Thursday, September 29, 2016

Run for the Coast

Day 4.
We start the day off sniffing around an old fort.

Fort Edgecomb sits high above Sheepscott Bay.  The blockhouse was built in 1809 and is the best preserved of that era in the nation.
With no mountain to climb, no streams to ford, only a few steps from the parking lot, the dogs are jubilant.
Three buccaneers mount a frontal attack.
Repelled by musket fire, they high tail it back to their pirate ship.
 RUN!!!  But, not on water.  A second after snapping this picture, Cole's flailing under the dense carpet of seaweed.  I can't heave him out, he can't get a toe hold on the steep, slick rock.  Nor can he be reached, he's beginning to go further offshore.  To save my dog, I reel him into another cove.  
Genius at work... 
If you've ever seen me on the verge of a panic attack when he's been gone too long on one of his walkabouts...  this is why.  Cole gets himself in the worst predicaments.  
To avenge my heart for the angina attack, I drive them to Camden Hills State Park and we climb Mt. Megunticook (1400'), starting at sea level.   By afternoon, we're even.  They're passed out in the car from the jog up and down the mountain.  
Driving across Deer Isle, don't I spy a sign for Yellow Birch Organic Farm.  U-turn!!!

Ambrosia aka goat milk caramel.  I kill my smaller bottle in less than 12 hours. 
Fascinated with their operation, I jump at the chance to shadow the farmer when he asks if I can help him fix the electric fence around his hog pen. Would I ?!?
Do I want to feed the goats?  Pinch me!
Now, I must sample some of their chevre fresh cheese, it's the only polite thing to do. 
For someone who normally hates tomatoes, I slay handfuls of these.
I do love greens and can graze in my mesclun patch every day.  But, they aren't sweet in Alabama from May to October, the heat rendering them bitter.  I'm given their mesclun mix.  I savor every tender leaf and spicy flower out of this bag on my drive to our campground. 

No vinaigrette wanted or needed.  To add to this sultry little gustatory adventure:  chopped spearmint leaves here and there.  The dogs are puzzling over the curious noises coming from their chauffeur.
We camp at Old Quarry Ocean Adventures.  Amazing place, great hosts, first place since leaving Alabama where the first thing you hear is the quiet.  No hum of cars in the distance, no planes, blissful nothingness. A quarter mile down the road is a lobsterman port.  Fresh lobsters are served to campers every night.  Being deathly allergic, I pass, but am offered a homemade hamburger instead.  Can you make that 3?  Because I want to serve them to the dogs over their kibbles and see how they like someone staring over their shoulder trying to shame them for all the lip smacking and squeaks they're making. Fail, they completely ignore me.  
What is it they say about swimming after eating? I forget.

Too late anyway.
 Free entertainment courtesy of Abbott and Costello.
Old Quarry's property sits smack on the ocean.  Notice anyone missing from the pictures?  Pete tries barking at him, but Garrett is refusing to come down to the shore. 
So, we take the party back to terra firma. 

A two minute walk leads us onto a private preserve called Settlement Quarry.

A more content Garrett, posing as a mountain goat. 
In the 1920's this quarry was a major industrial site.  Massive rocks were cut to build such landmarks as the Williamsburg and Manhattan Bridges in NYC and the NY County Courthouse.  In the 60's, rock was quarried for the JFK Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery.  By the 80's, the quality rock had been depleted (what Garrett is climbing is a 'grout pile' of substandard rock) and the quarry closed.
Enter a forward thinking historical preservation society and a gorgeous preserve is born.

Three times within our one night stay, we came back up here to make sure we'd explored every trail.
Small park can be priceless gems.
We return to the shore to watch the sea kayakers paddling in.
And ping pong back between the quarry and the shore all evening until dusk.

What a magical day.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Maine or Bust

By 10 AM on Day 3, Cole and I have completed our run in Massachusetts.
Making it the 41st state where he and I have been trail running.  Only difference this year is that we have an entourage.
I'm extremely proud of my green mushing team. They're staying in sync and avoiding wrapping themselves around trees, most of the time.  Cole is a seasoned traveler, but I can't deny that I had reservations about taking the two farm dogs. Pete is willful, mighty powers of persuasion are often necessary.  From Garrett's knobbly scars all around his neck, we think he was a bait dog used to train pit bulls and from his lack of knowledge of the outside world, it's suspected that he was chained up in a backyard until he escaped. So, everything is new to him.  Every day on this trip, I've been privileged to watch him get that look of wonderment in his face.  With no rocks at all back home and clear trails, I've had to teach him how to scamper over rocks, show him that a half fallen log isn't a barrier, you can either go over it, or under it.  Plainly put, I had worries about taking a dingbat Garrett and pigheaded Pete.  After 3 days together 24/7, all apprehensions evaporate.  In it's place, the same feeling I had when I went from this:
To this:
The more the merrier.
Onward ho! To Maine or bust.
So, you're waiting for obligatory pictures of coastline and lighthouses.  
Be patient.  I make a run for the hills instead.  Our campground in Pownal, Maine is inland.  The coast will be busier, more tourists and I'm seeking solitude.  Studies show that 75% North Americans are extroverts.  The remaining 25% of us spend our lives trying to convince the majority of you that being an introvert doesn't mean we're antisocial.  There's a reason I don't have TV, don't want to talk on the phone after I get off from work, don't listen to the radio at home-- I need quiet down time to balance the socializing needed to function at work.  Sadly, I've been out of kilter for two years and sorely in need of the restorative powers of alone time. 
Ask and you shall receive.  When I cross into Maine, this is what my phone does:
My contact list goes blank, I try to restore it from my cloud storage-- it's mysteriously empty.  I try to access it from my tablet and realize it's frozen.  Standing ovation for my guardian angels for coming up with this one.  Bravo!
Nothing left to do but run trails.  
Scaling the summit at Bradbury State Park.  Given a choice, a vertical ascent trail is always my pick!
Much to Garrett's chagrin.
Example of Pete's obstinate nature.  The train came to a stop because somebody wanted to cool down in a stream.
Gracing us with the permission to continue, we ultimately reach the top.
Oh yeah, here's your picture of the ocean.  Happy?
Me? Ecstatic. Thank you very much for asking.
We return to our campground, where we're tucked away in the very back, totally isolated from the other campers up front (preplanned mastermind).
It's lunch time.

 I'm out foraging. Apples are falling everywhere.
Elderberries are in season.
Miss Piggy even finds her childhood favorite:  wintergreen.
Chewing the leaves releases the aromatic oil.  This is the original wintergreen flavor. Over harvesting at the turn of the 20th century forced manufacturers to look elsewhere.  Synthetic flavor is now used or distilled from birch trees (natural, but not authentic!).
Hike. Forage. Eat. Repeat.
I find a gem off the beaten path:  Pineland Public Reserved Land.  
We're the only car at the trailhead. 600 acres all to ourselves... now we're talkin'!
Next stop:  Old Town House Park on the shores of the Royal River. 
A meadow park boasting a variety of Fall wildflowers.
Deserted, it becomes our personal playground.
National Parks are our crown jewels, majestic, awe inspiring, alas usually crowded.  Must see places.   But my smaller state parks and hidden private preserves are my must stay places.  I'll keep the smaller gems, thank you.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Two in the Bag

Day 2, September 11.

After a quick breakfast,
we break camp at 7:30 AM. We're on a mission today.
A 3 hour drive from Maryland puts us at our first resting point:  Rancocas State Park in New Jersey.  Or is it an abandoned field?
So happy this curmudgeon can't talk.  
Turn your frown upside down, Pete.  A shuttered park means dogs can roam free and after white knuckle traffic conditions, I can pretend there aren't millions of people all around me. Enochlophobia: irrational fear of crowds.  "Irrational"???  I prefer rational, logical and instinctive self preservation.  
Breath, Jamie, breath.
A pessimist would see a very desolate park.
But, I see it as a last refuge for wildlife.
The next 4 hour leg of the journey takes us right past NYC, hard to enjoy the skyline while hurtling through traffic at Mach 2.  In Northern Connecticut, I fall out of my Korean rocket ship and kiss the ground.  We made it!  I can quit holding my breath.
We're in Natchaug National Forest.  The map I printed at home doesn't correspond to the area.  We are not lost, only wandering... following our fearless leader, Cole.  Who, instinctively, leads us towards gun fire.
Numbnuts leads us right through Eastern Conn Sportsman's Club land.  Every time a shot rings, he points.  Unorthodox run, but still qualifies for our cross country odyssey.  Cole's first feather in his cap:  CT is in the bag.
An hour later, he grabs a second feather:  RI.
Pete's enthusiasm is hard to contain. 
Lincoln Woods State Park covered bridge entrance.  Sweet!
We do our run, more like a scramble over boulders.
Pete:  "Taxi! taxi?"
The drive through rural Connecticut and Rhode Island soothes me immensely.  The bucolic farms and historic house provide sensory overload.
Can you imagine a house surviving war, beetles and the worst nightmare possible:  remodeling?
323 years, unscathed.
As is the house one of my ancestors built in the early 1700's in Ashford, CT.
10 years spent researching my family's genealogy bear fruit.  Gives me shivers to think that fingers that share my DNA put those boards up on the house.  Would their hearts be just as stirred to know that their 5th great granddaughter is standing on the lawn proudly beholding their work? I hope so.  When I reflect back on the multitudes of hardships my colonial forefathers endured, my life's obstacles don't seem insurmountable after all.  For example, driving through Boston traffic to get to our campground in northern Mass...  
I keep my info book on my lap-- my safety blanket.

Easily 200 pages of navigation info, camping reservations, trail maps, local history.  As with every trip, should the binder become lost, all pages have been xeroxed and put in a manila envelope under the trunk's carpet.  Welcome to my world.
Once again, I'm setting up camp by head lantern.  We're basically all alone in this one area of 50 camp sites at Harold Parker State Park.  Peaceful vicinity.  Yet, the constant hum of traffic in the distance and planes flying overhead are oppressive. Now, I finally understand why urban gardens have fountains:  to muffle the noise of the city.
The next morning, we get a good look at our surroundings for the first time.
"We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto".  
Smell the air, we're getting closer to Maine, that's where the real fun will begin.  But, that's a story for another day....