prudenceb

There's a Place for Us - NTSK Camping Muscongus Bay 7/13-14/13

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NTSK Camping Trip to Muscongus Bay: There’s a Place for Us July 13-14. 2013

Shari, Beth, Sue, Pablo, Warren and I met for the last in the 2013 series of NTSKC trips on another Saturday morning when the Weather Gods smiled down on us as we gathered at Muscongus Harbor. We talked with the man who oversees the parking area, and he told us that over the weekend of the Fourth, he had 50 cars jammed into the lot – although 12 of them were there for an island funeral, with the deceased in his casket being motored over that morning as well. This weekend after, there were only four cars tucked into a back corner – long-time customers who have houses on the islands nearby. Still, I was concerned about whether on such a beautiful weekend, now that we are in high summer, there would be room for us on our planned destination, Crow Island. Ed Lawson had been good enough to let us know that there would be an AMC group on Thief, so we had crossed that off the list of potential sites.

We spoke with S -, a trip leader for the local kayaking company that paddles out of the Harbor, who was awaiting the arrival of about 10 customers for a day paddle. He gave us some tips about nice areas to visit, and even told us about a non-MITA island where it is possible to camp. We then attended to the packing efforts of our compatriots.

When we were finally loaded up, we noticed for the first time the group that would be going out with S -: a flock of lovely, nubile 15 years old girls, whose preferred paddling clothing – shorty shorts and bikini tops – put our nerdy neoprene-and-etc outfits to shame. But practically clad as we were, we launched at the appointed hour of 10 am.

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We took the usual route under blue skies on flat water: launch to Hog, Hog to Crow. As we approached the camping site on Hog, we saw a few kayaks launching. They were daytrippers out of Round Pond and we chatted briefly with them. They knew about the Thief group, but didn’t know about Crow. On such a beautiful day it was rather stupid to be feeling apprehensive, but I was worried about getting to Crow and staking our claim.

And when we rounded the eastern side of Crow and could see the landing site, a long expanse of seaweed covered rocks at this low tide, my heart sank: there were a few – two? three? four? – plastic kayaks on the rocks above the high tide line. I volunteered to land to check things out. As I glided up to the exposed seaweedy rocks, a 20ish man emerged from the trees. His body language couldn’t have been any less welcoming if he had been waiting for us sitting in a rocking chair on one of the granite ledges with a shotgun across his lap. I stumbled up onto the beach and said hello, to which I got a grunted response, and asked how many were in his group. “Two,” he answered. There were indeed only two kayaks. I peered beyond him into the trees and could see two tents, widely spaced, a hammock slung between two trees in another area. He looked unhappily at the five paddlers hovering off shore. “Mind if you might have company tonight?” I asked brightly. He responded, “Why don’t you try Hog?” then…. “Why don’t you try Strawberry?” OK, now I was getting annoyed. You don’t own this island, buddy! No doubt there was an edge in my voice when I answered that Strawberry was suitable for about two tents. “Well, you can try Hog,” he said. Again.

This whole interaction was a new experience for me in my kayaking life. As hard as I tried, and I did try, I could not restrain myself from pointing out that Crow has an 11 camper capacity. My blood pressure was going up: Well, there’s Strawberry. Well, there’s Hog. Well, you don’t own this island, bub and are you even a MITA member?? I managed to keep my mouth more or less shut, but left saying that he might be seeing us again.

Aren’t we supposed to leave this unpleasantness on land? Isn’t the fellowship of kayak campers supposed to be all…kumbaya? Apparently not. Through gritted teeth I told the group what I had learned once we were away from the island. I struggled not to let this experience overtake and own me. I thought of George Costanza on “Seinfeld” shouting, “SERENITY NOW!!” as I tried to calm myself down. Don’t let one or two jerks ruin the day. Serenity now. Warren and I discussed other options: Hog, and two not very pleasant campsites on another nearby island that we had visited before. One of the sites would optimally require heavy machinery and a hoist to get all the boats up on top of a high bluff, and the other had a large expanse of mud at low tide – when we would be launching for our return on Sunday morning.

We stopped at Strawberry, an island too small to accommodate our group (unless we were all willing to triple bunk), and checked it out. Warren and I decided that we would just keep with our original plan for the day – to circumnav Bremen Long Island, and then peel off to visit the little group of islands that Boatlaunch Sam had told us about. Hog would be a possibility for camping, although I’m not wild about platform tenting. What I did know was that I didn’t want to return to Crow and spend another minute with that jerk… After entertaining a few more dark thoughts: of paddling over to Crow under cover of darkness and blowing our fog horns loudly to wake him and his friend… I managed to…serenity now…shake off the bad vibes, and the happy day picked up again.

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We stopped at Hand Warmer Cove on the northwestern side of Bremen for lunch – although Warren, attracted by some rocks jutting out into the cove, insisted that we land in a shallow area next to them that turned out to have a floor of sucking mud. We all managed to exit our boats and also manage our steps until we were safely on a firm surface. The mud tried to claim our footwear, but did not succeed.

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After lunch, we continued the paddle. We watched an osprey in the big cove at the north end of the island. Shari just dodged getting pooped on by a duck flying by. She pronounced that is good luck to be crapped on by a bird, but I will leave that luck to others. When we rounded the tip of the island and headed south again, the predicted 5 kt winds from the south had perhaps doubled. But we hugged the shoreline, avoiding the max flood current in the middle of the channel, and had no problem making good progress. At one point, I looked to my left, and saw that four of us were paddling in perfect formation, side by side, stroke for stroke, in a shadowed line that didn’t break down at all. Warren noticed it as well, and we smiled thinking of the recent web site thread about the proper formation for a channel crossing. We had one coming up, and we vowed to put our CAM lessons to the test. But first, a stop on a cobbly beach for a stretch. I found a nice keeper of a stone: sitting on my hand, it looked like a Maine island emerging from a surrounding fog. (It is now sitting on a shelf in my shower!)

And then we were at the southern end of Bremen and gathered everyone up. We were going to cross a channel to Cow Island to the south. Warren and I suggested the plan: committing to keeping in a row, close together, for the crossing. He took the left side and I the right. And so we were six paddlers side by side, maintaining the line as we crossed. At one point I called out, “Let’s speed it up to beat that boat that’s coming our way!” – when there was no boat at all - but it was an exercise, and so we all sped up, and still kept the line. Beth to my left was smiling broadly, looking at the four paddlers to her left, saying she wished she had a helmet cam to make a movie of the pretty boats flying along tucked one next to the other beside her. And so we reached a pretty cove on Cow, and stopped to admire the real estate – not to mention the signs informing us not to camp, picnic or light fires.

Despite the number of trips we’ve taken to Muscongus Bay, neither Warren nor I had ever investigated the shore of Cow Island, which had one really lovely spot: a small shed-like two story house perched on the rocks right above the sea, the front façade a wall of windows, and to the right, a hammock, no…two hammocks…make that three hammocks slung between the trees, and a picnic table. Now that would be a nice place to spend the night. But of course, no camping, no picnics, no fires… We continued onward, ending up eventually at the island that S- had told us about.

As we approached, we saw what we thought was an immature eagle – because he didn’t yet have a white head. He was cruising in slow circles

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then landed on the very tip of an evergreen tree a bit inland, and balanced as his perch, a single vertical spike on the top of the tree, moved in the breeze.

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S- had told us there was a beach on the north side which made a nice landing spot. It was just on the far side of high tide, and other than a sliver of sand between some jumbled rocks, there was little that looked like a beach. Pablo volunteered to take a twirl around the outside of the island to see what he could find, while the rest of us gazed up, hoping to see the eagle once again after it flew from the tree. Pablo came back to report that he’d found a cobble beach to the south, which we all went to investigate. We got out, but found no evidence of the camping sites we’d been told about.

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Pablo bounded off along the rocks to see what he could find on land, and returned to tell us that there was indeed a campsite right above the miniature high tide beach. And so we turned around and went back to the first spot. We found a nice – if somewhat junky – camping area, and figured out that there would be room for all of us. As the day was getting on, we decided to call it our place for the night.

Hauling the boats out of harms way was a bit of a challenge, but one that we met. And so after setting up camp, we gathered on the flat rocks – which were remarkably free of gull poop! – and provided nice jutting shelves that were perfect for sitting. Two of the ladies – Beth and Shari – went for a swim.

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Others of us wandered about a bit and looked at rocks.

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And supper commenced. Warren started with his main course (a trial of an Ed Lawson-recommended Uncle Ben’s rice dish), moved on to dessert (homemade oatmeal cookies courtesy of Shari), topped it all off with appetizers (apples and cheese from Beth and a slew of ready-made salads that Sue had picked up at a local store as she had had no time for food prep after returning from a stay in Florida tending to an elderly relative). The rest of us consumed dinner in a more ordinary sequence, and washed it all down with an amusing little box of malbec.

A beautiful sunset over some seal-covered rocky ledges in the distance.

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Pablo, on his first camping trip on either land or sea, Shari, Sue and I stayed up to watch the sunset. Sue found an interesting way to stretch out to enjoy the evening.

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And then to bed by 9.

Warren had gotten us all enthused about enjoying the sunrise. At 4:15, I peeked out of my tent, which was facing east, and saw a soft pinkening sky over the next island, and also a bank of what looked like fog behind it. At 4:45 I heard Warren walk past my tent on his way to sit on the rocks to enjoy the beginning of the day. I again looked out of my tent, to see that we were completely socked in with fog. First Shari, then Sue stumbled quietly down onto the rocks to greet the day, enveloped as it was in gray.

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I got up as well, and we watched the sun hinting of its intention to appear

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...then disappearing again. Finally, in every direction, we could see the very tips of trees emerging above the fog on islands across the way.

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And in that mysterious way that fog dissipates, whole islands emerged from the inside out.

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And so a day that was clearly going to be very still, very sunny and very hot began. We had decided to launch by 8, to investigate the Crotch Islands, where Warren had heard there might be eagles nesting. As he and I waited on the water while the others launched, Warren did two loaded-boat rolls, pronouncing the experience “refreshing” when he came up.

It was almost flat calm and windless as we loaded up and prepared to launch.

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We crossed over to the Crotch Islands, and when we arrived, we saw not eagles, but anxious ospreys, circling and peeping: there were two large nests in two different dead trees, and we could see two heads poking up out of one of them. We paddled between the little islands. Warren did another roll – or was it two?

Then we re-commenced the usual site-seeing: the disintegrating ship, which since we were last there in May had clearly fallen apart more. The bow is now very splintered, hardly holding its bow shape any more. How many more seasons, tides, storms will it take before it’s all just a complete jumble? And we paddled slowly back toward our take-out. As we pulled up near a dock by the ramp out of the water, a man was sitting in his underwear next to three clothed friends. They all laughed wildly, and he grabbed a wetsuit to hide himself. We assured him that as kayak campers we have lost any sense of modesty and he had nothing to fear from us! It turned out the group was searching for an iPhone that one of them had dropped into the water the day before. Indeed, when we launched on Saturday morning, we’d talked with one of the group, who had pronounced the water too cold for diving down to look. If they ever find that iPhone, and it works, that will be one impressive ad for the product.

So after worrying about where we would rest our heads for the night, we did find that there was a place for us. But it left with me with questions about island etiquette, especially in high season. Can a small group – or two people – “own” an island with a larger capacity? I like to think that I – and our intrepid group - would have been more welcoming if the shoe had been on the other foot.

And so this series of trips end. Pablo pronounced that in joining the group, he’d been taking this “kayak camping” business for a test drive. I asked him when we landed, “So are you buying?” And his answer was an enthusiastic yes. Excellent! Warren and I both learned a lot, got some very good suggestions from each group, have already incorporated some of them, and will use more of them next year – god willing and the creek don’t rise

pru

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Pru,

Thanks for yet another excellent trip report! You make even camping in the summer heat sound good.

It looks like a great trip and good for you for finding your serenity and moving past those camping cretins!

Great job on the 'in a line' crossing!

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Pru:

That is a great picture of a Friendship sloop in its home waters.

As to campsites, etc. you might want to talk to the MITA folks to get a sense of what is and is not expected. the following is my take on the issue.

Crow is a state owned island, the public is free to camp there and whether they abide by suggested MITA capacity limits is up to them. It is known to be heavily used this time of year and odds of finding folks there on a Sat. are high. To me the issue is how many campsites are there as opposed to the capacity number. If one person is using a campsite for 6, then that campsite is being used and unless they agree, nobody else should try to use the campsite absent bad weather, no alternatives, etc. Crow has two campsites and if both were being used, even if there were only 2 or 3 people, then the island is full. Should folks spread themselves over multiple campsites when they can fit in on? Of course not. Are they obligated to do so? No. If the campsites are being used and/or they refuse to share a campsite, then you just move on. People camp on islands for many reasons and although they picked a poor island for it, perhaps solitude was important to them and they had no interest is sharing. They had no obligation to share under the circumstances and you had no right to expect them to accommodate your group. Just my $.02.

Ed Lawson

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Pru, Many thanks for your lovely write-up of our trip, with some great pictures! In spite of the "jerk" encounter, (which you got the worst of, the rest of us didn't actually have to deal with him) the day and the weekend were beautiful and really special. I for one was very happy to have discovered this area, and will certainly be returning. Many thanks to you and Warren for organizing the weekend, and thanks to all for a great time!

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Pru, again a wonderful trip report. A couple of the photos were exceptional as well. I commend both Warren and yourself for having created this series NTSK Camping trips. Don't you just love it when everyone is in sync and thinking the same thing all at once? It embellishes such a sense of balance. Life truly doesn't get any better than that.

Off to Great Waas....

Doug

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Pru,

Just a thought-isn't Crow one of the MITA Islands that NSPN has adopted to the tune of $500. per annum? Not to mention the stewardship that NSPN members provide during the year? Wow-I'm glad I wasn't with you cause serenity is not my bag! I don't know where Ed gets his manners and morals for camping on MITA but I find it a bit much for my taste.

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isn't Crow one of the MITA Islands that NSPN has adopted

Different Crow island. The Crow Island that NSPN stewards is in Casco Bay, not Muscongus Bay.

I might have to agree with Ed's point of view, disappointing as it may be. If a small group of campers were to choose a particular island over another to avoid the oh-so-common sites surrounded (or full of) poison ivy, should they then be obligated break down camp and move to that most undesirable camp site just because a larger group comes along? Most islands out there are first come first serve, unless they take reservations. If you are not there first, you have no right to kick someone else out.

Edited by Bearded Recluse

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Pru,

Just a thought-isn't Crow one of the MITA Islands that NSPN has adopted to the tune of $500. per annum? Not to mention the stewardship that NSPN members provide during the year? Wow-I'm glad I wasn't with you cause serenity is not my bag! I don't know where Ed gets his manners and morals for camping on MITA but I find it a bit much for my taste.

...so...what is your point gene? do you think that because the club donates money ( i have no idea what you mean by the club performing in the role of stewards - some members occasionally go pick up trash - but that's not stewardship; that's a different thing ) that you have some kind of right to use an island or be anything less than cordial and well mannered? that because the club pays some money to a worthy organization that you get to be surly?

why would you think that?

glad the rest of you guys had a good time. it's a lovely part of the coast.

in regards to site use....no, no group is under any obligation to clear out of a large site to accommodate a group better suited to the site. it would be nice to think that everyone who used the islands was respectful of the fact that if they're a 2 person group then they oughta utilize a smaller site rather than a larger one but there is no obligation to do so. when you're out on the islands, being thoughtful, respectful and understanding goes a long way and while i can't control those things in others, i can certainly control my own actions. wouldn't it be nice if everyone thought the same way in such a lovely place? all you can ask for really.

and again...safety trumps all. make yourself and your group safe above all, regardless of island capacity, who is on what site...whatever.

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Thanks for thoughts and feedback. One thing to clarify - we weren't asking these people to move or to break camp. We could have fit in around them. Of course a larger group has no right to bump a smaller one. But when there is potentially room for everyone, and there was, can those that got there first - particularly on an island that can accomodate more than the usual number of campers - claim the whole thing? I remember when Warren and I first stopped at Crow - on a very unseasonably warm October day two years ago. There were people already camping there. But when we pulled up, they greeted us with smiles and hellos. We didn't want to camp there, but they didn't know that. It was just a very different vibe. I will try to emulate those people in the future, and not the guy from this trip.

But anyway, nothing like interesting experiences to provoke thought. And it would take an army of jerks to ruin any trip to such a beautiful corner of the world!

pru

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My bad wrong Crow! Still don't get it. Plenty of campsites, two people hogging the whole Island.

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pru -

kayaking certainly has it's own share of self centered, unthinking jackasses. we've all seen plenty of evidence.

you mighta mentioned that if they were on a site that could accommodate more than 2 and that you were going to camp there regardless to minimize impact on other sites on the island JUST to piss them off, but why bother? you were out for a nice weekend experience and not to make a point and willingly spend time around jerks.

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you were out for a nice weekend experience and not to make a point and willingly spend time around jerks.

exactly!

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"exactly!"

Exactly.

"But when there is potentially room for everyone, and there was, can those that got there first - particularly on an island that can accomodate more than the usual number of campers - claim the whole thing?"

You can see how this is a tricky two way street when you read the discussion in the MITA Guide about this topic. Basically it is hoped everyone will be reasonable and accommodating. So small groups should not use sites suitable for large groups and share as necessary and those who find sites used should move on. Contradictory? Yes, but it is what it is and nobody is required/obligated to abide by MITA suggestions as a condition of camping on a state owned island. When you encounter unpleasant people, who needs to deal/respond to them? Especially when you are out to enjoy a trip. After all the only things that happen when you wrestle with pigs is you get filthy and the pigs get happy.

Ed Lawson

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Pru,

Another wonderful trip report! The way you incorporated the photos into the story was outstanding!

These three NTSKC trips have been an amazing experience due to the great paddlers who were willing to join us. It was clear to me each prepared by reading our written material and giving great thought to all the logistics involved. With their good prep, we were all able to focus on the beauty we encountered and the fun that resulted.

But Pru, this trip report will always be extra special to me due to the words in the title, There’s a Place for Us. For me, this trip was the completion of a major milestone in our attempt to give back to our kayak club. So the words, there’s a place for us, relates to a place within the NSPN organization. That is a very good feeling!

Warren

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"our written material"

do tell.

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"our written material"

do tell.

For our first trip, Warren put together a number of things, including packing lists that we'd gathered from different places, and also a wonderfully detailed exposition on LNT camping. He wrote about food and water needs. We've also tried to incorporate tips from trip members for subsequent posts - things about what to bring and etc. In our communications to trip members, we've added links to useful sites - such as for weather and where to purchase charts and so on and have addressed some of the things that go into go/no go decisions for any given trip. We've tried to communicate about changing weather forecasts as the trip day approaches and so on. Warren deserves the lion's share of the credit for all of this. When it was my turn to take over, I was able to build on everything Warren had already done. I think we both view it all as an ongoing and evolving work in progress (now there's a redundancy!).

pru

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Rick,

Pru and I tend to be fairly well organized and our professional training has provided us with insights into the adult learner. We wanted the NTSKS series to function like a learning laboratory to help us identify what works and what does not.

Our written material was posted on PM threads we built for each trip. The material was organized into three major postings and were published at key points prior to each trip.

The first posting covered concepts such as; joining MITA, obtaining a nautical chart, understanding a tide chart and locating the launch site.

The second posting was structured to be a discussion with our lessons learned. The topics we covered were; gear, such as dry bags and loading a kayak, personal first aid, footwear, eyeglasses, etc. We also talked about food, water and poop management. The idea was to address up front the issues which might distract a paddler from having a good time.

The third section addressed the float plan publication, navigation prep work, weather issues, and the "go, no-go" decision timetable and framework.

Our goal all along was to provide a sense that we know what we are doing and we highly value group safety.

Perhaps some of the paddlers who participated in our trips will comment on whether or not this approach was helpful.

Warren

P.S. Rick, if you would like to know more, I can send you more info.

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No need to send me anything, thanks. Just curious.

When you say "Our goal all along was to provide a sense that we know what we are doing and we highly value group safety." and then "Perhaps some of the paddlers who participated in our trips will comment on whether or not this approach was helpful."

Were these C.A.M. journeys or did you and Pru essentially lead these trips?

There is NO right/wrong answer...I am curious how the dynamic played out.

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Rick,

These were definitely CAM trips. I keeping with the CAM concept, we felt the need to both initiate and co-lead the teams. As you and others have taught us, most CAM trips will benefit from a leader or co-leaders. We were fortunate, our teams performed very well and that gave us a sense of accomplishment.

I hope that helps. From your perspective, is that the correct approach for CAM based trips?

Warren

Edited by Warren

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Hi Warren -

I think that if you managed to pull that off as a C.A.M trip, that's wonderful. If everyone participated in the all the stages, sounds like a textbook C.A.M. trip.

Your use of "we" and the possessive pronoun "our" and reference to "our written material" that had me wondering how you all ran the trip - whether or not you and Pru simply put the trip together and led it or not.

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Rick,

Yes, our goal was very much to keep with the CAM methods. Everyone participated is all aspects. We were very much a team with team effort. I will admit that Pru and I did possess more local knowledge of the areas, but that seemed OK to the team. I suspect the team felt Pru and I were very willing to share our knowledge and help when needed. Pru and I also learned a great deal from each member. I really liked how we were all learning and finding ways to share our knowledge with each other. As a case in point, one team member shared her experiences in a family where sailing and living on a sailboat was a routine part of her childhood. That experience had prepared her in many ways to be a great kayak camper. I now have a greater appreciation for how life on a sailboat prepares you for kayak camping. Facinating! I believe the end result was a feeling that we all benefitted from the experience. Perhaps that is what a CAM trip is all about?

Warren

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Thanks again to Warren and Pru! It was great fun and very relaxing. If I am successful, I will add a few more photos! Shari

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Will someone please elucidate me: who or what is NTSK? And what is NTSKC? And NTSKS? I really don't have a clue what group is being discussed here -- is it part of NSPN?

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New to Sea Kayak Camping (NTSKC)

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Shari,

You dog you! Signed up for two camping trips with the NTSKC, I envy you.

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