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Monday, May 8, 2023

Another Day on Cobscook Shores Trails and Beaches

We've had a extraordinarily wonderful stretch of weather for our stay here in Calais, Maine -- much nicer than we expected, and today was our last chance to get outdoors before preparing tomorrow for our move into Canada on Wednesday.  We enjoyed our first day hiking the Cobscook Shores trail system last Friday so much, that we wanted to get one more chance to sample these extraordinarily well curated and maintained, scenic and interesting, trails before we leave this area.

Kathy consulted the detailed map and guide that Cobscook Shores provides at each of its parks and trailheads --

-- and we decided to hike at Race Point (with a side trail to Mowes Mountain) and Denbow Point.
Race Point boasts excellent views, at rising tide, of at least two reversing falls here in the network of small bays and coves that attend the larger Cobscook Bay.  Reversing falls occur when the incoming tide causes the normal flow of water to reverse, resulting in water flowing UP what would normally be a falls or cascade running the other direction.  They are very counter-intuitive and similar in effect to the tidal bore on rivers at the Bay of Fundy.  We hadn't gotten far along our trail at Race Point when we spotted the first reversing falls, out beyond some rocky islands, with Falls Island in the background:

One thing that makes Cobscook Shores trails so interesting is their emphasis on shoreline.  Each park was acquired specifically to preserve a stretch of shoreline on Cobscook Bay or its minor bays and coves. Cobscook Bay is located within the traditional territory of the Passamaquoddy people, who have lived along the shores for thousands of years. The name of the bay is taken from their name for it -- Kapskuk -- which means, "place where the water looks like it is boiling," due partly to the reversing falls, partly to the tidal bore effects, and partly to the movement of the water in the Bay's characteristic winds.

These waters are teeming with life, as are the shorelines.  As we walked out onto the rocky, seaweed-filled beach at Race Point, we found evidence of all sorts of animals living in this environment.  Kathy spotted some small shrimp that had washed up on the rocks with high tide and were left there, unfortunately to die, as the tide started to recede:

Many other shellfish and mollusks get washed up by the tides.  This small conch shell was completely intact and had been bleached by many days of sun and salt, but was still beautiful in its slowly-fossilizing way:

Another way that shells end up on the beach is when birds snatch them and drop them on the rocks to break them open and feed on their meaty little occupants.  This was an intact sea urchin skeleton.  We weren't sure whether some gull or osprey had plucked it out of the water and eaten it without breaking the skeleton, or whether the little thing died and its skeleton washed up.  Either way, it bequeathed beauty and awe to us:

These beaches are by turn rocky or gravelly, overlain with seaweed and sea grasses, algae and moss.  But, underneath them all lies hard granite which, eons ago, was scraped smooth by the sheets of ice that blanketed northern Maine.  These flat, exquisitely curvaceous boulders peek out occasionally through the beach surface and attract us to walk over them --

-- and it's not surprising that they also attract birds who want to break open their shelly catches.  In the photo below, Kathy examines the hundreds (maybe thousands) of empty, cracked shells littering the granite boulders:

Having finished our first deep dive today into one of the beaches, we were working our way back up the topography on the trail, when we happened to spot a curious structure on the hillside.  Its shape made us thing of an outhouse, but it had a picture window, and we thought that perhaps it might be a blind for bird or other wildlife observation.

David was brave enough to venture up and open the door -- and, sure enough, it was an outhouse -- very well stocked, we might add.  AND...the occupant at whatever time had the luxury of looking out the big picture window upon the scenery below.  (Kathy demonstrates.)  We thought this cool until we realized that, as I gazed out on Kathy, she gazed in on me.  So much for private moments.

These parks and shorelines are newly opened to the public.  Very few of these areas show signs of human habitation and were probably small parts of larger swaths of land owned by local farmers and the like.  We ran into no one in all our hikes in the Cobscook Shores parks, other than, at the very first outing, a woman who was returning from walking three hounds out to the water for exercise.  One consequence of this as-of-yet uncommon human presence is that the wildlife is not habituated.  This means they don't stick around for photo-ops. But, occasionally, we surprise a critter and have time to snap a photo.  In this case, a medium-sized gray snake, twice as large as a garter snake, found itself underfoot and escaped to refuge under a nearby log.  It did not know that we could still see it, and it paused long enough for this portrait:

The Race Point Trail offered us several rocky beaches, and we combed each and every one of them for precious sea glass.  We didn't always find the sea glass, but we always collected beautiful views:

Another type of wildlife doesn't move much when we approach, and that is paper wasps.  Luckily, it was early in the season, and they were not active.  We spotted these nests just above our head in the trees next to the trail:

The Race Point trail system includes a short trail up to the top of Mowes Mountain, where (so the trail billboard informed us) we would find a lookout.  We climbed to the top, and did manage to eke out this narrow view of one of the bays, probably little Raft Cove to the west of the mountain:

It was lunchtime, and we were hungry, so we finished our Race Point hike and repaired to Fisherman's Wharf, that great little restaurant in Lubec where we had feasted on lobster last Friday.  We decided to do so again.  Remarkably, where we ran into almost no one at the restaurant last Friday (other than an engaging photographer who regaled us with stories of puffins in New Brunswick and Newfoundland, and we returned the regaling with tales of puffins in Skagway, Alaska), today the restaurant was absolutely filled with people who obviously were seasonal resident who, we guessed, decided this was a good time to come up to Maine to open up the old house.  We enjoyed our lobster in anonymous company and set back out to our second hike, which was Denbow Point.  It boasts one of the most panoramic views of the main part of Cobscook Bay, as well as a rocky/gravel beach that stretches on long enough to be worth walking.

It had gotten incredibly windy while we were at lunch.  The winds were roaring around us at about 20 miles per hour as we walked out to the point.  Kathy could barely stand as she posed by the trail sign:

In the category of "We've Never Seen THAT Before," we almost stepped on a root in the trail that boasted not one, but two little burls, almost perfectly formed.  Seen 'em on a tree, but not on a root. Ain't that a hoot.

The winds roared all the more as we got out to the point of the point.  David could barely stand as he posed on the rocky point for this photo, with the point of Leighton Neck in the background:

Standing at the point, we looked to our right, over toward the main part of Cobscook Bay, and noticed, along the rocky shore next to us, a little stone arch.  The high tide, winds and waves made it undesirable to try to clamber down to it --

-- but we did get closer for a better view of it.  It would have been fun to climb down and stand under the arch.  Maybe later.

The beach on the lee side of Denbow Point was almost dead calm, even though the winds roared on the other side of the point.  It was a picture of peaceful solitude, and we decided to walk down and hunt for sea glass.

Lucky we did!  This little beach provided more sea glass, foot-for-foot, than any other Maine beach we have combed (other than that secret little beach below our RV spot in Winter Harbor which we and William know, but which we will not disclose to you or anyone else).  Anyway, here is a souvenir photo of our booty:

Kathy is already dreaming of the sea glass collages and assemblages she is going to make at the Forever-and-Ever House.  When they are done, we'll post you a photo of them.

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