NOTE: IN ORDER TO BETTER SEE PHOTOS IN THEIR FULL 1600 PX. RESOLUTION, VIEW THEM IN THE ALBUM FORMAT BY CLICKING ON THE LEAD PHOTO OR ANY PHOTO IN THE POST. This is especially true for landscape shots. Thanks to Mark for the idea of adding this alert so the photos can be seen at their best!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The View From the Top - Camden Hills State Park

I've been a bit busy being sick, a mixture of a cold virus and severe fall allergies has had me struggling to get through the days for over a week.  I can't believe it myself, but today marks 11 days since I've even gone for a walk! Wherever you are if fall allergies are a problem for you I wish you rain and a good hard frost.

Mt. Battie Tower, erected 1921

I'm guessing it's gorgeous back in Camden right about now, with cool days and nights and fall festivals and foliage bringing out the leaf peepers.  At Camden Hills State Park we drove up to the top of Mt. Battie and took in the views of Camden Harbor and Penobscot Bay, which were impressive even on a cloudy day.

Penobscot Bay, one of those many islands is Islesboro

The view has been inspiring people for many years, including Edna St. Vincent Millay who was born in nearby Rockland and wrote the poem "Renascence" in 1912 while sitting on top of Mt. Battie when she was just 20 years old.

Camden Harbor

From "Renascence":

All I could see from where I stood
Was three long mountains and a wood;
I turned and looked another way,
And saw three islands in a bay.
So with my eyes I traced the line 
Of the horizon, thin and fine,
Straight around till I was come
Back to where I’d started from; 
And all I saw from where I stood
Was three long mountains and a wood.

The poem is quite long, and goes on to examine life, death, and God.  Not a bad read, but I'd have preferred it to carry on the way it started, as nature alone is enough to fill me with awe.

lichens and ferns at Adam's Lookout

I struck out one morning to head up Megunticook Trail to Adam's Lookout, and the climb was steep and the view of the Bay not as inspiring as the one from Mt. Battie.  Still, it was a good hike and I wish we had been around longer to explore the trail system.  There are 30 miles of trails within the park, not all of them straight up!

Megunticook Trail

Next time I'd like to try the Cameron Mountain Trail which goes past old farm land and blueberry fields.  I miss picking handfuls of blueberries while hiking.  But I bet the spring wildflowers would be fun to see there too.

There are no rain or freezing overnight temperatures in sight for the next 10 days here, but there is a frost warning for Merrill tomorrow so maybe I'll scoot up to Council Grounds or a bit farther south with my tent on Friday night, the fall color has started up there and I'm eager to see those splashes of yellow and orange.

The bath remodel is finally done, I've been busy doing clean-up on the house following the dusty work.  Before and after pictures on their way!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Natural Wonders and Spotted Wonders

So, with all my disappointment with Devil's Lake State Park, I did manage to find some fun things to do too.  Like stopping at Slack's to check out their jam and jelly choices.  It's been years since I bought theirs (available at Woodman's grocery stores if I'm not mistaken) and I was curious if they were as sugary as I remembered.

I got some advice on a flavor that might not be as sweet and bought a jar of the Bumbleberry, as well as a very small jar of the Root Beer Jelly which was surprisingly yummy.  Both were runnier than I like but maybe I'll make my own soda flavored jelly, I did find some recipes online.


Afterward I got to Baraboo just in time for the tail end of the Farmer's Market on the square, but wasn't tempted by any of the produce, just the bag of chocolate mint cookies that I bought.  The wall around the courthouse had insets reflecting Baraboo's fame as the home of the Ringling Circus.

Mum's the word

This is the time of year that the mums are out and the soybean fields turn gold.  What a nice prelude to fall color, right?

Before the soybeans are harvested, all the leaves will die and fall off, and the soybean pods (and the beans inside) will dry out, just like corn kernels dry out before the corn is harvested.

Between Baraboo and Sauk City I saw a sign for the road to Natural Bridge State Park and thought I'd go take a look.  The road was full of lovely farms, but I noticed a lack of weathervanes compared to what we saw in New England.

Maybe a tire full of flowers swinging in the trees is the only weathervane some farmers need.

Natural Bridge State Park is a day use park with some hiking trails and signage along the trail about the plants that the Native Americans used.  For instance, did you know that Goldenrod flowers can be brewed and drunk as a tea to help pass kidney stones?

And that quaking Aspen bark has aspirin-like qualities?

The 35 foot high natural sandstone bridge is a 5-10 minute walk from the parking lot. Of course folks have been coming here awhile so graffiti comes with the natural wonder. It's the largest in the state, spared the grinding of the glacier somehow.

The rock shelter at the bottom contained not only graffiti but evidence that it has been in use by native people for about 12,000 years.  Imagine, people who hunted woolly mammoth and mastodons built fires here.

When we left Vermont we saw some unusual animals along the roadside in Hoosick, NY, not woolly mammoth or mastodons but spotted wonders on top of a roof.

We didn't stop in but the internet says they have great pulled pork and pies.  Sounds good to me, but I don't know how I feel about the humiliation of all those creatures being painted like cows and then made to wear silly hats.

It sure does get your attention though when driving by!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Sauk Point and Gibraltar Jaunts

Last Friday I drove up to Baraboo to knock out so me unfinished sections I had started on the Ice Age Trail.  I stayed at Devil's Lake State Park again, and for the third time in a row I got a staff member who was rude.  She asked how many more people would be using the site and I misunderstood and thought she said how many people so I said one.  When she asked for a name and I said whoops just me, she talked to me like I was an idiot.  A variation of this has happened all 3 times, they talk down to you if you answer a question wrong or ask for clarification, and heaven forbid you ask them a question of your own they sigh and look at you like you were put on earth just to annoy them.

Sauk Point TH on Hwy 113

To be clear, I have not had this happen at any other Wisconsin state park.  To top it off I was driving around a campground loop following IAT yellow blazes and didn't notice I went the wrong way down the one way.  It being early on Friday afternoon it wasn't a big deal since the loop was almost empty and no one was pulling in.  Well, a camp host chased after my car screaming, and when I got to the end of the loop she followed me to where I parked by the restroom.  I rolled down my window and she shouted "Can't you read?!"  Then she went and got a pen and notepad and wrote down my license plate.  I was so furious I went down to the check-in station and wrote up a written complaint.  After those two incidents it was kind of difficult to let the frustration go and enjoy time with nature, but I did my best.

The back end of the Sauk Point segment was my goal, I had completed a little over half of it from the Parfreys Glen end back in June and at a little under 2 miles each way it was a good out and back to do before settling in for the night.

The first half mile was relatively flat, then a moderate incline for another half mile or so before it leveled out again.  Starting on the hill instead of having to climb up it all the way was quite a bit easier, but I still got my heart rate up and those endorphins kicked in to calm me down.

Fall is starting to make itself known, cool temperatures at night, vegetation is starting to die back, and lots of fungi are poking out.

I sat down and enjoyed the view of the Sumac before heading back down.  I got back just as it started to rain, which you would think would keep things quiet at the campground but Devil's Lake seems to be the one all the young adults without children go to and things didn't settle down until midnight.  On a side note, the bathrooms that are not remodeled at the park did not seem to have hot water and they also don't seem to ever get cleaned.

In the morning I was up before everyone else (no hangover for me!) and I head down to Lodi to catch the Merrimac Ferry across the Wisconsin River.

Taking the ferry had me missing those ferry rides in Newfoundland and Maine.  I climbed up the hill on the first half of the Gibraltar segment and when I looked back I got a view of the river.

My phone rang and oddly enough it was Marine Atlantic calling to do a survey about our Newfoundland ferry experience.  I figured it was destiny so I sat down on the bench and answered the questions while I watched the Merrimac Ferry shuttle back and forth.

 Then it was through the woods to the parking lot on Slack Road where I turned around and headed back again.  After my hike I drove out to Slack's jam store (what a surprise!) and I did a few other things while in Baraboo too since I don't plan to probably ever return.  More on that later!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Ferry to Islesboro

On our last day in Maine we decided to take the ferry from Lincolnville to the 14 mile long narrow island of  Islesboro.  If you're on the way to the ferry make sure to stop at Dot's for lunch to bring with you like I did because their food was amazing!  I got a chicken pecan salad wrap and a giant ginger snap cookie that might have been one of the best cookies I've eaten in my entire life.  Lots of locals were stopping in and picking up sandwiches, always a good sign, and they sell gourmet food and wine too.

The ferry to Islesboro is only about a 20 minute crossing, which is my kind of ride.  It's $10 per adult to ride round trip, but the vehicle rate is $27.50 and includes the driver.  It turned out we got undercharged by a few dollars because our truck has more than 4 wheels, so keep that in mind too.

The harbor was dotted with buoys and the lobster boats were out making their rounds.

Lincolnville from the ferry

Hopefully the L'il Bugger's traps were full and they made a good haul.

Coming in on the ferry the first thing we saw was Grindle Point Light which was built in 1874.  The tower is open to the public and the building has nautical related displays but we did not stop...definitely next time.

 I finally convinced Wayne to quit driving randomly and we stopped at the Rabbit Corner Cafe to get some guidance.  The barista got us a map and showed us where the footpaths on the island could be found.  We didn't have a lot of time since we didn't get to the island until 12:30 and we wanted to catch the 2:30 ferry back out, but the Hutchins Island trail wasn't far or long so that's where we headed.

The trail is maintained by Islesboro Land Trust and you can get there by taking the main road to Bluff Road and then park where it intersects with Hutchins Island Lane.  From there it was just a short walk down the road to the preserve.  If you want to live on Hutchins Island Lane there is currently a waterfront 4 bedroom Cape Cod for sale for half a million dollars.  Let me know if you buy it, I'll want to come visit.

We were in luck and it was low tide when we reached the beach. See the houses in the distance?  A lot of properties out on "points" had private roads leading to them and one of those private roads leads to the summer home of John Travolta.  Rumor has it Kirstie Alley sold her property, but an island this size maybe one big celebrity is enough.

When the tide is low a strip of land is exposed that allows access to Hutchins Island.

It was a crunchy walk.

If you have a boat you can easily check out Hutchins Island as well as other Islesboro spots, but we had to make do with hoofing it.  We didn't go all the way around because of the time problem.

 Back across the sandbar we spent another few minutes exploring the Elaine Coomb's trail.  Wayne's take on it was "nothing spectacular" but methinks he's gotten a little spoiled by big destinations like Yellowstone and has forgotten how to appreciate nature's more common beauties.

There was a marker on the trail for Ansley Marie Bell, a local girl who loved exploring this area and died at the tender age of 6 in 2008.  At her funeral requests for donations to the trust were made in lieu of flowers.

After leaving and heading back toward town we saw this guy hanging out.  When we stopped to watch for awhile another motorist stopped and said it had been hanging out there all morning.  Hopefully it wasn't suffering from a serious injury.

Before getting in line to get back on the ferry we stopped at the General Store to get Wayne a sandwich (the amount of people in there getting deli sandwiches made was astounding and everything smelled delicious) and ran in to the local lineman from Central Maine Power.

Wayne is convinced this is the job and the life he wants to have, even before we ran into the guy it was all he could talk about while we drove around the island.  They conversed for quite awhile and I wandered down the road to get a mocha at the Rabbit Corner Cafe while they talked shop...and employment opportunities?

Here's a little background on past and present marine ecology around the area from Islesboro Land Trust:
Early Islesboro settlers found an abundance of cod, halibut and salmon. “The waters abounded in fish and the shores in clams… The salmon were so plenty that the first town poor protested against being served with salmon more than twice a week.”

Unfortunately now this is the reality:  Today... there are hardly any cod at all and those found are a fraction of the size that once lived full, productive lives in and near Penobscot Bay. Same for haddock, flounder and numerous other fish species that not so long ago swarmed Penobscot Bay.  I had some haddock while in the area since I enjoy fish and not crustaceans, and let me tell ya, I'd love to see the waters around Maine once again swarming with haddock and cod!

The Gulf of Maine evolved from a marine system dominated by large predatory fish, primarily cod, into something radically different. Researchers call this an “ecosystem flip,” whereby a whole, natural system capsized and, because of reinforcing feedback mechanisms, entered into an entirely different state.  “Dynamic food webs and dynamic climate are colliding. Big fish are ecologically extinct,” said Dr. Robert Steneck, University of Maine School of Marine Sciences, quoted in a November 19, 2012 Portland Press Herald report by North Cairn.

Want to know more about the history of Islesboro itself?  Here's a link!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Bay of Fundy Tides

I may be back home in Wisconsin now, but I have quite a few posts left from our trip out east to do yet.  When we were at Fundy National Park in New Brunswick we stopped in the town of Alma twice a day to check out high and low tide.

Our first time down in to town we lucked out and I got the above shot in perfect light.  It's my favorite shot from the whole trip!  Don't think light makes a difference?  Check out the same shot from the same spot at low tide in different light below.

Of course the next day Wayne had his hands on the tide schedule and we marched out to see just how far from town we could get with the tide out.  I timed the walk back and figured we made it straight out about a mile!

Alma from the Bay of Fundy at low tide

A lot of things we saw and did on this trip reminded me of when we drove to Newfoundland with the kids in 2001 and the Fundy tides were something we experienced with them at Parrsboro.

Cory wearing my jacket, 2001

They loved walking out in the mucky sand and digging around searching for creatures.
Whenever I see pictures of them as children it surprises me so much how quickly it all passes.

Katrina, 2001
The tides in the Bay of Fundy are the highest in the world and are semidiurnal, tides that have two highs and two lows each day. The height that the water rises and falls to each day during these tides are approximately equal and the gal at the visitor center said the height difference is usually around 30 feet in this area of the Bay.  It can range anywhere from 11 to 53 feet!  There are approximately six hours and thirteen minutes between each high and low tide, which made it easy to time when to show up.

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Did you know that barnacles are actually crustaceans, closely related to crabs and lobsters?  Weird!   And until Wayne picked one up and showed me I never knew what a scallop shell looked like.  They don't come served in their shells at the restaurant, after all.

scallop shell

How often can you say you walked on the ocean floor?  

If you decide to walk out during low tide keep track of the tide because it can come back in pretty quickly and folks have been stranded.  Next time we come this way we need to get out to Hopewell Rocks but there just wasn't enough time...