Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Little bit O' Maine and New Hampshire with just a dash of New Jersey

After leaving the meditation retreat in West Virginia I felt deserving of decompression  from the decompressing I had done and made a beeline for my old stomping grounds on Long Beach Island, NJ. Much to my chagrin, Spring was stubbornly refusing to be sprung, but I did get to catch up with some old friends. After getting the obligatory shot of Old Barney (Barnegat Inlet Lighthouse) and climbing to the top for a view to kill for during a rare clear afternoon I figured it was best to beat it out of there to spend some time with family. Family time in New Jersey was concluded with a ride on the Staten Island Ferry and a jaunt into NYC with my uncle for an afternoon of street photography  before I continued farther  into the great northeast. That part of the country where Yankee fans aren't welcome and the winters can be wicked cold.

March Against Monsanto 2013
My father and I even braved some of that cold rainy weather to join in the international rally against Monsanto in Manchester. Although you couldn't say the turnout was huge by any stretch of the imagination it was respectable given the circumstances. The message seems to be getting out there if honking cars and "thumbs ups" are any barometer. 

After filling the belly with some home cooking and breaking my camping gear out of storage it was high time to put it to use, but not before transitioning my nephew from riding a scooter to riding a skateboard. After only about an hour of instruction, I dare say, I wish I was that good a skater at age 5. He was stoked, as was I. My sister and brother-in-law, probably not as much. 

After the family goodbyes I was off to Maine to have a poke around. Under the watchful eye of the Cape Elizabeth Lighthouse families, pets and all sorts of people ready for summer to kick in were taking advantage of the spring warmth for a day at the little beaches along the shore. A little further north in Portland I visited what appears to be another lighthouse, but is referred to as a "Head Light". I don't know what it did to deserve that. The poor thing must have teased to no end while growing up. Maybe it has both a low and high beam? 

At this point I'm as far North and East as I'm prepared to go, so after a mountain bike ride in Riverland State Park it's time to make a left and venture west. Crossing back into northern New Hampshire I'm setting up to do some hiking and camping in the White Mountains. I stopped off in Lincoln to check in and see if the Rangers can point me in a good direction for some primitive camping and the envious elder ladies directed me to Lily Pond. One  comments that it must be heavenly to just be able to pick out a place and set up camp. I invite her to come along, but I wasn't heavenly enough to pick her up. She politely laughed me off. 

Portland Head Light
Stopping off at each of the scenic lookouts along the way I eventually park the van at Lily Pond. Although I didn't see any lilies, there is a notice that there are two bridges out along snowmobile trail I'm about to travel along. Not knowing exactly where they are and what sort of inconvenience it will bring I decided with some intrepidity to forge on. The trail is wet, very wet. I have a foreboding feeling that without a bridge, a crossing may not be possible. Fortunately, after arriving at the downed bridge and hunting around a bit I find that by relocating a few stones strategically I can not only safely cross the stream, but do so barely getting my socks wet. One bridge down, possibly another to go? Fortunately I never had to deal with the next missing bridge, but it didn't get any drier. In fact along the way I was chuckling to myself how it would be difficult to comply with the rule of not camping within 200 feet of a trail and/or moving water. As I marched on and the sun continued to fall my chuckling turned to mocking, then to cursing and finally to outright civil disobedience. This is untouched natural dense forest. You basically need a machete if you want to venture off the trail and it's difficult to even find ground level enough to pitch a tent. Essentially, in the late spring thaw it's next to impossible to find a spot not resembling a marsh or having a small stream meandering down it. 

I guess the forest fairies had had enough of toying with me and granted the smallest of plots where I could set up my tent without the aid of a raft, even if the ground resembled a smaller scale version of the mountain range, peaks, valleys and all. I figured after an evening of sleeping on that terrain, either my bad back would be miraculously straightened or I would have to be air lifted out. At that point I really didn't care since my options were nil and I had given way too much blood to the mosquitoes, leaving me precariously low and precluding me from donating anymore for many weeks to come. Possible alternative names for the White Mountains: Wet Mountains, Marsh Mountains, Mosquito/Gnat Mountains or Forget About Camping Here in the Spring Mountains!

Things took a turn for the better once I was safely barricaded in my tent from the onslaught of biters and bloodsuckers. The evening was pretty pleasant with the depths of outer  space putting on a brilliant dance of stars which was not unexpected like the flashes of light late in the evening which resembled heat lighting and remain a mystery to me since it definitely wasn't warm enough for heat lightning. 

Which brings me to another mystery: Have you ever wondered what a sneezing moose sounds like? Me neither until the other night because I'd swear that is what I heard! It sounded like someone trying to start a chain saw and repeatedly failing!? Anyway, moose trumps dove, so I consider myself now to be one up on that little purple proud 'Prince' or 'Artist formerly known as Prince' who is once again, 'Prince' and his little "crying doves"! 

Hiking out in the morning I was once again accosted by an army, or should I say, air force of flying insects and realized there were hundreds of thousands of more acres to explore in this forest and not one plausible reason to do so at this time of the year! Trust me on this one. So after a refreshing dip in the river to wipe away the bug juice, I was off to .......Vermont