BLOCK ISLAND RAMBLES (page 2)
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A 14 Mile Loop between New Harbor and Clayhead via Gunners Hill
I expected my return to this far flung neck leading to Gunners Hill would be a quiet solitary walk. True, I did not cross paths with another person but I found myself far from alone. Scores of nesting birds distressed by my presence cried overhead. I stayed as far out on the strand as possible to cause the least amount of disturbance but upon reaching the low lying hill I discovered I had run out of beach. This is the only place I found on the entire island where the surf directly meets a sheer bluff. Its side was dotted with the black burrowed holes of swallows.
A ramble about Old and New Harbors
If it wasn't for one very angry dog I would have wandered down every side street in town today.
A walk along the Mohegan Bluffs
Even from the height of the bluff the roar of the ocean was clearly audible. The crashing surf is a very familiar sound to me, but here its song was punctuated by the clicking of millions of cobbles of every size as their temporary buoyancy abandoned them with the recoil of every wave.
A walk to the south shore
When I heard about the great April landslide that expanded the island’s size by a few acres I had to see it for myself. Over the intervening months the surf had eaten all the earth that fell into the ocean leaving behind a huge jumble of rocks and boulders. A barely passible broken plateau, reminiscent of a battlefield scared by explosives sat up against the beach. Here grew bayberry, rose and sweet pea transported from high up on the bluff down to sea level as if nothing in their world had changed.
Postscript: Soon after the landslide traveling down the beach was like crossing a battle scared no-mans land. Now after years of erosion the ocean has only left behind a pile of boulders and rocks not much more distinct than found at other island points.
A 14 mile loop between New Harbor and Southeast Point via Beacon Hill
The landscape near Black Rock was so different from my first visit it was like I had never been here before. Stone walls that zigzagged through the fields were now hidden behind large bushes and new growth filled once cut meadows. The clay pockets at bluffs edge that I used to sit in had all washed away. I had to lean as far over the abyss as I could in oder to compose a shot. I left with the flavor of seaweed.
A ramble about New Harbor
Out before sunrise today, at least I think so as I never actually saw the sun rise. Light and fog chased one another about the harbor in a wonderful dance. This is a game that I never tire watching.
A 10 Mile loop between New Harbor and Sandy Hill
As I raise my camera and freeze to take a shot a small songbird alights upon my arm.
A 14 mile loop between Old Harbor and Great Point
Sparks flew as the welders reconstructed the lantern room on Southeast light. I can barely stand the commotion and torn landscape where I have always come for quiet solace. It was only a month ago that they saved it from an untimely death by moving the entire structure back from the bluffs edge. The last time I had visited the Lighthouse its tower was actually leaning outward toward the nearby precipice.
Postscript: The Southeast Lighthouse is a magnificent building and I’m glad it was saved but every time I see it in its new location I feel something is wrong. Its greatest charm for me was not its design but its dangerous perch.
A 9 mile loop between Old Harbor and Dories Cove via Cormorant Cove
The landscape on this island often proves illusionary. At times it seems as if there is nothing but endless fields beyond the fields, the ocean nothing more than an ancient myth. For now I am bounded solely by the horizon.
A walk on Crescent Beach
It was pea soup by afternoon. Someone had stirred the pot and a red tide had come ashore. As I walked through this cauldron there seemed to be something waiting for me, a presence just beyond sight or reach. It drew me further in though all around me remained the same.
A loop between Old Harbor and Grove Point
After days of fog and rain the bright sun seemed harsh. I accept what I have been given and adapt to it. We all want our days to be perfect not realizing they already are.
A ramble out to Indian Neck
There is a freshness to this morning as if all things are possible.
A walk to the Monhegan Bluffs and back
The dramatic is to be found here but make no mistake, it is the small gods we walk with that make this place.
A 16 mile loop between Old Harbor and the Mohegan Bluffs
Every blade of grass hangs heavy dripping with moisture as the fog engulfs the island. A variety of tiny seeds cling to my wet pants as I wander from to the road and into the fields.
A 9 mile walk down Southeast Road from Old Harbor and back
Having become familiar with the Island’s major points of interest I find myself wandering down previously overlooked byways. I have begun spinning a web, constantly reinforcing previously laid pathways with new interconnecting journeys. I wonder if this invisible overlay of my journeys resonates with my energy or if the land I walk across marks me.
A 10 mile loop between Old Harbor and Great Point
Clumps of wild rose and beach plumb speckle the island with white. The air is salty and sweet.
A loop Between Old Harbor and Cormorant Cove
Even in the heavy fog it would be impossible not to notice the repainted gates along the road. They will take some time to digest. How is it that I can be so attracted to both the garish and the dull?
An expedition in the Bluestone Maze
I put aside my usual serendipitous rambling and began to systematically walk the trails of the maze in order to plot them. In places there were so many twists and turns that I had to continually pull out my compass before I could jot down notes on my makeshift map. This is the only time I have enjoyed such tedious work.
Postscript: I would spend many hours over a number of visits mapping the maze but my cryptic notes drawn in the field did not prove very useful as they resembled the ramblings of a madman. It was as if all the interlocking crossings of pathways did not exist in any type of space commonly known to man. After some time I got better at this but as I began to make real progress I had second thoughts about the project. The mystery of this place is a great part of its magic; my map remains incomplete.
A 16 mile loop between Old Harbor and Gunners Hill
Not all of the Island’s bluffs are high and dramatic. Here where a farm meets the shore a low wall runs out toward the sea in an attempt to impose order over the landscape. Yet under the light of passing storms man’s hand seems to hold little relevance.
A loop between Old Harbor and New Harbor
Even with all the refurbished Victorians on the Island a few abandoned remnants of an age gone by remain. The Hygia Annex, though not quite a ruin lies quiet and dull in the long grass, its paint half gone, its windows boarded. Such structures have their role to play. They humble us. We need reminders that even the grandest of the grand are not forever.
Postscript: In 1999 this building was refurbished into a new hotel and additional homes have been since been constructed on its surrounding lawn.
A loop between Old Harbor and Cormorant Cove
A unmarked road previously ignored yielded a wide panorama of exceptional beauty. Only the conversation of birds breaks the silence.
An 18 mile loop between Old Harbor and Lewis Point
Walls of stone crisscross grassy fields dotted with small marshy ponds. Who could ever tire of such a place?
A 11 mile loop between Old Harbor and Black Rock Point
My plan was to stay atop the bluffs today but when I spotted a small shipwreck nestled between the folds of Barlows Point I found my way down to the beach by the quickest route I could. I had once met someone who could not understand why anyone would be interested in the wrecks of ships; after all they are really nothing more than garbage on the shore. I was a bit embarrassed by my inability to properly explain my attraction to them. I guess I never thought I would ever have to. He was right in a sense that they are not always visually attractive. Their true appeal comes more from notions of the Romantic. We do not all share the same world.
A ramble in and about Old Harbor
It is strange that in my mind a composition of a farm, tall grass, and a distant ocean so typifies life on this island when in reality such places have become a rare find.
Postscript: Although this working farm still exists, this rural road it sits on is now lined with large summer homes.
A short ramble about Old Harbor
I tried to watch the Nor’easter from the porch of the National Hotel but even its broad covered porch offered little protection from the blowing rain. As I paced back and forth over the creaking floor boards I grew ever more impatient with every step I took from being sidelined from the drama unfolding before me. Unable to control myself any longer I ran down to the waterfront. The roar of the waves crashing over the breakwater drew me out onto their stones. A wave came down directly in front of me splashing salt water back up into my face. It woke me to the realization that I may have gone out a little too far. It wasn’t easy to take a step back when my heart was racing forward but no part of the breakwater was immune from the high surf. If I did not leave it would only be a matter of time before I was swept away.
A ramble across the southern moors
I no longer care for maps but follow the land where it may take me.
A 22 mile loop between old Harbor and Sandy Point via Gunners Hill
The road to Gunners Hill was a bit of a misnomer. Two tire ruts winding between low dunes may have been passable for the right type of vehicle but it was hardly deserving of the title of road. Its course no doubt was probably once more straight and even, but as the tides have scoured away both beach and dune this passage has been forced to reroute on more than one occasion. At the end of this long sandy trek the road suddenly rose to higher ground disappearing behind a hedgerow where I was greeted no trespassing sign. It had been a long hard way coming here and I was not to be denied by a sign. Since this was as far off the beaten track as you could get on this island I decided to take my chances and forge ahead. I continued on to the harbor entrance where I could step no further. Unfortunately with one eye over my shoulder I did not take my best shots.
Postscript: This parcel of land was later seized by authorities for its use in growing marijuana, and then added to the preserved lands on the Island. This place is now more commonly referred to as Harbor Neck.
A loop between Old Harbor and the Monhegan Bluffs
By the time I reached the Southeast Light I realized that my last minute decision to take a late walk was a miscalculation. There was only a minute or two remaining before sunset. With a heavy salt wind picking up off the ocean the long grass was in wild motion. I managed to eke out one shot before the sun disappeared over the horizon and the last of its orange glow turned cold.
A 21 mile loop between Old Harbor and Clayhead
I spent most of the day exploring the maze atop Clayhead. By the time the sun began to set I found myself going round in circles while searching for an expected exit. Though little can be called an actual forest here it is none the less so densely packed with bayberry and shadblow intertwined with thorny wild roses and poison ivy to force any traveler from straying off of a given path. It was dark when I finally stumbled back on the paved road. I've decided to make a map.
A ramble down Corn Neck
The three bulls that I suddenly came face to face with looked as surprised to see me as I them. They were grazing their way up the hillside side by side while I was heading down after jumping over a stone wall. Meeting suddenly as I turned the crest we all froze and stood there staring at one another. After a long minute I decided to mosey off to the other side of the wall.
A ramble between Old Harbor and Monmuit Hill
I tried to get my bearings from glimpses of distant rooftops that appeared through the trees on the hilltop. They were not only far away in distance but far in character from this wooded anomaly on this largely treeless island. It seemed out of place to take photographs here, that this small forest was not what the Island was about. But it was as real as any of it.
Postscript: Local children had raised money for years to help in the reforestation of this area. After a mature forest had finally grown through their determined efforts, much of the land was cut and cleared as the trees interfered with increased traffic at the airport.
Copyright 2009 Alan Petrulis All Rights Reserved