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.

 

 

 

 

Savoring the Sanctity of the Mountains

“Savor the sanctity of the mountains in these incredibly discouraging times,” said a friend on Friday. And so we did.

MW morning

The mid-morning sun highlighted Mount Washington as we passed through Fryeburg Harbor–always a breath-taking view.

trail sign

Our destination: Speckled Mountain in Evans Notch–via Blueberry Mountain.

Bricket Place

Parking is at the Brickett Place, where the Brickett family farmed, logged and produced maple syrup in the mid-1800s. Their original home was log, but they later built this house with locally-fired bricks.

Bricket place signage

The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Y

Hop Hornbeam trees are abundant in a section of the lower trail. My guy saw slingshots in the unusual growth of these two, but I saw Ys. Why? Why? Paris? Syria? Around the globe?

B slides upper

About .7 of a mile from the trailhead, we paused at Bickford Slides–one of the many places for contemplation along the way.

B slides 2

While the upper slides are calm at the trail crossing, the brook funneled below us into a narrow chute, where the water’s fast movement has carved a channel in time.

granite, glacier

Later, on the Blueberry Ridge trail, I saw this pattern in the granite and thought of how the glaciers that covered our northern states scoured the land as they receded.    The land tells the story–I just need to learn how to read it.

climbng up Blueberry

We usually hike down the Blueberry Ridge Trail because it offers magnificent mountain views, but I was thankful that we switched things up today. A different perspective was welcome.

rime ice

I found myself paying attention to each step upward, mindful of leaves and rocks and water and ice. Because of this, I spent a lot of time staring at the ground. There’s plenty to appreciate at this level, like the crystals of needle ice that form within the earth.

ice 1

We left our crampons at home, but in the future, we need to add them to the pack.

ice 4

As dangerous as it is to walk on, I’m fascinated by the dramatic formations that change with the moment–forever fluid.

wintergreen

Other things worth noting–wintergreen leaves taking on their winter hue;

sheep laurel 1

Sheep laurel leaves protecting its spherical fruit;

reindeer lichen

and a variety of reindeer lichens awaiting a visit from the red-nosed, sled-pulling residents of the North Pole.

MW from Blueberry Ridge

After pausing on Blueberry Mountain, we continued up the ridge, remembering to turn back frequently and take in the view,

Shell Pond and PM

including Shell Pond below and Pleasant Mountain in the background. My guy pointed out that Shell Pond really does look like a conch shell from here.

Kezar Lake

Our view also included the islands on the northern end of Kezar Lake in Lovell.

lunch rock

We chose the largest rock we could find for today’s lunch spot. Lunch? The usual–PB&J, followed by brownies,

looking back

and topped off with another spectacular view.

squirrel lunch rock 2

We weren’t the only ones choosing a rock for lunch. This squirrel prefers the top rock on the cairn.

spruce scales

Red Spruce scales and cobs line much of the trail.

squirrel cache

And we found a few caches–a sign of things to come.

nd 4

The higher we hiked, the more natural devastation we encountered. Gazing upon it brought me back to today’s reality. Blow downs, galls, fungi, animal interactions with the landscape–it’s constantly in flux. Then there’s the human factor–we leave our imprint in ways we can’t even imagine. But . . . across our nation and around the globe?

ice on Speckled Trail

We encountered more ice on the climb to the summit of Speckled Mountain.

summit wind

The wind was blowing when we reached the summit, where a fire tower once stood.

summit view miles of mountains

The stanchions are all that remain of this former lookout site.

summit, MW in clouds

It was getting late, so we didn’t stay long,

summit, MW,

just long enough to notice that Mount Washington was disappearing into the clouds.

sphagnum and snow 2

We followed the old jeep trail that is the Bickford Brook Trail, on the way down. Rather than ice, we found snowflakes among the sphagnum moss.

hidden rocks

Once we got below the spruce-fir forest, the beech and oak leaves obscured the rocks, making it almost more difficult than the upward climb.

beech sign

I couldn’t spend as much time as I wanted scanning the beech trees for bear claw marks because I was paying attention to my foot placement, but I did pause by this tree that has served as a sign post for many years.

1976

1976–a very good year. I happen to be a member of the Bicentennial Class of North Branford Senior High School. Go Thunderbirds!

Eight plus miles and five and a half hours later, we’d completed the loop as the sun   lowered behind the mountains.

hobblebush, global prayer

My hope is that these hobblebush buds encircle the world in prayer so that all may savor the sanctity that we find in the mountains.