Long time MITA member and supporter Jim Owen took a trip on the Trail off of Stonington this fall, encountering idyllic conditions and plenty of adventure. Here’s his trip report! ~MITA
On Tuesday, September 8th, my neighbor, Glenn, and I paddled out to Kimball and Isle au Haut for a two night stay. Thanks in part to weather.com we hit it just right; it wasn’t too cold, we enjoyed some sun, and a nasty, rainy front held off until we were out of the water and our way home on Thursday.
We left our car at the Old Quarry Campground and paddled as far as Steves, where we had lunch. Steves is a nice little island, and we enjoyed the break as well as a bite to eat. It was sunny and comfortable sitting by one of the sandy beaches, and looking back at Stonington perched over her harbor. The paddle from Steves to Kimball is always enjoyable with Stonington to the west, and with Harbor, Merchant, and Isle au Haut to look at as you paddle along. I wish I could say that we saw 3 minke whales, a school of porpoises, and a rock covered with seals, but we didn’t.
Glenn and I arrived at Kimball with plenty of light left. The beach by the camping area is rocky, but has a gentle slope and was forgiving, there was no swell or wave action to speak of. As described in the Guide, the camping area is grassy, and with a grade going down towards the beach. I set up my tent sideways to the grade; I was comfortable, but I would set up my tent so that I slept with my head uphill next time. After we were settled in we went for a short paddle into Isle au Haut’s harbor, and walked to the Acadia National Park ranger station where we found maps for the Duck Harbor Campground in the Park, and a much appreciated public latrine. We didn’t plan to stay at Duck Harbor, but we did want to visit it on Wednesday.
Glenn and I both have our preferences for dinner food. He likes freeze dried pasta primavera, I like Indian vegetarian dishes that come in sealed bags that you pop into hot water to heat them up (available at Reny’s, the Maine Adventure store). Notice, that neither involve food touching your cooking pan! I just had to add the paneer to a bowl full of crispy Indian noodles, and I had the best of both worlds…eating tasty Indian food and watching the sun set, off towards the Camden Hills.
Wednesday we paddled south along the west side of Isle au Haut. It was cool, scattered fog was around, and there was some swell and chop coming in from the ocean, but not enough to be alarming at all. We knew it would clear. The light house on Isle au Haut is a classic white structure, perched on the rocks, just in from the water, and looks just like a kid would draw a light house. There are a a bunch of ledges along the coast, and each of them has its own way of throwing waves off its sides. Given the relatively civilized state of the sea, it was just fun to paddle among them feeling the waves and mimicking the sea ducks that were bobbing about like we were. I misjudged the distance to Duck Harbor – I thought it was further than it was and because of me we paddled right by it. Oops! Not only did the distance fool me, but so did the look of the entrance to it (compared to the map), so beware if you plan to visit. Fortunately, we didn’t go much further before realizing my mistake.
We turned back and enjoyed lunch overlooking the harbor, the dock, and the mailboat that came while we were there. Compared to Kimball, we were in the middle of civilization. We shared a picnic table with a cheerful older woman who came on the previous mailboat with her family. Unfortunately for her, the trails were too rugged for her to navigate. So she was happily perched on the picnic table waiting for the rest of her family to return from their hike.
On the way back along the coast, the sun was out and it was like summer. We stopped again at the town dock of Isle au Haut and took a walk north along the main road. The school and the library are both worth seeing, and the road offers some terrific views to the west. If you find yourself craving some ice cream, you can get it at the town store like we did. Yummers.
Thursday morning we left early for Stonington and the Campgound. The weather report said the bad weather would arrive around noon, one side or the other. We broke camp quickly, and managed to stuff all our gear back into our kayaks. I never cease to be amazed at what can go into a kayak. Anyway, all packed up, and with our boats heavy with gear, we paddled off northwest under deceptively sunny skies. As I recall, the wind and tide were both pushing us along so we made great time. We didn’t stop at all along the way as we wove our way among the islands off Stonington and between us and the Old Quarry Campground. Even when hurrying to avoid bad weather, the passage among those islands is beautiful in every direction. Emptying the boats and loading up my car went smoothly and we were out of there well before the bad weather hit. I think we got as far as Orland before we got hit with the first of several nasty squalls complete with heavy rain and strong gusts. It was much better being in the car!