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Three Days - and many photos - on Muscongus Bay 6/6-8, 2014


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Three Days on Muscongus Bay June 6-8, 2014

The latest iteration of Warren and David Mercer's Alaska 2014 Expedition Support Team/NSPN Division gathered at Muscongus Harbor on Friday morning. Cathy, Rob, Andy and I were prepared to offer whatever support we could to the two expeditioners - including being prepared to be coddled and cooked for by Chef Warren. As brave as I knew I had to be to be part of the team, and as happy as I was to join up with everyone, I arrived with a heavy heart. The evening before I'd received distressing news that a very dear friend had received a terrible and serious medical diagnosis. I would have had her on my mind anyway, but Ellen is one of very few non-paddling friends who understands my passion for being out on the water in Maine. She and her husband have a modest little house that perches on a big granite ledge over the water, almost literally around the corner from Schoodic Peninsula. They live far away and can only get to Maine occasionally, and she well "gets it" when I write or talk about the joys of being out among the coastal islands, whether it is sunny, cloudy, foggy, rainy, hot or cold. So she was with me throughout the trip, and I was struck that this trip, perhaps more than others, featured majestic skies and special light, water that was greener and bluer than usual, and I kept wanting to capture it all to send to her.

From the launch we paddled along the western shore of Hog to Hockamock Point,


where we looked at the disappearing remains of the sunken ship in the little harbor.


There was Crow, our first night's destination,


and we paddled toward it.


We set up our camp and I sat on the beach and enjoyed the clouds, as I would continue to do for the rest of the day.


We posed for a group photo.


Blue People Group. No one bothered to tell Cathy about our fashion choices, but Cathy would later put our fashion choices to shame with her purple plaid golfing pants and checkered primary color shorts.

Then headed out for lunch on tiny Strawberry Island, which is best approached at any time other than low tide, which of course it had to be when we got there. I refrained from taking pictures of the struggles we had sinking into the mud, but feel free to imagine. After lunch, Rob and Cathy ended up heading back to camp, as Rob's surgically repaired elbow was tweaking sufficiently to warn him to take it easy that day.

The rest of us headed northeast along Bremen Long Island. There were layers and layers of clouds over us.


We stopped at the north end, where the sky got more ominous.




But on we went, turning the corner of the island, and heading south with the wind at our back. Andy ventured out into the mini (extremely mini!) tide race in the Flying Passage, and surfed the six-inch standing waves. I wish I had a picture of the skill and control this took him!

It was light and dark. Dark and light. Sun splashed and not.







On we went.



We stopped on a little beach to stretch our legs.


The in and out sun captured the light green leaves of a downed tree on the beach that despite its prone position was still living and growing.


We had seen rain falling in the distance. We reached the end of Bremen Long Island, and within seconds, it went from










and then back to


and we watched the weather as it moved away from us.

We got back to camp in time for cocktails.

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We watched the weather across the way.

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Rob predicted that it would rain. This was no great feat, as he could feel the storm clouds atop of his head.


Just as Warren was starting to prepare his wonderful first night feast (cheese tortellini's and turkey pepperoni in tomato sauce, parmesan cheese and hot sauce), and we were watching rain elsewhere, the rain was upon us and we scrambled for cover under the tarp that Warren had, with great foresight, set up when we first set up camp.

We ate inside,


then ventured back outside onto the rocks


where we were treated to calm vistas

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and a beautiful sunset.

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We were all in bed by nine, listening to the muttering of seals on distant rocks to our east.

Saturday morning dawned bright, blue and mostly calm. While we had considered breaking camp and spending the next night on a different island, for various reasons we decided to stay put, which meant that we were able to have a leisurely breakfast on the rocks, time for some sweet canoodling,


calm conversations about the day's plans,


and being able to paddle empty boats.

While weather reports had predicted ocean swells, we never really saw any - to the great disappointment of Andy, and to a lesser extent, Cathy and me. But the beauty of the calm day made up for it, and I'm not sure that a slower pace was ever set.


We paddled along the east coast of Hog, and stopped for a brief cool-off,



crossed to Loud's Island, and from there to Thief's, where we considered stopping for a stretch break, but noting various osprey nests, decided to steer clear.

We meandered along the shore of Thief




found a pink buoy


and crossed over to Jones Garden, which was as stinky with bird poop as Warren had remembered it.


And then a short hop to an island owned by the Chewonki Foundation, where we were greeted by a four person MITA crew picking up trash on the island.


Cathy helped them launch.


We ate lunch on the rocks and investigated the campsite, where we had considered staying. Warren found and staked out a spot for his next visit there, when he will try out his freestanding tent on a hard surface for the first time. Sleep well, Warren


While he napped, others walked on the rocks. I have no idea what they were pointing at.


Then through the passage next to Cranberry Island


and onward counterclockwise. As we got into a potentially more exposed area, we foundmore calm.



Cranberry to Friendship Island. Now we were finally in an area that was new to all of us. The conditions were so mellow that our slow pace decreased to a crawl. Rob decided to liven things up by testing how long it would take the rest of us to notice that Cathy was out of her overturned boat. Under a minute, right, Rob? Because I was motoring so fast to rescue her, I didn't stop to take pictures, but I could have because it was a lovely day to be hanging out in the water, although Cathy did say her hands got cold

Rescue accomplished, we continued on to Friendship Harbor, which held the promise of a marina, a real bathroom, and the dream of ice cream. While the harbor was undeniably picturesque, none of our dreams were realized. No marina. No bathroom. No ice cream. I don't know which any of us was most disappointed about, but I know that there was a contingent (Warren, Andy and Cathy) that seemed to have said the words "blueberry ice cream" more than once!

So we made a pit stop at Sand Island,


where some of us chilled out,


and others plotted the rest of our journey.


We crossed from the island to Martin Point, where we were very enthusiastically greeted by some of the local not-so-wild animal life.


One seemed to believe that he could walk on water.


He couldn't, but that didn't stop him from charging out onto floating mats of seaweed for a closer hello.



Cathy reported that he stank! But given how he apparently spends his days, why wouldn't he?

We pulled away from shore, bading farewell to our canine friends, but they weren't ready for us to go. They charged from point to point, surefooted as could be across seaweed covered rocks. Tails waving. Barking wildly. Then on to the next point, until there was nowhere to go that would get them closer to us, and they gave up the chase.


It was a bit of a slog from there back to Crow. We were all tired, not because we had done great mileage - that was for sure - but perhaps because it had been such a lovely long slow day. It was time to be home.

Once again, cocktails on the rocks. Once again, under a blue sky with fluffy clouds, Rob predicted rain for dinner.

A sudden breeze foretelling rain. A drybag blew off the rocks. Rob gave chase, and for the first time in his life made real use of his tow belt, roping the bag in like a rodeo cowboy.


Once again, he was right, and the rain that he had watched across the way



Once again, escaped to under the tarp.


Once again, it cleared quickly and this time Warren prepared our second supper on the rocks: quinoa with chicken, parmesan cheese and hot sauce. The Expedition Support Team pronounced Warren's cooking more than adequate, and we all voiced confidence that his co-expeditioners would happily snarf down his creations. We finished off supper with five different kinds of chocolate bars: orange, coconut, crunchy caramel and a taste off between two BACON flavored chocolates. Nothing to complain about there!

We watched the weather happening elsewhere.

A rainbow that poked partly down from a cloud but never made it to the ground.


Reflections, light, clouds.



Talking on the rocks.




Once again in bed by nine. There was a strange stereophonic effect. As I lay in my tent, in my left ear I heard the LOUD voices of what I could only imagine where Giant Ocean Peeping Frogs. In my right ear, the ongoing querulous seals. I have never heard seals make more noise from such a distance. I imagined them elbowing (flippering?) each other, grunting, complaining, shifting positions. I fell asleep to this cacophony of nature.

I awoke a little after 4 am and peered out of my tent. Intense red harbinger of sunrise lured me out of my tent and out onto the rocks. It was warm and still and I thought of my ill friend and what a blessing this world can be.


Then back to bed for another hour or so before getting up to enjoy the flat calm early morning.



We packed up, launched, and retraced the first of Saturday's journey. It couldnt have been calmer.



Thinking of the sticker that Liz Burgess has on her car and boat, I thought that there have been few mornings that have felt more that we were in the Church of the Double-Bladed Paddle.

After a stretch break on the sandy beach at the end of Loud's Island, we proceeded along the western shore until we made the crossing


to our final destination, Round Pond. While we never made it to the Rachel Carson Preserve, we enjoyed the beauty of this little harbor.


Still hoping for ice cream, Rob stopped to see if anything was open.


No luck. It was too early for ice cream shops.

We headed out of Round Pond, and turned north for our launch spot at Muscongus Harbor. The coast from Round Pond partway to the harbor was Jelly Alley. Hundreds and hundreds of jellyfish. Lion's mane (yes, they do sting; no they did not sting me)


and then green water and my hands and camera and clear jellies




This was one of those days when I felt that I could have paddled forever. But that was not to be.

We landed back at Muscongus Harbor at 11:00, admired our paddlers tans - which had deepened considerably over the three days


and had a debrief and thank you to Warren for all his planning and cooking, and to all the rest of us for friendship, good paddling, appetizers, wine and a most excellent three days during which we managed to cover almost all of inner and middle Muscongus Bay.

But the trip was notable for me not only for all of that - the considerable gift of being out on the water with friends - but for near constant thoughts of my friend Ellen and the exceptional beauty that kept appearing all weekend as I carried her along with me.


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Thank you for another outstanding trip report! During the journey I kept reflecting back on how many times we have paddled those waters and helped other NSPN paddlers discover the beauty of Muscongus Bay. This was a first time for Cathy, David and Andy and I suspect they will want to return often. In fact, Rob, Andy and I were sizing up a set of tent platforms on one of the islands and thinking how that site might serve us well for a nice December or March trip.

An additional thank you goes out to Cathy, Pru, Andy and Rob for their outstanding support to David and me as we worked through our check-off list of prep activities. Although David I now feel ready for our Alaska trip, I suspect Jason would say Andy and Rob should have simulated a bear attack during the middle of the night! Missed opportunity guys?!


Edited by Warren
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Warren: Rob and I did simulate a vicious bear attack! We were first attracted to your corner of the camp by food lying around. We made quite a bit of noise sniffing around. Then we both roared at the top of our voices. No reaction! Nothing! Just soft, rhythmic breathing with an occasional gentle snore from within your tent. We gave up and went back to our respective mobile dens. I guess that demonstrates that at least your ear plugs are bear-proof!

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i enjoyed reading your rememberance of this weekend past.

I noticed that you made no mention of biting insects., Were there none?

I paddled in the midcoast Maine area on Saturday in a notoriously buggy area but didnt notice mosquitos or black flies.

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Oh, there were most definitely mosquitos. I made the mistake of thinking they wouldn't get to me through the smartwool, so only put spray on hands, head and ankles :-(

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