Saturday, August 30, 2008

Downeast Sojourn. Part 2. Wickyup.

Thursday, October 3rd, morning:
I ended up camping alongside Schoodic Bog, south of the mountain.
At this writing, I'm on Beech Ridge. I hear loons on the lake to the Southeast a slow, rising flutter. Some rattling motor gear passed to the North, (Blueberry Harvesters). The emerald sphagnum understory exudes the charm of things tiny and vivacious. A brief strenuous downpour passed through the night to strew glistening droplets over it all.
A Schoodic Bog sunset of a windless day's stillness is a beauty of weather bleached tree skeletons rising over the reed dense marsh framed by undulating copse lines of hemlock and larch. It is bisected by a long abandoned rail fill escorted by a telegraph line long bereft of voltage. The extremes of a centuries seasons have ennobled this human imposition with patinas that slowly submerge it beneath the more robust living world. The Central Maine Railroad tracks lay rippled and rusted beyond repair and the ties beneath draw lichens to their core.
I plan to make it to Cherryfield by noon to top up my larder and get to the Great Heath by sunset. A hitchhike down 182 will squeeze time. Traffic is audible from here. It's a five mile crow fly but a nine mile man walk.
Tunk Lake Settlement: Well, I've crossed another page of the DeLorme Atlas, around the same time as yesterday (from Map 16 to Map 24). Now I'm on Map 25 where I'll spend the remainder of my journey.
This is a 'no trespassing' zone. It might be logging land or some oligarch's hideout. I listen and remain alert to the possibility of inciting property anxieties. I look for signs of recent passing.
I found an abandoned disheveled barn garage containing archaic rust crusted auto parts strewn around a Model-T chassis wearing an old moldering coat of deer shit. Yet another human thing slowly meets obliteration from the grasp of the robust living world.
The road up, (183) passes the Tunk Lake Settlement, which seems to be more prosperous than North Sullivan is. It climbs a ridge offering a long rolling vista west of small hummock mountains amid heath hollows. This forest mixes a bit of pine with the fir and beech with the birch. This is prime color season for leaves lending a soft claret hue to the heaths.
Whoa! I've found a fire wrecked lodge shell. A few stone chimney columns and a crumbled wall remain giving it a resemblance to something left by Shermans March to the Sea. The basement cavity is strewn with charred and rusted stuff. It sits near a cove at the South end of Tunk Lake. The fire was a fairly recent event and may explain why the road was gated. What party and family rituals was this ruin witness to?
It's siting is imperious, commanding a long view North up Tunk Lake's length to 182. I should be within a mile of 182. I think I can hear traffic. I head toward it, pausing to pilfer a large spatula before passing another rotting garage. This one had room for five cars, several of which were giving up their 1930s ghosts to that ravenous living world.
Tunk II: I'm sure I can hear traffic, but I've walked a painful distance since my last scribble.
Again, a red squirrel scolds, there's always one. More southbound warblers filter by. A newer lake cottage lies at the old roads end. The lakeside mantle of forests new to Somerville eyes rewards a long bumpy lope along a rutted skidder trail. A few larger mammals duck my noisy, hunter fearful approach. I've been using the sun to navigate but clouds at times obscure it. Locals would likely shit themselves laughing at the joke of some clod flatlander trying to get around the Blueberry Barrens with a Maine Atlas.
Cherryfield: I made it through the long Tunk Lake stretch. It took hours longer than I predicted and was rendered drab by a long segment beneath a dense balsam fir canopy. A lively old local bearing apples and newspapers to East Machias got me here. Maine grocery outfitted me with crackers, deviled ham and tuna in tins, chaws of smoked dried fish and peanuts.
I'm looking at a placid silvery sliver of Narraguagus framed with the vivid scarlets, oranges and yellows of leaves just turned.
This is a miniaturist's dreamscape. Everything, even Route One, exists on a tiny town scale. The homes gathered about the town center are Reconstruction era Victorians. Many have colorful paint coats with stencil thin detail trim.
Future trips will begin in Cherryfield. It's a clear dooryard for the whole wonderful Down East coast.
The ruin was a huge family lodge set afire by one of its crazier members. Locals say the money made him crazy enough to try an insurance fire. He got caught and couldn't collect but prominence kept him out of jail. So... some strange Fat American owned the whole exhausting walk along the East Side of a good-sized lake. What weird rages were those crumbled walls witness to?
Note: I discovered much later that the ruins were 'Wickyup', the retirement home of Antarctic explorer, Admiral Robert Byrd. It must have been some local scandal when his kid torched it. 183 was built by the government as the Admirals glorified driveway. I later lost his spatula along the East Swift River in Central Massachusetts.
I'm now laughing at wrothful elements while still at their mercy. It rained soon after sunset and on through the night eating sleep and launching an occasional micro-flood invasion of the tent floor. The walk up was wrapped in some confusion. DeLorme is only partially useful here. I'm left with a clouded notion of location. I may be near Pineo Ridge and the fork to the heath. I can't be more than a mile from it.
I saw a harvested blueberry field all nut brown with stubble and carpet flat. The harvest is collected with combines. Edges and terrain unsuitable for machinery are hand raked with short raked into wooden boxes. I could hear the harvesters today and realize they made the sounds I heard yesterday.
Their commencement signaled rains end though the dampness seems to have shortened their day some.
The gentle rain was hardly merciful.
Damage: Pack of papers: Totaled.
Lighter: Lost.
Binoculars: Fogged.
Bird Book: Sogged.
DeLorme: Gettin' tattered.
Flashlight bulb: Dead.
Some other shit got wet that didn't matter. I've got one serious toe blister, another minor one. A day off walking is sorta welcome. I'll just move things up a day and go home Sunday or Monday.
The first note in this crescendo of doom was the spent flashlight bulb. Fucking thing! I bought batteries but forgot to get an extra bulb.
It's good that I didn't camp at night. From that poor beginning unraveled a parade of petty disasters. My last coupla' joints got soaked. I couldn't start a fire to save my soul and dry the bird book. I hope there's sun tomorrow.
I picked a campsite along the curve of an old road that fragments into trails lacing the backside of Pineo. After last night's soaking, I moved further along the road to a more level grassy site with better drainage and a spot of bare sand for fires. A lichen, fern and heather understory merges into upland fir woods along the well drained west edge of the road. The east edge slopes down to an alder filled swale bordering a stream fed boglet. Lichen draped larch and hemlock clusters occupy the drier heath stretches while swamp maples soak up seepage along the streambed. I love this little bog stream filling my canteen! It's awash in thick bright emerald sphagnum padding undulating underfoot. More warbler flocks follow thermoclines toward the Caribbean at dusk. Geese head to Chesapeake far overhead at dawn.
There are a few vesper birds a phoebe peet-peets and some other avian melody defies identification. All is wrapped in a fluvial ambient blend of stream trickle, wind whisper and rain on stiff soaked leaves. I spotted moose tracks near Tunk and late season black bear scat spotted with blueberry remnants.