Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Home to Houston

We were up at 7:00. John had already gone to work but we visited briefly with Susan before leaving. We had breakfast at Paul's then went to Meriden to say goodbye to Grandma. She was finishing breakfast when we arrived and we had a nice visit. I had been worried it would be a sad visit, since she's not getting any younger and we both know that each time could well be the last. But I reminded her she had to help eat next year's birthday cake and that seemed to cheer her up.

Then we went to Hartford where we took a tour of the Mark Twain House and bought a few books. The tour was a lot of fun and gave me a lot of insight. I had read an abridged version of Twain's autobiography a few months before and bought the unabridged version at the gift shop.

Then we had lunch at Dan's friend's restaurant, Apps. It was a very slick and trendy place, very nicely done with a tempting menu and the longest list of martinis I had ever seen. We had lunch at the bar and chatted with Dan's friend Mark when he got a break from all the hassles of running a restaurant short-staffed. Watching him set up the bar for his absent bartender brought back memories and I had to restrain myself from the instinct to go back there and start working.

We got to the car rental return with time to spare, and a good thing since we had failed to notice we were low on gas and the rental agency wanted $80 to fill it. Obviously that wasn't happening. I waited with the luggage while Dan went up the road to the gas station and topped off the tank for $13. We remembered the steel in Dan's shoes and in my sweater zipper at security, so got through with no problems and settled in at the gate to wait. I went and bought a cookie and a brownie for snacks.

The flight to Cleveland was uneventful. We had pizza in Cleveland and ate the brownie I had bought in Hartford, which turned out to be one of the most decadently rich brownies I'd had in a long time. I was glad I hadn't known how good it was or I would've surely bought several of them and needed an extra seat on the plane back to Houston! The flight home was delayed and re-routed, arriving a bit later than planned, but at least we had no one waiting for us. We found the car dusty but otherwise fine at the park and ride, and got home to our grateful animals by ten.
Mark Twain House, Hartford Posted by Hello

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Minor Adventures in Hiking

Tuesday, June 10

We got up early and had breakfast at Paul's. Service was very slow. I indulged in cinnamon raisin French toast instead of my usual bowl of oatmeal. Then we went to the store for trail mix, water and insect repellent. Next we went to the Cheshire Library to find a UPS store, only to find out that there was one right on our way to Sleeping Giant. We stopped in and got information about how to ship some things back to Houston. Then we went on to the park.

At Sleeping Giant we took the easy tower trail to the point where it intersect with the difficult blue trail which we had been on the day our vacation began. The blue trail wasn't as difficult as previously, so obviously the most difficult parts were in the early parts which we had done the first time we came to Sleeping Giant. Still, it was a good walk and we saw hawks and a wild turkey with her chicks. The mother became very aggressive with us, and we almost feared we wouldn't be able to continue on our path. We spent a lot of time watching her, trying to stay safely out of harm's way. Finally we continued on, but didn't meet with any more interesting wildlife. We took the easier orange trail back to the picnic area for a total hiking time of about four hours.

Back at home, Dan settled in to watch a video after we loaded our UPS box with items to ship home. Then although I was sleepy I dressed for a run. John and Susan had praised the local rail trail the night before and I figured my trip wouldn't be complete if I didn't go for at least a short run on it. It was a very nice trail, shaded most of the way from trees meeting overhead. There was a wide dirt shoulder for runners and an asphalt path for walkers, skaters and cyclists. The trail followed the old train line, which followed the old canal line. Lock 12 of the canal had been restored and I stopped and took and look. The water ran alongside most of the trail, affording occasional glimpses of ducks, including a pair of mallards with their chicks. I ran 30 minutes one way, turned around and ran back.

I got back in plenty of time for Dan to take the box to the UPS store while I took a shower. Then we went to see Grandma for a bit. We showed her our digital pictures and she admired our camera very much. Finally she became tired and we went back to Cheshire. John and Susan picked up some Chinese take-out and we had dinner while I did laundry. I was up late packing and spent 30 frustrating minutes looking for my missing toothbrush and then re-packing everything again. This left me grumpy and thoroughly out of sorts by the time I went to bed around midnight.
Wild turkey Posted by Hello

Monday, June 09, 2003

Shakers and Simsbury

I jumped out of bed early, hoping for clear skies so we could go for a canoe ride. I had a notion of making banana pancakes and enjoying some time on the lake before heading back to Connecticut. But it was still gray and overcast out, so I went back to bed until 8:30. Then we re-heated the leftover waffles from the previous day's breakfast, packed and cleaned up the cottage. While I was straightening up Dan's badly wrinkled bed I made the discovery that he had two blankets. I had none and had been cold at night, thinking there were no blankets in the cottage for the summer!

Once everything was packed and in order, we headed north toward the Hancock Shaker Village. It took longer to get there than we anticipated because most of the roads were small two-lane affairs with lots of stops in the local towns. But it was worth the time it took to get there. The place was much bigger than the Enfield Shaker Museum in New Hampshire, and almost every original building was intact and restored with original furnishings and tools. We especially enjoyed the round barn and the communal kitchen, although the workshops and school were a lot of fun, too. It was also baby animal time at the village, and we went through one of the barns enjoying the piglets, lambs, kids and chicks.

It took us until 3:00 to see everything, and I felt like I could've stayed forever in that simple, peaceful place. But we had to get back on the road, so after buying some turkey sandwiches and a cookie at the village café, we headed south toward Simsbury to see if we could hook up with Susan. It was a longer drive than we had anticipated and slow going in a lot of areas. But we got there around 4:30 and Susan gave us a tour of her library. Then she let me check my email on her computer and I noticed an original copy of Elmer Gantry on her shelves, slated for sale at a future library event. I bought the book, above her protests that I could just take it.

Then Susan took us for a quick look around Simsbury. She took us to the flower bridge, then to a local mountain with great views of the town and surrounding countryside. It had several steep drop-offs that she said were used by local hang-gliders. Then she took us to see the biggest tree in Connecticut-- a giant sycamore that dwarfed any other tree I'd seen in my life. I think only a redwood could compare to this monster!

We dropped Susan off at the library and headed to Meriden to keep our promise to Grandma that we would be back on Monday. We got there around 7:30 and found her dozing in bed. She woke up though, and was pleased to see us. I was pleasantly surprised to find her very alert and almost chatty. We had a good talk but didn't stay long because we didn't want to keep her up late.

Back in Cheshire, we unloaded our bags and visited with John a bit. He had his laptop so we looked up a restaurant in Hartford owned by one of Dan's friends, a professor he worked with the year before. We didn't feel like driving all the way to Hartford for dinner though, and when Susan returned home, we all went out to Cheshire Pizza. For once John allowed us to pick up the tab.

By then it was pretty late, so when we got home we went to bed.
Fields at Hancock Posted by Hello
Round barn at Hancock Shaker Village Posted by Hello
Shaker kitchen Posted by Hello
Stone crockery at Hancock Posted by Hello
A workshop at Hancock Village Posted by Hello
Textile workshop Posted by Hello
Hazy view of Simsbury from the mountain Posted by Hello
In front of the giant sycamore in Simsbury Posted by Hello

Sunday, June 08, 2003

Rainy Day

In the morning Dan and John worked on fixing the dock while I made coffee and raisin waffles for breakfast. I felt like quite the girly-girl, being in the kitchen while the men were outside doing manly things with tools. We had breakfast, and then John went back to Cheshire around noon. Dan and I decided to stay awhile and see if the weather would clear later, since it had become gray and drizzly again. It stayed that way all day. We ate the rest of the pizza and walked over to Otter Pond, looking for beaver dams without success. We saw some rabbits, but that was about it.

Back at the cottage we spent a cozy afternoon reading and enjoying the fire in the wood stove. I found some marshmallows and we toasted them. Funny how our tastes change, but they were sweeter than I had remembered them being when I was a kid. Later we made pasta for dinner and I attempted to make an herb flatbread without a recipe. We ended up with something that thankfully tasted better than it looked. We spent the rest of the evening talking, working on a jigsaw puzzle and sipping tea in front of the fire.
Living room at the lake house Posted by Hello
Cozy by the fire at the lake house Posted by Hello

Saturday, June 07, 2003

Lake House

We got up early, packed our overnight bags and went to Paul's for breakfast. Then we went back to the house for the pizza we'd forgotten in the refrigerator, stopping to peruse the yard sale that Susan's Soroptimist Club was putting on. I bought some earrings.

Finally on the road, we made a quick stop in Meriden, where we found Grandma vague and tired. We told her we would be back on Monday and then headed up toward the lake house. It was a drizzly but otherwise uneventful drive. We found the Black Fly festival in full swing as we drove through Tolland, but we didn't stop to check it out.

We found John at the lake house, taking refuge from the yard sale Susan was putting on back in Cheshire. We chatted, had some pizza and enjoyed a cozy fire in the wood-burning stove. Then we all took a little nap, lulled by the gray drizzly afternoon. After our nap, Dan and I went for a run, trying to shake off the feeling that we were complete slugs. We ran twice around the lake, showered and felt like maybe we were fit company for dinner. So all three of us went to the New Boston Inn. We had a pleasant dinner, marred only by the absence of blueberry crisp on the dessert menu. We had some strawberry-rhubarb pie instead. After dinner we went upstairs to see if Dan could find the ghost he had been aware of the previous two years. He said he only felt traces of her and that she appeared to have moved on. I was disappointed.

Back at the lake house there wasn't much to do, so we went to bed early, hoping for some good weather in the morning.

Friday, June 06, 2003

Back to Cheshire

In spite of ourselves we woke up at 6:00. Already we could see it was going to be a beautiful day. We didn't know whether to be pleased for a nice final view of Monhegan, or disappointed that we hadn't had such weather the day before. Dan hurried and took off to Lobster Cove while I laid in bed, uncertain whether to follow immediately or go back to sleep. But there are plenty of places to sleep and only one Monhegan, so I soon followed, finding him standing on the rocks hoping to catch a glimpse of a seal he had seen among the waves. We wandered around a bit, taking a few pictures and enjoying the pretty morning.

Then we returned to the inn, grabbed our coffee and bagels and packed while we had our breakfast. We got to the dock with 15 minutes to spare, which I used to buy some oatmeal cookies for the road. We were sad to leave Monhegan. I watched a couple on the ferry wave to friends on the dock for a long time and I thought about the people who live on Monhegan year-round. It's an isolated place, even in summer and almost impossible in winter. Having friends over must be quite a treat. Dan and I noticed that the islanders had given their visitors flowers. There is an island tradition that if you toss the flowers in the water as you leave and they float back to shore, you'll return one day.

The boat ride was uneventful. We didn't even manage to see a seal this time. When we got to shore we could really tell the difference in temperature. It was about 10 degrees warmer on shore than on the island. We also noticed a busload of schoolkids waiting to take the ferry back to Monhegan, so we got back just in time! We took our luggage to the car, changed into clothes more comfortable for the warmer temperatures and spent some time in the Port Clyde gift shop. Then it was time to head south to Connecticut.

The trip didn't seem as long as the one from Vermont to Bar Harbor, possibly because we were familiar with the route. We made better time than expected, arriving in Mystic by 4:00. Since our favorite Indian place was closed and I didn't know how to find the new place I'd been told of by the guy I met in the Covered Bridges race, Dan and I went to the Mystic Library. We got directions to the restaurant, checked our email and admired the library cat as he lounged under a bookcase. Then we wandered up the street to Mystic Pizza and ordered a Greek pizza to take with us to the lake house the next day. While we waited for the pizza we bought books at Main Square Books, our favorite bookstore.

Supplied with books and pizza, we went back to the car and set out to find Taste of India restaurant. It was pretty good and the naan bread was excellent. But it wasn't as good as our old favorite, Bombay Spice, had been. Soon we were back on the road and got to Cheshire by 8:00. We visited with my aunt and uncle, did some laundry and turned in early.
A pretty morning on the island Posted by Hello
Goodbye, Monhegan! Posted by Hello
Leaving Monhegan Posted by Hello

Thursday, June 05, 2003

A Day On The Island

We got up at 7:00 and went downstairs to see what was for breakfast. Even if we didn't have the elaborate spread at Kay's and the fussily formal breakfast in Bar Harbor for comparison, this was skimpy: coffee, tea and bagels. Later the innkeeper brought in some rhubarb muffins which were very tasty and mollified us somewhat. Other than us and the couple with the sick child, everyone at the inn was quite a bit older than us. They had interesting stories of places they had been, and many were repeat visitors to the island. One man was a professor in Rhode Island and chatted with the innkeeper about recent research in lobster diseases. Most people who live on Monhegan year-round earn their living from lobster fishing during the winter and cater to tourists during the summer. Our host was one of these people, so he found the topic of lobster diseases fascinating.

After breakfast, we dressed for the cold, drizzly weather and went out to buy postcards. We filled them out in our room then set out for the post office, which was on the other end of town, meaning about the equivalent of four city blocks. Then we continued on our way for a morning hike, heading first to Lobster Cove.

Lobster Cove had a lot to look at, including a rusted shipwreck and a lot of balanced-rock sculptures made by locals and tourists. At various points in the cove and elsewhere on the island we found crosses set up to mark where people died, either in wrecks or by being swept out to sea. By now we had re-read our visitor's guide more carefully and realized that the rocks we had sat and wandered over so thoughtlessly the night before at Pebble Beach were actually insanely dangerous because of the waves that could wash in completely without warning, dragging people out to sea to drown. According to the guide, no one had ever been rescued off the island's dangerous shores.

We continued on toward Gull Cove and other points on the island, eventually making the entire circuit in about four and a half hours. The weather was foggy at first, drizzly and cold. Later the rain stopped and it was just misty and chilly. The trails were muddy and at times slippery and dangerous. In some places the trail had become a pond or a stream of water and we had to make our own trail. Sometimes we lost the trail completely and had to search for it. We climbed rocks, navigated tree roots and picked our way through ankle-deep water and thick mud. Our feet got wet in spite of our Gore-Tex boots. But it was worth every moment to see such incredible cliffs and vistas, each more beautiful and amazing than the last. We tried to take pictures, but the mist made it hard to capture the beauty of it all.

By the time we returned to the village we were cold and soaked through. We changed into dry clothes and went for coffee and pastries at a little place called Barnacles at the dock. The had the best oatmeal raisin cookies I'd ever had, and that's saying a lot. After our coffee warmed us up a bit, Dan went back to the room for a nap while I decided to explore the village. I bought a few postcards at an art gallery, read the event postings on the community message board and checked out the gift shop. But the big surprise was coming across an organic grocery. We had already seen the regular grocery and had stocked up on bottled water there, but finding an organic place was a huge surprise. They only took cash so I hurried back to the inn to get some. Dan was awake and I told him what I'd found. He went back with me and we bought some food to take with us on the road the next day.

After dropping off the food at the inn, we went for a walk up to the lighthouse and down to the little cemetery. Then we went to Monhegan House for dinner. They weren't quite open yet, so I investigated the local church. I couldn't go inside, but I read the notices and schedule of ministers with interest. They get a wide variety of services on Monhegan, including Quaker.

By then it was dinner time, so we went into the inn. We had lobster spring rolls and a really good whole grain bread. I had a vegetarian torte with goat cheese and Dan had a ribeye that wasn't all that great, but that's what you get for ordering steak on an island known for seafood. The dessert selection didn't impress us much, so we went back to the Island Inn and had coffee and apple crisp. While we were there, the chef came out and made the rounds of the tables. We shouldn't have been surprised at this point to learn that he was from Texas. At this point, we were beginning to wonder if anyone in Maine wasn't from Texas! We told him about the San Antonio waitresses we had met on the ferry the day before, and told him they worked at Monhegan House.

I would've liked to go for an evening stroll, even though I was in my city boots since my hiking boots needed to dry out. But Dan was tired, so we went back to the inn. He tried to get some rest while the sick kid cried next door to us, and I stayed downstairs working on a jigsaw puzzle in the parlor until all was quiet and I could go upstairs. I took a shower and went to bed around eleven.
A stone sculputure at Lobster Cove Posted by Hello
Gulls on a misty morning Posted by Hello
Wet trails on a misty Monhegan day Posted by Hello
Not your fancy, citified trails! Posted by Hello
Joined on the trail by a friend Posted by Hello
Monhegan's rocky coastline Posted by Hello

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Port Clyde and Monhegan Island

We were up early and picked up our breakfast on the way out. Our innkeeper supplied us with yogurt, orange juice, gingerbread muffins and bananas. We were on the road by 7:30 and had made such good time that when we got to Fort Knox we decided we had time to stop and take a tour.

Fort Knox was very interesting. It was built in the mid-nineteenth century as part of a coastal defense system. It was designed to be state-of-the-art, but by the time it was completed it was already obsolete. It was never used in battle, although it was staffed during the Civil War. Today it remains fully intact and a rare example of military architecture of the time. I especially liked that it hadn't been spoiled by the installation of electric lights or shops. They recommend carrying a flashlight inside, and everything has retained its nineteenth century feel.

Our next stop was the Penobscot Marine Museum, but we decided we didn't have time to do it justice and continued on our way after browsing the museum gift shop. About a mile from Port Clyde we took a detour to check out the Port Clyde lighthouse. It was great. We were alone almost the whole time we were there, and it was very peaceful, just us, the rocks, the birds and the lighthouse. I would've liked for the museum to have been open, but that was okay.

We got to Port Clyde early and since we saw nothing to do while we waited we went back up the road looking for someplace to have lunch. We found a little place where we had Caesar/shrimp wraps and bread pudding. Then we went into Thompsonville to get cash for the island, since many places don't take credit cards.

Back in Port Clyde we parked, organized our luggage with the items we wanted for the island and went to wait for the ferry to leave. I went and bought a bottle of water while Dan made the acquaintance of three women who it turns out were from San Antonio, Texas, on their way back to the island for their summer jobs. They work on the island six months out of the year, waitressing at one of the hotels. We were surprised to meet more Texans!

The ferry ride was uneventful except for the spotting of a seal and her pup on a rock. We found out we had a new captain when he managed to miss the dock twice, crashing into it and having to circle back around. But he finally got us docked and we got our luggage off the boat and onto a truck to be taken up the hill to our inn.

Our room was nice but small and much more spartan than what we had been accustomed to thus far. The window had been left open and it was quite chilly. I closed the window and noted that there was no heater. These inns are for summer visitors only, so I suppose they don't expect Southerners to come in and shiver in what seems like balmy temperatures to them.

We changed into hiking boots and went exploring through woods, down narrow uncertain trails and along rocky beaches. It was wonderful scenery, unspoiled by tourism. The trails meandered, often seeming to disappear. Trail markers were uncertain and infrequent. Mud, rocks, branches and other hazards were everywhere and we loved it. We sat on some rocks at Pebble Beach for awhile, enjoying the view and hoping to see some seals. We saw gulls and loons, but no seals.

We returned to the village and had dinner at the Island Inn, a huge Victorian affair overlooking the dock. The food was good, but overpriced. Still, since it all had to be brought in on the ferry, I could understand the high prices. Desert was an apple crisp which enjoyed while watching the sun set. I had noticed back at our inn that the water out of the tap was slightly brown, and since I was low on bottled water I asked our kind German waiter if he could get me a little water to take back to our room. I would've gladly paid for it, but he gave it to me for free.

After dinner we went for a walk up to the lighthouse where we had a great view of the island and village in the twilight. We stayed up there until about 9:30 when it finally began to be truly dark. Back at the inn we settled in the parlor for awhile and read a book about the island. Then we went upstairs where we had to listen to the sick toddler in the room next to us cry for awhile, but she eventually quieted down and we could sleep. Given that there is nothing for a small child to do on Monhegan unless they live there, I couldn't fathom why the parents had brought her, especially since she was sick and there were no doctors or pharmacies. Poor kid was probably miserable.
Port Clyde Light Posted by Hello
Shoreline at Port Clyde Posted by Hello
Approaching Monhegan Posted by Hello
The view from our window on Monhegan Posted by Hello