On Something New on Monhegan Island
The Monhegan Island ferry from Port Clyde will stop running for the winter after next weekend. Thus it was that my way-cool sister Susan and I had our yearly adventure out on the island this past Saturday; it poured that day, but we are hardy–and stubborn–souls, so we boarded the 10:30 boat and went out anyway.
It never rains on us. At least, I can’t remember that it ever has. So this was something new. Because of it, Susie suggested that this year we do something entirely different: after visiting the Novelty, the bakery
behind the Monhegan House, where we always get the world’s yummiest pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, we headed in the opposite direction. This was a big deal: we are both such incredible creatures of habit. We always leave the Novelty and turn left, towards the south end of the island, where the Wyeths have a house, and where the wreck of the D. T. Sheridan rusts stoically away on the rocks. I don’t want to climb those cliffs in the rain is what Susie said, and I knew which ones she meant–we’ve been clambering over them for years, and I always come away feeling like a slightly inept mountain goat.
Since we both have a tendency to sea-sickness if we make the trip inside the cabin of the Elizabeth Ann, Susie and I spent the hour sitting out on the stern, and we were soaked. Even so, we found ourselves stripping off layers–jackets, sweatshirts–as we hiked out of the village, past the ever-present (and this year heart-breaking) Red Sox banner, and up into the trees. The rain lessened and then stopped, though the evergreens dripped in a leisurely sort of way. When we finally came out onto the rocky shore, we found the fog still clinging determinedly to the island. The birds didn’t seem to mind: an enormous flock of cormorants and the occasional seagull greeted us (well, truthfully, treated us with disdain) as we ended up climbing over an entirely different, unfamiliar set of cliffs. Next time I suggest going the other way, Susie said as we lost the path, backtracking in some places on our hands and knees, remind me about this.
No matter how many times we’ve done this trek, somehow we always manage to stagger our way back into the village through Cathedral Woods, on the path marked 11. That was our goal this time, but when we finally decided to abandon the wet cliffs, we were near the Station Hill path…which should have, eventually, crossed#10 and come down in the pines. Should have. But this end of the island was still covered in blowdowns from Hurricane Irene’s arrival on the last weekend of August. We kept losing the path. We kept having to veer around masses of fallen trees. The heavy landscape seemed determined to force us back to the cliffs. At last we resorted to bush-whacking, trusting our sense of direction to lead us out: I had a general sense where paths 10 and 11 should be, and because my sister has a misguided trust in me, she allowed me to lead the way. Fortunately, we made it out alive.
All in all, though we covered much less in terms of distance heading to the north rather than to the south, that hike took much longer than our usual one. By the time we unwrapped lunch, sitting on a bench beside the lighthouse, we were scratched, soaked, sweaty and exhilarated. The sun seemed to be struggling to come out over on Manana Island. The trail mix was awesome. I’ve never been so glad to haul out a bottle of water and a lettuce sandwich (another story for another time) as I was then.
After lunch we spent some time trying to find a hot drink for the hour back to Port Clyde; by the time we made it to the Barnacle down by the dock, where a pair of miraculous women brewed up a couple of cups of mocha for us, it
was already time for the 4:30 boat. The dock, now, was cleared of the traps which had covered it upon our arrival (October 1st is, after all, ‘trap day‘–the first day of the Monhegan winter lobstering season). The skies had closed down again; the rain again made its presence felt. Susie and I, bedraggled anyway, chose to ride back to the mainland up top, in the lee of the lifeboats. The sea was rough, but not as rough as it had been on the way out. The rain was fitful. The wind started to pick up. The day was over.
Cold, wet, exhausted. By the time we got back to the cars, parked on the dock in Port Clyde, Susie was making cracks about turning up the heater until her clothes steamed. I was just lucky enough to find a pair of Rosalie’s shoes in the back seat of my car, so I didn’t have to wear my own water-logged ones all the way home. Still, it wasn’t a bad trip at all. Just…different.