Monday, February 22, 2010


Leg 26, Feb 22, 2010, the north shore of Perry's Creek from Lamson's to the smelt brook.

More memories here but not as relentless as those accompanying the last two walks. I had moments, a few, betwen recollections for idle thought.

This was the longest walk yet. I was a little optimistic in thinking I could cover the entire north shore of the Creek in as much time as I'd allotted and still be observant.

As I've already mentioned, my Dad used to do all the work at Saltonstall's, often under the direction of their devoted caretaker, Danny Pendleton of North Haven. Danny was memorably stoic and dry and wonderful company. Each fall involved towing their floats around Hopkins Point and putting them away here in a place we called the nursery, a supremely sheltered area tucked in the east
side of Orchard Cove, where several caretakers in the area put away their charges for the winter. Paths from this area lead back through the woods to the several nearby estates and throughout the winter those responsible come down here to check on things.

A little color is certainly in stark contrast to everything else at this time of year. I spotted this juniper from quite a distance.

A gift of land in 1986 on Perry's Creek from the Saltonstall and Byrd families to honor their parents, Senator Leverett and Alice Saltonstall, was a prime impetus for the formation, that year, of the Vinalhaven Land Trust. Since then, the Land Trust has acquired all the land on the north shore of Perry's Creek and now maintains an enchanting system of trails that weave throughout the area connecting one exquisite place with another.

The ever present animal tail continues along the shore. I'd promised in an earlier posting to include a photo of it in each entry but the trail, although always there, doesn't always lend itself to being photographed. It's very apparent from the ground however.

Approaching the deep recesses of Orchard Cove I heard the crows. They weren't making the usual sounds, the caws I associate with them, more like chuckling. When I rounded the bend I saw about fifty gathered on the flats near. I've never seen that many in one place. From my distant vantage I couldn't tell whether they were feeding. It wasn't apparent however; it looked more like a lodge meeting. I took a picture but the distance was too great to gain any resolution. Eventually my movement caught their attention and they flew off, first about half, then, as I came a little closer, the remaining birds. They lit in the nearby trees and for the next hour and a half, accompanied me, flying sorties from one wooded or open waterfront area to another, as I walked up the Creek.

Looking back out toward the entrance and Calderwood Neck beyond.

This smelt brook, emerging from a substantial wetland just above, was the most popular of the half dozen or so brooks we frequented as kids. Indian Ladder, a little farther south in this same Creek, was nearly as productive. Smelting was a great activity. A friend lived just above the Creek in DyerVille, a tiny enclave on the North Haven Road and it was only a ten minute walk from there through the woods to get down to the brook. Next to his house was an abandoned building we'd turned into a sort of clubhouse and we'd often fuel up there for an evening at the brook and return there again to spend the night.

The next walk, leg 27, will take me from the brook along the south shore of Perry's Creek and out to Smith Point, later this week.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Leg 25, Merrill Poor's Brook to Lamson's at Hopkins Point, Feb 18, 2010.

This was the first walk undertaken in falling snow, not much snow but falling continually and gently. It was also begun early, before 7, without much light and didn't lend itself very well, for the first hour or so, to photography.

I drove to Saltonstall's and left my truck there thinking that was as far as I'd get, and biked back to where Merrill Poor used to live. As it happens I got all the way around Hopkins Point and had to walk back to my bike from Lamson's. Like the leg just preceding it, what I met along the way were memories, every few feet it seemed.

As soon as I stepped on to the shore, I found myself at this stream and thought of the great smelting adventures friends and I had undertaken in the late 50's and early 60's. This, if not this one then another very nearby, was not the most productive of the smelt brooks but it was one we visited often. That may have had a lot less to do with smelt than it did with Merrill & Kay's beautiful daughters. At high tide the smelt would have found navigation a little easier than this little fish ladder presenting itself at low tide.

The area covered on this walk was not as naturally interesting as most of what I'd seen since beginning this venture, one big summer place after another in the section of town we used to call the Gold Coast. Only a few were new to me. My father and I had worked on nearly all of them and he'd had been the resident carpenter for decades at Jim Reynolds, Muriel Lewis's, Leverett Saltonstall's and others and had built a new home there between Lewis's and Saltonstall's for Muriel's daughter Eleanor Campbell and her family. A few years ago Eleanor gifted the Vinalhaven Land Trust with the Poly Cover Preserve on Calderwood Neck. As has become my practice, I've not posted the photographs of homes along the way (although I've photographed every one) concerned that some might think that an intrusion but this little cottage, certainly not typical, but shrouded as it is by all that menacing fauna, seemed a suitable subject. Clearly something is going on in there.

Durng the years I worked with my Dad on these places I came to know and grow fond of many of the summer residents. Although they were certainly understood to be wealthly, it wasn't obvious except for their island holdings. These folks were generally not pretentious nor did they seem to feel they were entitled to anything in particular other than honest service from the many residents from both islands who depended so entirely on them. Of course they depended equally on those islanders and generally each treated the other with genuine respect and thoughfulness. Now and then that allegiance was a little thin and my memory is that more often than not, not always, it was an islander, usually a caretaker, who broke the bond, perhaps presuming too much. Wonderfully outragious stories of these indescretions abound but I'll have to give them careful thought before committing any to paper. Many of these relationships, though, lasted for years, sometimes generations and the caretakers were often treated as part of the families, attending weddings and funerals and enjoying the generosity and consideration of their benefactors.
The lightly falling snow was just dusting over the deer tracks along the ever present animal trail near the shore and it was apparent that these critters had just preceded me by a half hour or so. Suddenly at this juncture where I found the perfect right angle, the tracks of a bigger deer, it's tracks were half again as large as the others, came into this path from inland and continued ahead of me. Althought the snow continued to fall there wasn't a single flake in these tracks, so fresh were they and so near at hand was this creature. I never did see him but he and I followed the same path all the way to the end of Hopkins Point and once or twice I think I heard him crashing through the underbrush ahead.
I was making repairs at Jim Reynolds in the early sixties and was under an outside deck on my back looking up through a hole left by having removed some rotted fir decking. Suddenly a face, curious about what I was doing, appeared above me. I recognized him as a regular guest of Louis Rukeyser's on Wall Street Week and told him so. He talked to me for a while and told me how much fun it was to be a regular on that show.
We we arrived at Saltonstall's one late summer for our annual meeting with the senior Senator from Massachsusetts, he presented us with a list of projects he'd like completed that winter. Wonderfully frugal, this gentle and appealing soul presented us with an old coffee can full of nails, discarded fasteners he'd collected over time. Among the projects to be undertaken was to gently 'nail' back the wallpaper in the upstairs hallway, paper that had succumbed over the years to the rigors of warm summers and cold bleak winters and the unforgiving contrast between the two.

Smith Point is defined by Perry's Creek to the west and Seal Cove to the east and southeast and rounding Hopkins Point I had a nice view of the two houses I built there, one few years ago, the other in 08. From one of these, The Bluff, the owner and the happy guests he entertains there each summer have admired the eagles nest barely visible from that vantage, on Mouse Island. I got a little closer on this walk and it is indeed an idyllic location, right in the top of a tree and perfectly accessible but just below the tops of all the sourrounding trees, giving it a little privacy.

Leg 26, this week sometime, will take me down Perry's Creek, certainly one of the most beautiful places on the island, maybe anywhere and much of which has come under the protection of the Vinalhaven Land Trust.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Leg 24, Friday, February 12, 2010
(Fish head to Merrill Poor's)

Early on in this blog, leg 17, I came upon a big rock that appeared to burst from the beach beneath, to challenge me to go further. I researched a little and thought the area to be largely variagated shale. Subsequently a friend and frequent critic, I call her the Glacial Erratic, informed me that there is no variagated shale on Vinalhaven, certainly not in that area. Consequently I researched it further and revised that earlier entry to describe the rock as the denizon of bimodal intrusions. I now know, with certainty, there are no bimodal intrusions in that area either and, in spite of being attracted to the term, have edited it further to quantify the stone as sedimentary shale.

This litter I can applaud. Beginning here at Fish Head and at virtually every old (Harding's, Harrower's, Kingsbury's, St. Laurent's, Iselin's & Terry's) summer place along the way, the shore bears unabashed witness to sewage disposal past and present, to attitudes then and now. The cast iron pipes that once poured and in some instances (where the dispensing end of the pipe was propped up on a ledge) flung effluent disdainfully to our fellow critters remain, cause for reflection and for rejoicing, but they've been there long enough; time to go, so to speak.

A friend who summers in the grand house just above this precipice, having learned of my walk, warned me not to climb over this 'rotten rock'. Indeed all the ledge encountered during today's walk was similarly rotten, parts of it, softer and less resistant to the relentless elements, giving way more readily than other marginally more durable rock. The result is deep cave like intrusions all along the shore.

Certainly there was a seal sunning itself on this little oasis just before I came around the corner. How could it have been otherwise?

I've found lovely little mussel shell beaches here and there. This, at Young's Point, is larger than most and a beautiful example. When I was a kid Ox & Ellen Kingsbury, as gracious a couple as I've ever known, summered in their little cottage above and to the left and shared this beautiful spot with the creature whose place adourned the ledge marker. Many years ago, when the Kingsbury's felt they were getting too old to manage it any longer, I was their real estate agent and sold it for them. I think it was the first six figure (a very low six figure) sale on Vinalhaven, laughable now. I got out of the real estate business just as it was beginning to become profitable.

I'm purposely not showing photos of the homes along the way, although I've photogaphed every dwelling without exception, that privacy might be preserved.
The former Harrower house, which is on today's route and which fell victim to an arsonist on a really sad day in the 60's or 70's, holds many memories as do all the homes along this shorefront. My Dad did all the carpentry for the Harrowers, Hardings (Fish Head) and Kingsbury's and some at many of the others. I remember working there with him and his crew when I was in high school. Among them were Bud Carter, Harold Lee Anderson and Paul Chilles. Paul was newly married to my cousin Lauretta who always packed him a lunch larger than he could eat. Ever helpful, I ate what he was afraid to take home unconsumed. My father had lusted for years after an abandoned skiff the Harrowers had stored under their guest house but he knew it was worth something and couldn't afford it and he was certainly too proper to ask without being prepared to pay for it. One day Bud Carter noticed it. Within minutes he'd found Norm Harrower and asked if he could have it. Norm gave it to him immediately.
One hot summer day, probably exacerbated by my having just snuck a cigarette, I stole a drink from a coke bottle I assumed belonged to one of the crew but it was used motor oil, drained from the lawn mower by the caretaker.
The Hardings had kids the same age as my brother Dick and I. During several summers we spent a night or two there at Fish Head after playing with them all day on that magnificent property.

Dad built the Harding's dock in four truss sections of two rails each and had them towed up here by boat, probably in the 60's. Each rail was framed on a big Douglas Fir timber, 6 x 14 I think, about 40 feet long. I remember him adjusting the threaded rod connecting the upper and lower components of each assembled truss to take the spring out of the timber and give it a little crown so it would more readily support traffic once it spanned the granite piers. On a particularly high tide a couple of us stood in a skiff at one end of the assemblage and hoisted it up to be supported by the granite piers, then did the same with the other end and to each of the eight sections. Later, in a truly astonishing exercise that would have had my mother beside herself, her husband and first born (and others of the crew) righted the trusses, installed the outriggers that would serve as permanent bracing and completed the construction.
Next leg, #25 from Merrill Poor's to Hopkins Point, next week sometime.

Monday, February 8, 2010


Progress is outlined in pink

Leg 23, from Brown's Head Light to Fish Head

This leg was the coldest walk yet. Snow and ice prevailed and bitter wind and I tried to take some comfort from the presence of flowers. Of course it was Flowers', as in the huge new estate on North Haven belonging to Cris Flowers and not a Crocus underfoot

Clearly I am finally on the Thorofare and the North Haven Ferry kindly posed for me in front of the Sugarloaf Ledge for this shot.

I stopped at Brown's Head Cemetery to say hi to my Mom and Dad. This is their marker. I had to tell them I was about to re-visit Real Calderwood's Beach, a place that held so many memories from my early childhood and that of my brothers and a place I don't think I've been back to for maybe forty years.

This is it, Real Calderwood Beach (loosely coined). When I was a kid this was THE place for family picnics. My first swim in salt water took place right here. My folks brought along the tent, as was usually the case, and set it up on the bluff above. I can remember a little campfire and enjoying hot dogs and hamburgers and marshmellows after our (my brothers and I and my folks who always joined us in the water) refreshing dip in the Thorofare and falling to sleep after games and stories to the sound of the water lapping at the rocks just beneath our campsite. The whole community regarded this as the community campground. Often ours was not the only noisy encampment.

The walking is getting a little easier here on the west facing shore, fewer formitable ledges and more rock beaches.

Some color! Not spring exactly, not blossoms but an interesting and appealing composition nonetheless.

Leg 24 should get me up toward the ferry landing and then, after one more leg. I'll be in the more sheltered inland waterways in Perry Creek and beyond.

Next leg, 24 should get me to

Saturday, February 6, 2010


My progress is outlined in pink

Leg 22

No, this does not mean Brian Meehan has just stepped into the woods to adjust his riding breeches.

I drive my truck to where I expect to end my walk, ride my bike to the the starting point (where I left off the time before) and, when I'm done, drive back and get the bike.

I've run into these formations here and there along my route this winter.

This is the first one that's been close enough to the shore to have it's bangs trimmed by the tide.

I can't be faithful to Circumambulation unless I walk every foot of shoreline and not cut short exploration of a fjord until the waterway has become narrow enough for me to step over it.

I recently flew over New York City and Washington D.C. Standing here admiring Brown's Head Lighthouse, in spite of there being no apparent connection, I found myself thinking about the staggering amount of humanity and achievement I'd seen from 30,000 feet, the product of such inquiry and enterprise. I thought about having undertaken this long walk and what I'd done with my life and was struck by how much less achievement would be apparent from that altitute if, since the beginning of time, the greatest inquiring mind had been my own. A fleeting moment of sobering assessment, that's all.

Leg 23, perhaps this weekend, from Brown's Head to Fish Head.