Southwest Mountains

 

There’s a mountain ridge, runs southwest to northeast. It’s where the bad weather comes from, a shoulder against winter. Wet and cold spill over the rim in slow motion, flowing down through the bare tree tops into hollows and coves, where houses are huddled inside by fires to keep warm.

All week the ridgeline has been hidden by low clouds, clear below; clouds that sometimes rain, sometimes mist, later sleet or snow, but never much.

The top of the ridge could be gone. Maybe it will just be changed somehow, and we won’t know what is different, it will just feel different. I saw a fox this morning, and an owl last night. Both had somewhere to go.

 

 

Embarking

8th Lake Adirondacks

8th Lake, Adirondacks

The word has some appropriate origins:

 

|emˈbärk| begin (a course of action, esp. one that is important or demanding)
ORIGIN mid 16th cent.: from French embarquer, from em- ‘in’ + barque ‘bark, ship.’

 

I’ve been planning this project for quite some time. Years, in fact. Life intervenes between many a fine notion and it’s fruition. Sometimes that’s a good thing. Big projects begin innocently enough, with an idea or impulse, and before you know it it’s taken root. If you don’t pull some weeds up quickly they drop seed and it’s all over but the mowing, or in this case, rowing.

Continue reading “Embarking”

Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival 2007

Skipjack, St. Michaels Maryland

 

Last weekend was the annual festival in St. Michaels, Md., held by the Maritime Museum. I’ve been once before – drove up and back for the day – but this time took gear to camp on the museum grounds for a few days, which is the best way to do it by far. This was the 25th Anniversary of the event, and close to 200 people showed up to celebrate with their handmade boats of virtually every size and  shape. A number of folks drove two days or more each way for three days of serious wooden boat porn.

Rules are scarce and cheating is encouraged.

Continue reading “Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival 2007”

Portsmouth Island

Henry Piggot House

 

South of Ocracoke, across the inlet, is Portsmouth Island and a ghost town of the same name. Though as a community it began and survived alongside Ocracoke for hundreds of years, Portsmouth’s more limited access proved it’s undoing. It was abandoned almost 40 years ago, and came under care and control of the National Park Service. There was never any electrical power on Portsmouth, though a few small generators operated when needed. Mostly the residents continued to live well into the 20th century much as they had in the 18th. Many of the houses are preserved intact, as are a church, a general store, a school, a post office, and the decommissioned life saving station once manned by the Coast Guard. Almost all are open to the public and cared for by volunteers alongside the Park Service, who only seems to provide assistance when funding is available.

Continue reading “Portsmouth Island”

Ocracoke Island

Ocracoke Inlet

The last ferry from Hatteras leaves at midnight. It’s then a forty minute ride through a deep and disturbing darkness to the northern tip of Ocracoke Island.

These are some of the most treacherous waters on the Atlantic Coast. In recent years, the Coast Guard has averaged 10 rescue missions a month in Oregon Inlet just north of here. Charts for the region don’t show channel markers; instead are displayed just warnings such as this:

“Hatteras Inlet is subject to continual change.
Entrance buoys are not charted because they are frequently shifted in position.”

Continue reading “Ocracoke Island”

“Wow, so what else is going to happen?”

 

On the way back, when we got to the Spillway, there was a group of Boy Scouts setting up camp for the weekend. They had arrived back at the landing just as we were pushing off, and behind us had paddled the three miles to the Canal Tender’s camp with all their gear. At the camp, one of them found a rope swing and promptly broke his leg. The Scout leaders (a couple of dads worried about what their wives would say, no doubt) had called 911, and a rescue boat and helicopter were on the way. There was no room to land the helicopter, so they were going to have to take him back to the landing by boat. As we motored down the Feeder Ditch the rescue boat came roaring up the canal, and we got to the ramp just as the helicopter arrived, so we watched them load the hapless fellow into the back and take off for Norfolk.

We filmed the whole thing, of course.

Other things we saw and filmed:

  • The homemade ferry, for crossing the canal.
  • Two water moccasins, mating.
  • A beaver.
  • A bike race.