Sunday, September 22, 2013

Birch Point through Muscle Ridge: Third Time's Rather Charming

On the beach, Muscle Ridge Islands in the distance
It was a surprisingly benign and bright day at Birch Point State Park.  A weekday, just before the 9AM opening time, but the gates were open.  We weren't alone in the park, a couple was out for a morning walk, another exploring the beach.  Mark and I were heading for Two Bush Light beyond the Muscle Ridge Islands.  (Muscle is a variant of mussel, the ridge is named for the blue mussels found there.)

It's a 1.5- 2 mile crossing to the Muscle Ridge Islands.  In the morning, our main issue was paddling almost directly into the sun.   But soon enough there were islands to distract us.   There were several granite quarries on the various islands of Muscle Ridge, and the scars of those activities are evident along the shoreline.
Also evident, is that on High Island there's someone with some real stone masonry skills.
Every time we've been to Muscle Ridge a strong current  runs northeast-southwest through the islands.  This day was no different.  So our travel from High to Pleasant was fairly swift.  We crossed under a bridge mid Hewett Island.  It was close to high as we passed under, and the water was about as high as would allow passage.
Behind the bridge was a quiet harbor.
 The seas were quiet, so we decided to look at Two Bush Light.
 The bushes which gave the isle its name are gone.  There's a fair amount of brush though.  Two Bush Island is a bird sanctuary, with no good beaches. Out on the edge of Muscle Ridge, Two Bush Light is a lonely light on a small island.  When it was manned, winters there must have been rough.  The lighthouse has been automated since 1964.  A large lighthouse keeper's home was demolished by Green Berets in 1970.   You can see a picture of the lighthouse keepers house at Wikipedia.  Demonstrating it's dual function as a bird sanctuary, this eagle posed for us on Two Bush Light.
Mark getting another photo
After looking at the light, we headed back through the islands.  That's where we found some of the nicest views of the trip.  Many  islands have houses or work structures.
Flag Island has an array of structures
 The small islands with Camden's hills behind were quite scenic.
Ducking between Andrews Island and the Neck was like finding ourselves in a bog.  An unexpected treat three miles off shore.  We tended to stick close to Hewett, Andrew and the Neck as we paddled, and did not find the current too stressful, other than on the eastern side of the Neck.
Behind The neck
There are two MITA islands in Muscle Ridge, we stopped at one for lunch and a break before heading in.
The current followed us most of the way across, we used a twenty degree ferry angle from Otter to Otter Ledge, and even beyond a bit.  But mostly is was just a simple paddle back, to a beach now filled with a lunchtime crowd.

Muscle Ridge is known as good place for wildlife, we did see several flocks of scoters and mergansers.  Not many seals though, although a couple trailed us to Otter Ledge. 
Seals which did not follow us
We'd been through Muscle Ridge twice before, but never noticed the lovely views we saw on this trip.  The first time storms were pending later in the day. We glided through the islands, headed in by Sprucehead Point and Waterman Beach and paddled back along the shoreline.  Sticking close to shore made sense in light of the pending storms, and it was a different area to explore, but it meant we never saw the backdrop of the Camden Mountains.
   Our second visit was on a beautiful clear-sky day, but the seas were rough and while we were out there the wind picked up.  We cut our tour short.  The views must have been there, but I didn't notice them. We worked our way across the channel from lobster buoy to lobster buoy, grateful for evidence of  progress.  As we were heading in, it seemed like every sailboat in the area was headed out to play.  We struggled forward, would see a sailboat heading through, stop to give them right of way, and blew backwards out to the islands.  Then, after the sailboat passed by gleefully, we'd begin our slog forward again.  I think it took us an hour to make the crossing.  I was so grateful to arrive at Birch Point Beach that I decided to do a roll to celebrate.  Even better,  with the loaded boat and tired arms, my roll worked perfectly.  As I was researching the area, I came across this tale of a kayak group similarly stressed by building winds. (  

Summary:  Launch 9AM Birch Point State Park.  $2 entrance fee.  Pit toilets, parking for about 20-30 cars.  Finish about 1PM.  One stop.  High Noon.  13.8 miles 

As I was looking up things before the trip I came across an article about a new quarry being started on tiny High Island to mine granite for Wannamakers.  I can't seem to find it now, but this is a similar article about  
An old article about Dix Island, a granite graveyard,1697720

1 comment:

  1. Looks like the perfect place to experience with such perfect conditions. Another spot to add to my bucket list.