Category Archives: Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park Bar Harbor community Maine

Shipwreck

Seal Cove Shipwreck

“Learn the basics for mapping and documenting a wreck site by working with maritime archaeologists. Potential volunteer activities could include making archaeological drawings of the vessel, recording the site in photographs, and transferring the field drawings onto a site plan. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact…”

I saw the ad before the project, instead of in an old paper after the opportunity had passed. I was going to be here, not away at some event, or with family. Still, there were many reasons not to take this day off, such as responsibilities, deadlines, and rebuilding a house that is more demanding than any child could ever be. I ignored them all, and joined retirees, schoolteachers on their summer vacation, and Franklin Price, shipwreck archeologist, at a shipwreck here on Mount Desert Island.

“What ship?” “Why did it wreck?” “What was it carrying?” These are a few questions I have been asked when I tell people of my day deep in mud and covered with sunshine at the wreck site. And those are the very questions Franklin Price hopes to answer. The Seal Cove Shipwreck Project is an Institute of Maritime History project in conjunction with Acadia National Park. The ad said no experience required, but I could not imagine how a group of eager, untrained volunteers could be of much use, and not do any harm. Eager and untrained, I donned mud boots and sun hat, splashed on bug repellent and trotted off.

We gathered at the parking lot of the high school, and personalities began to announce themselves. A Florida resident spoke of getting his property boarded up for the winter, and how glad he was not to have to deal with snow. A teacher said she read we should bring muck boots, but preferred to wear her Tevas, and a young student arrived out of breath and apologetic. Her mom caught us just as we pulled out to hand over the left-at-home boots. The half hour drive to the site did not quite gel, the back seat could not hear the front, and so we chatted with neighbors or subsided and watched the scenery.

At the site other volunteers were already at work. The day was glorious. The dark ribs of the wreck were corduroy on the inlet bottom. Markers and tapes indicated areas where measurements were being recorded, and buckets above the tide zone were neatly filled with tape measures and slates–which to me looked very much like clipboards. The project was well thought-out and organized. We were given tasks in small understandable doses, and equipment, which we were shown how to use.

I was assigned a partner, a delightful young man who was not a random volunteer, but an archeology student. Lucky me. In addition to the very clear instructions from Franklin Price, this fellow explained why when we measure depth, we also run our hands under the beam. Our first task was to take a given beam from the hull of the boat, and measure where top and the bottom were in relation to a line we had made with two posts, a string, and a level. We took a measure every foot, and also drew in knotholes, wooden pegs, and on one beam, a stretch of tar. The tar was in a large pocket under the beam, and we recoded it going from 54 inches to 78 inches.

Our job was to collect data and record it. Greater minds can interpret. But, a patch of tar? We do not know, but speculate that a repair was made there. Other volunteers were also finding patches of tar. We asked Franklin about this, and while he would not commit to an explanation did say it was possible this ship had been brought in to the inlet for more repairs, and that the ship was beyond fixing, and so left there.

Unsure at first, the regularity of moving twelve inches and taking top measurements, bottom measurements and noting any distinguishing features became routine. Not in a tedious I-wish-I-was-someplace-else way, but in a I feel comfortable, I am gathering useful data, and I am in total bliss way. Any awkwardness on the ride over was dissolved as we shared bug spray, tips on moving around the site without falling into mud, and, oddly, finally exchanging names. We did not start as a team, then we paired off and so did not bond as a team, but as the morning wore on we shared delight over wooden pegs called treenails, which held the planking to the hull, tar, and worm marks.

Worms bore away at the wood of the ship’s hull, making a twisting pattern. While beautiful, the wood will eventually be eaten away. Not good if at sea. My archeological student partner explained that sacrificial planks were applied to hulls to decrease the risk of damage from worms. Attached to the outside of the hull, this half-inch thick layer of wood was replaced when infested with marine borers and discarded, or sacrificed, hence the name sacrificial plank. The fact that there were worm marks on our vessel indicated it had traveled in warmer waters than ours, since the worm making the mark lives in warm water, and does not survive long enough in brisk Maine water to make wormholes.

We also learned that the measurements we took of the ribs would help determine the original length of the ship. If the beams were ten inches by ten inches, the ship could not exceed a certain length. If they were twelve by twelve, it would indicate the ship was larger.

Hours disappeared into tiny notes on a slate, and then the tide turned. The very shallow basin of this cove means the tide comes in fast. Absorbed in our hull ribs, we did not want to pick up until we finished our measurements, and the drawings that went with them. Tide was pushing us, and we reached out and helped each other, exchanging tape measures, helping record, doing whatever needed to be done to make sure each pair had their data and measurements done. No competition, no discussion, we just did it. Franklin moved from group to group, running confirming spot checks, and helping us finish up. I felt like a proud kindergartner when he picked up my slate and double-checked three random measurements. All were within acceptable range. I glowed. We all did. A mark of a good leader is making everyone feel valued, and we all felt that.

We stood ankle deep in water, the wreck totally submerged. It was satisfying as we gathered our tools, tape measures, levels, and our hand drawn charts. We came away knowing what it is like to do archeological research. We learned trilateration, baseline offsets, drew profiles, and measured and measured and measured again. We understood the importance of accuracy, and double-checking numbers that may be gone in a few years, and beyond being checked. We learned to look with our fingertips, as they moved gently along the bottom edge of a hull rib, out of sight under the water. We know what a sacrificial plank is. I went to learn about history and archeological process, and I did, but I also came away with a renewed appreciation of diligence, painstaking accuracy, and working slowly, carefully, and methodically. The tide was coming, but we did not rush or make hasty calculations. Standing in the sun, with sleeves rolled up, giving and getting help, we were united, calm and competent. It was a day outside of time.

Acadia National Park Day to day Nature Log Otter Creek

Invasion of the garlic mustard

The down side of not taking a weekend away is that all those projects and chores which are conveniently out of sight when we go road tripping stare at us and say “now.” The list for this weekend included framing the new raised beds, raking the leaves under the lilacs, rebuilding the grape arbor, and hopefully tending the two sections of hay-scented fern sod I put in last spring.

This fern sod was ordered and planted before I was prepared to give the sod the moisture it needed to get established. I was sharing a delivery with a friend who wanted them right away, but my outdoor faucet had frozen and split and needed to be soldered. I need to learn to solder. Instead, I spent over a week filling the watering can in the kitchen sink, and sprinkling the two long stretches of sod, one in the front of the house, and one in the back. It required multiple trips, while the newly purchased soaker hoses lay flat and empty. Finally, the faucet was fixed.

A few ferns appeared, but my friend had a tall dense strip of fern along the walkway to her house. My ferns were sparse, and barely survived. I hoped that after a winter of rest they would come forth the following spring healthy and forgetful of my poor nurturing.

This weekend I went to look for signs of life, and there they were—soft green tendrils and delicate miniature fronds. But a towering forest of garlic mustard had invaded their space and appeared ready to overwhelm and obliterate them. The item on my list called tending the ferns turned into eradicating the mustard.

We are so cognizant of rare species and protecting animal and plant populations that the idea of deliberately wiping something out seems wrong. It did feel wrong, but it also felt intensely satisfying. Trowel in hand I created piles of limp garlic mustard. Hours, about four without a rest, left the ferns exposed and a large area cleared around them. After a few backstretches, I let my focus widen. I wish I hadn’t. The lovely but nasty shoots were along the path to the well, and formed a border around the compost pile. I sighed, and using a favorite phrase of my dad’s, girded my loins and tackled them.

The day was devoured by garlic mustard. Black flies were ignored in my weeding frenzy. I was oblivious to everything except plant-by-plant removing the mustard. My watchstrap unsnapped and I unconsciously snapped it back. I felt a sharp sting and acknowledged a red ant bite. The pain did not subside, and I figured he was in the cuff of my garden glove stinging away. I could not be bothered to flick him out. I had mustard to remove. Finally the pain worked its way through my mustard killing mind, and I pulled back the glove to look. I had snapped a piece of my flesh in the watch band, and a white pustule and blood blister were the source of my discomfort, not a red ant. Watch stuffed in pocket, I went on. The towering piles of mustard were shoveled onto a trailer and hauled to our burn pile, as I would not give them the chance to grow in the compost. I then when back for more.

Dinner had been planned; chicken thighs with five-spice powder, jasmine rice, warm arugula salad with cashews and caramelized onions. Around eight thirty pm, when I was beginning to squint to see the mustard shoots, I got dragged away and taken out to dinner. I went to sleep feeling pretty satisfied. I knew I had missed many smaller ones, but would tackle them as they grew.

Garlic mustard, Alliaria petiolata

The next morning, Mother’s Day, we visited my mother-in-law and planned our day–a bike ride of course, and perhaps brunch at the Bar Harbor Inn.

I wanted to try moving some cranesbill geranium from the woodland garden to the area I had cleared of mustard. Cranesbills are one of my favorite plants. It has a sweet scent, is a lovely swath of pink in the spring, covers the ground and does not need weeding, and spreads, but gently. If it spreads too far, it is easy to pull it up, as its root system is shallow. It is a very civilized plant, unlike that mustard. I grabbed my trug, and feeling happy with a hard day’s work behind me went to the other side of the yard to move those cranesbills before biking or brunch.

I rounded the corner humming, approached the garden, and came to a halt. There they were. Not so many, but there they were. Growing in clusters by the Solomon’s Seal, and under the Piers Andromeda, garlic mustard, Alliaria petiolata, was stretching towards the sun. I asked my husband to go play golf or something, and rolled up my sleeves.

I will not admit they have won, but know that I have not. I will continue to pick them off, but accept they may be part of my life. A friend first identified this plant for me two years ago, shortly after it appeared in our yard. She was the one who warned me how invasive it was. She also mentioned that it is edible. There are recipes for pesto, soup and salad with garlic mustard. Stir-fried garlic mustard with roasted sesame seeds and ginger could be a sweet revenge.

Alliaria petiolata is not going to go away. There is far too much to eliminate. I see it smiling at me from behind the summer bedroom and boldly nodding along the edges of the wood shed. Garlic mustard is an enticing name, however, and the leaves are pungent and tasty.

Perhaps a roadside sign:
U Pick, Garlic mustard, $2.00 per pint. We pay you.

Acadia National Park Bar Harbor Day trips

Roads less travelled

Abandoned road near the old radio base on Otter Cliffs

Roads connect us. They get us to work, bring us to visit family, and take us to distant adventures. Road trip—the words conjure an expanse of asphalt disappearing into the distance and luring one on. Roads are plowed, patched, swept and maintained so we can get where we want to go. Part of our infra-structure, they seem permanent. I live on a simple village street, Grover Avenue, and cannot imagine it disappearing.

Roads do disappear, however. There is not a town in this country that doesn’t have abandoned roads. Once traveled daily, these roads are now devoid of purpose. Trees creep in from the sides, the surface cracks and vegetation emerges. Rocks, branches, and debris fall on the road and are not removed.

Roads are closed and neglected for a number of reasons. A sharp corner might be smoothed and straightened, leaving a curved section frequently renamed with the qualifier “old.” There is Old County Road, Old Goose Road, Old Turnpike and Old River Way. If there are no homes on the section, it very quickly becomes unpassable. I once lived on Winthrop Road in Deep River, Connecticut. It was straightened, and a beautiful stretch that curved along a marsh was bypassed. No one lived on that section, and so no one drove on it. Taking it one day for nostalgia I rounded the curve by the marsh, and braked. A card table with blue paper tablecloth, candle in a jar, and a few food stains blocked the way. Some cheeky celebrants risked the random driver, and held their party right in the middle of the road.

Old Bridge on Grover Avenue

Other roads become uncared for if they no longer go anywhere. A straight, tree-lined path leads to what was once the naval communication center near Otter Cliffs. The facility was moved to a neighboring town, and the road then simply went to an abandoned site. It too became abandoned. The wooden sign pointing the way down the road to Otter Point has grown into the tree it was mounted on and looks like it has bark lips devouring it with a gruesome grin.


Sign to Otter Point

Closed roads are derelict, uncared for, unused. They beckon, raise questions, and connect us with the ghosts of those who once traveled these routes daily. Their history is palpable. A footpath along the Narraguagus River is wide and tucked closely to the river bank. It is an excellent spot for watching eagles and osprey feeding, a mink dodging along the rocks, and the silver splash of returning alewives. But looking at the way the flat wide surface was dug into the hillside revealed it was once a road. We followed it until it intersected with a old rail road line. There were traces of it on the other side, but that section had not fared so well, and we soon gave up and returned to bird watching.

Road along Narraguagus River

My road may someday be an overgrown trail with remnants of foundations, or it may have vanished under the weight of development. It has already begun to recede from regular use. It was once the main road connecting the villages on either side of Otter Creek. After a steep hill below my house, called Ben’s Hill, the road passes the head of Otter Cove and then twists along, following Main Brook. Fifteen years ago is was passable by a car you did not care too much about. Today a rugged vehicle can make it to within sight of where it rejoins the new main village road, but is no longer passable. When I moved here, it was a through street. Now, I live on a dead end.

It takes so little time for a road to change from a daily part of life to a mysterious path drawing us in. It disappears in the distance, behind encroaching branches or around a corner. It asks us to remember that it once hummed with activity and ably provided a way for people to get from one place to another.

Sagging bridges, mossy foundations, weathered signs, they are all there, on the road less traveled. Wander one, and listen.

Acadia National Park Day to day Maine Nature Log Otter Creek

Nesting, Nesting 1-2-3-4

Snowshoeing several weeks ago I startled a downy woodpecker. She flew from a perfect round hole in the decapitated, shoulder height trunk of a white birch I was passing. She flew into my arm, and then, all a fluster, (we both were) landed on the branch of a tree ahead of me. She was building a nest.

Several years ago a woodpecker nested very close to that white birch, near the top of a dead tree in our yard. While I do not love trees dying, if they do, I am not inclined to grab the chain saw and turn them into firewood. Deadwood provides food for birds, home for insects, and composts on the ground. If I had removed them, I would have missed the nesting, hatching, and fledging of a family of baby woodpeckers.

After watching the parents take turns sitting on the eggs, both they and I were delighted when a small brood of babies was hatched. These babies buzzed. I would drive into the yard after work, and roll down the window and listen. The soft droning noise was unmistakable, even though almost 200 feet away. The parents were very attentive, flying in and out, presumably with food. I could not see the newly hatched birds, although I could hear them. A neighbor’s cat also heard them. I came home one evening, smiling in anticipation of my private bird vespers. Arlo, a muscular cat with dense black fur, was three-quarters of the way up the tree. I leapt out and raced up, sending him home. This was not a cat who took no for an answer, and I was not happy he had discovered the nest.
We battled the next few days. I made chicken wire cages, and hung sharp objects around the base of the tree. Arlo persisted, he was a very persistent beast. Between tossing him back home, barricades and sharp obstacles, he was finally confined to mewling at the base of the tree, unable to get up the trunk to the nest.

The vibrant baby pecker noise increased in volume, and listening became an evening ritual. Watching morning and night, I still almost missed it. The first flights of those downy babies, fuzzy little intrepid balls of feathers, demanded a cheering squad. I rah-rahhed as each tumbled out, righted itself, and shot straight for the nearest branch. Acrobatics could wait for later.

That was a few years ago, and I am excited by the possibility of once again watching Downie’s feed and raise their young. Winter has given way. It let go reluctantly, and we shift from ice fishing to archery in the backyard in short sleeves. And nesting. Yep, the birds are at it. I watch crows out the window as I sit at my desk. They are dismantling an old squirrel nest, efficiently recycling. They fly off with twigs in their mouths to some unseen home. Ravens may have nested by now, but are still singing their courting song and doing belly flips as they fly, soaring. Almost touching, maybe they do touch, but their flight is seamless. An eagle has been flying nearby by with nesting material, and my husband, curious, snow shoed when there was still snow. He made note of the towering white pine, and we now watch the nest from a distance with binoculars.

Birds are in the mood. Every evening I hear a woodcock in the back yard, a male, making his beep-beep noise, then flying up and spiraling down, the air a rhythmic sigh in his feathers.


Biking Acadia National Park’s loop road, we pause near the Otter Cove causeway. Three immaculate white male mergansers swim and show off to three drab females. The water is so clear we can see a nearby eider as he flaps his wings and swims to the bottom of the cove for a mussel snack.

Winter was stubborn this year, but is has finally happened, the shift from frozen beauty to procreation. One moment I rhapsodize about the sun on ice, and before I can lament its loss, I am reveling in nest building and airborne mating dances.

Happy spring. At last.

Acadia National Park Nature Log Otter Creek

A Different Picture.

Storm waves changed the calming early morning scene of daily yoga and lattes to a turbulent confirmation of the power and unpredictability of the ocean, and our world. Hurricane Bill, while kindly passing us by, left a hint of the terrible destruction it could have wrought.

hurricane-bill

mvi_6057

The Seal Harbor float was lifted into the air by waves again and again, pulling against the heavy rope attaching it to its mooring. The relentless action finally snapped the tether, and the float went free. The 30-foot waves were dramatic, and drew crowds to the coast to watch the spectacular display. Spray reached the tops of Otter Cliffs, which protrude a hundred feet above the sea, and waves soaked the mesmerized and unwary spectators. Large continuous waves and swells randomly exploded into powerful blasts of ocean high over the rocks. Terrifying and beautiful.

Sadly, the hurricane’s brush included the death of a young child, and a number of broken bones and other damage that will leave scars in many lives. Our hearts go out to them, and our respect goes to the Coast Guard, Park Service, and volunteers who worked so hard in the rescue effort.

Acadia National Park

Nature log

Indigo Bunting in the garden, morels in the yard. 39 degrees out.

Acadia National Park Nature Log Otter Creek

Catch that sap

Tap time. A warm afternoon and we set a few taps. The syrup began to drip as soon as we drilled in, it is ready!

Acadia National Park Day to day Maine destinations Otter Creek

Mussels-by-the Sea

It was 50°, sunny and calm, and the tide was right. Implacable Man, Kym and I went to the shore to pick mussels. They are large, tender, pearl-free mussels. So good I can never order mussels out at a restaurant, they just can’t compare.

On the way back to the house there was an eagle on the Tarn. We pulled over to see why he was just standing on a puddle of water, when he began to gyrate and hop and splash. He was taking a bird bath! We watched for ten minutes, until he flew away.

At home, I made a goat cheese, bacon, and spinach salad and warmed some bread on the wood stove. A perfect Maine dinner, and day.

Acadia National Park Otter Creek

Bogman

Guardian Bogman endures snow and rough weather

Guardian Bogman emerges from the Black Woods

Vigilant through storm, comforting in summer sun, Bogman stands guard on the hill behind the house.

Acadia National Park Maine Otter Creek

Chased by Otter!

And Kymry comes of age.
Eighteen. Kym turned eighteen yesterday. College apps are in the works. This lovely woman/girl who has been my daughter for just a few short years is getting ready to fly. She is doing it so sensibly, testing her wings before jumping off the branch, examining them for possible modification. I am so impressed. I jumped without caring if my wings were ready or not. She is not sure she is ready, but she is. Happy birthday, Kym.

Nature Log: Chased by Otter

Walking through the woods from the South Ridge trail of Cadillac Mountain in Otter Creek we had to go around the paths, they were so full of water. Cutting through the mossy woods, a late Sunday afternoon, sun piercing the woods in rays, the quite was broken by a running animal, I looked, amazed, at a beautiful otter, running away from us. I called to Dennis, but he had heard it and stopped, and was watching as well. “ oh a camera” I wailed, the otter had stopped and turned, his beautiful otter face peering at us. I had never seen one so close. he was about 15 feet behind me, Dennis about 20 feet ahead of me. And he stated to run right at me. A funny bounding, determined advance. I backed up, he came on. I caught up with D. and we turned to look. The otter stopped and looked at us. We started to walk on, he began to chase us. We stopped and turned, he stopped, then came after us. we zigged, he zigged. We zagged, he zagged after us. Dennis picked up a long branch, and fenced with it, keeping the otter from getting closer than five feet. What on earth did he want? It was not an aggressive attack, but it was very determined, he wanted SOMETHING! I’ll probably never be chased by an otter again, but I am glad I was.