Congratulations to Paul Knight, winner of this year’s Tales of the Trail essay contest! We loved his sense of adventure and vibrant writing style – hopefully it will inspire more folks to (safely) explore the MITA sites in Cobscook Bay. For more information about some of the hazards to be prepared for in Cobscook, visit http://www.mita.org/trail/safety. Paul’s been a MITA member and volunteer since 2003.
Our trip Downeast started at about 9:00 am on Monday, May 18 as Cap’n Peg Leg (Michael) and Cap’n Sprinkler (Mark) arrived for loading up. It was a 4-1/2 hour drive up to Cobscook State Park, but with such good friends, it is never tedious. We arrived around 3:00 pm, and visited a couple of campsites. While looking over Site 124, a bald eagle flew overhead. Do we need more inspiration than that? No, so we went back up to the park ranger’s office and said we’ll take it. The rest of that first day was spent making camp, planning trips, and making suppah. A great campfire, great friends, and a ceremonial batch of margaritas to toast my retirement. How thoughtful.
Day 2 was windy and rainy, but that was our day for planting MITA logbooks at Nutter Cove Island and Cat Island. And besides, isn’t that why God invented drysuits? We put in at the Edmunds town launch, adjacent to the State Park, and headed out to Nutter Cove. Knowing that the route through Cobscook Reversing Falls would be folly at best, we took an inside route between Falls Island and the mainland. Well, I guess that was a better choice, but what a lesson in current paddling we had that day. I don’t know exactly how fast the current runs up there, but depending on where you are and the tide cycle, you can expect something between 2 and 7 knots no matter where you go. I was the first to give up and go ashore and line my boat through the worst of it, then went back to help Peg and Sprinkler with their boats. Once we got to a spot that we could manage, we headed out to Nutter Cove, a cunnin’ little island in Cobscook Bay, current paddling all the way. It was quite an experience, having to take into consideration the current at every crossing. From Nutter Cove, we crossed over to Cat Island, and deposited the logbook, then started to head back to the put-in. It was more or less high tide, and it looked benign enough, so we went straight through the Reversing Falls pretty easily. As we got to a turning point at Falls Island the current proved too much, so we snuck in toward shore, found an eddy, and regrouped for a breather. Peg took off first, made the corner into the channel, and was gone. Mark went next, and after getting spit back out on his first attempt, made it out of the eddy on his second try. So, it was my turn, and I tried to round the corner, but got blown back. Regaining my senses and courage, I tried again, but couldn’t defeat the evil current and was washed back toward the Falls. I had to muckle onto a rock to keep from getting sucked back upstream and losing all the territory we had gained. By now, the current was taking my bow upstream, I’m leaning 90 degrees to port, and holding on for dear life to this rock which would soon be underwater. It began to hit me that I was in real trouble. I hung on to that sucker for what seemed a good 5 minutes, wondering at what point would I have to give up and let go, and let Davy Jones do with me what he would. Then, Mark came racing around the corner, hooked onto my boat just as I was about to let go, and I bailed and got onto the aforementioned rock. Amazingly, I could walk from there to Falls Island. From there, Mark and I portaged our boats up, over, and back down an embankment to put in at a safe place from which to continue our journey. Here’s a lesson: paddle with competent friends. Mark was trying to hail me on the VHF, but when there was no reply he figured that I must not have a free hand, and that can only mean trouble. How thankful I am that he had the intuition and skill to return to my predicament. The rest of the trip that day was uneventful, save for a wrong turn or two, but what a relief to get back to camp and tell horror stories based in fact.
Wednesday we all felt like a little variety was in order (or maybe we were just spent from the previous day’s efforts). We took a drive up towards Lubec and worked our way down the Bold Coast, getting out for hikes at Maine Coast Heritage Trust’s Hamilton Cove Preserve and Bog Brook Cove Preserve, as well as the Cutler Coast Public Reserved Land. Our intention had been to paddle the Bold Coast and scout camping opportunities, but the hikes to these Preserves were pretty awesome in themselves. We sure did not get cheated because we didn’t paddle the Bold Coast on this trip. Stunning beauty is not too much praise. That night around the fire was, as always, punctuated by great food and much laughter.
Thursday, we went right out of our minds, and took a trip up to Campobello Island, New Brunswick. We sightseed (sightsaw?), then put in at Herring Cove on the southeast shore of Campobello. We were greeted by an old coot we called Campy, who rode up on a Royal Enfield motorcycle and asked if we knew that there were currents out there in the ocean. I guess our sea kayaks, gear, and drysuits weren’t enough of a clue that we had this covered. We paddled north for a few miles and the cliffs were stunning, 80-100 feet (oops, I mean 25-30 metres). It was a beautiful day, though windy, and there were pretty good waves, but compared to Tuesday it was a cakewalk. We settled on a cove for lunch with a nice little waterfall, and just soaked up the warm sun and break from the wind. The ride back was work, but beautiful. Campy was there to meet us and regale us with stories of local knowledge, as well as to explain to us why you can’t build a decent motorcycle if you don’t eat meat (one of those “you had to be there” experiences). I’d say Campobello was the highlight of the trip. Can you guess what we did after arriving back at the campsite?
Friday, sadly, was return-home day. Not really sadly – I think I can safely say we are all pretty lucky that home is a nice place to return to!