RAMBLES ON MOUNT DESERT ISLE (page 2)
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A loop between Bar Harbor and the Tarn
With the colors and decay of fall hitting their stride this swampy wood was all I could ask for. Thousands of nuances awaited me at every little clearing as I navigated around the creeks, swamps, and beaver pools that dominated this tangle. Life and death were in perfect balance here. It was paradise.
A short ramble about Bar Harbor
Sunrise has come and a new picture is painted.
A 22 mile loop between Bar Harbor and Hunters Brook
My intent was to head north, to explore the ledges of Cadillac that have so far been elusive to me. To evaded the parking lot on the summit I found myself taking small detours and was drawn further and further out onto the wide open ledges of Cadillac’s southern slope. The day grew more beautiful with every step. I knew I needed to be heading in the opposite direction but the golden light was like the voice of sirens, calling me to my fate. As the color peaked I found myself torn in all directions at once. But with any addiction there is a price to pay. I had wandered too far out to return to my planed route before nightfall and it was also too late to descend on the steep slick trail I held out as an alternative. I decided to turn westward and go down the far side of the Mountain in hope of reaching a carriage road before dark. My feet began to pound its gravely surface just as the sky turned from a deep blue to black. I would have to cover many more miles in the dark.
A loop between Bar Harbor and Cadillac Mountain
I started out early today in hope of actually reaching the summit of Cadillac Mountain. I did not go far before encountering my first delay. The plank walk that crossed a large swampy forest had become buoyant during the heavy rains and now lay scattered about. I wasted much time searching for a detour but wound up with wet feet all the same. While this did not portend well for the rest of my journey I vowed not to wander off on unexpected side trips and concentrate on getting up to Cadillac. Nearing the top I found it a bit disconcerting to have climbed this steep and lonely trail only to wander into a crowd at its end. While the park road allows even the feeblest of tourists to ascend this height with ease, they tend not to stray far from the safety of the paved paths that surround the parking lot. In a matter of minutes I found myself alone again to dwell in the poets hour.
A 10 mile loop between Bar Harbor and Dorr Mountain
My plan was to reach the summit of Cadillac Mountain but with ominous storm clouds racing in I settled on exploring the western ledges of Dorr Mountain Instead. The surface here was deeply scared and fractured, I could feel the granite being torn apart. Looking over at Cadillac the story was the same. Its face was deeply fissured flaking huge boulders into the gorge below. I wondered, is this how mountains die? I stayed until the cold and darkness drove me off. Here we all bend to the wind.
A walk up the Gorge Trail
While I suspected the trail would be a bit of a scramble it was an untried way up Cadillac Mountain and I was in search of something new. It turned out to be nothing like I expected. After a turn in the forest I quickly gained elevation on a path that soon became little more than a rocky streambed. Climbing it was was a matter of finding the driest stone as water cursed down at great volume after days of rain. I took a break where it narrowed and deepened hemmed in under an overhang. Water trickled from every crevice in the rock face. Looking upstream I could see cascades lined up in a row all awaiting my further inspection. This dank mossy refuge was one of the most endearing places I’ve ever seen. The wet weather had added danger to the slick surface of my path but it had also created something so far out of the ordinary I will never forget it.
An 8 mile walk from Bar Harbor to Compass Harbor then on to Bar Island and Back again
After what seemed like endless rain the sun is now out and I found it my nemesis. I could not take shot a good shot all day as the light was always poor in relation to where I stood. At the causeway to Bar Island I waited impatiently for the tide to recede so I could get across it. With the sky growing darker by the minute I plodded across the bar before it was completely dry. Despite gaining wet feet I lost the race with the sun as it disappeared behind clouds just as I raised my camera at the heights overlooking the harbor.
A ramble in Bar Harbor
I managed to find one lonely piece of old waterfront that has not yet succumb to the developers of modern hotels and fancy restaurants. New granite blocks have been laid to form seawalls and two or possibly three cruise ships lie await offshore ready to ferry hordes of sightseers into town. Though always a tourist town, it used to be imbued with a discernible closeness to the great outdoors brought here by the early Rusticators. Now it’s all about shopping.
A ramble on Little Cranberry Island
The weather remained unsettled. In place of the usual rain, magnificent skies appeared so I postponed my journey to Bar Harbor for a trip out on the water. After arriving at Islesford I took off at a snails pace wandering back and forth along its quiet streets, gleaning photographs wherever they could be found. On the opposite side of the Island a lone tower stood at the far end of a pebbly beach. Now my pace began to quicken as I strove forward to reach it and get back to my boat before it left without me. The structure was now a home but it still maintained much of its character from its days as a Life Saving Station. This was the loneliest of places with its back to the distant mountains facing the endless sea. This place spoke to isolation; here the will of man makes a stand in confronting the power of nature. Great energy filled the air drawn down from the swirling sky and the presence of eternal conflict.
A ramble in Southwest Harbor
Wherever man lays his foot, trash soon follows.
A 15 mile loop between Southwest Harbor and Arcadia Mountain
I returned to the rockslide at Valley Cove where I was once stopped in my tracks by an injured ankle. Today even the rain slick boulders could not slow me down except those spots where glacier worn surfaces had been further polished down by the boots of a long succession of hikers. It was dangerous enough, I past at least a half dozen hikers who had taken spills on the wet granite. Man-o-War brook was a raging torrent. The water here was not content to stay within the banks of the stream and it flowed down the entire wooded mountainside in swift running rivulets and thin sheets. My pace up the mountain was slow but deliberate. Upon reaching the summit the wind suddenly picked up and I was hit with a blast of stinging rain. There was little time to linger.
A 9 mile loop between Southwest Harbor and St. Saviour Mountain
It rained throughout the morning. Though the skies never brightened the downpour let up enough by afternoon and I was off to the mountains. The air remained extremely dank bordering on fog but never quite achieving any of its mystery. All was without contrast, just land and sky. Only a hundred feet out from the trailhead I got lost; perhaps a new personal record. Rain soaked leaves littered the ground providing me with any number of possibilities to follow and none looked right. Under a dark sky it is easy to become disoriented, and it was dark. I was able to spot distant landmarks through the trees but they were always in the wrong place. As usual, when I just about give up on finding my way I stumbled upon a trail just a few more feet ahead.
A ramble between Southwest Harbor and Clark Point
Despite the rain I spent most of the morning on the waterfront, the shore rarely disappoints on a cold wet day. I became so involved in the immediacy of my endeavor that little else mattered. There was a strange calm within and without.
An 18 mile loop between Southwest Harbor and Goose Cove
For most of the day I tramped along the shoulder of a west side road. It was only the combination of intermittent small bays and grassy fields that provided me with scattered views. But in a notch down an old sunken road was a small landing for lobster boats. Weathered pots and gear lay scattered about without care. No boats were tide up as the tide was too far out to let even those of the lightest draft anywhere near the wharf. This place was a cliché of Maine yet no less real for being so. This place was beautiful, but it was the the small elements that made it so. The broadest panorama was incapable of capturing anything more than a spec of detail, yet its grandness was lost on the particulars alone.
A walk about Seal Harbor and Bernard
It had been raining on and off and the light was just low enough to add a dullness to the landscape as if it were lacking an essential energy. If I had to be anywhere to make best use of these conditions it would be in a fishing village so I was lucky to find myself in Bernard. But even as I wandered down the alleys and wharfs of this working harbor I had difficulty in capturing its essence. Perhaps I also lacked the energy to accomplish what was needed here, to see things in a better light.
A walk out to Seawall
There was little hint of mountain or sea from the road making it easy to forget I was on an island. Then unexpectedly there was a field of dead goldenrod, the sound beyond. The light of day was near gone but in this moment I wanted it no different.
A 13 mile loop from Southwest Harbor and Ship Harbor
As I was leaving Bass Head Light I stumbled upon an abandoned trail that followed the coast. Its character varied greatly and I explored it all. It was thrilling to know few had ever seen this place though the occasional garbage found along the route was a reminder that I wasn’t alone. Though hampered by a large number of blow downs I made my way with relative ease until reaching ship harbor. Here the trail narrowed to barely a deer path finally ending where a huge fallen tree lay across it like a giant abatis. After stepping into quicksand I abandoned my detour on the harbor’s flats only to get disoriented within a dark swampy morass. There in the forest I found myself in the company of mosses of such size and hypnotic beauty that it became painful to leave despite my best efforts to do so.
A loop between Southwest Harbor and Manset
I did not intend to go all the way out to Manset but that’s where I ended up as the sun fell. It was the crispest of days and if not for the distant mountains I could have seen on forever. The evening light tied everything around the harbor together in a manner beyond simple explanation. All disparate elements of this vast composition were now united not only visually but into a single meaning. It went beyond this specific moment as I became everyone who has ever stood here looking outwards. I was no longer in the landscape, I was the landscape.
A 7 mile walk between Thompson Island & Trenton
Though cut in half by the busy road feeding cars onto Mount Desert Isle, Thompson Island remains a strange oasis. Its small isolated coves made civilization seem a world away rather than lying just a few hundred feet to my back. When the light is just right I can look out across the channel and loose myself even when standing against a roadside railing.
A ramble in Bar Harbor
For a town with such a rich history it is amazing that I always have difficulty composing photographs here. It is not a matter of beautiful or ugly, it is just that every time something catches my eye there is something else out of balance. There is often more luck to be found if ambitions are scaled down and focus placed on the small.
A walk between Ingrim Point and Bar Harbor
After making my way down to Ingram Point I discovered an abandoned trail running along the coast. Hand rails had been imbedded in difficult spots but many had since rusted away. It started to rain as I approached Hunters Beach turning the opposite shore grey but my immediate surroundings an ever more lush green. The round cobbles below the narrow path were clicking in one giant chorus as the waves lashed up over them.
A 22 mile loop between Bar and Seal Harbors
This time I thought my luck ran out for good. Moving in for a photo I tripped atop South Bubble on heavens know what, and stumbled toward the edge of a precipice that I was sure to go over. Suddenly as I got a view of the brink I regained my balance as if a hand reached out and pulled me back. I do not know why my broken body is not lying a hundred feet below. There have been mishaps every day of this trip and I don’t know if I am under a dark cloud or incredibly lucky to be alive.
A loop between Bar Island and Bar Harbor
My parents once told me they had driven up to Bar Harbor when I was very young with me in the back seat of their Ford. I could never remember any part of this visit, that is until I spotted a seafood restaurant resting on the water’s edge. I had walked down these very steps back then and we had all sat down and eaten inside. When the waitress had come over to our table bib in hand I could not have been more embarrassed. Surely she could see that I was not a little boy and did not need to use one. Then she placed it around my fathers neck in preparation for his lobster dinner.
A loop between Bar and Compass Harbors
It was supposed to be a short morning stroll but as the tide was at low ebb I continued on over the ledges where the shore path ended. The barnacle crusted surfaces and dried seaweed added a myriad of sparkling colors to the patterns already imbedded into the rocks. At Cromwell Cove I began moving a stone to more easily step over a small stream and cut eight of my fingers open on the razor sharp barnacles hidden on the underside. Wet boots would have dried faster than my sore fingers healed. When I arrived at Compass Harbor the morning sun was still shining into it. Though dominated by an almost unbearable glare the far cliffs remained in a somber shadow.
A 16 mile loop between Bar Harbor and Chaplain Mountain
One of the joys of climbing Champlain Mountain are the views of Egg Rock Lighthouse that appear on and off along the way to the summit. This far off spec is barely discernible in any photograph yet its presence is so strongly felt when light glistens off its white clapboards and mountains of foam dance about its rocky pedestal. But the landscape today is green, very green, and my best shots are looking down into the darker valley to the west.
A short ramble through Bar Harbor
The first time my plane over flew the runway I thought we were just poorly aligned, but by the fifth time it was obvious that there was a problem. The pilot informed us the landing gear would not come down into position and we would need to fly to a larger airport that had emergency equipment on hand. From my small window I could see the afternoon sun rake across the mountains far below casting long blue shadows all the way into the bay. All I could think of were the shots this detour would cause me to miss. By the time I finally arrived in Bar Harbor there were only minutes of daylight left. I made the best of them.
A ramble on Schoodic Point
Once away from the tourist hordes on Schoodic Point I found myself alone on the quiet eastern shore. The landscape here was a world of grays loudly punctuated by the occasional reds of blueberries and tuffs of dried grass made orange wherever the speckled light hit. The sun was glistening off of the high waves crashing against a distant Island. Their fury was so fierce and unrelenting they seemed foreign to my own quiet shore, but they were no world apart from mine. By night a storm would hit.
An 8 mile loop between Bar Harbor and Dorr Mountain
The trails of Dorr Mountain have integrated a great amount of interesting stonework that never seems out of place. This is trail building at its best and these engineering feats become an integral part of how the landscape here is experience even when they blend in beyond conscious perception. I made a point to try to capture some of this trail work today but was often stymied by the same old problem of translating three dimensional space onto two dimensional film when there are no visual clues to be found.
Copyright 2009 Alan Petrulis All Rights Reserved