Saturday, June 2, 2012

Maine 2012 - Spring Road Trip Thursday

Thursday, Spring 2012 Road Trip

I’m actually writing this on Friday, but this blog is about yesterday (Thursday) the last day of our Spring 2012 Photography Road Trip.  We had husbands and kitties at home anxiously awaiting our return and a Dar Williams evening concert to attend at The Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River.  But before we actually started the drive south back to Massachusetts, we needed to make one more trip down to Perkins Cove.

We actually got up early this morning.  Not by plan, but more maybe because we had that one last site to explore in Ogunquit before we headed home and we wanted to leave ourselves enough time to pack up, eat breakfast, load up the car, and then drive down to Perkins Cove to leisurely walk The Marginal Way.  We often consult Trip Advisor’s website to see what some of the favorite attractions are in the area we’re visiting, and The Marginal Way was #1 on the list with five stars.

The Marginal Way, to borrow a few words from the website is “one of New England’s only paved, public shoreline paths.  This vacationland jewel, which spans a little more than a mile along a spectacular coast, connects Perkins Cove to Ogunquit Beach.  Vacationers in search of peace can feel the salty air and catch panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean from one of the many benches along the way.”  And we decided it might even be considered sacrilegious were we to have visited the area and not explored this highly regarded walk.  And who knows - perhaps we might even see #41 out cruising the harbor on an early morning boat ride (but likely not with Barbara in tow).
It was early when we arrived in Perkins Cove.  When we want to, we can be quite the efficient little beavers (sorry, I know beavers inhabit freshwater swamps, but I couldn’t think of a good critter pun to go with ocean, saltwater, sandy beaches) and get our act in gear.  The parking lots were only just starting to fill up.  Not that we planned on sitting in the car while we admired the view, but we did get a spot in a lot right on the water side directly facing the ocean.  And then we headed out on The Marginal Way.

The path does indeed run directly along the ocean at the very edge of the cliff.  In several areas there are metal fences made out of piping to keep people, or more likely small children, from stopping to look at the view and taking only a step or two off the path to maybe get a better look.  That one step or two could easily end up being a fall down into the cold ocean water.  Nasty, nasty, nasty.

And the benches, the lovely, lovely benches, are indeed scattered along the path.  In areas where there are tall shrubs or trees, benches are located in the shade and there are also benches located in wide-open areas where you can sit in the sun and let the cool ocean breezes waft in off the water to keep you from getting too hot and just let your head go mindless.  That’s what I did about halfway down the walk while Lily continued on to take photos.

I picked my bench and I just sat and watched for the swells as they started to build up far out and came closer and closer to shore, and then I’d wait for them to turn into waves and for the peak of the wave to start cresting followed by the wave rolling its way out to both ends.  Then I’d watch to see which waves were the largest as they crashed and washed over the rocks below. Pretty soon I was almost hypnotized as I attempted to fathom what the wave pattern was.

Every coastline no matter where it’s located, has its own unique wave pattern.  I never did figure out the pattern in Perkins Cove, but I was certainly relaxed and oh, so mellow by the time Lily had walked to the end of the trail, turned around and arrived back at my bench.  She decided to sit awhile with me and we talked some about the mysteries of life and all the big questions that everyone spends their whole lives searching for answers.  I don’t think we had any major earth-shattering breakthroughs to the mysteries, but it was a pleasant way to spend the last few moments of our trip sitting in the sun as we overlooked the big, big ocean.

Then a walk back to car. Wait a minute Lily!  One last stop to smell the beautiful fragrance of the beach roses.  And then finally, reluctantly back to the car for the drive home.  The trip was safe and uneventful.  And we were back to reality.  

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Maine 2012 - Spring Road Trip Wednesday

Day Three, Spring 2012 Road Trip

Well let me just say, when you’re tired and you’re trying to type the day’s blog in too much of a hurry, it’s very easy to hit some mysterious key located at the bottom of the keyboard which deletes everything, and I mean EVERYTHING you’ve just written.  And of course, when you’re in a fast typing groove and the words are rapidly appearing on the page as if by magic, you often forget to occasionally stop and save the work you’ve already created.  How many times has this happened to me and why haven’t I yet learned my lesson???

But then again, it does go with the theme of the day.  Lily and I overslept this morning.  I know.  Hard to believe.  But we did.  Neither one of us woke up until near 8:30 am.  We were very tired when we went to bed the night before.  And then when we did wake up this morning, we futzed around doing stuff and didn’t get our tushes down to breakfast until 11:05 am . . . 5, five, FIVE minutes too late for breakfast.  And the staff had already cleared the food from the buffet line with the exception of a bowl of fresh fruit.  I took a banana; Lily took a Granny Smith apple.  The fruit was okay, healthy, but it’s not a substantial, hearty Maine breakfast to get us through the day.  So we hit the road looking for a place to eat a real breakfast.
The Egg and I.  I and the Egg.  Eggs, eggs, eggs.  Right down the street from our hotel.  Seems we weren’t the only ones partaking of a late breakfast.  There were maybe a dozen people who were also having breakfast at the same time.  The food was very good.  Nothing overly spectacular with the exception of the breakfast hash.  I opted for hash to go with my over easy eggs.  I love hash, and this is The Egg and I’s own homemade hash consisting of shredded corn beef.  I asked for it crisp and I got it with a nice crisp outer skin on it.  Add a dab of ketchup here and there and it was wonderful.  So if you’re a fan of hash for breakfast, this is the Maine breakfast restaurant where you should order it.  Check out the entire menu at and see what else they have to offer.  The restaurant got lots of great reviews on the web.  One site said it was the best breakfast place in all of Maine.

Fortified, our next stop was the Simon Pearce store in York.  Simon Pearce makes the most extraordinary handblown glass and handmade pottery.  The flagship store is located at The Mill in Quechee, Vermont; but, the store in Ogunquit has a beautiful display of their pieces.  There are no glass-blowing demonstrations in Ogunquit, but if you’re curious about who and what this Simon Pearce is, you can check it out at where there is all kind of information about the history of glassblowing along with videos showing how it’s done.

Next it was on to the Wiggly Bridge.  Located in York, the Wiggly Bridge is the world’s shortest suspension bridge and is located over the inlet/outlet of Barrel Mill Pond, a tidal pond created in 1726 (primarily used back then to cut ice).  The bridge itself was built in the 1930s and it really does wiggle.  Lily went first.  She gave it what I would consider a very tentative wiggle.  And it did, maybe, jiggle a little.  I went second and I jumped up and down which gave it quite a good wiggle.  And then I rocked side to side by switching my weight from my left to my right foot and back and forth again several times.  The Wiggly Bridge wiggles side to side too!

After we got through playing with the bridge, we continued on into the Steedman Wood Preserve and hiked around the perimeter of the preserve.  We came across a variety of wildflowers and also one quite nice surprise that we took more than a few photos of.  I’m sure Lily will include at least one photo of our “surprise” wildflower.  You can find information about the Wiggly Bridge and the Steedman Woods Preserve on several different sites on the web – the best site being where there’s information about the creation of the tidal pool, the construction of the Wiggly Bridge, the Steedman Woods Preserve, as well as some photographs of the area and the bridge.

After we came out of the woods, Lily wanted to check out Sayward-Wheeler House located on the opposite side of the main road from the Wiggly Bridge.  She thought the house might have photo potential.  So we started off down Fisherman’s Walk, a short walking path that meanders along the edge of York River and passes right by the Sayward-Wheeler House, an early eighteenth-century building overlooking a once-bustling waterfront.  The home belonged to prosperous merchant, judge, and leading citizen Jonathan Sayward.  You can visit to learn more about the house (more history for you to research) which is open from June 1 – October 15th, the second and fourth Saturdays of the month.  

Okay, enough of this history stuff.  Now it’s time to hit the road and travel all the back roads up the coast from York north to Wells.  We had studied our map really well and knew where we wanted to depart from the main roads down the side streets to the dirt roads that hardly anyone ever travels as a tourist.  And so we meandered up the coast, stopped at all the beaches we found along the way, stopped to checkout and savor all the little coves and inlets, and decided that the southern coast of Maine has very dark, almost grey/black sand.  And in most places where the public can access a beach, the wrack line of high tide almost always reaches the very upper reaches of the beach where the sand ends at a stone wall or a rock outcropping.  We don’t know where the poor people visiting this area go to sit on the sand when it’s high tide.  Perhaps they float around in inflatable chairs!

An unexpected but ever so grand surprise was finding Hartley Mason Park.  It was one of the most beautiful small parks I think I’ve ever visited.  The park is located where in the past three different large summer homes blocked a view of the sea.  Mr. Mason had an early vision for a park for the area, and he purchased the land and homes as a site for his park.  The park is beautifully landscaped, has several benches for contemplative viewing of the ocean, and also a monument for sailors lost at sea.  A recent addition to the park, which is located on York Harbor across the street from the York Harbor Inn, is the most intriguing sculpture by Sumner Weinbaum titled “people enjoying the park”.  I will let Lily’s photos speak for themselves.

As morning turned into afternoon, and afternoon turned into very late afternoon, breakfast was wearing off and it was getting to be time to think about dinner.  We made a stop at a small gift shop we had visited earlier in the week, and the kind ladies at the counter, when queried about a good local Italian restaurant, highly recommended Varano’s down on Mile Road.  So here’s my last dinner foodie part of the blog.

I had no trouble picking out my entrée.  I ordered Braciole Al Saltimbocca.  Translated that is a double-cut all natural bone-in pork loin, stuffed with fresh sage, Italian prosciutto and mozzarella cheese.  Topped with sweet onion brandy glaze served with roasted garlic mashed potatoes and roasted asparagus.  I opted to substitute linguine for the mashed potatoes.  Excellent!  Lily’s choice was Gamberi ‘Stile Scampi’.  Translation:  Jumbo shrimp sautéed in olive oil, garlic and white wine over linguine with vine ripe tomatoes and baby spinach.  Lily was very, very happy with her entrée choice.  Of course, I must admit, we both left with garlic breath strong enough to easily knock over The Hulk should he have walked up to us to introduce himself. We’ve both already brushed and brushed and brushed our teeth and tongues and mouths and will assuredly brush again before we go to bed.  Lily had ideas of ice cream for dessert, so we left the restaurant and headed out to look for an ice cream place.

And boy did we ever find THE ice cream place.  Within a stone’s throw of Varano’s, we found the most delicious, delectable, divine ice cream parlor called “Scoop Deck”.  Lily’s photo are more than description enough.  You must click on her photo to enlarge it and read the lengthy selection of ice cream flavors.  Dream your little heart out!

Now we’re back at our hotel finishing up yesterday’s and today’s blog.  Tomorrow morning we pack up to leave for home.  But since we do not need to be home until supper time (we have tickets for an 8 pm Dar Williams concert at The Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River), we are going to take time in the morning to walk The Marginal Way, a cliff walk that starts in Perkins Cove and runs along the shore.  TripAdvisor says it’s the #1 attraction in Ogunquit and we figure we would like to see what all the attraction is about.

Perhaps one more blog about tomorrow which we will post when we have returned home and it will likely not be up until at least Friday.  Maybe Saturday.  But it will be up.  We promise.

Maine 2012 - Spring Road Trip Tuesday

Day Two, Tuesday, Spring 2012 Road Trip

            Ah, quiet has returned to the region.  Yesterday late afternoon/early evening, when we were out and about and Memorial Day was nearly over and the long holiday weekend was fast coming to an end, and people who needed to go to work the next day would, you think, be returning home, people were still walking around everywhere, filling up the restaurants, and all the parking lots were filled to capacity.   We thought the Oquinquit/Wells area had been inundated with people who were up here vacationing for the entire week.  After all, at 7 pm on Memorial Day night, when people are still milling around, you figure they’re most likely going to stay overnight.

But no – that was, thankfully, not the case.  It seems quite a few did stay overnight last night.  But they must have gotten up early this morning, loaded up their vehicles, and took off for home.  I say that because today everywhere we went was near deserted.  Hardly any cars parked on Oguinquit Main Street, the parking lots down at Perkins Cove were nearly empty (even the parking lot attendants weren’t in attendance and because there was no one to collect parking fees, parking was free).  The shops were near empty.  The beach parking lots were empty.  The restaurants had way more empty tables than customers. There were very few cars driving down the side roads closest to the water.  It was wonderful.

We decided we would spend the morning driving from our hotel north up to Kennebunk and Kennebunkport.  Then in the afternoon, we wanted to drive back down to Oguinquit and visit the Oguinquit Museum of American Art.  So we started out driving the little beach roads that run along the ocean between our hotel and Kennebunk.

We saw a few good photo ops.  One turned out to be a déjà vu experience of something that happened on our Bar Harbor trip.  I was driving and whenever we spotted something we thought had possibilities, Lily would either photograph it from the car with the window open (we have this technique down pat now) or she would hop out of the car and take a few quick photos.  It was so misty and foggy that every time she got back into the car, she had to use lens cleaner cloth to dry her lens off.

We happened to pass on my side of the road a beautiful little beach house backed up to a salt marsh.  I said to Lily, “Look at that row of colorful miniature bird feeders lined up on the trim at the top of the front door!   We should take photos of that.”  Lily thought not.  I said we did need to take that photo.  It could make a good greeting card.  So she somewhat reluctantly said she’d do it.  I stopped the car, she hopped out, and pretty soon I see her walking around to the side yard so she can photograph something down the hill at the back of house.

She hops back into the car and shows me the photographs she’s just taken.  Turns out the miniature birdhouses look awesome.  Even Lily admits they do.  We talk about what a great card they’ll make.  Then she shows me what she was photographing behind the house. Turns out there was a row of those metal lawn chairs that you can sit in and gently rock because of the way the legs twist under the chair, and the home owners had painted each chair a different bright color to coordinate with the colors of the little birdhouses up at the front of the house.  And on a grey day with fog rolling in off the ocean, heavy mist in the air, and the back of the lawn bordered by tall marsh grass, those colorful chairs just popped in the photo.  Those two photos are going to be a lot of fun to edit and work on!   Ah, Lily.  Almost exactly like what happened up in Bar Harbor when I spotted the row of colorful wooden Adirondack chairs at the bottom of the inn lawn and you weren’t sure we should bother stopping to photograph them.

Now up along the ocean to Kennebunkport.  Lily had never seen the summer home of George H.W. Bush.   #41 has summered at his home on Walker Point for many, many years and it’s a very easy house to find.  From the street overlooking Walker Point, you can park along the side (a few parking spaces are even provided by the town for that very purpose) and gaze across a small cove area over at the house.

There is of course a gate house out at the end of the street and unless you’re someone in the know, you can’t drive up his driveway.  We wondered if he and Barbara might be home because there were three or four cars, including a light-colored large SUV, parked in the driveway.  But the only person walking around outside was a young man dressed in casual clothes (shorts) who ended up riding a bike from the house down to the gate house.

So, after having made our celebrity house “find” for this spring’s road trip (check previous blogs for our other celebrity house finds), we decided to head back down to Ogunquit to visit the Ogunquit Museum of American Art.  The museum, which is only open in the summer, collects, preserves and exhibits 19th century art.  The grounds are spectacular.  There are quite a few outdoor sculptures exhibited on the lawns and amongst the beautiful gardens.  Lily took photos of most all the sculptures and the gardens and I will leave it up to her to pick her favorites.  
The museum is located on Shore Drive in the Perkins Cove area and “visitors are invited to enjoy the Museum grounds, three acres of landscaped gardens, lawn and oceanfront ledge.  The grounds include numerous large sculptures, a reflecting pool, and secluded benches for quiet contemplation.”  We went to the museum specifically to see the current exhibit “Light, Motion, Sound 2012:  A Collaborative Exhibition with the Maine Museum of Photographic Arts”.  We quite enjoyed that exhibit as well as the other pieces on display from the museum's permanent collection.  If you’re interested in the museum, you can read about it at  where you’ll find information about the museum, the grounds, the permanent collection and the new exhibits.

After all that intellectual stimulation, we needed food.  So it was off to supper.  Several locals had highly recommended a restaurant called “Barnacle Billy’s” located on Perkins Cove.  It’s one of  #41’s favorite restaurants to eat at when he’s up at Walker Point.  And we figured if it was good enough for Bushie, it was good enough for us.

The restaurant had good food.  I wouldn’t say spectacular.  But then again, we both ordered a barbequed chicken dinner and Barnacle Billy’s is known for it’s wonderful seafood.  Almost everyone else in the restaurant was eating boiled lobsters or steamed clams.  I think we might have been the only two eating cluck that night.

What we did get out of our visit to the restaurant were answers to the many questions we had about when Bushie visits the restaurant.  And a very nice busboy was able to satisfy our curiosity.  Bushie drives his cigarette speed boat from his home at Walker Point over to the restaurant and the restaurant owners let him tie up his boat at their dock.  He does the driving, not the Secret Service guys.  Bushie is in a wheelchair now, and the Secret Service gets very nervous about him docking his own boat because in the past, he has run into the dock.  Barbara doesn’t like to ride in the boat.  She usually drives over and back by car.  This past Memorial Day weekend, the entire Bush clan, #41, Barbara, their daughter Dorothy, her children, and her children’s children, all came for lunch.  Four generations.  It seems the Bushes are very gracious whenever they go to Barnacle Billy’s.  This past weekend, #41 posed with tourists for photographs, signed autographs, and shook hands with everyone at the restaurant.  

They have their own special table in the corner out on the deck and the table is located right under the flagpole flying the American flag.  How appropriate.  I had to ask about tourists letting the Bushes eat their meal in peace.  It seems the Secret Service sits at the tables around the Bushes and keeps the common folk at a distance.  Also, in case you’re curious, the Secret Service also get to eat at the restaurant along with the Bushes.
Now if all this information isn’t a good enough scoop on Maine celebrities, I don’t know what else would be.  Oh yes, I know what else you might find interesting.  A list of the celebrity guests that the Bushes have brought with them to Barnacle Billy’s: Bill Clinton, The Oak Ridge Boys, Bruce Springsteen,  andTom Brady.

And then, after a little stroll around Perkins Cove to see if things looked any different than yesterday, or if anything exciting was going on, we were off back to our hotel to write yesterday’s blog and then to bed for a good night’s rest.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Maine 2012 - Spring Road Trip

Spring 2012 Photography Road Trip – York, Ogunquit, Wells & Kennebunk, Maine

On the road again, 
Just can’t wait to get on the road again,
Goin’ places we’ve never been,
Seein’ places we’ve never seen,
We just can’t wait to get on the road again.

So here we are back in one of our favorite states.  Traveling around the south coastal region of Maine, exploring the towns of York, Ogunquit, Wells and Kennebunk. This is a region of Maine we’re not that familiar with and have mostly passed by as we were whizzing up the highway on our way to the mid-coast area and the towns of Brunswick and Harpswell – our favorite area of Maine where we’ve spent many of our summer vacations.   
We arrived in good time considering it was Memorial Day, and when we left home we weren’t sure what kind of traffic we might run into as the big beginning weekend of the summer was just winding down.  We are intrepid travelers and decided instead of driving around the city of Boston on Rt. 128, we would drive straight through downtown Boston.  We sailed through the city with the ultimate of ease.  We were traveling north and most everyone else was heading home south, so traffic going in our direction was very light and it seemed like we just sailed from home to Maine (a little nautical lingo for your enjoyment). 

Once we got past Kittery, Maine, we got off I-95 the major interstate highway and hopped over onto Route 1.  Better to see all the sights from the stagecoach road where the cars travel slower and you can read all the store and scenic road signs as you pass by on the road.  And that’s when we drove past the birdhouse place in the town of York.  Had to pull a quick U-turn.  Didn’t drive very far up the street before we pulled into a furniture store parking lot, reversed direction, and headed back to see what was up with the birdhouses.  Just a little gender note here:  The guys would have driven miles down the road until they found a public road where there was room enough to turn around.  Both Bobs are firm believers in not turning around in anyone’s private residential driveway, a place of business, or worship, or on someone’s grass.  So when they drive, we keep on going, going, going until we find a respectful place to reverse direction.
Brenda’s Bloomers.  Cape Neddick, Maine (not York, Maine like Lily (or aka Bev, long story) told me when I started writing this blog).  And that Brenda had every shape, size, color and decoration theme of birdhouses ever to be.  We each bought a little house for our yards back home.  Mine is cuter than Lily’s because the perch just below the entry hole is an old rusty square-headed nail.  I also saw a beautiful white porcelain bird dish with a cherub head and wings hanging on the wall inside the store door and decided I would also buy that.  But Brenda had other ideas.  She uses it to hold her business cards (in my defense, it was empty when I took it off the wall), and Brenda gave it to her mom some four years ago just before her mom died.  It wasn’t for sale.  No way.  No how.  So it’s back hanging on the wall inside Bloomer’s. 

Then we headed up to the Oguinquit/Wells line to the Hampton Inn where we had reservations and registered for our room and unloaded our stuff from the car.  First off, no one laughed at the front desk when we registered.  No one snickered.  So I’m pretty sure our reputation from last spring’s stay at the Hampton Inn in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania had not spread north to Maine (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out our blog from that trip and what happened when we registered there).  And we managed to register this year in good style – no semi-drunken behavior, no crazy luggage buggy driving, no one peed her pants.  It all was good.

It was an absolutely beautiful day up here on Memorial Day.  Sunny, not a cloud in the sky, temps in the mid-70s, dry, no humidity, and the nicest of breezes.  We decided we would head to Perkins Cove in Oguinquit and take Finestkind’s 4 pm ocean cruise out to Nubble Lighthous (Finestkind’s cruises are rated #1 by Tripadvisor).  But first some lunch.  One should never go to sea on an empty stomach, and neither Lily nor I had had time to eat breakfast before we left home in the morning.

We decided to chance it, and Jackie’s Too, located on the small circle on the road in Perkins Cove, looked promising.  It had a beautiful awning-covered deck overlooking the ocean and there was no waiting line at the front door.  So this is where I fill my foodie friends in on where and what we ate.  We started off with a glass of Jackie’s homemade sangria.  It was good.  But it was nowhere near as good as Lily’s and my homemade sangria (and I’m being modest here – we make AWESOME homemade sangria).  Then we shared an appetizer – an order of Maine crabcakes “pan-seared with sided cilantro lime remoulade”.  The crabcakes were nearly all crab with a minimum of filler (crackers, breadcrumbs, etc.).  We both ordered the Crispy Goat Cheese and Ricotta Cake salad with mixed baby greens, toasted nuts, caramelized shallots, dried fruit, and sweet lemon mustard vinaigrette.  We were starved and lunch was excellent.  You can check the restaurant at  if you’re interested.
Then it was time for the boat trip.  There were only two people in line ahead of us to board the boat.  But then there were only three people behind us in line.  Lily and I had the whole back of the boat to ourselves.  There were a total of 7 people (passengers) on the cruise.  So we took the very back seat in stern of the boat and stretched out on the cushioned seats and really took in the sun, the sea spray, the breeze, and the sights.

A young woman, a crew member on the boat, narrated the tour, and we learned a lot as we traveled out and around Nuble Light and back to Perkins Cove.  We saw lots of gorgeous waterfront homes.  We saw some seals playing and feeding in the water on a mostly submerged group of rocks just north of the lighthouse.  We got views and took photos of the lighthouse from all different sides.  And the biggest, most exciting thing of all was that I got to pilot the boat part of the way back to Perkins Cove.  The young woman who was the narrator came back to ask Lily and me if we wanted to join the captain up in the pilothouse;  she said we could even steer the ship.  Lily immediately said no, no thank you.  But I then superceded her and said yes, we would indeed enjoy that.  So we climbed the stairs up into the pilothouse and Captain Kevin introduced himself.

Lily didn’t do any driving, but I did.  I actually drove quite some distance.  I don’t remember the correct nautical lingo, but fairly good-size waves and swells were driving us from the right rear of the boat.  Since the boat kept trying to go to the port side (left for you land lubbers), I had to keep correcting to get it back to starboard (the right side).  But when I did that, the boat would go too far back to the starboard side and then I’d have make another steering correction to get us back on a central course.  So back and forth we went, zigzagging from port to starboard from starboard to port and back to starboard.  (Capt. Kevin told us the steering wheel - I don't know the nautical term for a steering wheel, can actually make six full revolutions which allows the boat to make a very quick turn.)

It was a good thing there were only 5 other paying passengers. When we reached Perkins Cove, we asked one of the woman passengers if my driving, the constant zigzagging back and forth, drove her crazy. She said she actually started to get a little seasick.  Complaints!  Complaints!  She should have taken Dramamine or Bonine like Lily and I before we left the dock.  Lily will add some photographs of the sites we saw on our trip.  And also perhaps a photo of Captain Judith!  We want to extend our thanks to Kevin who was so generous in letting me steer (like a crazy woman) quite some distance and for the wonderful conversation we had about his life at sea.  That was a great adventure and a lot of fun.

Once our feet were back on dry land, we walked around Perkins Cove and stopped in a few of the shops and made several purchases.  I bought my hubby a new dress sweatshirt (dress sweatshirts are nice, new sweatshirts that he hasn’t ruined mowing the lawn or working down cellar, or painting, and they’re still presentable enough to wear out in public) and three new magnetic notepads for the frig door.  He likes the long skinny ones to write his grocery list on.  He actually writes his list by organizing areas on the page by category per how he travels the aisles in our local Stop & Shop.  Eat your hearts out girls!  He’s all mine.

And then it was back to our hotel.  We hadn’t done much in the way of physical activity over the course of the day, so we decided to go swimming in the hotel’s pool.  Lily swam her laps.  I walked my laps.  I did the arm part of the breaststroke and walked with my feet.  I’m still not sure what happened;  my legs seemed to sink to the bottom and my frog kick didn’t seem to propel me very far or fast forward.  Heavens to murgatroid!  All through junior high and high school and on through college I worked summers as a Red Cross swimming instructor and a lifeguard.  How could I no longer do the breaststroke!  Lily laughed and laughed.  I’m hoping the problem was that the pool was too shallow for my long legs.  The deepest part of the pool was only 5’ deep. 

And then back upstairs to our room and to bed.  We were exhausted and need our beauty rest for the next day.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Winter Walk in the Woods – The Perfect Rx for SAD (or SLUG)

4 February 2012

This blog is dedicated to all the people who keep asking us when are we going to post a new Salmon Falls blog. They tell us they want more new stuff to read more often. Well, we hear you and we have decided to blog not just about our photo road trips, or photo techniques and tips we've learned along the way, but to also post occasional blogs about the everyday, ordinary, the sometimes hum-drum times we spend together, Bevie and me, little sister & big sis, Lilytopia & Tupelo.

This blog is about “the perfect Rx for SAD”. Translated that is “the perfect prescription for Seasonal Affective Disorder”. One of our readers, a pharmacist by education, likely didn’t need a translation. Likewise our nurse practitioner reader. But for anyone who wondered what the heck we are writing about in this blog, now you have a heads up as to what’s coming.

Each winter as the days grow shorter and the nights longer and we have fewer and fewer hours of sun to shine on our bodies and in on our retinas in the back of our eyes, Bevie and I develop SAD. Medically it’s correctly referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder. Or what I like to call the SLUG Syndrome. Slug . . . the perfect word to describe how I feel from January to April . . . really and truly, just like a slug. But it’s also an acronym I made up that stands for SAD, LAZY, UNKEMPT, GROUCHY. On a scale of 1 – 10, 10 being the worst, I am a 7.5 on a good day; on a bad day I might be a 9.5. (I know. Kind of scary, eh? Especially if you’re my husband.) I won’t presume to rate Lilytopia, but I would guess estimate she might be around a 6. Not good for either one of us. And something we want right now is a Rx to relieve the symptoms.

Every week, Lilytopia switches her Friday and Saturday off from the library, and it just so happened yesterday (Friday) was her day off. I called her Thursday night and suggested we GET OUT(side), walk in the sun not wearing our sunglasses, and let as many rays as possible hit the back of our retinas. She was all for that. On three conditions: 1. I take a shower; 2. I wash my hair; and 3. I brush my teeth (all things that come with great difficulty when you have SLUG). I promised I could do all three. She promised me a surprise destination in return.

I just needed to clean up, show up at her house by 10 am, and bring my birding binoculars and bird scope. I hadn’t been out of the house since the previous Friday (honestly, I really hadn’t), so I desperately needed something exciting like a mystery adventure to get me going. I got prepared (must admit it felt good to shower and wash my hair), loaded up my birding equipment, and was off for Lilytopia’s by 9 am.

I had guessed we might we driving to the Cape to see if we could spot the Snowy Owls that had been sighted in the marshes down there – they usually don’t migrate that far south so these have been rather unusual sightings. I’ve seen them up on the North Shore in the marshes off of Plum Island, but never down in this neck of the state. But no, Lily (I’m giving her a nickname so I don’t have to keep writing such a long name) had other ideas. We were headed to the Halfway Pond Conservation Area in Plymouth to see if we could spot the two pairs of bald eagles who are building nests on the island in the middle of the pond. Eagles, like owls, start getting ready this early in the year to stake out their territories and start their new families.

The Halfway Pond Conservation Area (HPCA) is a protected open space preserve that is owned and maintained by the Wildlands Trust ( of Duxbury, MA. HPCA is comprised of 409.6 acres and is located on Mast Road and West Long Pond Road, two miles south of Long Pond Road and “contains important natural areas and is a place of rare tranquility and beauty”. And we were going to explore it and look for those eagles.

We decided to go in from West Long Pond Road which runs between Gallows Pond and Long Pond and leave the car in the small parking area at the beginning of Gallows Pond Road. We parked – not hard to find a space when you’re the only car there. Then we hopped out (no, truthfully, we did not hop out – we were still suffering symptoms of SLUG), popped open the trunk, and got all our gear ready to go – Lily with her backpack loaded with camera equipment (which she had to carry herself because her trusted sherpa was at work) and her binoculars. I switched lenses on my bird scope from a 22X to a 25X, and attached the lens to my tripod, and hung my binoculars around my neck.

Lilytopia wears these cute little earmuffs that have no band connecting them together and just stretch over each ear. I wear a very fashionable (not) hand-knitted hat that fits my VERY LARGE head perfectly (thank you mom-in-law who at the age of 95 is still a superb weaver of yarn). We put our gloves on (mine I think were Bob’s, but they were the only pair in my backpack and wool mittens for Lily), buttoned up our coats (the outer layer of at least three layers we were each wearing), I slung my bird scope over my shoulder, and we headed out.

We started out on Gallows Pond Road (if you want to follow our adventure, there’s a trail map at the Wildlands Trust’s website or . . . maybe Lily will scan it and add it to this blog) with the intention of ending up on the point of Big Point Trail where we’d have the best view of the island in the middle of Halfway Pond. But, we were out there for exercise and to get as many rays to hit our retinas, so we weren’t looking for the shortest, quickest route to get there. Lily decided we’d take the Connant Storrow Trail that connects with the Joe Brown Trail, hang a right on the Blackmeer Trail until we got to the Big Point Trail, and then we’d stop at an opening on the water and look for eagles. Now doesn’t that sound logistically well planned and thought out – like something very experienced navigators, trail map in hand, should easily be able to traverse? Not.

As we started out walking, the first surprise gift of the day was the snow that fallen the night before. The snow looked like mini-mini Styrofoam balls. I made Lily take several photo of some leaves with the little snow balls on top. It was a very, very light dusting and didn’t come close to completely covering the ground and seemed to be most noticeable on the north side in the shaded areas in the woods. But it was so delicate and fragile looking that you wanted to just sit and continue contemplating it. It was cold enough the entire day that when we left HPCA, all the snow that had fallen the night before was still on the ground.

We walked a short distance on Gallows Pond Road, took a left onto the Connant Storrow Trail (not) and thought we were doing great. You’d think the terrain in Plymouth, being so close to the ocean, would be mostly level. Again not. We climbed some very steep hills and, me, carrying on my shoulder a bird scope and tripod that weigh well over 25-lbs., was beginning to wonder what we’d gotten ourselves into. When suddenly, VOILA!, they we were – RIGHT BACK AT THE PARKING LOT WHERE WE’D LEFT OUR CAR. Oh, go ahead and laugh. You can. You won’t embarrass us. After all, can you name even one famous Polish navigator? Even if you can, Lily’s and my name won’t be on the list anytime soon (or ever).

Time to reassess. We obviously needed a new route plan. But first, leave that way too heavy bird scope in the trunk of the car. I needed aerobic exercise, but not so much I need to carry all that extra weight around. We decided it was probably safer to follow Gallows Pond Road all the way down to where it ends and take Whippoorwill Trail where it crosses Gallows Pond. A very straightforward route that should lead us almost to Big Point Trail which is the trail that goes around right down by the water’s edge.

Well, we almost did that plan. But (again) Lily decided that instead of take Whippoorwill, we’d just follow Gallows Pond Road which ends almost at the water and is short hike through the woods to the beginning of Big Point Trail. We did make a couple stops along the way, as we were facing directly into the sun, to open our eyes wide, gaze not at the sun directly but something on the horizon approximately at the sun’s height, and let those SAD defeating rays beat in on our retinas. If you’re an ophthalmologist, we don’t want to hear from you. We know. We should have sunglasses on. But have you ever lived with SAD??? When it comes to the trade-offs of becoming less of a SLUG versus causing damage to your eyes, the SAD Rx always wins!

Well low and behold! Here we are now at the water’s edge on Halfway Pond. A nice little trail (we believe it might be private but we were the only humans in the woods for miles around) leads right down to a very nice little sandy beach and the water. Someone had conveniently pulled a very nice raft out of the water for the winter and placed it up on the beach. Do I see the perfect spot to sunbath? Yes indeedie.

Lily first contemplated the water trying to decide whether to take a dip. Not. She did take a photo of some interesting animal tracks in the wet sand. If anyone knows what critter made them, we’d love to hear from you. Lily guessed maybe a dog. I think not. I think may a raccoon – although it would have to be a BIG raccoon. Lily decides taking a photo of the tracks is good enough. Nix the dip in the water. And she comes over and lies beside me on the raft.

Now that was the most spiritual moment of our hike. The sun was so warm, we were sheltered from the wind by the trees around us, you could hear birds in the forest – chickadees, a couple of woodpeckers – even the wind whistling through the tops of the pines. And the sky. THE SKY! It was the most amazing color of blue – clean, clear, crisp – a color of blue that Crayola will never be able to accurately duplicate. And Crayola would never be able to come up a name to give that color blue the artistic justice it deserves.

It was a Zen moment, it was like having a spa treatment, it was like meditating, it was a spiritual meeting of the minds with Mother Nature. And then I noticed how beautiful the trees overhead looked while I was looking at them from down below. We took what I think are some awesome photos and I hope Lily will include each and everyone of them – even the ones she added special filter effects to. Because the photos with special effects only lend to how special that brief but beautiful span in time was for us. Always remember what I told you Lily dear.

But now Lily is up and starting to pace around. This is her “I’m getting restless again” mode. My goodness. The girl needs to retire. Us retirees could have lain in that warm sun until the sun dipped low enough in the sky that it started to get too cold. And so, being the always very accommodating big sister, we decided to move on. Oh, almost forgot. Not a single sighting of any eagles, nor did we spot the beginnings of any new nests. The island is huge (owned by The Nature Conservancy with no public access allowed because there are a number of very rare and endangered plants growing there). It’s possible, had we hiked around the pond, we might have spotted the eagles from the other side of the island along Mast Road. Perhaps a future hike for us.

On our way to the car, we started off on Gallops Pond Road, which is a hard-packed dirt and sand road (it’s been cold enough that even the muddy sections were frozen hard as a rock!). We decided we’d take the easy terrain home. But stupid me, as we walked along the road, I noticed that the Whippoorwill Trail was only about 20-ft. in from the edge of the road. Lilly says “Let’s hop over onto Whippoorwill and hike up around the big wetland area.” I am a sucker for exploring any wetlands. And so through the woods we trekked over onto Whippoorwill.

And we quickly came upon the wetland indicated on the trail guide. The wetland area was much larger than I had thought it would be and sections of it had one-foot or more of standing water. And once a conservation agent always a conservation agent. And I had a very willing, interested, and curious student. So I explained to Lily some of the aspects of wetlands and how wetland lines are delineated (no Steve, no soil borings or Munsell Soil Color Chart readings – I wasn’t about to add a soil auger and field guide to all the gear I was carrying – besides the ground is frozen fairly deep).

I showed Lily how to identify sweet pepperbush in the winter and how a good botanist tries not to even see it when evaluating the shrub layer when doing a delineation. There was healthy sweet pepper growing in the standing water and more growing way up the slope well into the uplands. I identified some beautiful specimens of wild high-bush blueberries growing in the water. And we checked out the mats of very thick sphagnum moss growing everywhere.

The trail led us almost around the entire wetland area. And I actually spotted several areas of mayflowers growing on the upland sides of the trail. In the 20 some years I worked as a conservation agent, I never once spotted mayflowers amongst the acres and acres of woodland I hiked checking out wetlands. So spotting them on a fun hike was a wonderful gift! We also came upon a resting bench on the side of the trail with a thermometer attached to one of the legs. It was 0 degrees Centigrade in the shaded woods where the sun had already slipped below the top of the hill. How many degrees Fahrenheit was it? Check out our photo to see. (Just call me Ms. Wizard.)

When Lily and I were little, our mom would take us for walks on the cart path beside our house that led down along the swamp and the brook and ended up in an overgrown field. On the edge of the east side of the field, under a grove of pine trees facing south southwest, there were mayflowers growing everywhere. Now the leaves of mayflowers are nothing special to look at, but the little blossoms are beautiful. And the fragrance. HEAVEN ON EARTH! We would pick just enough stems to bring home to put in some little vases to place around the house. And then when we walked from room to room, we could stop and inhale that fragrance that you never wanted to stop sniffing it is so delicious. I don’t why someone hasn’t figured out how to make mayflower perfume. I would certainly buy a bottle.

A little further on, we decided to take a few photos of some checkerberry plants that still had berries on them. When we used to go hiking in the woods with Dad, he’d let us eat checkerberries (once he knew we could positively identify them). The berries have this mint-like taste that reminds me of peppermint. And Lily and I had been joking, should we get lost in the woods and not be able to find our way out (a real possibility considering how our hike started out), we needed to remember where we’d seen checkerberries because that might be the only food we'd have to subside on until our husbands found us. The checkerberries would count in the food pyramid as fruits and vegetables, but we weren’t sure where we were going to find our protein. Maybe whatever left those tracks in the wet sand down by the edge of the pond?

And soon, almost before we knew it, we were back where we started. For the second time. Only this time we had covered a lot of territory, taken a lot of steps, climbed quite a few steep hills, climbed down quite a few steep hills (ever notice how going down a steep hill is often more difficult on the legs and feet than climbing up?). Lots of rays had shone in on our retinas. We had done some heavy breathing, so we knew we’d gotten a good aerobic workout. And we were at peace . . . with ourselves, with each other (not that we aren’t most of the time anyway), with Mother Nature, and with our SAD. How can you ask for anything more from a day outdoors? It had all been perfect.

P.S. It’s now Saturday and just a short time ago, I chatted for a few minutes with my Lily. Like me she was exhausted last night. Our legs were tired, my left heel was sore again (a still-healing injury from all the walking we did in NYC), but we both slept great last night and feel wonderful today. Our Rx for SAD (SLUG), a winter walk through the woods, seemed to do the trick and make us feel much better. When we go out hiking again to explore new trails, we hope to share some of those adventures with you. No more reserving blogs for just photo road trips.