MITA member and trip-reporter extraordinaire Gary York shares an around-MDI adventure from last summer!
I planned a multi-day “loop” trip in the MDI area that would include many of the must-see locales that had accumulated on my bucket list. When asked by my paddling companion Rob why the trip was to proceed counterclockwise (CCW), I had no good answer, other than to say it feels RIGHT to keep the coast on my LEFT!
Route for the CCW trip: http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=6445869
The Wooden Boat School was kind to offer overnight parking and a convenient ramp; we launched nearly on-time at 12:30 to a 5-10 NE, and a late flood tide (HT=1447). We bee-lined easterly to Naskeag Point, then on to Pond to check out the MITA site. The still-steady NE wind and tide guided us around western Swans, and we headed for the visible building charted as the lighthouse to Burnt Coat Harbor, where we tucked into the lee for a needed rest.
A short paddle from there brought us to our home for two nights – Big Baker, with its beautiful needle-laden cozy campsite in a spruce grove. I was feeling a little disjointed after a long first day!
Clear skies greeted us on Day 2, and we pushed off with plans to spend the day on Marshall, the largest uninhabited island on the eastern seaboard. At the get-go we were a bit “at sea” getting our bearings – an apparent “ledge” around Harbor was not indicated on the chart. The “ledge” morphed into an obvious commercial fishing enterprise, a string of huge pens enclosing jumping and rising salmon, fed through a series of pipes from the mother barge at the western tip.
We enjoyed the last bit of lee from the ledges between Harbor and Green before paddling head-on into the 10-15 northwesterly and 2.5 foot seas. We opted for the nearest quiet landing, rather than suffer a big-surf landing (northern tip) or possible difficult paddle back to camp (SE Sand Cove). The two-mile direct crossing to Little Marshall just offshore drained 60 minutes from our day. Along our (CCW) 5-mile land trek we encountered expansive meadows, pebble beaches, spacious campsites (one with newish tent platforms), an abandoned airstrip, potable well water, and Marshall’s crown jewel, Sand Beach.
By mid-afternoon, we had retraced our route back to camp, and enjoyed a fine hot meal in the cozy grove.
With a big paddling day facing us on Day 3, we chowed breakfast, packed the boats, and shoved off (typically one half hour later than previous nights’ plans) for our trip to Crow in the Cranberries.
Next in line, though, was Frenchboro, Long Island, and a possible sandy (according to the chart) landing at Big Beach. Nearing the steep beach, it was clear that this was of the course-grained variety, with the average grain weighing in at 50 pounds! We had hoped to hike the MCHT trails (CCW) for a stretch, but the unstable footing (fully-loaded boats) and difficult access turned us away.
We turned the corner into placid Lunt Harbor, parking at the gas wharf, followed by an ever-so-quiet walk along the cove road to the ferry terminal, gladly interrupted by two amorous felines and a newly-transplanted spouse (after seven years, she was not convinced this was “home”). After lunch and (flush) privy, we aimed for Little Black, explored its campsite, then snuck into the tiny opening of the magical “green lagoon” nearby.
At length, via East Great Gott, we arrived at our destination after a 4-mile open crossing, gently aided by the 5-7k NW wind.
Day 4 was planned as a local day. A few sprinkles throughout the night and morning would be the only “weather” we experienced on the journey. Baker Island lighthouse (Acadia) was in our sights, and we beached at the small NW cove to explore the lighthouse (no entry) and surrounding history, including a quaint, shed-like museum.
Next, off to NE Harbor, CCW, of course, Little Cranberry to port, past Sutton and a quick stop at the gas marina, but nobody home.
We peeked around the corner, further into the harbor, and beached at the public boat ramp, amongst a semblance of bustle. Two tourists chatted us up, and revealed they were from my home town! The hunt was on for a restaurant meal, and we were pleased with the offerings from Colonel’s Restaurant and Bakery – good meals and a pastry for our “midnight” (8pm) snack later.
Since we had topped off the dromedaries at the visitor center, I felt safe to let Rob in on the bad news I was carrying – I had inadvertently left one of Rob’s filled 6L bags at Big Baker. I had carried it behind my back-band on Day 1, but hadn’t realized my gaffe leaving Big Baker – I instead placed my 2L bag (filled at Marshall) behind the seat. To my relief, Rob was quick to share his secret – he had scooped up the water sack when I wasn’t looking! Shouldn’t have been a worry to begin with, as we were carrying 26L between us!
A quick stop at Islesford on the way back “home” found mostly closed stores, including the museum, much to our disappointment.
We were up at Dawn’s crack for our next leg – E side of MDI to Lamoine State Park in Trenton. This time Rob shared his version of “bad news” – 3 to 5 foot swells, SW, with a period of 15 seconds. I was happy to hear the report of light wind, ~5 kts W, and was optimistic for our sojourn up the E side on a glorious, blue-sky day. The seas were gentle, and we enjoyed cautious play time off the rugged coast before a pit stop at the Bar Harbor public beach/ramp, where I was unceremoniously dumped in 3 inches of water! (Note to self: Must figure a way to get my too-long legs out of the cockpit before landing – quite a trick!). The town was hopping with throngs of tourists from an anchored cruise ship (~3000 passengers, by Rob’s estimate), as many as 5 ship-borne water taxis shuttling to and fro. Tourist season was far from over in Bar Harbor that day. The local policeman offered the Downeast Delicatessen up the road for good eats, and he was spot on – fast-food pace, but quality sandwiches, enjoyed on the grassy knoll overlooking the Harbor, as we waited for the incoming tide to cover Bar’s bar. The remaining leg to Lamoine State Park was uneventful (terminally sluggish into the wind), though we enjoyed the cliffside “ovens” on the north shore.
As each day rolled on, we were gaining efficiency with boat packing, and we launched at last night’s pre-agreed time. On flat seas we eased over to the bridge connecting the mainland. We had envisioned an expansive structure, but was surprised to encounter a <100’ long X 21’ high bridge that is the gateway to the second-largest island on the East Coast, welcoming 2.5 million visitors annually.
Our plan for the day was to check out the 3 little MITA sites scattered about Bartlett Narrows. The northernmost “Hub” was first in line: easterly, seaweed landing, ledgy, and a single, nest-like, 1-tent site, surrounded by windbreak shrubbery and trees. We were surprised to find little current at the narrowest of the “Narrows” on the late ebb. Johns was next, seaweed landing, small area for a tent or 2 in the grass near the grove. We enjoyed lunch on Jolly, in the shade on this warm day, and watched the separated rental kayakers part further, both of us surmising what a tedious job the leader must have. Our “hike” for the day totaled <100 yards. Our last crossing kissed North Hardwood, and we CCW’d North Tinker for the most glorious campsite ever, mid-island, arriving early afternoon, to warm sun, rest, and clothesline duties.
We would have liked to loll about the campsite the next day, but Muscle Ridge was calling us, so we launched before 7, cruised through the ledgy area about Flye (HT), landed at 09:30, and made haste to Muscle at the same time our ride drove in -12:30.
A spectacular trip, perhaps my best yet! Thanks to Rob for being such an excellent companion at every step.
Thank you MITA and MCHT [Maine Coast Heritage Trust] for providing beautiful, restful temporary “oases” for this multi-day sea safari. If you are not already a member, I hope this report inspires you to make a contribution to these and/or other organizations to ensure these still-wild places remain so. Editors note: Become a MITA member at mita.org/join!