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NSPN Downeast Paddling Retreat! Bar Harbor, Sept 5-8


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The long awaited NSPN Downeast Retreat arrived, and went very well! Some 22 of us gathered in Bar Harbor, arriving in dribs and drabs starting Thursday afternoon, some of us staying through Tuesday. We had four great paddling days on Friday-Monday, hitting most of the area's best paddling locations and paddling in a variety of conditions ranging from pretty favorable to downright splendid.

Many of us stayed at two spots (LLangolin Inn or Hadley Point Campground) near Hadley Point on the north side of Mount Desert Island ; a few others stayed at a nearby KOA campground and still others stayed at other places nearby.

Special thanks to Ed Lawson and Rob Hazard who assisted in planning for this event and who, along with me, acted as initiators on paddles each day. This was a great group of paddlers and all of our paddles went very well.

I arrived at Llangolan around 6:30 PM on Thursday and found a gathering of kindred souls at a picnic table in front of cottage #6, occupied by paddling doyennes Katherine, Shari and Janice, who had turned their area into Salon d'NSPN for the weekend, with various stews, casseroles, soups, breads, dips, crackers, cheeses, cakes and spirits regularly emerging from their bungalow for all to enjoy.
(Id like to post photos but didnt have a camera with me: I used a few shots from other trips, and I'll refer to Warren and Shari's photos posted on another Downeast Retreat thread here in the trip reports forum)

Friday: Day 1.
We met at 9:00AM at the parking area and boat launch at Hadley Point, a short distance from the campground and Inn where most of us were staying. We then had a big conclave to review paddling trip options for the day. It was a pleasant day, warm and sunny, promising winds from the south to 10kts., and fairly mild sea conditions especially on the north end of the island, so it was agreed that focusing in this north end of Mount Desert Island, and especially the Porcupine Islands off of downtown Bar Harbor, was the order of the day.
Downeast Day 1.jpg
We divided into three groups : one group coalesced around Rob Hazard and launched right there from Hadley Point ,with the plan of traveling along MDIs north coast down to Bar Harbor and returning by the same route, a tide-friendly trip of about 13-14 miles. Warrens photos in the original Downeast retreat post on the trip report forum show the natural rock arch that was one of the highlights of this trip.
Our other two groups caravan'd to downtown Bar Harbor and we staged our boats and gear at the gravel bar that runs to Bar Island, and parked our cars nearby in town for the day .
Eds group was to tour the Porcupines, and my group was to do the same, but with the option of venturing out into the farther and more exposed reaches of Frenchmans Bay, which was just what we did. We shadowed Eds group along the Porcupines, then crossed from outermost Long Porcupine Island over to Ironbound Island while Ed and Co. rounded Long Porcupine en route to a sort-of circumnav.of the Porcupines . Along the way we stopped for a play at the "keyhole" a well-known slot in the sheer cliffs of Burnt Porcupine keyhole!.jpg
Arriving at Ironbound Island, we stopped for a snack (elevensies) on a cobble beach on its rocky west side , paddled down to its southern point and crossed, one mile to the south, into a 10 Kt. wind, to Egg Rock , a forlorn little ledge perched right in the middle of Frenchmans Bay , crowned with a stubby, ramshackle lighthouse building. The island has a "way out there" feel to it, with splendid views of MDI and Schoodic Peninsula.
Egg Rock Light on Frenchman Bay as seen from the top of Catilac Mountain Maine October 2012.JPG
After the rest of lunch and a look -see around the island , we crossed back to Mount Desert Island, arriving at the Thrumcap ledge, and, now with a fair wind and tide, we flew back to Bar Harbor. As we approached the south end of town, we were all greeted at once with a blast of oven- like hot air from the mainland, quite a jolt after the cool breezy sea air of Frenchmans Bay. We arrived back as the others were car topping their boats out on the now -exposed gravel bar.

Back at Llangolin, we had a group meeting at 6:30 to discuss paddling options for the next day. Afterwards, some went in to Bar Harbor for dinner, while some of us were enticed by more culinary delights erupting from cottage # 6, so we hung out at Salon d'NSPN until about 9, then filtered off to bed.

Saturday Day 2
We again met at 9AM at Hadley Point , same as the day before, this time with worsening weather to contend with in planning the days paddle.
Given winds to 20 kt , seas 4-7 feet and scattered thundershowers from the south , we decided to confine our paddling plans to a shorter trip in the protected waters on the north side of the island between Hadley Point and the Narrows.
Downeast Day 2.jpg

We paddled westward along the wooded shoreline, explored Thomas Bay and the lovely marshy area up and around Northeast Creek, then met up with Andy and Warren who had paddled over from their campground on the other side of the Narrows. We paddled en masse to the Narrows, where we dawdled and played in the current under the bridge, Warren and Andy departed for their home base,and we stopped for lunch at a picnic area by the narrows until rousted by Mr. Hazard to avoid the ignominy of being stuck in the boot- sucking ooze of the rapidly emerging mudflats in the falling tide. We paddled back to Hadley Point , arriving around 2:30PM. A few paddlers prolonged their day (bad weather, as it turned out was a bit stalled and the day remained fair until late evening showers ) and continued on eastward a bit before returning to Hadley Point.
Back at Llangolan , we had our 6:30 meeting to sort out the next days plan, then some of us went into town for dinner while others continued the festivities at Salon d'NSPN.

Sunday Day 3
Weather had turned fair once again, and, with north winds pushing the last of the bad weather southward, the south end of the island was now fair game, so we caravan'd en masse down to Seal Harbor, with a plan to tour the Cranberry Islands. We were 18 in number, so we divided into three groups, one group with me to head eastward and explore MDIs southeast coast and then back to the Cranberries later in the day: the other two groups with Ed and Rob to tour the Cranberries.
Downeast Day 3B.jpg

As it turned out, Ed and Rob's groups stayed as one, and headed a bit west along the shore, rounded the west end of Bear Island . then crossed to Rice Point, at the west end of Sutton Island , then headed east along the south shore of Sutton Island, turned southeast and made for Hadlock Cove on Little Cranberry, and stopped in the cute little village of Islesford for lunch and a tour of the museum . After lunch they paddled out the mouth of Cranberry Harbor (The Gut) and made a beeline for the south end of Baker I, South of Baker they continued around to the bar that extends out from Little Cranberry . then rock-hopped their way back along the north side of Little Cranberry to Bunker Neck, and crossed back toward the east end of Sutton I. and then headed back into Seal Harbor.

My group headed eastward and we rock -gardened our way along the spectacular rock cliff shoreline of MDIs southeast coast until we reached Otter Point at the extreme SE corner of the island . We rounded the point and paddled along Otter Cliffs to Thunder Hole, where we turned around, not before putting on a show for the tourists there. Thunder Hole is a popular tourist spot where, on many days, ocean swell floods into a narrow slot in the cliffs , finishing in a small cave creating a big whoosh and a reverberating boom. Thunder Hole was not thundering on this milder day, near low tide, so several of us took turns slithering into the narrow slot in the rocks , right into the hole., to the amusement of the onlookers on the boardwalk overhead.

We paddled back around Otter Point, stopped for lunch on a cobble beach inside Otter Cove, near Ingraham Point we then crossed over to the Cranberries , via Bunker Ledge, and paused to enjoy the splendid views back to the mountains of Mount Desert. The emerging bar between Little Cranberry and Baker island required us to pull our boats a short way before heading on to Cranberry Harbor and our return to Seal Harbor.
Back again at Llangolan, I fed like a waif on the remaining morsels at Salon d'NSPN, and , with clear skies and a full moon, a bunch of us drove to the National Park and strolled around Sand Beach in the moonlight . The islands celestial offerings inspired Shari to get up early the next morning to view the sunrise from Cadillac Moiuntain.

Monday Day 4
Six of us were remaining on Monday, still game for more paddling, and conditions were right for an exploration of the west side of the island , So we caravan'd to Seal Cove on MDIs southwestern side, and set off to tour Bartlett Sound and Pretty Marsh.
Downeast Day 4.jpg
Conditions were fair again : warm, sunny , and ... idyllic , so we ambled out of Seal Cove, paddled up to Bartlett Sound, and into the head of Pretty Marsh, stopped for lunch , after which Yong, Beth, who had to hit the road that afternoon , headed back with Mike to Seal Cove. Glenn, Sherry and I continued on up to near the top of Bartlett Narrows , ferried across to Bartlett Island and turned around for a fast return ride back with the tide , stopping at John Island along the way. Afternoon winds picked up as we were exiting Bartlett sound and so our ride was slower and bumper from there; we elected to carry our boats across the narrow bar between MDI and Moose Island rather than face more wind on the outside , and we ambled back into Seal Cove at about 4PM, closing out the paddling festivities for the weekend.

SO: I had a great time this weekend. This event offered a wide variety of trip options, almost all of which could bear repeating from year to year (I don't think I'd tire of any of them) MDI's geography and hydrography offer a wide range of paddling options geared to weather, tides and conditions, ( as evidenced by day two,when we paddled on the north side of the island, while the south side of island was crappy) and I think each days trips/venues accommodated paddlers of all levels . It's also a good place to bring a non-kayaking spouse or partner, as there is much to do if weather prevents paddling altogether . Any one paddler can come for one, two, three,or four days, so I'm thinking we'll do this event next year , most likely the same weekend after Labor Day, which would be Sept 11-14.

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