Amazing Race–Our Style

Amazing Race–Our Style: episode eight

The clue arrived as mysteriously as usual on Sunday and we had to quickly book a seat for two on a seaworthy vessel. Thankfully, we got the first time slot for 10:30 Monday morning. And so, despite some fog, we drove northeast.

But . . . before we reached our destination, we had a challenge to answer to along the way. My guy needed to complete the crossword puzzle in the Portland Press Herald on his own. And then, while I did the driving, he needed to give me a clue, word by word until I’d completed the puzzle orally. Unfortunately, one letter held me up and we knew we’d loose a few moments if everyone else in the Amazing Race–Our Style finished it without flaws. We wouldn’t know for sure until the end. My glitch–the “r” in Urdu–the language spoken mainly in Pakistan.

1-Camden Harbor

Two and a half hours later we reached the location where our next challenge would begin. Of course, we had to pay attention to the signs and not park where permission was granted only to those who worked the waterfront.

3-Schooner Surprise

Our mission was to sail upon the gaff-rigged schooner Surprise. According to her website, Surprise was “built by the Waddell Shipyard in Rockport, Massachusetts, for Martin Kattenhorn. Surprise began her life as a racing and cruising yacht. Mr. Kattenhorn had commissioned Thomas McManus, the most famous American designer of fishing schooners, to design a vessel of about 45 feet, which could be safely sailed by a crew of no more than three persons. In early 1918, Surprise slid down the marine railway.

Her final dimensions were: Length overall 57 feet, Length on deck 44 feet, Beam 12 feet, Draft 7 feet, Displacement 21 tons.

Her topsail schooner rig allowed Mr. Kattenhorn to fly a mainsail, foresail, staysail , jib,  and a fisherman staysail. Her working sail area, not counting topsails, was just under 1000 square feet. Surprise was a respected racer. In 1923, she captured sixth place in a fleet of 22 vessels in the first race to Bermuda after World War I. Mr. Kattenhorn was a founding member of the Cruising Club of America, and Surprise carried the club’s ensignia from Bermuda to Nova Scotia and ports in between from 1918 until Mr. Kattenhorn’s death in 1959, an incredible sailing career!”

All of that history, and we realized we needed to pay attention. (Note to self: remember these facts) Already into the eighth leg of the race, we had a feeling that the historical value of some of our adventures would play a key part if we stay in the race until the final episode.

4-Captain Will applies sunscreen

At the established time, we boarded the boat and looked around at our shipmates. No fellow contestants. Huh? How could that be? But perhaps the rest had chosen the alternate activity that involved some baking and deliveries. We were much more comfortable setting sail with Captain Will, who when he wasn’t applying sunscreen, used his left foot to steer the boat out of Camden Harbor.

5-we raised the mainsail

Half way out, First Mate Laird asked for help in hoisting the sails. We knew this offering was intended for us. I quickly jumped up and my guy followed. My job–to use the hand-over-hand method to raise the raise the main gaff at the top as my guy kept the main boom parallel.  Of all our challenges thus far, this was among the easiest and we felt right at home.

6-Surprise

Finally under sail rather than motor power, the boat moved away from Camden Harbor and out into Penobscot Bay.

7-First Mate Laird

As we continued, the captain and first mate exchanged roles, because really, they are both comfortable and supportive in each. While Captain Will explained that Surprise was celebrating her 100th birth year, First Mate Laird looked up.

8-100 years old

Above, a flag blowing in the breeze commemorated the celebration.

9-ghost ship on the horizon

As we headed out to Mark Island in Penobscot Bay, so named because early mariners used the island to mark their bearings, we noted a ghost ship on the hazy horizon.

10-sailing Penobscot Bay

Will and Laird both exclaimed about what a perfect sailing day it was. Indeed.

11-Lobster Boat surrounded by gulls

The further out we moved, the more we noticed lobstermen checking their traps as gulls circled in hopes of an offering.

15-pulling traps

These were the folks who had headed out onto the water at 4 am as they surveyed the  grounds where they’d set traps. A Maine lobsterman is allowed to set up to 800 traps, but as we learned today, it not only takes time to gain a lobster license and no longer is it a tradition handed directly from father or grandfather to son or daughter, but one doesn’t set the full amount of traps to start. And we learned that Lobsterman Toby is the local God of the Traps and the one to consult before dipping into a lobstering career.

16-third lobster boat

Some collected lobsters while others replaced traps. It’s not an easy life, but don’t tell a lobsterman that. Oh yeah, and one more fact, women who lobster are also called lobstermen . . . with pride.

17-different tack

Once we changed tacks, positions on the boat shifted, as should be expected.

18-Curtis Island Light

From all sides, we viewed the Curtis Lighthouse. The station was first established in 1836. As the lighter rocks tumbled down in front of the current house indicated, when the first building was demolished, the rocks were not intended to be reused or repurposed. The present lighthouse was build in 1896 and automated in 1972. (Note to self: remember these facts)

19-Camden Harbor

Slowly we tacked and then motored back into the harbor, with Mount Battie’s domed shape, a reflection of the harbor’s outline, standing tall in the background.

21-boat featured in movie Dunkirk

Captain Will shared a third point of interest to add to our bag of potentially important historical points should we make it to the end of this race: The 1930 122 ft. steel-hulled yacht Atlantide. The boat played a life-saving role in World War II as allied troops pinned down by the invading German army were evacuated at Dunkirk, France. And it was featured in the movie Dunkirk.

23-sails coming down

As we sailed closer to shore, in a pattern of symmetry that matched our departure, everything was restored to its original position and the term shipshape revealed.

25-old boat railway

Back under motor power, we passed by an old marine railway, which probably resembled the one Surprise originally slid down.

23-female mallard

At last, our sailing experience of the day slowed. And a female mallard swam beside the boat, perhaps her hope for a handout redeemed occasionally by others.

2-Comorant

Meanwhile, a cormorant bathed.

24-docking

With precise precision as a neighboring boat docked, we pulled in, Laird jumped off the boat and all ropes were secured. Our journey had ended and we needed to hustle to a lunch spot.

25-beer at Peter Otts

We chose Peter Otts and a Maine Beer Company Peepers Pale Lager for me, while my guy enjoyed a Guinness–because it’s good for you! Two delish haddock sandwiches rounded out our menu choices.

25-Climbing Battie

But we still had one more task to complete–to locate a symbol of WWI while hiking. And so up Route One we drove to Camden Hills State Park in hopes that we’d chosen the right place. It was rather deceiving at the start of the hike for across one boardwalk after another did we walk.

26-changing terrain

Eventually, however, the incline steepened and terrain became more of what one might expect along the coast of Maine–rocks and roots to navigate around and over.

27-wavng hello

We hadn’t seen a single other contestant and had no idea how we were doing, but knew we’d lost a wee bit of time on the crossword challenge, and so we paused for a second and my guy expressed his inner Cousin Itt.

28-Camden below

The funny thing we noticed about the trail system was that no matter how much further we had to go, many of the signs indicate 0.5 miles, and even after we’d covered a section of 0.25, the next sign stated the summit was still 0.5 ahead. It amused us and from then on we knew everything was a mere half mile away from somewhere.

At the summit of Mount Battie, the view encompassed the harbor below.

29-tower

But it was what stood behind us that became significant.

31-tower dedication

We’d found our WWI symbol, a memorial to those local people who served our country. And another piece of history to tuck under our hats for future reference.

30-view from the tower

Though we couldn’t see Acadia because of fog, the view was still breathtaking from the top. It was there that we encountered another contestant who actually asked us for some help with the trail system. Team Purple is legally deaf and her partner had deserted her, so we were happy to offer assistance.

32-Edna St. Vincent Millay

To that end, we gave her a head start while we paused to honor Edna St. Vincent Millay. And give thanks that we saw what she had seen.

34-Team Purple

Eventually, we did catch up with Team Purple, but she was a hearty hiker and we let her continue to lead.

35-Crossing the mat together

She, however, had another idea in mind, and in true alliance fashion, the three of us, our shadows lengthened as the sun slowly lowered, crossed the finish line of this episode together. We weren’t the first to complete today’s challenges, but we’re still in the race.

Going forward, we wish Rebecca of Team Purple the best.

Phew, eight episodes of the Amazing Race–Our Style completed. Only four more to go. Will we survive? Stay tuned.

The Amazing Race–Our Style, episode seven

We never know when the clue will appear and so it was a complete surprise to find it this morning. “Drive 50 or so miles north and locate the Big A near the table.”

1-Big A

We took our chances and drove to Bethel and then on to Newry and beyond. Lo and behold–the Big A appeared. And so we parked across the street, slipped into our hiking boots, and began the journey. At the time that we arrived, we were the only contestants, so we wondered if we were behind or ahead.

2-easy path

At first the trail was deceivingly flat. “I’ve got this,” I thought.

3-rungs on rocks

But we soon came to a point where the white-blazed trail headed to the left and the orange-blazed trail to the right. We had a choice to make. White would mean a bit further journey, but it was easier. Orange was much more difficult, but if we played our cards right, we might ascend quickly. It wasn’t long before we realized that our hearts pulsed rapidly. And then we met Team Livermore . . . and passed them. They are younger than us, so I was feeling a bit smug. Until we came to the wrought iron rungs. I guess I was shaking a bit, from the looks of the photo, but really, climbing up the rungs was a piece of cake compared to the rest of the scramble . . .

4-climbing higher

over the steep, boulder-strewn trail.

5-trail map on boulder

Along the way, I paused periodically pretending to note things like a boulder covered with a moss map . . .

6-spider web

and an orb web sparkling in a bit of sunlight. The truth is that I was catching my breath. After seeing the web I had to put the camera away, for we’d reached a point where we needed the use of both hands. And just above the web my mind shut down as My Guy stepped from one boulder over a gaping hole to the next. He patiently told me where to place each foot, and try as I might, I couldn’t move. Along came Team Livermore and I knew we were skunked, but I had to let them pass. They made it look effortless and so four more times I attempted to make the crossing, and on the fifth try I went for it. And I’m here to write about it, so obviously I lived.

7-contemplating

Team Livermore may have passed us, but we soon caught up and moved ahead. We kept thinking we were about to reach the summit, when the rock would indicate otherwise and at one point we had to hike down a bit before climbing up again, which didn’t seem quite fair given how hard we’d worked. But then again, rock is rock and we certainly didn’t want to climb directly up its face.

11-to the north

At last–success. We found the table we’d sought: The summit of Table Rock.

12-message in the slides?

Before us, The Eyebrow and Old Speck.

13-Sunday River Whitecap

To the south, Sunday River Whitecap.

We didn’t stay too long on top for we weren’t hungry yet. And Team Cape Cod showed up. They’d chosen to come up the easier trail, so we knew we were ahead of them. We do like them though, so we hoped they wouldn’t be too far behind. Just as we started to make our way down, Team Speedy came along via the orange-blazed trail. We’ve had them on our tail in previous episodes and they have a bit of an attitude. That being said, we did what we often do–we practically ran down the blue and then white-blazed trails.

16-lunch rock

At lunch rock, we paused briefly beside the water and contemplated the map for a moment, making sure that we were headed in the right direction.

Further along we met a couple from New Hampshire–thru-hikers who had started in Georgia in March. We had nothing in our packs to offer them in terms of extra food, but bid them good tidings. Soon after, we heard Team Speedy again, and so with even more gusto, we finished our descent.

20-aster

Before moving on, we had a couple of tasks to complete. The first was to share photos of a flower–we chose the purple asters;

19-trillium fruit

a fruiting plant–trillium;

18-cup mushroom

and a fruiting mushroom–ours being one of the cup variety.

21-A # 2

We also had been instructed to find two more examples of the letter A, and so here is one . . .

22-A # 3

and the other. All were in honor of the white-blazed Appalachian Trail.

24-moose cave below

Making our way south on the road, our next clue indicated that we needed to find a moose, or at least evidence that one had been there previously. And so we found this deep cave, which the photo doesn’t do justice.

23-Moose Cave

As the local lore goes, however, a moose once fell in.

26-Mother Walker Falls

We were also instructed to find Mother Walker. We found the falls named for her that flowed through a gorge.

27-mother load of Indian pipe

And we found a mother lode of Indian Pipes, all turned upright because they’d recently been fertilized. But who was Mother Walker? We never found the answer to that question.

29-Screw Auger Falls

With three stops left to make before locating the mat and finishing today’s leg of the race, we needed to locate a screw. Heck, I was with a hardware guy so that should have been easy.

30-upper falls

But this screw was in the form of a water fall. Screw Auger Falls. In the 1800s, settlers had built a saw mill directly over the falls that was powered by the current. A screw auger is a hand tool used for boring holes in hard material. It all began to make sense.

31-Arch

While we were there, we took in a view of the arch, just in case we encounter a question about it should we make it successfully to the end of race.

32-lower falls

And the falls below, were the story of water and glaciers was carved into the bedrock.

33-PIes for Sale

And then, and then, we continued south to a spot where we were told to fulfill our sweet tooth craving.

34-Puzzle Mtn Bakery

As we contemplated all of the possibilities, three folks came along in a truck (two of them from Norway, Maine, and the third visiting from San Francisco), bought a pie and gave us the money to buy one as well. But we had enough money. So we felt awkward, though we promised to pay it forward.

35-cash only

My Guy had just put the $20 into the metal tank when a vehicle from New York pulled in and a young couple stepped out. He walked over and told them about the previous couple, gave them $10 for their pie and asked them to pay it forward. Ahhh. Maine, the way life should be. And is!

36-Moose

At last, our final stop–we crossed the mat and learned we were first yet again.

37-beer

While sipping a celebratory brew, Team Speedy came in. Bingo! They were second in place. Drats. But at least we beat them. We never saw the other teams.

38-My Guy and me!

All in all, The Amazing Race–Our Style, episode seven was most gratifying as we successfully summited Table Rock in Grafton Notch. Thanks to Team Cape Cod for taking a photo of us.

Oh, and dessert tonight will be . . . Maine Wild Blueberry a la Puzzle Mountain Bakery and the kind folks from Norway, Maine.

The Amazing Race–Our Style, episode six

The clue was rather vague as clues go: Drive five hours south to the second dot to the right in Harbor View. And so we did.

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The map provided helped–sorta.

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And just before dark we located the spot that included not only a view of the outer harbor, but also the back side of Hammonassett Beach State Park on Long Island Sound in Connecticut. It was like we knew exactly where we were going.

c1

As it turned out, we were joined by another couple with whom we’d formed an alliance for the race and so we decided to spend the weekend completing the challenges together. Funny thing–I think we felt so comfortable with them because she looked very much like my sister and he reminded us of my brother-in-law. With them was a young man who is about to celebrate his 24th birthday (in two more days) and so we all celebrated with him–but even his presence was part of the challenge. And so Team Budz (the alliance couple) and Team Wonder (us), shared the responsibility of his presence. They picked him up at the train station. We provided the cake, which he decorated himself. We also offered the musical accompaniment, much to his dismay. And together, presents, much to his delight.

c4

Refreshed after a good night’s sleep in that delightfully salty air, we faced new challenges, such as sighting three mammals. Together, Team Budz and Wonder spied cottontail rabbits, which were probably the eastern species that was introduced into New England in the late 1800s/early 1900s and have expanded in range ever since, rather than the native New England Cottontail. Both feature large hind feet, long ears, and a short, fluffy tail that resembles its namesake–a cotton ball. Suffice it to say: it was a cottontail. We also saw a red fox that looked a bit mangy and was too close to home, poking up as it did on the rocks in front of our accommodation, and a momma raccoon that, sadly, had been struck by a car–ever so gently struck.

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Challenge number two found us seeking two sea birds. We found adult Ospreystanding guard,

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and scanning the water for a fishy meal.

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Meanwhile, their young patiently awaited breakfast in the nest built of sticks upon man-made platforms that were installed at least thirty years ago. And actually, while we watched them, we noted something disturbing–tangled fishline dangling from the construction site. That led us to send out a word of caution–dispose of your tangled fishline so the birds and other aquatic species with whom we share this Earth don’t get wrapped up to the point of no escape, aka death.

c6

We did note that while some of the young Osprey stretched their wings to capture the sun’s warmth and waited for mom and pop to return with a meal, a couple of smaller birds used the nest structure as a great place to pause below and contemplate the surrounding world. Osprey eat fish and perhaps the smaller birds knew that? Or they just made the right decision.

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The Great Egret was the second bird we were assigned to watch . . . as it watched.

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And preened.

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And exclaimed its beauty.

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And watched some more.

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And focused.

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And then . . . the splash.

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And success.

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A meal.

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To pull in.

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And swallow.

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And swallow some more.

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Suddenly, in a flash of time, for so it seemed, Team Wonder needed to hold up its end of the alliance bargain and get this guy back to the train.

c21

But–we needed directions to the railroad station, for we wanted to make sure that he made his connection in New Haven.

c22

We were told to look to the sky for a message–and it was there that we found an advertisement unfolding in what struck us as a strange place, but perhaps it wasn’t so strange after all, for it was above some train tracks. Another Happy Birthday Message?

c23

Whatever, it turned out to be the right one. First, the Shoreline East to New Haven and then the Metro North to Grand Central. And off he went–to his home of the past year and his career in the film editing industry (and his 24th birthday in two more days).

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Meanwhile, back at the ranch, aka Alliance Inn, the tide was slowly coming in, but we headed out, two teams as we were, ready to take on the next adventure.

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My guy and Mr. Budz led the way through the shallow water the outer harbor has long been famous for.

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It’s a tradition of the neighborhood–this gathering place at low tide.

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Team Wonder did get a wee bit worried when Team Budz paired up ahead–where they going to ditch us at the channel?

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But they didn’t. Instead, they paused with us to look at one of the wonders we needed to find by the sandbars–what was it?

c29

A sand collar–which felt like sand paper above and was smooth below. It was actually a mass of snail eggs. A rather amazing form.

c30

On the sandbars and in the water, Spider Crabs appeared fierce, but were really quite nonchalant. Note the round and spiny carapace, with small spines running down its back. The crab is known to attach bits of algae, mud, and seaweed to many sticky hairs all over its bodies for camouflage, thus giving it a frightening look, but don’t take it seriously. It moves quite slowly and won’t pinch your toes like some of its relatives.

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And then we saw the wicked cool Lady’s Slipper of the Sound. Slipper shells they may be, but their natural history is amazing. The following is from the University of Rhode Island: This shell is shaped like an egg or oval that has been cut in half with the top of the shell turned sharply to one side. Looking at the underside of the shell, it is easy to see how it got its name. Underneath the shell is a ledge to support the internal organs; this ledge extends about half the length of the animal. Different slipper shell species are characterized by different shell textures, including rough, smooth, ribbed, corrugated, and flat. Although they have a foot for locomotion, by the time they reach maturity they anchor themselves to a hard substrate and remain stationary.

And there’s more: All common slipper shells start their lives as males, but some change to females as they grow older. A waterborne hormone regulates the female characteristics. Once they change into females, they remain females. They often stack up on top of each other for convenient reproduction. The larger females are on the bottom, the smaller males are on the top, and the hermaphrodites are between the two. If the ratio of males to females gets too high, the male reproductive organs will degenerate and the animal will become female. Eggs are laid in thin-walled capsules that the female broods under her foot.

Common slipper shells also form stacked aggregations when there is no hard substrate on which to attach. They attach to objects in large numbers and can sometimes suffocate the animal on which they are attached.

Who knew? I just thought they were common slipper shells.

c31

We’d finished the sandbar challenge and had no idea how the other teams might be doing, though we did wonder if some of them were thrown off for we spotted a sign that said “sanbars” instead of “sandbars” and we could only hope that they’d gone off in search of the former–to no avail.

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Alliance Inn beckoned, as did the incoming tide, and so we headed back toward the shore.

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And the next challenge–completing the Sunday crossword puzzle. My guy read the clues and told us how many letters and the four of us shouted out answers–whether they fit or not. I silently kept score (sorta) and was sure that Team Wonder was in the lead, but didn’t want to make a big deal out of it, for we had agreed on an alliance after all. At least for this weekend.

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At last the sun set on the day. And the outer harbor.

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And we celebrated the day’s discoveries with a bottle of The Cottage for it seemed apropos. I think we were all in agreement, however, that the bottle was much better  looking than the flavor and we aren’t exactly wine connoisseurs.

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And then this morning dawned with another bird ID challenge. First up–who had taken up housekeeping in the apartment building meant for the Purple Martins? House Sparrows.

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And we wondered if they might have some young in Apartment D for come and go did the male and female, both attentive to whomever hung out within.

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Overlooking it all, a Purple Martin–though he never defended his territory.

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And immature Starlings . . .

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as invasive as ever . . .

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stood ever so ready to move in to Apartment B.

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Who stood on the right-hand jetty? A Greater Yellowlegs Sandpiper, its bill longer than its head.

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And on another jetty to the south–a Cormorant gathered warmth in its wings, first turning to the right.

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Then to the left.

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And finally slipping back into the water and cruising by.

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At last, much to our dismay, our time with Team Budz drew to an end, quite like the way a day lily such as those my mom so loved and planted everywhere, shared their pollen and then closed up. Who knows what the next episodes will bring. Will we continue to join forces with Team Budz to complete the next challenges? Will they pull ahead of us? Or we ahead of them? We’re only halfway through the Race and as we all know–anything can happen.

But–as we lived in the moment, we certainly loved this episode’s opportunity to celebrate a certain young man’s 24th birthday, ID birds we hadn’t paid attention to since we were kids, explore the sandbar once again, and enjoy the camaraderie of this couple we’ve grown quite fond of. As we go forward, may the best team win . . . and if it can’t be Team Wonder, then we sure hope it’s Team Budz.

The Amazing Race–Our Style, episode five

I’m not sure how it happened, but when we arrived at Route 113 in Fryeburg to pick up our clue we realized we were the first contestants for this episode of The Amazing Race–Our Style.

Consequently, we had a quick decision to make–the main clue referred to the Baldfaces and we recognized the fact that that entailed a challenging climb. Though my cast has morphed into a smelly splint [envision sliced cast up one side and then add two wide strips of velcro], I was relieved that we could take advantage of the Fast Forward clue that mentioned shingles in a white forest.

s1-trail sign

We checked the map and located a trailhead for Shingle Pond only a few miles away. BINGO.

s2-heading into the woods

The trail begins along Forest Road 317, but a few curves later heads into the nitty gritty of the White Mountain National Forest.

s8-locating the trail

Toward the beginning we could hear the buzz of logging machinery in the distance, but it wasn’t all that loud and certainly didn’t drown out the not-so-sweet buzzing of the local mosquitoes. Our first real challenge, for one can hardly count those flying buzzers and stingers as an obstacle, but more a way of life, came in the form of staying on the trail. It was blazed yellow, but occasionally we had to slow ourselves and our minds, and look around for some clues. There was only one cairn, which was fine with us, but after that spot we spent several minutes of valuable time looking for yellow in every direction . . . to no avail. Finally, however, my eyes cued in on what appeared to be a worn path between some trees to our right and my guy passed through some muck and logging slash to discover that indeed we had found it. That happened more than once, but each time we paused, scouted and eventually made the right decision. They didn’t promise us easy when we signed on for our own version of the reality show.

s11-crossing Weeks Brook

The path took us across Weeks Brook for which the trail had been named and it was there that we noted a trillion trilliums–all past their prime.

s9-patch cut

Through hemlock groves and mixed forests we hiked, occasionally passing by patches of clearcuts. Our next challenge was to determine the benefits of such habitat. The answer seemed obvious for so much was the bird song–from those I recognized like Ovenbirds, Veerys, and Hermit Thrushes to warblers that we could hear but not see. If we hadn’t been racing against the clock it would have been fun to try to figure out some of the song makers.

s10-browse

We also noted plenty of signs, such as browsed tree buds, that told us moose and deer had foraged in those areas.

s5-wood sorrel

Challenge number 3 required that we locate a few plants and note whether they were edible or not. Wood Sorrel was easy–and most welcome on this sultry day for its a thirst quencher.

s6--Indian Cucumber Root

Indian Cucumber Root was another enticing edible and it grew abundantly in the forest. As pleasing as the flower is above its second tier, it’s not their fruits that appealed to us, but rather the small white rhizomes buried in the ground which offered a cool and crisp cucumbery taste. Even my guy can attest to that.

s7-wild calla

The one herb we didn’t taste test was the Wild Calla or Bog Arum. It’s known to cause severe irritation of the mouth and throat if consumed. We left it be.

s12-lady's slippers

We did find one other plant that we wouldn’t think of eating, but always revere–Pink Lady’s Slippers, in this case a matching pair.

s13-prince charming

And not far beyond–Prince Charming himself. Even his eyes were surrounded by a ring of gold.

s14-Shingle Pond

At last we reached the two-acre Shingle Pond. Though we wanted to be greeted by a moose in the water, we were pleased with all that we saw and heard, including bull, green and tree frogs.

s15-Kearsarge Fire Tower

Though we were two miles and lots of ledges below the summit of Kearsarge North, as we ate our PB&J sandwiches created by my guy, the sight of the historic fire tower evoked lots of memories and got us dreaming about our next opportunity to sign the guest notebook.

s17-crimson-ringed whiteface dragonfly

Our task at the pond was to bushwhack around its perimeter and note some of the species who called this mountain pond home. Probably my favorite discovery was the Crimson-ringed Whiteface Dragonfly.

s17b-crimson-ringed whiteface

Over and over again we saw it, that bright red body standing out in contrast to its dark abdomen. There were a zillion dragonflies, many of them darners and clubtails zooming about, but this skimmer had the decency to perch frequently and reveal its finer details.

s17a-bushwhack

As we moved around the pond, we met trees to climb over, under and around.

s18-beaver works

Many were felled by the resident beavers, so we had another who made its home there to add to the list.

s19-beaver lodge

In fact, we found the most recently built beaver abode.

s19a-beaver dam

And the dam that made it all possible.

s20-bear scat

One special sign of wildlife may gross you out, but we were delighted for this pile of scat indicated a bear had passed by earlier this spring. I’d wanted to look for bear trees on the hike up, but these days my eyes are mighty focused on trail conditions. And scat is just as good, if not better than a tree with old claw marks. Well–both are wonderful . . . really.

s21-chicakdee

One other resident was insistent that we take notice and I think we may have paused near a nest tree. When I asked my guy if he could hear the Conway Scenic Train whistle emanating from the other side of the mountains, he said that all he could hear was the chickadee’s chatter.

s22a-Atlantis Fritillary

The return hike down was via the same trail, but when we reached the log landing and later the logging road we had one final challenge to complete–the flutter-by challenge. Who were those beauties that flitted about, gracing the landscape with their presence? For starters, we discovered several Atlantis Fritillaries seeking nectar from eggs and bacon flowers, aka Bird’s-foot-trefoil.

s24-atlantis 2

Once over easy, it was equally beautiful.

s25-white admiral

And the learning continued for we watched numerous White Admirals flit from spot to spot. But notice the coloration–including orange spots below its white bars.

s25a-white admiral

This blue version was also a White Admiral. Needless to say, we admired it no matter its variation.

And with that we had successfully completed the fifth episode of The Amazing Race–Our Style. All day we didn’t know are status in comparison to the other contestants, but six miles and four hours later we had nothing to fear. We definitely won this leg for we stood upon the mat at the Pit Stop much earlier than any of the other contestants.

As much as we would have liked to climb the Baldface Circle, it wasn’t in the cards for us today.  And as a final note to today’s journey–I added a few more mosquitoes to the natural history museum forming on the velcro of my splint. It’s a museum, however, that I hope will close soon, for it stinks–literally and figuratively.

The Amazing Race–Our Style, episode 4

We’d barely set off on episode 4 of The Amazing Race–Our Style when we hit our first roadblock just around the corner from home. A small patch of roadway at the foot of a friend’s driveway was being paved by the State. Our first challenge–how many state employees does it take to repair such a patch? Fifteen. Two to stop traffic, two to operate equipment, one to supervise, and ten to stand around and drink coffee.

Our next roadblock–a stop at our local hardware store to return a rented chainsaw. Well, truth be told, more like a borrowed chainsaw from the rental department. Regardless, the clock ticked on.

And still, there was one final roadblock–a stop at Prompto Ten Minute Oil Change, where we got to sit and watch the action, which actually took less than ten minutes.

At last, we reached the ticket office of Casco Bay Lines in Portland, Maine . . . as a ferry was departing. The ferry we wanted to be on. C’est la vie.

P1-PORTHOLE

Since we’d missed the boat. we decided to use the time until the next departure to our benefit and ate an early lunch at the Porthole, where we both ordered the scrumptious beer-battered fish sandwich.

P2-GATE 5

Following lunch, we hurried back to Gate 5, not sure if we’d be the only contestants on board.

P4-TICKET:CLUE

When it was time, my guy handed over our tickets and received our first clue.

P6-PEAKS ISLAND

We needed to exit the boat at Peaks Island in Casco Bay. That was easy given that this particular ferry only traveled between Portland and the island.

P7-MIKE'S CARTS

Finally, we were ready to get into the nitty gritty of the day’s adventure. We had a choice–ride all the way around the island on bicycles without stopping or complete a loop that only covered half the island via a golf cart, but included a few stops. Because of my current one-armed bandit situation, we chose Mike’s Carts.

P8-LEARNING TO DRIVE GOLF CART

Another set of contestants made the same choice, which made us realize we still had a chance to stay in the race. Mike explained the finer points of island driving.

P10-MAINE COAST AND ISLANDS

As we made our way to the first island challenge, we enjoyed the views.

P11-CAIRN ALLEY

The rocky coast of Maine proved to be much more than that, at least in this section–Cairn Beach. Other contestants passed by this challenge, but we decided to try it.

P12-CAIRN ALLEY

According to the clue, we needed to build a cairn that somehow reflected the surroundings. Examples surrounded us.

P14-CAIRN GROWING

One rock at a time,

P13-BASE OF OUR CAIRN

we created a base until . . .

P15-CAIRN REFLECTION

our final product was an artistic representation of the cattails behind it.

P16-TRAIL TO BATTERY STEELE

Upon completion of the cairn, our next clue suggested the need for batteries. And so we followed a trail away from the water.

P17-BOARDWALK

But really, water was a part of it. And a boardwalk–in much worse condition than the one that flipped my feet into the air on last week’s Left-handed Mondate.

P18-TWO WOMEN AHEAD

With great care I followed my guy–for two women we wanted to overcome were ahead of us. All the way along, birds serenaded us.

P20-sausage-shaped boudin

Thankfully, the boardwalk gave way to solid ground and among the offerings at our feet I noted a sausage-shaped boudin–I could only hope we might earn extra points for knowing such.

P19- APPROACHING BATTERY STEELE

The trail led us to a gallery of sorts for its a place frequented by midnight artists. Were we in the right place?

P22--MIDNIGHT ART

The question remained as we admired the creative works–but what did they have to do with batteries? Did the clue refer to the energy of the artists?

P21-BATTERY STEELE

And then the answer was made obvious–we were exploring the Battery Steele constructed in 1942. According to the Peaks Island Land Preserve: “During World War II, Battery Steele was the most important fortification in Casco Bay. Its two 16″ guns, triangulated by observation towers on Peaks Island, Jewell Island, Cushing Island, and Bailey Island, could shoot a shell weighing 2,240 pounds nearly 30 miles at enemy battleships or submarines to protect Portland Harbor.”

If you look closely, you might see my guy starring into a tunnel. The team of two women challenged us to walk down the dark tunnel. They made it about a third of the way before running out while screaming. We accepted the challenge and made it only as far, using my handicap as an excuse to turn around–I couldn’t spy any obstacles in the dark and didn’t want to risk tripping. Would our calm departure overcome their hysteria?

P23-SHORTCUT BACK

No matter, for we knew the outcome was out of our control. Because we’d chosen a cart over a bike, we next needed to locate the road that cut across the island and back toward the harbor. An islander was out for a walk and we stopped to ask if we were headed in the right direction. She told us to stay to the right, cross over at the four corners, and continue down the hill. Bingo. We returned the cart and received our next clue–to locate the smallest store on the island that is open year round.

P24-DUFFY'S HARDWARE

And that’s how we ended up in Duffy’s Hardware.

P25-DUFFY'S HARDWARE

It’s a one-room wonder that serves an important niche.

P26-TRAVELING GNOME

With the hardware challenge completed, we next needed to walk along until we discovered the Traveling Gnome. We found it subtly hidden in a garden with Casco Bay forming the backdrop.

P27-LOCKED GATE

The gnome’s clue was to find a way to the beach. We began to worry because time was running short and we found one locked gate after another.

P28-BEACH OF SORTS

But, we don’t give up easily and at last found a slice of sand.

P29-NATURE'S ART WORK

While walking along our goal was to locate three natural representations. The first–nature’s artistic palette.

P30-BRICK

The second–something with an historical reference.

P31-BARNICLES

The third–natural homes aka barnacles.

P33-LOBSTER TRAP MAZE

And then we both had to complete the lobster trap maze. Could we do it successfully?

P34-MAZE

Piece of cake.

P37-ICE CREAM

Speaking of cake, we had some spending money and a wee bit of time before the ferry arrived so we visited the local grocery store to satisfy our need for a sweet treat since the ice cream shop wasn’t open. Among the offerings we found sundaes and purchased two.

P38-ICE CREAM

Ahhhh. But when you are suddenly sidelined by a wrist fracture, consuming some treats requires help and so my guy broke the sundae up for me. It also means letting go of the fact that one might end up with sticky fingers for a while. If only The Amazing Race–Our Style included special credit for overcoming personal obstacles. Hmmm–maybe down the road.

P32-?

We’d completed all of the island challenges when one last question (mark) appeared.

P36-LOVE ROCK

Could you find a stone that represented our relationship and today’s Mondate?

We did. And with that we completed another episode of The Amazing Race–Our Style.

The Amazing Race–Our Style, episode 3

We were a bit confused by the clue–something about an oven and ice and we felt like maybe we were headed to a kitchen. My guy doesn’t cook all that much and I avoid it as much as possible, so we knew this was going to be a tough leg of the race. Surely, we’d be there all night trying to concoct something and the sky would darken on our chance of winning.

To top it all off, it was an equalizer. That meant that though we were early to the starting point, all participants would begin at the same time. And so we had some time on our hands and a few dollars to spend on lunch and libations.

o1-clue

As we sipped, our clue was revealed. And we were ready to heed it, despite our anxiety over the cooking issue.

o2-footbridge

Following lunch, we still had more time to kill and decided to walk across the footbridge in Boothbay Harbor.

o3-ghost harbor

It was a bit of a ghost harbor on this day, but it won’t be long and people and boats and more people will fill this space.

o5-sign of snow

As we walked around town, we did some window shopping–of the best sort.

o4-clock

And then a view at a clock reminded us that we had a place to be by 1:15.

o6-crooked sign

Look for the crooked sign, the clue stated. We found it.

o8-trail conditions

Follow the trail. We did.

o10-mud below

Note the tide. It was obviously out.

o11-bridge

Locate the bridge that connects Oven Mouth Preserve West to Oven Mouth Preserve East. Bingo.

o13-ice house cove dam

But what was below us, we wondered. And that was our next challenge. We had to figure out the configuration of this land. It looked like an old bridge, but rather, it was a former dam that had been used to create an ice pond on the other side of the bridge upon which we stood. Aha–the icy portion of this leg of the race. Our task was to discover its history. Reading a brochure produced by the Boothbay Region Land Trust we learned the following: “In 1880, in response to a growing demand for ice, [the cove now known as Ice House Cove] was dammed to form a fresh-water pond and an ice house was built. The ice was shipped by schooner, mainly to Boston and New York.” Today, any blocks of ice would surely have melted as happened in our water bottles.

o7-garter snake

While we looped around the two peninsulas we had a several other challenges to complete. First, we needed to find three examples of critter sign–other than the ubiquitous red squirrel middens. We checked off number one with a garter snake that slithered past.

o7b-mammal tracks

Number two: mammal tracks in the mud below. We couldn’t get close enough to identify it, but noted the trotting pattern.

o7a-wasp nest

And number three, the remnants of a paper wasp nest.

Another challenge down. How many more to go?

o12-scavenger 2

It wasn’t long before the next presented itself as we wound our way around the property. First, we needed to find evidence of the land’s former use–as a sheep pasture in the 19th century.

o12-scavenger hunt 1

And then the letter D. We never did learn what the D stood for, but . . . we found it.

o15-sausage-shaped boudins

And finally, a sausage-shaped boudin among the folds, formed by the pinching and swelling from compression and shearing.

o13-Cross river

The tide slowly flowed in as we journeyed on.

o14-rip where Back and Cross River met

And at the point where the Cross River met the Back River, we noted a rip current visible in the swirls.

o14-ice house dam and today's bridge

At last we crossed back over the bridge from east to west and then peeked at the dam juxtaposed as it was in the shadow of the modern-day bridge.

o16-oven?

From the outermost point of the west side, we paused to look back toward the dam and bridge–did the early explorers really see this rounded cove as the inside of an oven, thus naming it Ovens Mouth? It was certainly unique. Fortunately, we could enjoy the view without turning up the heat. If they thought it was an oven, we agreed. If it meant we didn’t have to cook, we definitely agreed.

From the brochure, we did learn more history: “This area has always been inviting for maritime activities because of its deep-water access and protected location. Settled in the mid-1700s, one of the region’s earliest shipyards was located here and both British and American vessels hid in the coves during the Revolution. Soon after the Civil War, the property came into the hands of the Tibbets-Welsh family, who owned it for more than a hundred years.”

o17-kissing tree

We had one last challenge to complete before finding our way to the mat. Our final mission: to note three sights that represented our relationship.

Kissing trees–check.

o17-heart

A heart-shaped rock–check.

o17-pigeons

Whispering sweet nothings–check. (Note the heart-shaped white cere on their bills. And no, he is not picking her nits. Well, even if he is, isn’t that a loving move?)

Once again, we managed to stay ahead of other contestants, didn’t squabble too much, avoided our worst fears and completed the assigned tasks without much stress. In the third episode of our imaginary rendition of The Amazing Race–Our Style, we landed on the mat in first place once again. What’s next? Stay tuned.

The Amazing Race–Our Style, episode 2

Even though we’d won the first leg of our Amazing Race adventure, we were disappointed with the start time we received for today’s journey. We couldn’t leave home until 10:24 a.m. But, despite that, we’d read the clue carefully, checked the maps and navigated to the starting point:

a1-cribwork bridge

The world-famous cribstone bridge that connects Bailey Island and Orr’s Island in Harpswell, Maine. Though it may look rickety, it’s stood since 1927 and as far as we knew had only been repaired once–in 2010. The stacked granite blocks are held together only by gravity and allow the tide to flow freely. The bridge was placed on the the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. Would we make it across?

a2-Maine Fishermen monument

We did. And continued on to Land’s End, where our next clue awaited by the Maine Fishermen’s memorial. It was also a memorial to my mother, for the only other time we’d been to this place was either before we were married or shortly after and Mom was with us–enjoying most the Land’s End Gift Shop. Today–it was closed for the season. It was also a memorial to Dad for he would have told us to fill the innermost recesses of our lungs with salt air. And so we did.

a3a-following the path

Out to the rugged coast of Maine we headed. Just a few days ago, a Nor’easter had made its presence known in these parts and still today the surf spoke to its force.

a3-surfs up 1

Our task–to be mesmerized.

a4-surf's up 2

And to record it in a variety of renditions.

a6-surf's up

And so we did both.

a7-surf's up

Numerous ohs and ahs escaped our lips.

a9-surf's up

And we hadn’t even ventured far.

a9-thunder hole

Finally, we arrived at Thunder Hole and though the wave action wasn’t all that spectacular, we did hear the thunder. Our job–to note which side sounded louder. We chose the left and received our next clue.

a13-on the edge

One of us had to get as close to the surf as possible. And so he did.

a14-surf's up

Together, we needed to appreciate the power.

a15-surf's up

And so we stood.

a16-surf's up

And watched.

a17-surf's up

As water exploded.

a18-continuing on

And then we received our next clue–to move on to the next spot.

a20-Giant's Stairs 1

The Giant’s Stairs.

a21-giant's stairs

The blocky formation earned it the whimsical name of the Giant’s Staircase many years ago. We were reminded of the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland and prior to arriving wondered if it might look the same. It didn’t, but every giant leaves his own mark on the world. Fortunately, we didn’t need to climb down for today’s challenge–just to acknowledge it. Which we did with pleasure. It seemed only the waves were allowed to ascend and immediately descend–so quick was their exit.

a22-rainbow 1

Having accomplished that leg of the race, we next needed to spy five rainbows. One.

a22-rainbow 2

Two.

a22-rainbow 3

Three.

a22-rainbow 4

Four.

a22-rainbow 5

Five.

a25-ocean spray

Task done. And then my guy had to tell me when to take a shot for dramatic effect.

a26-wave explosion

He nailed it.

a28-devil's back

We were feeling good about our position when our next clue told us to eat locally so we grabbed sandwiches at “BIGS,” aka Bailey Island General Store and Eatery. And then we headed to our next destination located on Orr’s Island–Devil’s Back. The name was curious to us, but the trail system is located on either side of Route 24, which apparently is known locally as Devil’s Back. It does form an obvious spine between the two sides of the Harpswell Heritage Land Trust property.

a30-cedars

Winds had wreaked havoc mainly on the Gun Point Cove side where we walked all of the trails first.

a32-cedars

And then we slipped across the spine or Devil’s Back to the Long Cove side. Curiously, the land trust describes the forest here as being mixed, but mostly I noted evergreens including cedars like these, spruce, fir, and pine, with a few maples and paper birch in the mix. I suppose it’s all in the eye of the beholder.

a33-U turn

As we were cruising along, we did get U-turned. It happens on the Amazing Race and was to be expected because we had been in the lead for so long.

a34-folds

And so we had to recall the folds of the rock along Casco Bay. By looking at the angle, our eyes began to see the metamorphic rock turned on its side due to intense pressure in its long-term history and understood that over time various pressures and results of heating and cooling events caused the variation in color and mineral size of the bands. We could also see the arc the folds created that had since eroded.

a34-polypody fern

An easy one for us (well, me anyway) was to identify the fern that grew on the rocks along the Long Cove side of Devil’s Back–Common Polypody it was.

a34-sausage-shaped boudins

And then there was the geologic formation–an igneous dike (lighter color) that cut across the metamorphic rock created we believed by the pinching and swelling from compression and shearing to the Northeast that formed sausage-shaped boudins.

a34-starburst lichen

And we had to name that lichen–sunburst with deep orange disks of its fruiting body or apothecia. Again, we were feeling kinda confident, but one never knows in a race such as this.

a34-stone wall

Our final U-turn challenge was to locate a stone wall–and we did. Island style is so much different from inland style.

a35-fairy home

We thought we were done, but discovered we still had a couple of more challenges to complete. The first was to locate two whimsical sites–in keeping with the Giant’s Stairs. And so we found a fairy house.

a35-octupus

And an octopus.

a38-Cundy's Harbor

Our last challenge before we headed to the mat–to locate two American flags blowing in the breeze at Cundy’s Harbor. Bingo. One.

a40-American Flag

And two.

a5-getting wet

At last we arrived at the mat and much to our surprise–got a wee bit sprayed! But that didn’t matter for we’d beat our imaginary contestants and once again finished first. Our prize from the Gnome and Travelocity–a leftover homemade pizza dinner. That meant we didn’t have to prepare a meal when we arrived home on this Mondate. Yippee.

The Amazing Race–Our Style: episode 2. Check back in with us in April to see what challenges we’ll face next.

The Amazing Race–Our Style

I’m sure when we said our wedding vows back in 1990, there was something in there about only riding a snowmobile once. And I did that once two years or so ago–mostly because I knew it would please my guy. Certain memories remain from that experience: I felt like a bobblehead inside the helmet; I lacked control as I sat behind him and couldn’t see; when I did peek around, I was sure my head was going to strike a tree so narrow was the trail; and I didn’t like the speed. Oh yeah, and at a road crossing, I do believe I jumped off and walked to the other side. With all of that in mind, I’m not sure what I was thinking when I created a Valentine’s gift for him–our very own Amazing Race. My rationale was that we enjoy the show, but know that while there are certain stunts one or both of us could handle with ease, there are others that would certainly cause us to be last to the mat–and lose. So, why not create an Amazing Race that we have a 99.9% chance of winning. If we lose, we’re in big trouble. All that being said, our race includes twelve events, one for each month. And this month’s activity meant a snowmobile ride for two. Oy vey. I created this so I could only blame me.

a1-selfie

We awoke to five inches of snow this morning and knew that today was the day. After an early lunch, I tried to delay the inevitable. The dishes needed to be washed. And dried (I never dry the dishes). Toilet cleaned. I even thought about vacuuming, but my guy stopped me. And presented me with a black helmet. It was much too big and kept shifting around. He gave me a second helmet to try on. I felt claustrophobic and couldn’t take it off fast enough. “We have another,” he said as he headed to the barn. Darn. And the third one fit just right. Double darn.

a3-the chariott of choice

Our mode of transportation was ready and waiting. No long lines of others vying for a seat. No being put off until a later time. Our race had begun.

a2-double selfies

We hopped aboard and headed off down the trail. At first it was sort of okay and I almost relaxed, until that is, we took a sharp corner and I clenched my hand rails while leaning away. Sometimes, I felt like I was a kid again in the back of the school bus and jumping up and down as we went over the bumps on Valley Road in my hometown.

I was glad my guy couldn’t hear me unless I leaned close and spoke up–I kept my own running commentary for the first twenty minutes, which occasionally included an expletive not worth repeating.

a4-tunnel vision

At last we reached the Narrow Gauge trail, where my guy picked up the speed, but given it’s a fairly flat old railbed, I chose not to complain. And as good as his word, he stopped whenever I asked. One of my favorite spots along the trail is what we refer to as the tunnel, for in that section only, the walls are high on both sides and hemlock trees tower over.

a6-icicle

One of the things about riding on the machine is that you don’t get to really see anything. He loves it because it takes him places he wouldn’t ordinarily go. Yeah, there’s that. But . . . I prefer a slo-mo approach. And so today, we melded our ways–full speed ahead (although he thinks he took it slow) and complete stops every once in a while to take a look at things like sap forming an icicle,

a7-hemlock and rocks

hemlock roots and rocks intertwined,

a8-elephant

and an elephant.

a9-looking back

At last I walked back to him and we continued on our way. We were only going to go the length of the Narrow Gauge, but I was surviving and my guy smiling.

a9-Hancock Pond

Our next destination–Hancock Pond in Denmark.

a11-Hancock Pond

I asked him to stop by this camp intentionally, for I wanted to show its owners, Faith and Ben, the midwinter view–and lack of snow mainly because of its orientation to the sun.

a13-rock tripe

Despite the fact that most of last night’s snow had already melted, rock tripe along their shoreline had turned green–photosynthesis in action.

a14-Bear Trap

As we walked back to the chariot, we noted the houses on top of Bear Trap. My guy suggested that we turn around and head in that direction next. From the start, I suspected our plan of an out and back trip wouldn’t occur for he loves to return via a different route, while I don’t mind following the same path back because I usually see something I missed previously. But . . . I agreed with him.

a15-Perley Pond

We did have to travel a wee bit back on the Narrow Gauge to reach the turn toward Narramissic, located just below Bear Trap. Since we were passing by for a second time, I asked to stop at Perley Pond for a quick look.

a16-edges melting

Around the edges, the melt down was beginning.

a19-Peabody-Fitch House

And then onward and upward we rode to Narramissic, the Peabody-Fitch Homestead erected in 1797 by William Peabody, one of Bridgton’s first settlers. Today, the property is owned and managed by the Bridgton Historical Society.

a18a-Pleasant Mountain

Our main mountain wasn’t part of today’s journey, but the view of the ridgeline was spectacular from the farm’s field.

a20-map between Holt and Otter Ponds

From there, we passed by the spur to the bear trap, and continued on toward Holt Pond. For a while, I felt lost in a daze as we flew through woods in varying degrees of succession due to logging events over the years. I tried to look for bear trees for I knew there should be some, but didn’t spy any. And hardly recognized our place when we suddenly arrived at the emerald field near Holt Pond.

a21-Stone House

I also completely missed the quarry from which the Stonehouse was built. The house had an interesting history. In the early 1800s, John Mead built a primitive house in South Bridgton. Like the big bad wolf of fairy tales, wind huffed and puffed and blew the house down. Mr Mead was quoted as saying, “I can and will build a house that will stand the winds and weather.” And so he did–using the plug and feather method to cut the stone from the nearby quarry and transporting it a half mile via a stone boat or sledge. The stone treasure rose from the hillside, where Mead had situated it out of the wind. The field was certainly windy and we didn’t pause for long.

a22-Otter Pond

Our next stop was to a place I’d never visited before and I was impressed by its size–Otter Pond. Today, I felt like we were the otters as we slid across the snow-covered ice.

a23-wetland at Otter Pond

At the far edge, I found a spot I hope to return to for it looked like an interesting wetland.

a24-cattail

For today, the cattails, their seeds blowing in the breeze, were enough to whet my appetite.

a25-Hayes Hardware

And then in a few more zigs and zags, we found ourselves in familiar territory as we passed by my guy’s store.

a26-mat--home sweet home

Two more road crossings and a few more bends in the trail–and finally the mat welcomed us home after a successful finish to the first leg of The Amazing Race–our style.