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Great Wass Island trip, 8/15-17/03

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This trip was a great opportunity to enjoy the natural beauty of the more northerly Maine coast, in areas not as often visited as the resort town of Bar Harbor and places south. Seven kayakers from NSPN went on the trip, Laurel, Rick, Dave, Eric, Suzzanne, Allen, Judy. Tom originally was the trip leader (who also did a great job leading the Muscongus Bay trip) and had to cancel, however we were fortunate to be able to get Rick as our trip leader. We stayed in the campground in Jonesport (now called Kelley Point campground), at the entrance of a small cove, with lobster and small to medium-sized fishing boats. Most of the campers had large RV’s, from all over the US, and we met two women with kayaks, from RI, and CT.

On Friday, our first day, many of us who made the trip the previous night, and arrived after 1 AM, decided to put off a 22+ mile trip around Great Wass and Beals, and explore some closer pristine islands.

At the start, Rick and Allen gave us a demonstration of a wet exit and assisted rescue, and some very helpful suggestions on paddling techniques to improve forward stroke, torso rotation, gaining speed.

Being near the Bay of Fundy, this area has big tides. The north Atlantic is always cold, we would want a full wet suit to go swimming.

We saw a lot of eagles on the islands. They look and sound something like an osprey, with a striking white tail and white head. The juveniles are all dark. One was sitting in a tree on the west side of Head Harbor, overlooking us.

We had lunch on some smooth grey granite boulders on _Steele Harbor Island, and then went to explore the exposed eastern side of Head Harbor Island. The dramatic feature was smooth sloping ledges of red granite, rising 40 -50’ or more. Moss and low growing evergreens were on flatter areas. There was an eagle again on a tree above us, and we wondered if it might be the same one! The ocean was smooth with 1 ft swells. We landed on a steep beach on pebbles that were round as marbles, and rolled as you walked on them. Some had an almost gem-like quality.

That evening we had dinner at camp, and then went on a scenic trip, in 2 cars (drivers were Suzzsane and Eric), first across a bridge to Beals Island, then a causeway to Great Wass. Going up and down the gravel road through dense tall trees, we passed the Nature Conservancy parking lot. (There were a few signs of civilization: some houses, power lines, Rosemary’s motel, a women jogging, a laundromat/ video store that looked closed.) Most of the island is a nature preserve.

On Saturday morning our camp was enveloped in thick fog, and we opted to have breakfast at the Jonesport Diner, then drive back to Great Wass, to hike the Nature Conservancy trail. It was well maintained, including wooden walkways going through swampy areas. There were many rocks and tree roots, then smooth ledges. After an invigorating hike we were grateful to relax at Cape Cove, on the expanse of flat granite ledges. We met a couple hiking who told us about an annual blueberry festival in Machias.

At noon the fog was still thick, so we opted to go by car a bit further north, to Machias, the home of a branch of the University of Maine. Stopping once to admire the scenery of Roque Bluffs and surrounding area.. The Blueberry festival took over the whole downtown area, we enjoyed the arts & crafts displays, fried dough with blueberry sauce.

Then we decided to go a bit more north, to Lubec, the most eastern town in the US. And just before Lubec we turned right towards West Quoddy Head, the most Eastern lighthouse, at the entrance to the Bay of Fundy. There was heavy fog, obscuring the view of Great Mannan Island. It is a pretty area to walk around. On the beach below we climbed a rock formation with a small flat area on top.

Lubec was quiet and almost deserted on Saturday late afternoon. We stopped in Annabel’s Bar to ask about places to find seafood, and they recommended a place just over the bridge to Campobello Island, NB. The food there was good, except for the steamers that weren’t as fresh as they could have been. We enjoyed a local specialty called putene, french fries with a light cheese sauce. And we enjoyed the novelty of having dinner in NB, Canada, where the time zone changes 1 hr later to Atlantic Standard time. The island is mostly woods.

Sunday started out cool, and partly cloudy, but no fog. This was our chance to see the exposed S side of Great Wass, and also to check out a whale carcass that washed up on Cape Cove, that the hiking couple told us about on Saturday.

On the way we went by a fish farm, where salmon were raised in large circular pens in the middle of the bay. Since lobstermen take the day off on Sunday, we were about the only boats on the entire bay! We landed on the seaweed covered ledges of Cape Cove, thankfully downwind of the whale carcass. It washed in head first, and looked about 45’ long, 5-6’ high. The two front flippers were 7’ each. One of our group noticed it had the distinctive hump of a humpback whale.

Heading out to the ocean side of the island, the most spectacular part, steep and jagged ledges, 40-50’ cliffs of red granite. There were 2’ swells bouncing off the ledges making some waves to negotiate, carefully to not tip over in the cold water. Almost completely around the ocean side, we landed in the partially protected cove called the Pond, between Red Head and Pond Point. We lifted the kayaks above the high tide line, and had lunch. Some of us cooked pasta that tasted especially good on the wind-swept rocks.

It became sunny for the trip back to the camp. We were packed for the trip home around 5 - 6:00. Although it is a long trip to Boston, there was beautiful scenery, including giant fields of blueberries, (6-8” high). and miles of forested land.

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