Thursday, September 29, 2011

Another blogger world, similar to our own.

Paddle To See - Enjoying the Outdoors

Friday, September 23, 2011

Turtle Quest

A warm autumn afternoon is a gift not to be squandered

Monday, September 19, 2011

Marsh Stream South, Marsh Bay, Frankfort Maine

Mendall Marsh from Fort Knox Rd Bridge

Summary:  Launch Penobscot River Launch  All Tide, No facilities. Launched 75 minutes before high, about 8 miles to Fort Knox Rd Bridge and  Railroad Bridge over Colson Stream then back to launch. Cautions: Hunting for seafowl in season in marsh. Colson Stream is significantly higher in the spring. 

Update:  This sign is now posted at the launch.  I'd stick to a high tide visit and bring extra water for rinsing my hands.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Little Chebeague

Launch: Falmouth Foreside Launch, fee to launch, very limited parking, portapottie. Launch 8:30AM, finish 11:30AM, 6 miles. High 9:50AM You can also access Little Chebeague from Chebeague Island at low tide. I suspect most paddlers launch for Little Chebeague from Sandy Point Beach near Cousin’s Island.

Some places are all about timing; access to Goose Pond in Castine, getting above the waterworks dam in Bangor. The same with launching from Falmouth Foreside. Their web site makes the launch sound friendly, parking by the launch, 35 more spaces just up the road. But of those spaces only four, in the most distant lot, are available to non Falmouth residents. That, plus four side-of-the-road spaces near the launch. That’s why we waited until after Labor Day, and went during the week. We arrived at 8AM, and there was just one space left in the upper lot for non residents, so we grabbed it and walked down to see the launch.
The launch is 1000 feet away, down a fairly steep hill, a long way to move boats, even with carts. But down at the launch two or three street-side spaces were left, so back up the hill I went and down the hill our boats and our car came. No real space to load the boats other than the unused parking spaces, but an easy cart to the launch.
Landing boats behind parked cars, and getting them ready to roll back to our car.
The entire south side of the launch is a paved ramp, offering easy access to the water. Once afloat, we found ourselves in a forest of white masts; hundred of sailboats. 35 parking spaces sounded a lot more generous when it wasn’t compared to the collection of boats on the water. I thought maybe we’d be able to paddle between boats all the way to Sturdivant Island. Not quite, eventually we were on open water, as we were on our crossings to Basket Island and on to Little Chebeague.
The forest of sails, as seen from a distance
Little Chebeague used to house a summer colony, but then in the 1940’s it was requisitioned by the Government to serve troops guarding Portland Harbor. The remnants of the houses remain, along with signs describing them.
A fixer upper with a water view
As a child, I lived beside the prosaically named “Supply Pond.” To build the reservoir our local water company had forced several families to move, but traces of the old dwellings, mostly cellar holes and overgrown periwinkle remained. The pond had been used mainly as a reservoir for ice, and was sold to the town in the 60’s. As kids, in those days before internet, we spent hours out in the woods digging around the old cellar holes seeking treasure and building new forts nearby. So I didn’t expect to see a lot on Little Chebeague, and I was surprised by how much remained.
There is a trail about the island, and signs warning of poison ivy, ticks, and Brown Tailed Moths to those who stray. The trail is mowed, which means it also has poison ivy, but cut very low. Some trees have ropes to accommodate climbers.
This old car lay rusting in the woods; look at how narrow the tires are.
We paddled back via Clapboard Island. When we paddle somewhere we research the area in books and google the islands. That’s how Mark discovered that Clapboard Island is available for rent, $25,000 per week, three week minimum, but servants are included!
Pictureque rocks
As we paddled back we saw the yacht club and marina south of the town landing, thus explaining how all the boat owners managed to park and access their boats.

Not as many pictures, because the islands were further apart, and also there weren’t as many boats moving about the harbor. The water was pretty mellow, with just enough chop to keep it interesting.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Portland Harbor, Maine

Basics: Launch Eastern Promenade, Portland. MITA suggests that kayak trips to Fort Gorges, Peaks and other islands of Portland harbor commence at Eastern Promenade to avoid the main shipping channels. Fee to use public launch. Launch from beach at no charge. Parking near launch: five minute loading spaces, 1 hour parking, 2 hour parking and trailer parking only (Memorial Day through Labor Day) , additional parking further up the hill. Restrooms. 2 miles to Fort Gorges and back. Launch 11AM, high 9AM, finish 3 PM. Our route 9.5 miles. Ferries go to Peaks Island regularly, but not to Fort Gorges.

When we arrived at Portland’s Eastern Promenade, our way along the waterfront was blocked by three huge dump trucks backing onto a barge at the commercial ramp; directly behind us the Downeast Duck Tour veered right, heading for the public ramp and behind that the Narrow Gauge Railroad cut off the road. Welcome to the big city!
Portland Harbor is busy, but it’s also filled with lots of interesting sights. Still, in September, conditions are great. Maine’s ocean water is about as warm as its going to get yet many of the summer visitors have gone home, so we get to enjoy paddling in some areas which we’d normally consider to be too crowded.
Caution: The MITA handbook recommends that kayak trips to the islands head out from the Eastern Promenade, rather than Bug Light Park. That way kayakers avoid the channel used by the biggest boats and tankers.
Why they recommend the Eastern Promenade Launch. Picture taken from Cape Elizabeth, Fort Williams.
Fort Gorges, left; Fort Scammell right.
As a part of planning, we were monitoring the weather, both land forecasts and marine forecasts. For Portland this was easy, as we could watch the local weather forecast online. And we’d delayed this trip for two days hoping the weather would clear. Eventually we had a good, but not a great day, with clearing skies predicted, calm winds but moderately big seas. So we were proceeding with caution. The day was supposed to clear, but we’d arrived in what we hoped was the last of the rain. Our first goal was Fort Gorges, visible from the shore on the day's quiet water.

Another quick check of the marine forecast on our marine radios assured us that no thunder was expected, so we headed out. The paddle to Fort Gorges is a quick trip, first a quarter mile along the shore then a three quarter mile crossing. No stop at Fort Gorges though, that was planned for later.
Instead we had another quick crossing, less than half a mile to Little Diamond. The south shore of Little Diamond just seemed to be the epitome of summer colonies, reasonable sized houses in tiers so they all have a water view.
Could be almost any summer shore, but it is Little Diamond
We then travelled along the shores of the two Diamond Islands.
Mark, just off Little Diamond, studies his chart, while a ferry and tourboat pass in front of Peaks Island
Our original goal had been to paddle around Peaks, but with higher wave heights in the marine forecast, we were reconsidering. Though the water was calm in the harbor, we knew it would be a different story on the far side of Peaks where no islands broke up the waves. We were also concerned about possible strong currents in Hussey Sound, which had been noted in the MITA handbook. It was mid tide and falling, so the current through the sound was likely to be outflowing. We entered behind tiny Pumpkin Nob, just off the end of Peaks, cautiously. We didn’t feel that much current in that small area, but we did see significant swells out to sea. Discretion being the better part of valor, and definitely the better part of ignorance, we changed our route, heading back along Peak’s west side, basically just on the opposite side of the channel we’d just paddled.
Our stop in Peaks center was short. Mark, “I didn’t come to shop, I came to paddle”, didn’t want to leave the boats, so I wandered through town a bit, discovering the seasonal public toilet hidden by the parking lot for the ferry. There did seem to be several places to eat, and a few stores clearing out for winter as well as a year 'round grocery.
The remains of Fort Scammell on House Island drew us next. Fort Scammell is not open to the public, but some tours are available. We saw multiple houses on privately owned House Island. There is also a beach, with a wall of big granite blocks that was just beginning to appear above the falling tide. I’m not sure if those were put there to defend the fort or the privacy of the current owners.
Mark provides a convient scale to one of Scammell's wings
Two Coast Guard vessels were working in the harbor. They’d arrived earlier in the day, side by side, but had since moved to separate areas. One was the Shackle, same class as the Tackle, doing something with what appearred to be a custom buoy. We crossed from House back to Little Diamond, which allowed me to pass by this wonderful yellow bell buoy, one of several yellow buoys around in Portland harbor.
Then back to Fort Gorges. Much like Prospect Maine’s Fort Knox, Fort Gorges was begun prior to the Civil War and obsolete before it was completed. More of the history of Fort Gorges is available on wikipedia. For us, it is just a fun place to take a break and explore. As per the sign we entered at our own risk, and clambered up and down the stairs, looking out to Portland Head Light. Fort Gorges is a good place to bring a flashlight, as some stairways are completely dark.
Patriot gulls with a "star"
Hopefully those aren't important pieces...

Fort Gorges may have been obsolete by the time it was complete, but several other Forts and Batteries were built in the area to defend Portland through various wars. After finishing our paddle, we headed out to another gathering of forts, in Fort Williams Park, in Cape Elizabeth just south of Portland. That’s also the home to perhaps the world’s most photographed lighthouse, Portland Head Light.
Look familiar? Keep an eye out, you’ll see it decorating items in coastal gift stores from Maine to Florida and everywhere in between.
In planning this trip we relied heavily on Kayaking the Maine Coast by Dorcas Miller, the MITA 2011 guide, tidbits from Paddling.Net Launches, and the Peaks Island Web site.
This link offers another report of paddling to Fort Gorges.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Paddling.Net Launch Sites

Here’s a newer resource for trip planning: launch sites. In the past has offered information about paddling trips, which collects trip reports. The launch site information seems to have started this year around January, and provides a convenient place to put information about your paddling area.
(all illustrations are screen shots, not actual links)

The blur of dots on the top map scales to more readable maps.

Click on a dot and get a description of the launch and possible paddles, and sometimes detailed information on facilities, fees, dangers and links. (In the future, I’m hoping to find more links to trip reports under "Links.") is looking for only legal and accessible launch points, and asks that any complications with the launch (limited parking, 10 foot clamber down a rocky causeway, etc.) be mentioned. Outfitters and renters who offer an access point are welcome to add them, though they do provide the following caveat:

Attention outfitters and rental operations:
The launch map is designed to provide public launch site information. Please ensure that you are listing a launch spot only and not just a retail or rental location. If you offer a paddling access point, please feel free to list it. Thanks for helping us to make the map useful for everyone. If you are interested in a future commercial listing please contact

Friday, September 2, 2011

Hermon Pond and the tranquility of small streams

Basics: Launch Jackson Beach on Hermon Pond, off Newburgh Rd in Hermon, Maine, open 9AM to Sunset. No entrance fee, but there is a gate that does close. Changing rooms, pit toilets, concrete ramp, short dock, picnic tables, grills. Alternative unofficial launch where Newburgh Rd and the railroad cross the Souadabscook Stream. About 4 miles to circumnavigate Hermon Pond, 2 miles to and around Ben Annis and back, 1.5 miles to the first dam upstream on the Souadabscook and back, 6 miles upstream on the Souadabscook to Black Stream and back.
Just off the launch, heading for Ben Annis pond (What a fun name!)
Jackson Beach can be a nice place to go when you have more paddlers than boats. Those on shore can picnic, fish, run around and/or swim (untended swimming and the water does get algae.)
A couple of tables. The picnic area extends quite a ways over to the ramp
Though it’s a small pond, Hermon Pond is also a gathering place for local fisherman. Every evening we’ve been there a few other boats have been launching, taking advantage of the new concrete boat launch, and additional gravel. The boat dock is the same short dock as it’s been in prior years.
When the water level is high enough, you can sneak from Hermon Pond into Ben Annis Pond. The connection to Ben Annis is located along the south east shore, between the picnic area and the houses. The entrance is quite narrow and twisty, perfect for nimble recreation kayaks, a challenge for our longer boats. It was also shallow and weedy, even with additional water from recent rain, we barely made it. (In the top photo I am midway there.)
This is what the entrance looks like from Hermon Pond
Ben Annis is a tiny pond, with no houses. It reminds me of the end of the life-cycle of a pond as illustrated in all the ecology books of my youth. Ben Annis is rapidly becoming either a marsh or a swamp. Herons, kingfishers and a variety of ducks are frequently found in Ben Annis.
On Ben Annis
Hermon Pond is surrounded by camps, mostly converted into year round houses, and a few larger houses. An eagle nests in a pine along the shore, osprey are frequent sightings, as are loons.
Along the shore grow thousands of red maples, whose colors are beginning to change even now.
But is especially striking at peak, as this photo from a prior year shows.
This photo was taken on Hermon Pond near the entrance to Ben Annis
About a quarter of a mile to the north of the launch, the Souadabscook Stream feeds into Hermon Pond. This is a beautiful quiet stream, wide and deep enough for carefree paddling. It’s a wonderful place to see wildlife; beaver lodges line the stream, sunning turtles are a frequent sighting, especially in the fall. Trees lean over the stream and regularly topple in, rarely they form arches, like this arch near Hermon Pond.

There are the remains of three stone dams on the stream, and at least two beaver dams. Each dam is an obstruction where the water narrows and the speed of the water increases. Sometimes the water at the dams is low and the openings obstructed by beaver debris so there is no choice but to portage. Other times, water moves swiftly through the narrow opening. Over the years, we’ve each capsized at a dam. These are the only capsizes we’ve had outside of rescue sessions, surf lessons and attempts to stand. For my capsize, I was doing something incredibly foolish, paddling up as fast as I could, then when I stalled in the current, attempting to grab a branch on a tree growing on the dam. Mark was flipped while turning around at the base of the narrow outlet, when the stream pushed the rear of his kayak onto a rock. The sensible thing to do is portage at the dams. But we usually attempt to just plow through, because plainly we’d rather capsize than admit we can’t paddle quickly.

Near Route 2, the Souadabscook meets the Black Stream, though a wide section of the Souadabscook continues to the left (west.) To the right (north) the Black Stream flows downstream to the Kenduskeag. I don’t know how long they remain paddle-able.

A few wildlife sightings included some bryozoan  ( and this somewhat drippy hornet’s nest – found up near the Black Stream.

The Souadabscook is a peaceful and quiet stream, protected from the wind. Heading downstream can be so calming that it is almost like meditation, making this a great end of day paddle.

We went to Hermon Pond two nights this week, the first night we were there photographing mainly Ben Annis and the entrances. We went to the Souadabscook after, making it only as high as the second dam before deciding to turn back. The trip back was just totally relaxing, but reviewing the photos, I didn’t see any which showed the width of the stream, the canopy above, the security of it all. So, the next night we went back to get a picture of the stream with trees bending over it. We spent time watching a bat out well before dusk, flying over the stream and dipping down to the water’s surface to capture insects. I attempted to save a beautiful dragonfly by putting it on my deck to dry. Once its wings were half-dry it took off and landed back in the stream. Again I rescued it; again it flew off to the water. The third time I brought it to a downed tree on shore. It rested there a minute, then flew back and crashed again in the center of the stream. I figured it must be time for the obviously suicidal dragonfly to feed the fishes.

Continuing on, we were successful in charging up all the dams. We were amused by a kingfisher which lingered on branches until our fingers nearly pressed the camera shutter buttons, then it flew off, landing on a branch a few feet ahead only to repeat the game. We made it up to Black Stream and were happily going further, when we noticed the sun was much lower than we expected.
No peaceful paddle back, no calm feeling; instead a nice aerobic workout as we raced the sun back to the launch. And that's why in the photo above, I'm headed upstream.