Cutler Coast, 2015

Cris, Forest, Vanessa and I had decided to do a group camping trip to Cutler Coast. The location had been side lined for other trips due to the long drive and exposed camp sites, but we hoped that a summer trip and leaving early on a Friday morning would make it worthwhile.

Friday July 10, 2015

I had set my alarm for 5:30, banking on being the last one picked up after a 6am start time. I'd had everything ready to pack the night before, but just gathering bits and pieces and getting them into my pack took longer than expected and I was a bit short on sleep (see also: almost forgetting my sleeping pad, I need to find a more obvious way to store it). I was ready to head downstairs with my pack (about 45lbs this time) and road trip snacks when I got the text that they were on the way. We were looking at 6 hours of driving time to get up to Cutler but a few stops (including a backtrack to one house for a last minute thing) extended the time. My criteria as always was to get to the camp site before dark, so I wanted to be on the trail before 4pm to give us lots and lots of time for the almost 5 mile hike in before an 8:15pm sunset.

We quickly hit up a travel plaza for Starbucks and a bathroom break and were happy to see a distinct lack of traffic heading north on 95 (a nice change from our Montreal road trips where we usually leave later anyway). Cris had a conference call he had to facilitate so we stopped in Brunswick for him to use the phone and for the rest of us to stretch our legs, browse some book and music stores and generally just be on vacation. Vanessa had reminded me to pack a book, and I'd brought one for her on request as well, but Forest needed to pick one up. The first book store wasn't going to open until 10, it was about 8:45am when we stopped, so we wandered back toward the green where a small farmer's market was set up. I got a yummy lemon curd scone and Vanessa picked up some shelling peas for a snack and we meandered over to the gazebo to sit in the shade (it was already getting warm) and hang out killing time (Cris said to expect it to be half an hour from 9). We got an update that he was done earlier than expected and headed back the length of the park to meet him in front of Bull Moose - a book and music store that was open. We ducked in with a 5 minute time limit and I found a new to me used copy of The Changeling Sea that I decided to hike with instead of my pristine Mrs. Pollifax mystery I'd originally brought. Back in the car again, we made a gas station stop but it was a small one without a bathroom, so we had to stop again before heading north. I think we ended up leaving Brunswick just before 10am.

We were getting hungry a bit before noon and decided to stop in Bangor for lunch. Vanessa found a diner on Yelp that had good reviews and wasn't too far from the highway, and we ended up at Fabulous Nicky's Cruisin Diner. The decor was eclectic, mixing movie and music and TV stuff, and I had a pretty good deconstructed breakfast burrito.

We drove through a series of small Maine towns, keeping an eye out for interesting things in yards and on signs - we were all a bit tired and punch and kept misreading things, but the huge barn painting of an eagle wielding two chainsaws (wood art) was really real. We stopped at a grocery store to grab some water (I picked up an extra liter) and to replenish lunch supplies in a forgotten sack. I went in on some cheese to add to my planned lunches. We also found that one of the pack water reservoirs had leaked all over the car but it seemed to have stopped (Cris, Forest and I all checked our packs) and nothing was ruined. We got to the trail head parking lot at around 3:30, and I misunderstood when Cris came back from signing us into the overnight log that there were already 2 groups in at the three camp sites (rock ledge camping was okay though). A car full of people drove in as we were starting and had big packs as well, so it felt like we were competing for the last site. It turns out that what Cris had meant was that one group had been there last night and would be out today, so we ended up being fine. A pair signed in and hit the trail just before us as well. One last trip to the outhouse, a ritual drenching with bug spray and slathering with sunscreen, and we hoisted our packs at just before 4pm to hike in.

I had us take the fast and flatter Inland trail to get to the camp site as it would be more manageable with full packs, we could save the more challenging coastal trail for our day hiking. There were lots of board walks over boggy and mossy sections. Unfortunately when Vanessa couldn't get water from her drinking tube, she found that her bladder had been the one that leaked and it was empty. :-/ Forest had left two liters of water in the car, so that was the back up plan (to go back and get them) if we found that the rumoured water sources weren't filterable. There were one or two smallish hills (still had to catch my breath a bit, but the running I'd done to get ready for Tough Mudder was still helping). We passed the cut off path that connected to the coastal trail and continued to follow the inland path around the lake. It was an interesting mix of terrain/vegetation/rocks, going from swampy (and horribly buggy) to pine forest, to deciduous forest, and lots of banks of sun warmed blueberry bushes (no fruit yet though). The group of five campers caught up and passed us, so we resigned ourselves to last choice of tent sites. As we turned the point of the lake, we started to hear a low hooting and soon spotted a light house as we came to the coast - the noise was either from it (there was some mist) or from the very low frequency array at the naval research station that we'd passed. It was a bit distracting and detracted from the sounds of nature, though there were lots of birds (and bugs) to counter it. The lobster/crab boat motors were loud too and carried really far across the water (there were lots of trap/pot floats bobbing in the near coast water).

As we came into the Fairy Head camping area, the couple (with French accents) went up the access path to the first small site, so we continued on. The second site on the cliff had tents set up already (we could hear some hooting from them as well but not horribly loud, it was the group of 5 who had passed us on the trail). We went over a rocky beach area and were considering some ledges but the third site (up an older steep wooden staircase adorned with fishing lines and floats) was empty and had just enough space to set up two tents (with some log rearrangement) and spread out my one person bivy (my backpacking tent would have just fit as well, if I'd managed to get the bent pole repaired in time). The swarms of bugs made me take Cris up on his offer to share his tent though, the thought of having the mosquitoes on the bug mesh against my face was not appealing. The "primitive privy" was a toilet seat sitting on a mesh sided box filled with recycling, it was ... substandard. I went in the woods. We'd made it the 4.8 miles to the camp site by 6:15, lots of time to pitch tents then flee down to the less infested rocks to cook dinner while looking out over the water (Bay of Fundy). I'd gone the long way round to the cooking ledge, via the stairs and broken boulders, and decided to climb back up the short way, with some rock climbing easily done one handed as I carried my stove etc back up to the tent site. We saw some seals bobbing in the water near the crab pots, but I wasn't fast enough to grab a picture. I re-hydrated and heated up jerk chicken and rice and peas, an experiment in dehydrating a regular meal that was okay - the chicken cut up finely in my food processor was a bit jerky-like, but the oil in the sauce wasn't as much of an issue as I'd feared. I shared the excess as I'd not properly portioned it out before freezing it to try and keep the chicken from spoiling in the warm weather. We'd all sweated a lot on the hike in, the open areas had the sun beating down on us. As soon as the sun was down though the mosquitoes descended and we fled back to the tents. We'd left the rain fly off so were able to star gaze a bit (no northern lights while I could stay awake) and watch the fireflies doing their best shooting star impressions. I was too tired to read and was probably asleep by 9, camping earplugs in and eye mask on.

Saturday July 11, 2015

I was able to sleep in until about 8 or so, the others had all gone down to the ledge for breakfast by the time I crawled out of the tent. I gathered up my stuff and started to make my way down by climbing down the cliff rather than going around. My foot slipped a bit and I stubbed my toe badly and bumped my elbow - but I didn't drop my stove or breakfast, so I considered it a win. I made a pot of hot cereal for breakfast, skipping boiling water for tea since I was a bit worried about quantities. We were kitted up and ready to hike before 9 and headed out along the Coastal Trail. It was a gentle up and down hike, but pretty constant as we went from being down on cobble stone beaches to up on headlands looking back the way we'd come. There were lots of look out points close to the trail, no hiking for 5 minutes for a substandard view and needlessly expending energy. We saw a couple of small hidden coves that were just magical, though there were floats and broken crates that had washed up and were collected in some places, hopefully for future removal. The weather was lovely, with a breeze off the ocean. We passed over a cave that had a tiny bit of water falling and twinkling in the sun, I imagined Puff the Magic Dragon lairing in it. :-) Unfortunately the possible water source turned out to be stagnant, so we passed it by. Sooner than expected, and with fewer ladders (there were some wooden stairs taking us onto and off the beaches), we reached the official look out point at the far end of the park where the trail bent inland toward the parking lot. There were a few people hanging out, though a couple left as we settled in and we were able to get a nice view point to eat our lunch. I had my rehydrated almond dip, along with crackers and cheese from Vanessa. I took a few minutes to take some close up shots of the wild irises that were growing in a space between the boulders. I gave Forest and Vanessa my extra litre of water since they'd both run out, but on the short trail back to the car my Camelbak went dry. Cris was the only one with water on the last mile or so.

We got to the car at around 1pm and threw our day packs in the back of the car. After some poking at phones, we continued along the road toward Lubec to hit up a small grocery store for water. I'd used the outhouse at the trail head and resisted using the bathroom at the grocery so that I could say I hadn't "cheated" on camping. :-) We picked up a gallon of water each and I sucked down a juice while waiting for everyone to be finished. They had a book exchange shelf, we could have sorted out our reading material there, ah well. We were pretty close to the Quoddy Head lighthouse, the easternmost point of land on the continental US, so we decided to drive out to see it. It was a bit further than expected, and then there were lots of people there, with a mini fair and a band setting up and a truck selling doughnuts. We walked around a bit and looked down at more seaweed covered rocks before heading back to the car and to the trail head.

We hiked back in to our Fairy Head campsite from just before 3pm to 6pm. We retraced the Inland path to the cutoff, then took that for some new experiences. It took a bit of a drop down to the coast, but nothing too extreme. We then took the Coastal trail back to camp from the cobble beach point. We made a snack stop there, sitting on a piece of driftwood while we ate, as I was feeling light headed. Back at camp, I made up a pot of cowboy pasta and burned the bottom of it a bit. :-( The bugs were really bad, I was in the tent by 8 and trying to read. Taking my hiking socks off to get ready for bed, I noticed that my big toe was purple with bruising, it looked like my toenail had jammed back into the cuticle when I hit it. As it got darker, I decided not to read by headlamp, and instead watched the mosquitoes swarming on the tent screen, hoping not to induce buggy nightmares. :-) Forest and Vanessa were a bit punchy, it was fun hearing them teasing and giggling from the next tent over. :-) I was asleep before dark, it had been a lot of hiking that day, just shy of 10 miles. Sometime in the night I started awake with water dripping on me, a burst of rain hit us. Cris scrambled out to put the rain fly on the tent, and Vanessa rescued the clothes on the line I'd put up, tucking my stuff under the rain fly on my pack (my habit from Grand Teton to cover it at night stood me in good stead). Cris tucked my boots under the fly for me and I apologised for being too scared of the bugs to go out. :-/ He picked up another 7 bites for his trouble. :-(

Sunday July 12, 2015

I made an effort this morning to get up and moving faster than I normally would, aided by not wearing my sleep mask so the rising sun could wake me up. :-) I got up before 7 and was first out to the bathroom area, going back beyond the minimal privy for extra privacy. Got more mosquito bites, I have to remember to put the DEET *everywhere* that might get exposed! I packed up all of my stuff, with Cris awake and helping with my sleeping pad since he was still in the tent. I was ready for breakfast first and after verifying that Cris didn't need help with the tent, and letting him know that I was going to make a hot breakfast and so take longer, I made my way will full pack down to the ledge, going the longer slower but safer way. I nabbed the prime flat spot next to the cairn and soon had the water boiling in my kettle for tea and then a quickly stirred and boiled hot cereal was sitting to cool a bit. Forest had asked Vanessa to remind him to check how much fuel was left in his cannister when they got home, but unfortunately, it emptied out as he was trying to make coffee. My stove was still hot, I was able to do a gas relight and boil water for the rest of them, as well as heating up water for oatmeal. I gave Forest the rest of my Nalgene water, not wanting to waste it nor pack it out, having topped up my camelbak already. No porpoises this morning, but another seal swam by, and we got to hear the hooting sound start up after a quiet night. As I was packing up my cooled stove, it came apart in my hands - turns out that the bottom screw had been working loose for a while, glad it lasted through to the last breakfast.

We were on the trail by 7:40 and back to the trail head in three hours, taking the Inland trail. I paused a few times to take pictures to make sure I caught certain scenes, unsure if we'd ever come this far north again. I mistook the short hike to the lake overview for the cutoff intersection, my mental litany of halfway done had to restart once we hit the real intersection. The skeeters weren't horrible all the way out, we were able to enjoy the moss covered forest traversed on boardwalks, but I was waving them off a lot. I bopped myself in the nose with my hiking pole once, luckily not hard, and did notice a scratch on my eyelid that probably came from a bug flail. Forest was walking ahead of us and was startled by a grouse or pheasant, but his startle reaction is much more restrained than mine would have been. :-) The bird sounded like a whining dog once it was back on the ground and trying to decoy us from the chicks. I was really tired and sore by the end (my bruised toe was aching with every step), I was carrying maybe 40lbs again over the 4.3 miles. I drank most of my water, but only ate half of a Clif bar.

There were more people in the lot, getting ready for day hikes, and the two pairs of people who'd camped near us had also parked on either side of us. We talked a bit with the two women from the ledges. There was a line for the outhouse after Vanessa had gone in to change into her car clothes, I ended up just going behind it to change to save time. I could hear the lined up people talking about the Quoddy head lighthouse, apparently it's only open to the public 1 day a year which is why it had been so busy yesterday, they said something about an hour wait to get into the upper room. We managed to cram everything back in the car and get on the road by 11am.

I had convinced people to stop at the Tim Horton's we'd spotted on the drive in, we were all peeling our eyes for the sign but it kept not showing up. We did stop to take pictures by the chainsaw artist mural though, and I caught a drive by picture of Blueberryland. We were all pretty hungry and finally called a stop at Scovil Millside dining since it looked decent. Multiple bathroom trips to wash my hands and face, running water was wonderful to see again. I had an okay maple glazed salmon dish with great mashed potatoes and regrettable carrots. Forest and Vanessa had piles of nachos and fries loaded with stuff. Hitting the road again, we finally spotted the Timmies sign. I let them upsell me to a ten pack of timbits since I'd get the box, the new salted caramel ones were so good! I got a medium earl grey to try and keep me awake, and got Cris's coffee and timbits as well as a minor thanks for driving. We made one more stop a the Kennebunk service plaza, I grabbed some water since I was feeling parched and gave in to a cup of watermelon cubes, so good! We got stuck in traffic on I95 close to Boston and didn't get home until 6:45. I spread out my sweaty and damp stuff so it wouldn't mold but other than that barely did any unpacking that evening, just forcing myself to walk over to the grocery store to get food to make a quick dinner (chicken adobo). I also had a long desired ice cold gin and tonic, with a splash of limoncello, to celebrate the return to civilisation. I didn't have that many bug welts, but I was sensitive to light touches for most of a week after getting back, the bugs did a number on my brain. Definitely putting a hat net on my next REI shopping spree!

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