After a long night of tending the fire and keeping people from “expanding” the fire to other people, I wasn’t going to wake up early. At least I wasn’t planning on it.
But I did… sort of.
9:00 hit, and it hit with the cry of “Hey! LCs! We need drivers! WAKE UP!”
And so, I rolled out of my tent, packed up my gear and a quick lunch, and went about the process of figuring out where I was needed most. The upside of the chaos of NewComers is that it’s not at all difficult to find a trip that could use an extra driver, so within a few minutes I had linked up with a trip heading out to the summit of Mt. Willard.
Mt Willard, for those who don’t know, is one of those hikes that almost feels like you’re cheating – it’s short, not too strenuous, but has one of the best views in all of the white mountains. Seriously, You’ve been walking for barely over an hour, not really gaining any elevation, and then suddenly: Ideal view of the white mountains. A complete 200 degree view, with Mt Washington rising out from a cloud bank and anchoring the left flank.
Since the hike was such a short one, even with the amazing view and a long lunch at the summit, we found ourselves done with the hike and back at the cars quite early. With the rest of a perfect fall day in New England ahead of us, there was really only one thing for us to do.
So… we did. The upside of being near Maine is that there are tons of little family farms that do the whole “pick your own apples” deal, so we just picked one close to the Loj and wandered around pulling random apples off the gnarled trees lining the lane. Thing I hadn’t known about New England apples – there are dozens, if not hundreds or thousands, of different types of Apple Trees. And each one is just different enough that the orchard had a whole list of information about each different type of tree – how to tell the difference, what the apples were good for, and when in the season to pick them.
When we finally made it back to the Loj we arrived ladened with bags upon bags of apples – I left most of mine in the car, since I was going to head home later in the evening, but the rest of the folks on our trip made a beeline for the kitchen to start transforming the apples into apple crisp.
As they worked on finishing up dessert and starting in on dinner (yeah, we have our priorities straight. What of it?) I made my way around the Loj, saying my initial goodbyes to the people I probably wouldn’t be seeing again before I headed out for the evening.
The dangers of saying early goodbyes is that… they’re never just a goodbye. They turn into discussions and stories, long conversations and heart-to-heart talks. I ended up staying at the Loj until nearly nine at night, just chatting with people and talking about the trips we’d been on and where we wanted to go for our next adventures.
A good way to end a great weekend – discussing not only the fun times in the past, but how awesome the future is going to be.
Those are all ways that I would have described when I woke up, had it been two months ago. On this morning though, on a Saturday in New Hampshire, I called it something else.
That’s one of the upsides of a full-time job, especially one where people show up very early. 07:00 was sleeping late for me, and combining that with the fact that I’d doubled-up on my sleeping pads meant that I was rather impressively well-rested by the time I finally stumbled into the Loj in search of a cup of coffee.
First on the order of business was breakfast and lunch – anyone who’s been to NewComers can tell you that food runs out. Fast. And that it you don’t jump in early, you’ll be one of those guys stopping in at Subway for your lunch, since the only thing left is a hellish combination of spicy hummus, a slice of roast beef, and a bit of a bagel that was left in the toaster a bit too long.
With my food secured, I started searching around for an interesting trip to help out with. Unsurprisingly everything was a bit insane, but after a bit of confusion and yelling I was able to get the gist of the day – lots of hiking, a few “go apple picking” trips, and one brave attempt at doing some climbing.
My choice, it seems, was obvious.
And that’s how I found myself hanging off the edge of a dripping-wet cliff face, desperately clawing for some kind of sharp edge that I could grab onto… anything that didn’t require a single iota of friction to hold onto.
Because friction? It was gone for the day.
Sorry, fresh out.
The rain the week before had done a number on the cliffs, but we trucked on like the stubborn mules that rock climbers generally are. I set about putting up three routes, one of which was actually interesting and viable, while the majority of the other climbers snuck off to the far end of the crag to knock out a few of the harder routes.
Overall the climbing was actually rather interesting, truth be told. It was hard, thanks to the lack of friction and grip, but I actually had a fun time scrambling around and finding ways to claw my way up the seeping cliff faces. I wouldn’t want to lead a route in those conditions, but when you’re on top rope there’s generally no penalty for slipping off… so why not?
We kept on through to the early afternoon, keeping a constant eye on the skyline. The forcast called for a rather abrupt change from “wet fall weather” to “complete and torrential downpour”, so we did out best to keep the gear ready to move out at a moments notice. That decision paid huge dividends when the rain did finally appear – instead of slowly ramping up to full rain, it came on like a switch had been flipped up in the clouds.
I quickly set the folks with me to packing and stowing the gear back in the vans while I clambered my way up the back trail to retrieve our ropes and anchor setups. Thankfully there was no lightning, and I had remembered to bring all my rain gear, so it was actually slightly fun scrambling around on the wet rock up top. Of course it would have been stupidly dangerous in any other situation, but I had left my harness on and packed a few extra lengths of rope – so I was easily able to keep making new anchor points as I descended, making a new one, cleaning off the old one, and then moving down a bit further.
Once everyone was packed into the cars and vans we headed back to the Loj. Or… we were going to.
I really had no interest in going back just yet, so I found a group of like-minded folks and set off on a short adventure – trying to find a second climbing crag called “Shell Pond” that I’d heard was down the road a bit.
We weren’t planning to climb, of course, but it was still far too early in the day to be going back. A short hike seemed perfect… assuming we could find the dang parking lot, of course.
For almost an hour we searched, but no luck. Shell Pond just didn’t want to be found.
But honestly, it didn’t matter – we had a blast anyways. As I mentioned, I really enjoy hanging out with people who I haven’t met before, especially folks who’re seeing all of this outdoor adventure stuff for the first time. The people who’d come with me were two girls, one from LA and one from England, who were moderately outdoorsy but had never been exploring in New England before. So, we chatted, stopped to stare at trees, and generally had a fun time just relaxing and driving around aimlessly.
By the time we finally gave up on the search and headed back to the Loj, everything was in motion – food was being cooked, drinks were being drank, and fires were being lit in all the firepits. I quickly mixed myself a glass of hard hot cocoa and joined in on the fun of keeping people from lighting themselves on fire.
You think I’m kidding. I partially am – what I was really doing was keeping people from lighting each other on fire. Seriously, I had to take away the fire fan from someone because they neatly covered someone in embers when they fanned the flames directly into someone walking by.
Even with the few random incidents of unintentional (in theory) pyromania, the night was excellent. I showed a whole group of newcomers the ledges for the first time (they’re amazing at night), tended the fire, ate some quite-excellent baked ziti, and did a whole lot of stargazing / story trading. Since part of being an LC is making sure that the fire stays well-contained I spent most of my time around the main bonfire, alternating between trying to keep it small and putting excessive amounts of wood on it to keep everyone entertained by the giant fwoosh.
So the night went on. Fire, guitars (there was actually a couple playing – a guy and a girl who were both quite skilled) and stories. We didn’t get any rap battles, unlike earlier years, but I was quite contented by the time I finally wandered back to my tent.
Ed Note: It’s not actually Acadia Sound. It’s correctly named “Somes Sound”. All references to Acadia Sound have thus been edited. Is it weird that I write these editors notes, even though I’m both the editor and the author? Meh.
Mike owns a Kayak. I’ve mentioned it, and some of the adventures that have occurred within its inflatable hull, before. But when we were talking about when to head up to Acadia, we realized the scope of what this inflatable kayak actually mean – we could explore any of Acadia’s waterways, without worry of trying to find a place to rent the kayaks.
Thus, on Sunday morning we pulled out a map. Actually, first we went and hiked up The Beehive, a mountain hike that involves a lot of steep rock scrambling that’s aided by large iron runs in the cliff. But after that, we pulled out a map and started ticking off places we’d already been, and places that kayaks weren’t allowed. In the end, that left us with about half a dozen spots that we could explore, not including the outer coastline – we decided against that since neither of us really wanted to test an inflatable kayak in ocean swells.
Since we had a half dozen possible spots, we went with the scientific method to choose our launch point: we’d start driving, and drop into the first one that looked cool. Simple and efficient, and that’s how we found ourselves walking into an extremely high-class art boutique, asking the owners if we could park in their lot while we explored Somes Sound.
Unfortunately they did mind, since they’d technically be liable for both the car and us launching from their docks, but they were nice enough to point us towards a local boat launch that bordered on the marina at the end of the sound. We drove over, inflated the Bogmaster 3000, packed in our lunch and camera, and headed out into the “open ocean”.
Our travels took us through many adventures, but the first was the most dangerous… not in terms of getting hurt or anything, but in terms of self control: we were paddling through one of the major marinas, and there were boats tied up all around us. Tied up and just waiting to be plundered by a pair of buccaneers such as ourselves. See, I had my hat. And that hat? That hat is awesome. And with an awesome hat, comes a strong urge to become a pirate… and if you happen to be on a “boat” already? Well, that urge becomes almost too much to handle.
Thankfully, Mike kept us true to course by distracting me with the one thing that could distract me from good piracy: Rock climbing! The opposite shore was almost all perfect straight-sided cliff faces, and Mike and I aimed the Bogmaster 3000 for a small spot that looked like a low enough angle for us to clamber up and tie up to for a bit of land-based exploration.
The clambering around on rocks and ledges was quite fun, but The Captain (Mike) and I quickly longed for a return to the nautical life. And so, after failing to find the playboy mansion (which we totally expected to find) we returned to the Bogmaster 3000, untied from the cliff, and headed back into the “open ocean”.
As we paddled away from the cliffs we set our scopes on a medium-sized island shoved right in the mouth of the bay that we were in – we had been getting a bit hungry, and it seemed as good a spot to land and have some lunch as any. Unfortunately, we weren’t the first to decide that island would be a good spot… as we pulled into a small cove, we saw a large sign barring our way,
“NO ENTRY! BALD EAGLE NESTING GROUND!”
Damn. So instead, we charted a course around the island, and into the open waters of the main bay of Somes Sound.
Out here the water turned into the kind of chop that a pirate lives for – not enough to make the paddling hard or dangerous, but just enough to make us feel like we were actual sailors on the open sea. We were aiming for a small beacon in the distance… a small little buoy gleaming orange against the dark blue of the water. As we sliced through the oncoming waves we started singing a bit of a sea-shanty, falling deeper and deeper into the dangerous waters of “pirate talk”.
By the time we moored up to the buoy (that’s right. We moored to it. I pulled the anchor line and lashed that thing to a bolt on the buoy like a true sea dog) we were completely infected by Pirate Talk. Mike actually recorded a few minutes of our trademark inane banter, where I called out what was happening and possible piracy targets (in an excellent pirate accent, I might add), and Captain LeVasseur bellowed out orders with authority that rivaled that of Barbosa himself.
It was such a level of inane fake-piracy that I could feel Blackbeard rolling in his grave, getting the Queen Anne’s Revenge ready to burst from the waters just to shut us up.
And so, since the first-mate’s job is always to protect the captain and ship, I called for us to cast off from our mooring and continue our nautical adventures… to the tune of slightly less piratical banter.
The hour was starting to get late, and more importantly it was starting to get cold, so we headed back towards the small local dock that we’d launched from. On the way we attempted to board a sailboat that was cruising around between Eagle Island and the shore… but unfortunately a kayak can’t really keep up with a sailboat, much less run it down when the wind is blowing strong. After two failed attempts at pulling along side and demanding their wine and women, we turned towards the nearby shore to do a bit more exploring before heading back to dock.
This time, we stayed and paddled around a small cove instead of actually going ashore. The reason for not going ashore? We were in the middle of a small “kelp forest”, where the seaweed grew thick in these awesomely cool pillars that you could see through the clear water of the bay. Mike pulled out his GoPro camera (waterproof, of course) and took a few most-excellent underwater shots while I paddled around the small cove.
The kelp entertained us for almost 15min, but unfortunately it was in the shade… and the day was starting to wane quite chilly, especially for those of us on the water without jackets on. And so we started making a beeline for the docks. On the way we tried pirating another row-boat that we saw cruising around, but his head start left him docked before we could get close enough to shout a challenge… and challenging a docked boat just isn’t the same as a boat on the water, so we held off our assault in favor of simply getting to shore.
The nice thing about an inflatable kayak is that it’s easy to store in a smaller car. The bad thing about it is that, instead of simply washing it off and putting it on a rack, it takes almost half an hour to deflate everything and stow it away in its travel bag. Thankfully we weren’t in any rush though, and packing the Bogmaster 3000 away gave us just enough of an extra appetite for the meal of the night: heading into Bar Harbor and devouring an entire rack of ribs, a 1.5lb lobster, a plate of fries, a beer each, and a plate of Quesadilla’s as an appetizer. A worthy meal of worthy pirates. Or, at least, attempted pirates.
Map for the Map: A = the Marina B = our tie-up point and land-based adventures C = Eagle Preserve Island D = tying up to the buoy and playing pirate E = Attempted piracy numbers 1 and 2 F = exploring the kelp forests G = Attempted piracy #3