Thursday, June 5, 2008

Downeast Sojourn. 10/3-10/7, 1985. Hancock To Cherryfield.

I’m at Sullivan Falls, a reverser, due to the meeting of constricted inlet and a fat tidal bore. I just walked the east shore of Crabtree Point. Dawns allotment of lobsterers and schoolkids are on their way.

One latter is in the spin now fishing out a few traps to the gathering of gulls drawn by the chum. A mid inlet ledge wears a thicket of cormorants and gulls.

The ‘falls’ are near a lobster pound and rise twice a day at tidal boundaries. Schoodic Point is south, Hog Bay north. The Crocker House is great. A spiff menu offers snails and peppercorned tenderloin at a single malted bar. There’s antique white furniture and relict wallpaper immaculate and cheery.

A coupla’ kindly local cops got me here sparing a murky walk down Hancock Point. I haven’t seen an eagle yet. Ellsworth is the last blast of Mall before an older world border. Hancock is quietly arty with strains of cello practice leaking from a vacation cottage along an old coastal road. The west shore road begins at a tiny triangle park dedicated to Veterans of the War to Preserve the Union.

O Danny Boy, it’s a long way to Gettysburg and The Wilderness from here. Something croaks now and then..yup.. it’s a raven. It sounds little like ‘nevermore’. The forests are balsam fir and birch with scatterling clumps of pine, maple and oak. The smell is one of the more wonderful breaths my Somerville nostrils have wafted. The orchestra of fragrances amid the olfactory purity of sea washed air far from the ozone zone allows vivid distinctness for each part. The balsamic resin of fir legions provides the foundation threaded with scents of brine, mist, gravel, moist earth and occasional cars.

Penobscot Bay has drawn back its draped mist now with a rising suns encouragement. The local children paint praise graffiti for various kinds of rural vehicles, usually 4-wheel drive and ATV’s, on stretches of pavement on the main road back to route one. I followed a dirt trail along the east shoreline for a while and was allowed a round of glimpse tag with a great blue heron foraging in a fresh water pond laying a stone’s throw from the inlet.

Great Cormorants mingle with smaller Double Crested. ‘Birds of North America’ provides a clear basis for comparison. The Greats have a yellow bill and a white throat patch. Greats tend to be more northa’ here, up in Fundy or Newfie with summers on the southwest coast of Greenland. All cormorants spend a lot of time perched above water on reefs or piers with wings spread to dry and warm in the sun. They are a crafty nightmare for hapless fish.

Soon, I’m to walk across a truss bridge over the narrows to Sullivan and then walk north to Hog Bay and Franklin. Made it over!! Locals call it ‘the Singing Bridge’ cause of tread whistle caused by the metal grid cleats comprising the bridge surface. There isn’t a pedestrian walkway. It is, after all, route one. You can see the water below through the metal web of grillwork. I flushed some kinda’ nester from a piling below.

Simultaneous passage of ten wheelers in the two narrow lanes would be a major trauma for an unlucky pedestrian. The water below is cold and the current races. Weather alternates between warm and hot. The walk to Hog Bay was a gruel as I get used to the weird basket pack. I passed a hardware store and tried to steal a march by hitching, to no avail. I found a few wild apple trees. One had a particularly refreshing rosy tartness. These should cover vitamin C with help from rose hips and blueberries. I’ve got local smoked fish jerky and peanuts for protein.

I saw a grouse covey flush, (they’re in season), and a lone sandpiper on the Hog Bay tide flat. I hear something like a bobwhite in a nearby marsh and a mixed flock of warblers in fall plumage winds along the margins of the field where this is written. Later, I saw a hawk rise. I yielded to temptation to wade in thick tide flat muck. The foot cups soon filled with the incoming tide.

I then washed tired feet in a rainwater stream and collapsed on a wooded bluff overlooking the flats and West Franklin. The forest floor exceeds the thickness of any carpet. A bracken layer of moss and fir needles replaces some spun petroleum goo. It’s dotted with understory shrublets accented with mushroom clusters.

Tiny shack post offices serve these small settlements. Hancock Point and North Sullivan both have classics of the genre. An elder woman customer of these wore a weathered face full of life's epic wrinkles earned from long labors through all extremes of seasons. She recalled Sarakatsan goatherds from the mountains known to Pindar.

Homes along these woodland lanes are all demure folk works. Standardization's sterility is abandoned to more homely matters. Shelter is shaped by each inhabitant's array of solutions to problems of need and want with commendable skill at improvisation and thrift. Many have vast stockpiles of scavenged and salvaged things standing ready to serve whatever purpose their owners' imagination can invent. Avid growling mongrels often guard all this, usually tied.

I hear machinery off to the East, crows South, warblers chipping Northwest, an occasional shot due North and mutterings of motor vehicles from all corners weaving in and out of the soundscape. Six leggers of every sort have explored me haphazardly, although the season's allotment of frosty nights has already put earnest mosquitoes to flight.

A look at Schoodic Mountain convinces me I'll climb it some other day. I head instead to Tunk Lake. Schoodic is bald and a mottled dapple of yellow and orange before sunlight, more patchy green, purple- gray under clouds. Hopefully, I'll make Tunk by sundown and pitch tent. I don't expect to see a store before tomorrow in Cherryfield.