In early spring of 2007 I decided to quit my job, sell my house along with nearly everything else that I owned, and to live out of my car while traveling the country. These are my stories (and pictures) of life on the road.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Mainelining - Part III

In case you missed them catch up on parts I and II.

My plan for this fall was to just take it easy. I already know what you're thinking-isn't that what I did all summer too? Well, yes and no.

While I got in plenty of relaxation this summer I was also working, which meant I needed to be in certain places at certain times. I wanted this fall to be totally open: no work, no schedules, no nothing to keep me from just plain enjoying myself. Instead of to trying to cover as much ground as I could and seeing everything I could cram in I wanted to try staying in one place for a while and getting to know the area; something I usually have a hard time doing.

I felt I did a pretty good job on my way out east by covering ground a lot slower then I usually do. I made plenty of stops that I normally wouldn't have made. I was in a bit of a rush though since I wanted to get to the far east coast, and Maine in particular, before it got too late in the season. When I arrived at the reversing falls I knew I'd be spending a lot of time there. Just hanging out around camp and using it as a base for short day trips. I love the feeling of waking up in the morning and knowing that there's nothing that I have to do. Just laying in bed until I finally decide I feel like getting up. Starting a nice fire and boiling some water for hot chocolate as I just laze around camp and take in the early morning sitesl walk down to the water to watch the gulls and seals hard at work for their breakfasts.

Usually by mid/late morning I'm finally ready to take on the day. I felt pretty lazy the whole time I was staying at the reversing falls and it was great. Some days were pretty packed with day trips down to Lubec or up to Calais to do some hiking along the coasts. During one nice hike along the rugged Maine coast I was standing on a cliff looking out over the water and saw a pod of dolphins passing through as they repeatedly rose for breaths of air. At least I'm telling myself they were dolphins, for all I know they were some sort of porpoise. Seeing a dolphin is way cooler though so that's what I'm telling myself they were.

Other days I didn't really feel like doing anything. Some of these days were spent just hanging around camp but on most of them I did what I usually do back home when I'm in the same mood, I drive. I don't drive to any destination in particular, instead I just start driving two lane black tops or gravel roads to see where they go. It's my favorite way to see and get to know an area. It's how you find all the neat little things that aren't listed on maps.

During the week these 2 lane black tops are almost completely deserted so you can drive as slow as you'd like or even stop in the middle of the road to help out a caterpillar. I don't think there's anything more relaxing on a cool, sunny, fall day then driving down desolate roads through the wilderness.

This is what I found myself doing after I'd been at the reversing falls for a few days. I'd set out that morning to find a place to hike a little inland from the coast where the fall colors were in their full splendor (it's mainly pines right along the coast). I set out with the best of intentions of getting in some good exercise for the day but I soon found myself growing lazier by the minute as I cruised along some unnamed blacktop road; admiring the scenery and basking in the warmth of the bright sun streaming through the windows.

I came to a spot where 2 rutted tracks turned off towards a river (so the map said). I wasn't ready to relinquish my ambition just yet so I turned off knowing I'd find some sort of trail at the end of it. The road, and I use that term loosely, turned out to be about 4 inches narrower then my house and pretty rough in spots. I took it slow and wove my way around stumps and rocks as the trees and bushes scraped along the side of the house. After about a mile I reached a spot where a stream crossed the road. It was a deep rut that was full of rocks and there was no way I'd ever make it across. I put the house in reverse and backed up a couple hundred feet until I got someplace I could park.

I planned to just keep hiking down the “road” so I started getting some gear ready. Though as I sat there in the warm sun, which made for the perfect temperature inside the house, I began to lose my ambition. A Prairie Home Comapanion was just starting on NPR and I told myself I'd just listen to the first few minutes before I went out for a hike. 1 1/2 hours later I finally pried myself loose from the house and into the great outdoors. I went light on gear, just taking one camera and one small lens with a small water container clipped to my belt loop.

It was a perfect fall day except that it was a little breezy. The trees were exploding with color, the sun was shining without a cloud in the sky, and the temperature was in the low 60's. I set off walking down the road and started soaking up the scenery. There was a nice mix of pines, birch, maples, and I don't know what else that make for excellent contrasts of colors and textures. The birch of course with their bright yellow fall leaves and bright white, peeling trunks. The maples were all blazing reds and the pines were of course nice, deep greens. Other trees and shrubs did a good job of filling in all the colors in between.

Although the leaves were still clinging to the trees pretty good some couldn't resist the strong wind that was blowing. With every gust a few would come flittering to the ground. One though I noticed somehow managed to go the opposite way. While all his comrades had a nearly straight, short fall to the ground this one somehow managed to catch the air currents just right and rose above the trees. I saw it about 20 feet over the top of the peaks, seeming to just hang in place. It began to fall back towards the ground until another gust of wind came through and instead of knocking it down picked it up and carried it even higher and farther into the forest. It was still gaining altitude before it was blocked from my site by the trees.

As I was looking up I heard the familiar honking of geese heading south. I looked and found the large flock, much higher up then I usually see them and very disjointed. The couldn't seem to agree what angle the “V” should be at and just who should be where. The first half dozen had it all figured out and the ones pulling up the rear seemed to be in position, but the ones in the middle just couldn't get it together. There were many geese in the middle of the “V” and the same ones kept flying from one side and then back to the other, not knowing which side to join. As they did this they slowed up everyone to the rear and let the head of the flock begin to pull away. This made the screw ups in the middle the new leaders and it didn't seem to be going well. They bickered and honked but couldn't seem to work it out. As they got farther away the whole flocked looked like a long piece of string blowing and undulating in the breeze before they were out of site. I hope they figured it out or it would be a long flight south.

I followed the “road” for a while before turning off on a trail I thought would lead to the river. The trail soon turned into nothing bigger then a game trail but it was still easy enough to follow. As I got closer to the river the forest turned into nearly 100% pine trees, which were all very small and grew incredibly close together. The area must have been clear cut before and these small pines were shooting up so they could help provide for the nations need for wood in another 2o years or so.

All the trees were the same size and grew incredibly close together. A couple times I got off the trail and it was very difficult to wind my way though the trees they were so dense. They blocked out all the light from reaching the ground so that there was no undergrowth at all except for a mushroom here or there and some moss growing in spots.

There were a few small openings in the woods which I assume were caused by a large old tree or stump that had been left behind and had since fallen down. As you walk through the woods you'd occasionally catch a glimpse of small, green patches a little ways off the trail. These really stood out in contrast to the black soil that was apparent everywhere else. I fought my way back into one of these to see just what it was.

When I got to it I found it was only about 10 feet across and incredibly moist and green with moss. As I walked through one of the openings I stepped on some of the moss and was amazed at how soft it was and how far my foot sunk. I found a small, sharp stick and poked it down through the moss. Looking at the moss I could tell it was covering something. I could see the undulations and variations in texture where whatever it was covering changed height. I poked the stick down into the moss and found it went down about 1o inches before hitting anything solid. I was amazed that it could be that thick! I pulled the moss back on one edge and found it was feeding off of a large old tree trunk that had been sitting there for who knows how many decades. There was no sign of the stump/trunk left, the moss had it completely covered in a dense blanket.

Apparently there used to be very large areas like that in the Olympic National Forest in Washington, even as late as the 1950's. Unfortunately once that area (Hall of Mosses) was discovered and opened up to tourism the moss, for the most part, all died below about 6 feet off the ground. I'd love to be able to see what these forests where like before people came in and clear cut them into oblivion. It must have been an awe inspiring site.

The rest of my hike went very well and I did manage to make it to the river. I was hoping it would open up near the shore but unfortunately the trees were just as dense there and after following a nearly non-existant trail down the bank a little ways I turned back to head back to the house. I left the windows up on the house when I left and it was nice and toasty warm inside when I got back. I contemplated taking a nap but instead headed back down the 2 rutted lanes back to the road. I continued a little farther inland and got to see some more of the Maine countryside. It's much like northern Minnesota if northern Minnesota had hills.

They actually call them mountains out here in Maine and I'm sure they're right if you look up the actual definition of a mountain. But when I think of mountains I think of the Rockies or the Cascades; and these ain't them. Still though, they made for some pretty scenery. From the top of one of these mountains you could seemingly see forever through the crisp fall air and all you see are blazing trees, beautiful blue lakes, and more tree covered solitary mountains on the horizon.

It had been a perfect day and exactly what I was hoping it would be like as I visited the Maine coast. It was just after dark when I pulled back into the Reversing Falls park. I drove down to the waters edge to watch the rushing water in the last fading light. I was in a great mood but as soon as I pulled into my camping area that mood was immediately erased.

To be continued-

Don't you hate it when someone leaves you hanging?


Terica said...

Did that annoyingly persistent squirrel follow you?

Edith said...

Al You are getting nasty. We all want to know what happen!!!

debbieuu said...

Were the three guys who made fun of your house in the parking lot?

You've reached the end of the page but that's not the end of the stories. If you want to read more (and who wouldn't!?) then click on the archive links to the right hand side of the page. They're listed by month; the adventure starts in May.

The February archives aren't actually from this trip but are previous adventures I've had, which are worth reading as well.