No time to procrastinate

My to do list is getting shorter. We leave in a week to become caretakers at Bass Harbor Head lighthouse. If you are one of the 100,000! people who visit annually, please say hi.

The National Park Service acquired it from the US Coast Guard in 2020 and we will be its first NPS caretakers! Mount Desert Island is technically an island but we can drive there.

Time to clean the fridge. Meals become interesting as we eat through its contents.

Time to finish projects I can’t take with me. Actually, I will take my latest with me in its finished form. Back in March, I started weaving a queen size blanket made of alpaca silk yarn. I planned and calculated but still ran short of yarn 2/3 through and could not find more. I found some similar though, waited for it to be delivered, and made do.

Hot off the loom

I wove about 10 yards of fabric, cut it into three panels and, poof, we have a blanket to take to Maine.

Tim is in full form so I no longer am responsible for EVERYTHING!! Of course, he is already doing too much.

Sparky is sporting a new windshield but won’t be making this trip with us. He is strictly a lake boat. I found a great guy in the north country with a can do attitude and he did it!

We plan to bike the 45+ miles of carriage road in the park and I converted Tim’s bike to fit me, while he had a new recumbent bike delivered to Maine.

My car may look like the Beverly Hillbillies because I also fixed my roof rack just in case.

Off we go.

Putting my toe in the water

Just as the Omicron variant arrived, I was packing my bags for a once in a lifetime trip to Iceland, with my daughter. My first real trip since 2019!

Covid tests were scheduled for home and in Iceland. Then the CDC classified Iceland as very high risk for Covid. But I live in a place at very high risk. Our adventures would be focused on outdoor activities, during the six hours of daylight (10:45 to 4:45). We were both fully vaccinated and boosted so there was no time like the present. Off we went. As I wait for my post travel final Covid test, it was totally worth it.

First of all, just to spend this time with my adult daughter was a gift. In my opinion, we are excellent travel companions. She may think otherwise because I do spend an inordinate amount of time searching my pockets for keys, masks, credit cards, etc. But, in my defense, there were too many pockets because we always wore two layers of pants, and a few jackets to be able to enjoy the outdoors.

We took a red eye and our first stop upon arrival was the Blue Lagoon, thermal pools fed with warm water from the nearby geothermal plant. Although this is a popular tourist destination, it was a fun introduction to Iceland. We applied various concoctions to our faces and enjoyed a glass of Prosecco while soaking.

We stayed nearby for a couple of nights and took day trips to lighthouses, volcanoes, waterfalls, and hot springs while we slept beneath the glow and steam (and sulphuric odor) of the geothermal plant. We soaked in hot springs, including one fed by a geysir behind a fence, nearly every day and had the raisin fingers to show for it.

There were plenty of working lighthouses scattered around the country. This one was on a huge massif with a beautiful view of a stretch of black sand beach. The one below was open and we climbed to the top where a fresnel lens turned.

There is frequent seismic activity in the land of fire and ice, hence the volcanoes and hot springs. This volcano erupted in March 2021 and the lava field has fissures that are still steaming.

We explored a few waterfalls including one we were able to walk under. We also crossed a bridge between two continental plates that are moving apart. We tried to see what would happen to the bridge as that occurs but looks like they will have to dismantle part of it. The movement is a few centimeters a year!

Every village had a church. Sometimes, we couldn’t tell where the congregation would possibly come from.

The real goal of the trip, besides spending time with my daughter and soaking our cares away, was to try to glimpse the northern lights. We had apps with predictions the lights and clear skies. One night, conditions looked good, but not where we were at the moment. So we hopped in the car and drove south to clear skies without ambient light. We saw a faint streak of green in the sky and couldn’t believe our luck. There were the northern lights on our second night. The trip was complete. Hotels offer northern light wakeup calls. We were called once at about 1:30 am but they were gone by the time I got outside and I couldn’t find my glasses anyway. Then we slept in. Easy to do when sunrise is 10:45.

The plot thickened when US international guidelines were tightened mid-week. Luckily we had our departure test within a day anyway. Free, painless with rapid results. And done in a circle of 10 strangers.

The worst weather came on our last day as we explored Reykavik, as much as we could with 70 mph wind gusts and walkways of sheer ice. We checked out the flea market and one of the most unusual museums in the world. Nuf said.

It was such a beautiful country and an easy place to visit even though I never learned a word of the language other than thank you. Takk fryir Iceland for reintroducing me to adventure.

Why island life?

Not just any island, offshore please. Ideally with only two occupants. Yesterday made it perfectly clear to me why I love these opportunities. In between putting up window grates and storing the multitude of benches that now reside here, I stared in awe at the sky as it constantly changed. Black clouds brought a little rain and then moved to the north.

From the vantage point of a hill atop an offshore island, and safely onshore, clouds, gloomy skies and rain are spectacular.

And you need clouds and rain to form rainbows. As we got ready for dinner, Tim saw a rainbow out front. I went out back to see it and watched it with the current, resident peregrine falcon.

Until he found something to hunt and flew off.

This is the view I wake up to from our bed looking south to mile buoy. There is also the sound of the wind, bell buoys flag halyards.

We have not seen any whales but the boat traffic is interesting. With a Marine Traffic app, many times we can identify the boats and ships we see offshore. It makes them less anonymous as they drift or cruise by.

And of course it helps that Tim and I usually enjoy each other’s company and work well together. I couldn’t do this without such an excellent partner.

clouds and more rolled in

We have had 3 beautiful days, sunny, with a light breeze, but finally are getting some Maine weather. After several days of crystal clear blue skies, clouds and moisture moved in ahead of a cold front.

That’s an amazing part of this 360 degree view: being able to watch the weather roll in. Two scheduled groups of visitors, overnight guests and a working bee, were cancelled.

That didn’t stop a group of 10 or so kayakers from paddling in as part of an outdoor leadership training. We briefly met one of their guides in 2008, June 22 to be exact, when he appeared with a group that navigated here through pea soup fog by gps and the sound of the foghorn.

Yesterday the foghorn came in while Tim was practicing his keyboard. These days sailors have to request the foghorn by using channel 83 on the vhf radio and clicking their heels ( or the mic button) three times. We can’t see the cove from the house and were visited by three Coasties who were here to test the foghorn and take an inventory of stuff they are going to take off the island by helicopter.

One never knows who will pop up here.

And then the sun set.

Island bound

I wish I was bound to an island but for now, we are at our home away from home, Seguin Island, Maine. The weather shone upon us and we arrived on island with only one dunking. Me of course but no harm was done, just a little bruised ego.

First glance of Seguin

I started dreading the trip about a year ago, largely because our arrival by dinghy, with all we need, is always a crap shoot. Once we make it ashore, wet or dry, our stuff – food, keyboard, clothing and knitting – then has to make it up 300 feet to our quarters.

There used to be a donkey engine and tram to haul our stuff when we were first here in 2008. But alas it no longer works. Leave it to Friends of Seguin to come up with a solution. They built a hand trolley we pushed up the tram and got our gear up the hill in two trips. Luckily there was a group of strapping young men on the beach who helped us carry our water (in 48 lb jugs) to the trolley.

Trolley at the top of the tram

So maybe I won’t dread our first day next year. Just maybe.

The island keeps getting better. It’s lush this year and the apple trees are loaded with fruit. I may try to make a pie with them. I didn’t bring any in an effort to keep the weight, ours and our gear’s, down.

We found a new type of tree on the North Trail, a crab tree!

Crabtree

The first order fresnel lens is sparkling.

And the solar led lights work fine.

The old back up lens is in the Museum. Now that the light is solar powered, no need for backup.

And the sun and moon never disappoint.

Coyotes sing for our supper

Heard from our front porch

It’s a jungle out there. We hear coyotes most nights, deer snack on our shrubs, rabbits keep the driveway clean of clover and greens, and I am not sure what the snakes do, except cause me to let out a shout whenever I see them.

Fawn feeling right at home
Snake in the shrubs

Summer is flying by with so much pent up activity taking place. But at the same time the Delta variant is surging. Stay safe, get vaccinated.

Wildflower garden

Our wildflower patch turned out to be mostly black eyed susans, which are pretty nonetheless. The honeybees aren’t interested. Our untended field is just as pretty.

Note the cute bee-shed she-shed still standing
The morning glories reseeded themselves

We clearly needed a vacation from our busy schedule. Tim booked a little cabin on Lake George and we brought Sparky along for the ride.

Headed to another swimming bay

We swim when we can and are just chillin’, sometimes literally. I’m wearing a wool cap this morning. I decided to try my hand at jewelry making this trip. It’s another hobby that travels well.

Les Bijoux

It is surprisingly relaxing just getting out of your own environment. There are no overhanging chores waiting, so the mind can wander: watching ducks, looking at clouds, and taking daytime naps.

And there’s always another boat ride on Sparky.

Everyone needs a road trip now and then

And this jeep does it with style, with a crocheted wheel cover.

We went to a show at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center and had some time to explore the Park, take the waters, and swim in a beautiful pool.

Last weekend, we visited Gloucester, MA for a dear couple’s 50th anniversary party. A fabulous thunderstorm rolled through our first night and hung directly overhead for quite a while. Very dramatic. We don’t get thunderstorms like that in the Adirondacks. The mountains catch them before they can reach our “Pleasant Valley”. The grey weather persisted through the weekend.

Next time we’ll be more careful about reading the fine print in an Airbnb listing. The first night, while it stormed, we both rolled into the middle of the little pull out couch‘s mattress. Tim took matters into his own hands and moved it to the floor for the second night. One of us slept beautifully.

There’s a good chance a group of my bees are enjoying their own road trip. One hive may have swarmed. They were gathering and talking about it for a couple of days.

I’ll inspect their hive this weekend to see if there is still a queen present, or in the making. In the meantime, I sampled some of their honey. It was light colored and delicious. I can hardly wait until they share it with me.

the benefits of being flexible

We had hopes of this year’s maiden voyage with kids and grandkids on Smokey, the 1971 Starcraft Sprint boat previously known as Sparky. We drove an hour to a lake located midway between us, launched her flawlessly, started her up, but the tell-tale, otherwise known as the pisser, wasn’t shooting water.

Kids were already in the boat, eager for an adventure. We tinkered a bit, to no avail. Since we couldn’t be sure the engine block wouldn’t overheat and crack, we came up with plan b. And all concurred.

Picnic at a great playground then off to a rock waterfall you can ride, followed by dinner at a brewery and a minor, minor league baseball game. A good time was had by all.

I’m happy to report a minor fix at home solved the problem while I wait for parts for this 50 year old engine to arrive.

I headed south to New York City to meet up with dear friends from med school. My plan was to ride the bus for mass transit. In theory, this was a good idea, the MTA app even reported the number of people on the bus.

Alas, due to midtown traffic, it took forever and I was late for a meeting with a former colleague. So I walked – 12 miles one day – or took the subway. All were masked and tried to social distance.

Manhattan is growing. There is a new park called Little Island on the west side, built on one of the old piers. We viewed it from the roof of the Whitney, where I learned how to calculate the temperature from crickets. It worked!

We ate at a rooftop restaurant that somehow was louder than most indoor spaces. The food was good and the view of the skyline and overhead was lovely. But the din was unbearable.

As soon as possible, we headed to a quiet, excellent Sicilian restaurant, Norma, where we really had a chance to catch up without shouting.

And we took the family out Smokey this weekend. She peed like a champ!

We are not in Kansas anymore

Although we speak the same language as Australians, our cultures are quite different. This is evident in some of the signs we have run across.

Today’s perusal of the bird book showed they have laughing and peaceful doves, while we have mourning doves.

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There are too many spiders to bother identifying. Just know when to run.

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This sign at the lighthouse warns people with heart conditions not to ascend the stairs. (Although at this time the lighthouse is closed while it awaits repair). The people that read this sign have already walked more than 2 miles and ascended 1000 feet to get here from their boats.

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And then here we are, the happy lighthouse caretakers. We took a similar photo four years ago on the Old Squally Trail. Still a bit of a bush bash, but it has some of the best views on the island.

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