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May 2023 Casco Bay camping

Dan Foster

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As many of you have heard by now, this year's annual May Jewell Island trip was cancelled due to poor weather conditions (high winds, heavy rain, heavy rain with high winds...) due to a front passing over the region on Friday and Saturday. For the second year in a row, I had planned to extend my Casco Bay stay by organizing a smaller group trip to the Goslings after the main Jewell event. When it became clear that Jewell wouldn't be happening, but that there was a period of clear weather following on the heels of the storm, a group of nine of us were able to rearrange our plans to spend a few nights out on the water after all.

The group launched from Mere Point on Sunday morning, just minutes after the fog burned off. I think that was the last we saw of moisture for the remainder of the trip!



I like to start all of my trips with a detailed beach briefing, setting an expectation of professionalism and safe paddling for our time together on the water. This year's went something like this: "I seem to have forgotten my spray skirt. Have a great trip. I'm going home." Luckily Yong had a spare skirt, and we launched without further ado and proceeded up and around the backside of Birch Island, where we lunched at the Helen and Walter Norton Preserve before setting up camp on East Gosling. After camp was settled, we headed over to Little French, where at least two active osprey nests kept us well offshore.



We circled around French, and then had to fight a headwind back to camp. For many, the highlight of our first night in camp was the local lamb merguez sausage the Legers brought to share, which we grilled on a driftwood fire on the beach as the sun set behind us.



The next morning, we set out for Bangs and Crow, where we were treated to a spectacular display of aerial acrobatics by a flock of terns, dropping like lightning bolts out of the sky to catch minnows in the shallow cove where we were also enjoying lunch. (There's a great video of this in the main slideshow). I don't think any of us had ever seen a display like this before - it was really something special.



After lunch, we headed to Eagle Island, where a surprised park ranger ran down and warned us off. Off the trails, that is. Eagle is in the midst of a heavy Browntail Moth caterpillar infestation and we were cautioned not to venture off of the beach or grass.



We saw caterpillars everywhere we went on this trip, including in our campsite, but as far as I know, nobody came down with a rash. The siren song of the restaurant at Dolphin Cove Marina lured half of the group ashore on the paddle back, while the rest of us enjoyed a few minutes of downtime back on the Goslings before the serious business of watching another sunset began.




The next day would see half of the group head for home, while the remainder of us hiked at Wolfe's Neck Woods state park, swam/floated/hiked a nearby trail system, and explored more of upper Casco Bay. But for now, there was only the fire, the loons, the sunset, and the stars.




We each have our own ideals for what would constitute a perfect sea kayaking experience, but for me, this trip, this group of friends, dry, crisp weather, relaxed nights around the campfire, full-but-not-too long days in the kayak, island hopping and exploring, just enough headwind or bouncy crossings to keep us on our toes, an occasional raccoon sighting to keep the myths alive - this was my perfect trip. Thanks to everyone who made it a success, and to NSPN for cultivating a group paddling culture that makes it so enjoyable to venture out together.


More photos and videos here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/NMwBv58DKMK6bsbbA


Edited by Dan Foster
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  • Dan Foster changed the title to May 2023 Casco Bay camping

We checked out a new public trail system that Karen discovered on Lower Goose. Given that the wind and waves were blowing in the direction we were hiking toward a pretty cove, I decided it would be faster to float than to walk. It was, but only because the rest of the group kept stopping to throw tennis balls at me and to take selfies with the local raccoons.

We now have a strong tradition of amphibious adventures around the Goslings, so perhaps next year we'll leave the boats at home and just [dog] paddle over.

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