On the third day I had completely calm conditions across Muscongus Bay to Owl's Head which offered plenty of time for photography and musings.
This is part of a series of posts about my 200 mile trip up the coast of Maine by the Maine Island Trail. Previously: Kayaking the Western Rivers and Boothbay Harbor
|Sunset on the Maine Island Trail|
In most of the country, solitude is a novelty. In Maine, it
is a commodity.
I once read the wise words of a Master Registered Maine
guide in a book called, “Your Maine Lands: Reflections of a Maine Guide”:
“How well you cope with being alone, all alone, utterly alone, is a
good measure of your mental health. If you can’t hack being alone, that’s OK,
but you might want to ask yourself what is it that is so threatening about
being alone that you cannot tolerate it”
Terse but poignant. Typically Maine.
The stretch across Muscongus Bay to Rockland was almost
entirely flat water. It was a whole day of peaceful, uninterrupted paddling
through glorious country. As such, I was able to let my mind wander.
Solitude, more specifically, wilderness solitude is an
experience I’ve come to crave. I consider it a necessity. I can’t
say exactly when I first realized this but I fondly remember spending two weeks
completely alone in the High Sierra of California while hiking the John Muir
Trail. Most anyone who has written about extended time alone will confirm that
it is sour at first but it becomes sweeter as time goes on. Bitter but becoming
delightful. Ever since those two weeks spent in the mountains, I’ve designed
and planned for stretches of solitude in my otherwise social life.
Somehow I’ve ended up on both extremes of the social
spectrum. I work in healthcare and I find the deep interactions I have with
colleagues and patients to be rewarding. I’ve always had many friends and at
any point I’m actively involved in four or five organizations. On the other
hand, I’ve spent up to a month essentially alone and found it to be entirely pleasant.
I look forward to opportunities to venture off into the mountains or ocean to
just shut up and exist, contented and alone. I’m not an introvert, extrovert
nor even an ambivert. I’m just a person who values the kind of solitude that is
so rare everywhere expect in places like Maine.
|Classic sights on the water trail|
Maine has the tendency to polarize its long-time residents
and visitors alike. To those who value wilderness, scarcity of population and time
alone, Maine is a wonderland. To those who prefer the opposite, Maine can be
hell. Over time I’ve understood why some people just hate being up here whether
they are a 5th generation native or a one time visitor. As for me,
the location suits me well.
In my last two and a half years in this state, I’ve spent
more time alone than ever. Alone in the mountains, alone on the ocean and
living alone at home- I think I’m alone more than anyone I know of. When I do
get a 17 day vacation from work, I spend almost the entire time alone and call
it a vacation indeed.
|My own piece of paradise|
I don’t always understand why I love solitude so much but I
do know that Maine makes it easy. There’s comfort in the knowledge that it is
easy to just disappear for a while in the mountains or coast which is one of
the many reason why people come to Maine in the first place. Time alone with
loved ones or time spent completely alone is a priceless commodity of the
state. The Appalachian Trail, the Maine Island Trail, the lakeside camp, a hunter’s
cabin, seaside cottages, dirt roads and snowmobile trails are all vehicles for charming
seclusion. Let me be.
|Sunset on Owl's Head and the Camden Hills|
On the more logistical side of things there was not much to report today. Muscongus Bay was a lovely and flat morning paddle. I briefly landed in Port Clyde for an interruption of my otherwise lonely trip and briefly enjoyed some passive company. After that I was making my way North through Western Penobscot Bay which was equally relaxing. Another 28 miles were covered and I camped just outside of Rockland, Maine.
Monroe Island was a real treat, sitting right off the coast of the famous Owl's Head Lighthouse. The imposing Camden Hills were off in the distance as were the shores of Vinalhaven Island. I spent a starry night on the beach and idled away time.
Next: Across Penobscot Bay and the Deer Isles