LOVE ME, love me: Three state park gems in a row

Getting to know you, getting to know all about you: Maine that is. And more specifically, its state parks. To that end, my guy and I have been traveling at a snail’s pace since we began this journey a year ago,. In 2019, we checked two off the list. But today . . . the number finally more than doubled.

Our journey began with lunch at Two Lights State Park in Cape Elizabeth. Shout out to several local businesses and friends: Pam and Justin Ward of Bridgton Books for the book bag in which we packed today’s picnic, Sierra Sunshine Simpson for the bee’s wax wrap that kept our sandwiches fresh, Fly Away Farm for the sourdough wheat bread and grape jam that enhanced our Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches, and my sister for the chocolate-covered McVitie’s digestive biscuits that rounded out the meal.

Lunch completed, we began to look around and right beside the picnic table grew ever-hairy Staghorn Sumac twigs with heart-shaped leaf scars surrounding new buds. What’s not to love?

At last we headed off onto the trails. Do you see what I see? Or rather, do you not see what I don’t see? Snow. Back home, it’s quite deep, but along the coast, it seemed to be non-existent.

Eventually the trail led to the Atlantic Ocean and the infamous rocky coast of Maine. It’s really my mom’s rocky coast of Maine for she was always in search of such. Having grown up in Connecticut like she did, I understand her fascination.

My limited understanding of geological folds created by heat and pressure during the mountain-building process was enhanced by crashing waves.

Within the complexity of the geological formations was another with its own history written throughout its structure.

Sunburst lichen, foliose to umbilicate, spreading extensively, yet loosely attached, smooth to somewhat wrinkled, featured a complex organism that arose from algae or cyanobacteria living among filaments of fungi in a mutualistic relationship that included yeast in the mix. How’s that for a simple life form?

Step by step, one amazing feature after another made itself known, including a quartz vein cutting a quartzite bed.

Eventually we came a rock that could have been a sculpture of a bald eagle. Or perhaps a story written that still needed to be deciphered.

We continued to walk along the edge, enjoying the action of the waves as juxtaposed beside the prehistoric rocks. Part of the splendor, in fact, a major part, included the color. Our western Maine eyes don’t mind the blues and browns and greens and whites of winter, but beheld the beauty and bounty that was the splendor of this winter day.

We stood in wonder as the waves moved in, met the rock with splashes high and lo, and then retreated.

At last we walked higher ground, but still noted buckets of wonder as waves interacted with rocks to the southwest.

Beside the well-worn path we walked, others who have known this way from one generation to the next offered their winter forms, such as this Queen Anne’s Lace.

The woody form of Evening Primrose also greeted us in the midday midst.

Bulbous and colorful, yet equally full of flavor (so noted in days of yore by my father) and vitamins , rose hips offered their own take of winter.

I soon learned as we stepped away from the coastline that we weren’t the only soles who wandered the area. A vole had traveled in the subnivean layer between the ground’s surface and snow that had been–leaving its telltale tunnel.

After we circled about the edge of the 41-acre property, we headed “inland” toward the reason for its special upkeep as a state park. Once upon a time this had been a prime piece of land that offered a protective layer to Portland’s port. While a battery had been constructed, with clear points of view and contact, as well as enemy protection, no guns had ever been fired.

About a tenth or two down the road, a mini harbor provides protection for any who travel the fingered coast of Maine.

Because it offered smaller rocks among its mix, I asked my guy to look for hearts. Seek and ye shall find.

Seaweed and seashells added to the array and provided another colorful hue to this mid-winter day.

Across the harbor from our stance stood one of the two former lighthouses for which the area was known.

No longer in use, its light warned ocean farers of the rocky coast. Life has changed since its day of service, but as we stood nearby we could hear the toll of its well-revered friend, a bell buoy.

In the opposite direction of the lighthouse, the folded rocks bespoke their ancient form.

Beside such, we could feel the bend and imagine the creation.

Stepping atop, we looked back and took in the landscape.

And then we moved on, stepping out toward a beach whose shape rendered its name.

Walking upon its much softer coastal offering, we noted artistic “trees” that appeared to be deer hiding in the sandy forest.

And then there was the moss-colored seaweed making us think of the Emerald Isle miles and miles beyond.

After crossing from the seaweed-covered rocks to an upland piece, we then stepped down toward the water again where red sand greeted us and if your imagination is in as full gear as ours was, you may see a heart within the sandy artwork.

In places where water flowed over rock faces, we rejoiced in the interface of ripples upon ridges.

Up close and beyond, the scenery and the scents filled the innermost recesses of our souls.

And the artwork of those who had come before touched our whimsical sides.

After we’d reached the southwestern edge and turned back, the reason for this state park’s name became most obvious: Crescent Beach.

Walking back, we continued our quest for the shape of a heart. I found one in the suds of the retreating tide.

At exactly the same moment, my guy found one in a more rounded form among the stone offerings.

And then a gull captured our attention. He appeared to have found a hamburger roll upon which to dine.

For a few minutes he played with his meal, perhaps softening its texture in the low water.

When he finally did partake of his meal, he swallowed it all in one piece and if you look carefully at his neck, you may see the bulge on its way down.

Our third and final park of the day, for so are they closely located along the roads of Cape Elizabeth here in Maine, was Kettle Cove. Of course, it’s located between the other two, but we saved it for last.

On another day we’ll revisit it and take a look at the tidal pools that it offers, but the sun was growing low in the sky when we arrived and so our journey was on the rather quick side and didn’t do it the true honor it should receive.

In the end, however, we were thrilled with the opportunity to explore three state parks in our quest to get to know Maine better. Today’s LOVE ME, love me tour included Two Lights State Park, Crescent Beach State Park, and Kettle Cove State Park–three gems in a row.

A Buck for Two Hearts Mondate

Our journey today found us along the coast of Maine once again despite the small craft warning. It’s just wind, we figured, though we did make sure to bring along extra layers, hats, and gloves.

Biddeford Pool was our overall destination, but really the tide was out and wind so strong by the pool, that we decided to check out a few other locations in the area.

We actually drove by the pathway to the next location twice before a small sign caught our attention. To reach Maine Audubon’s East Point Sanctuary one must follow the narrow path.

Being a bird sanctuary, we weren’t surprised to be greeted by one–but really, an American Robin? We chuckled at the offering.

And then moved on to admire the view–the rocky coast of Maine.

And upon the rocks, bursts of sunshine in the form of lichen.

And in the water, waves crashing over the rocks.

Likely, it was waves of a similar or even more forceful nature that dislodged a couple of lobster pots and dropped them upon the pathway. At least, we wanted to believe their presence was of a natural cause.

The sanctuary is located at the mouth of the Saco River, and we realized we’d never actually viewed it from this vantage point before.

Nor were we familiar with Wood Island lighthouse, which was built in 1806 and manned until 1986 to guide mariners into Winter Harbor and the Saco River.

Nearby, a bell cast in England in 1872 that tolled for at the lighthouse for many years as part of the navigation system, was on display in a park.

But our eyes cued in to what was more in our range and we began to notice the birds on the rocks, in the water and air.

And suddenly, like magic, for perhaps that’s what binoculars do, my guy became a birder-in-the-making. Oh, don’t tell him because I know he’ll deny it. But he did notice subtle details of the diving ducks.

The Common Eiders were the most abundant in our view.

The breeding males stood out with their white and black featheration. (Is that a word?) It was the sloping forehead and beak of this diving duck that caught my guy’s notice.

For me, it was the greenish sides of the neck that I found most intriguing.

And then there was the she–rather drab in contrast to her he, but also featuring that sloping forehead and some black barring among the brown feathers.

In today’s wind, her feathers were aflutter, but I’m sure her he found the sight all the more alluring.

Swimming beside or among the Eiders were several White-winged Scoters, whose name stymied us for the white on the wings was barely visible as they swam. Note also the comma-shaped patch by its eye, known as a Viking horn.

It wasn’t quite as easy to move about for those who took to the air and most often it seemed like the gulls flew backwards in the wind.

Occasionally, they landed on the rocks below us so we could take a closer look.

The majority that we spied today were Herring Gulls, their suits of white and gray adorned by those black and white wingtips. (I really wanted this to be a Yellow-legged Gull, but what I want and reality don’t always match.)

At last we reached the turn-around point where we stood for a bit and admired the view.

And then we followed the pathway back along the edge–of the land and the sea.

It was as we headed out that we saw a wooly bear caterpillar and knew winter must be near. Based on the Farmer’s Almanac: “According to folklore, if the caterpillar’s orange band is narrow, the winter will be snowy; conversely, a wide band means a mild winter. And fuzzier-than-normal woolly bear caterpillars are said to mean that winter will be very cold.”

Wait, it’s spring. Here’s the scoop: The larva emerged from the egg last fall and overwintered in its caterpillar form, when it literally froze solid. To do that, first its heart stopped beating and then its guts, blood and entire body froze by producing a cryoprotectant in its tissues. And yes, despite today’s cold wind, it is spring and this one had thawed.

As we left, the Robins were there to say goodbye and we did wonder if the Wooly Bear would be on the menu.

In the meantime, however, a worm met its unexpected demise.

We had one more place to explore before heading northwest–to Fortune Rocks Beach, which was just down the road from the sanctuary and on the other side of the road from Biddeford Pool.

Maybe we should have noted the lack of people as a foreshadowing of the wind’s strength.

And certainly, the backspray of each wave should have spoken to us.

But . . . we ignored all the clues and tramped on. As usual, I followed my guy’s tracks. Can you interpret them? What’s that little loop-de-loop all about in the midst?

The further we walked, the more intense the wind became and eventually we felt as if we were walking in a sandstorm on a desert–a rather frozen desert.

And so we headed toward the shore in hopes that the retention walls and houses would block the brisker than brisk gusts. Truth be told, they nearly knocked us off our feet.

The beauty of walking closer to the shore–a few pieces of seaglass like this one that found its way into my pocket.

And then I found a fifty cent piece–tails up.

Right after that, I spied a heart-shaped stone, and that also ended up you know where.

And then . . . and then, my guy found a fifty cent piece, his heads up.

And he found a heart as well, which I also snatched.

So, a few birds, a caterpillar and a worm, lots of wind, Biddeford Pool, sand and waves on the fly, Fortune Rocks, and $.50 + $.50 = $1.00. I’ll give you a buck for a couple of hearts on this Mondate.

Happy April Fools Day!

Change of Pace Mondate

Every once in a while salt air sends a subtle invite through the breeze and we RSVP with this: We’re on our way. We’ll be there in an hour or so.

It took a bit longer than an hour today, but finally we arrived, parked where we weren’t permitted, and followed the path.

Low tide greeted us with all the beach’s layers revealed.

Streamlets flowed forth from our feet to the ocean beyond.

Rounded driftwood carved impressions in the sand.

Waves broke with gentle crests as the tide rolled out.

Water created trees accented with driftwood leaves.

Colors summoned dune-like illusions with visions of water serving as potential mirages.

And then we found a set of tracks.

They led to and danced around a clean plate.

And a diner who celebrated with a song all his own.

There were others, their feathers all a’flutter.

And a few released that showed the pattern of their minute barbs.

My guy and I, though we weren’t the only people on the beach, for stretches felt as if we had the world to ourselves.

While we walked, he paused occasionally to gather some golf balls. (Note: If he tries to sell you one, sniff it first. If it smells like salt, you may want to reconsider–unless it will help your game, of course.)

My souvenir was a link to my mother, who would have collected the same and this piece of seaglass will find a home with those she and I both gathered.

At last, we reached our turn-around point–at the jetty beside the Saco River’s outlet. We know the northern part of the river intimately, but where the brackish water forms as freshwater joins salt, our understanding is less familiar.

It’s been a while since we’ve actually celebrated a Mondate, so it certainly seemed apropos to find a heart in the sand. And to follow my father’s advice long ago to fill the innermost recesses of our lungs with salt air. We did so.

As we enjoyed a change of pace and a change of scenery.

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.