him to explore the way that primitive people navigated before the invention of the nautical chromoter. He began teaching a course on primitive navigation at Harvard, and wrote “The Lost Art of Finding Our Way” (Belknap Press, 2013). The perspective he gained along the way continues to shape his paddling adventures along the Maine Island Trail.
“You’re always learning something out there – that’s the interesting thing,” he says. “Every time I go out there, the learning improves, and the fear factor drops.”
Emmie Theberge and Joel Johnson
Members since 2012
Theberge is outreach manager and clean energy policy advocate at the Natural Resources Council of Maine, and Johnson is an economist at the Maine Center for Economic Policy.
In 2013, they spent a week paddling between Bar Harbor and Machias. Last year, they paddled from Portland to Rockland. Along the way, they’ve weathered storm-soaked campouts, major gusts, huge southerly swells, and close encounters with wildlife.
While paddling to Machias, a whale surfaced just 15 feet from their kayaks. “It was incredible!” says Johnson, a former sea kayak guide.
“Maine’s islands and the Trail are a treasured place for both of us,” says Theberge. Shorter expeditions have been just as exciting.
In 2012, while on a four-day paddle out of Friendship, they spent a stormy night camping on Little Griffin Island, a small treeless site just north of Burnt Island. The next day, on a whim and with a quick weather check, they paddled to Monhegan, and stayed in a bed and breakfast there for the night.
“We hiked around Monhegan, and enjoyed the feeling of being tourists in our own backyard, “ she adds. The next morning, they paddled back to Burnt Island for their third and final night of the trip. “It was so much fun. “
A week-long paddle from Rockland to Bar Harbor is in the works for the summer ahead. Says Johnson, “We can’t wait!”
Have a story to share about your adventures on the Maine Island Trail? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org