Monday, September 5, 2011

Roughing it in Boston Harbor

For years, there has been talk about camping on the Boston Harbor Islands. Hats off to Noelle, who's a git'r done kinda gal, for making it a reality.

The original destination was Peddocks Island, where parts of Shutter Island were filmed (if you're a wuss like me, you haven't seen it and didn't know it was about a psychiatric facility that used to exist on one of the islands--more information here). Unfortunately, Hurricane Irene did damage that displaced anyone set to camp there this weekend. However, once I saw the view from the sea, I said a quiet thank you to the Department of Conservation and Recreation for saving me from peeing my pants.

Peddocks Island greets you with dilapidated buildings and an abandoned church.
No thanks.
We were rerouted to Lovells Island, a 62-acre island that more than doubles its size during low tide. Camp sites are first come, first served. There is a group site on one side of the island, far from everyone else, which is cool except there's no real shade; it's pretty much an open, grassy field. And there are about 12-15 sites otherwise, three of which are spectacular. The path to these sites is one of the prettiest parts of the island:

At night, the sandy path glows, as does Boston. The sun sets directly behind the city, which then becomes a cluster of sparkles that are impossible to capture with a camera. And once the sky is completely dark, a glow appears behind the Pru, and we wondered whom the Red Sox were playing that night.

We even got a drive-by visit from friends aboard The Lady Grace as it sailed toward the city.

We watched planes coming north, into Logan, start as blinking lights all perfectly spaced out and become bigger and bigger until finally taking on the shape of a jet gliding in front of the skyline. I had hoped for a good view of Boston; it was ideal.

I was up early with the planes on day two. It was low tide, and I took a walk around most of the island. There are no true sandy beaches. The word dune is used on the island websites, but it's not what you're hoping for. It's not Plum Island. It's rocky with packed sand mostly. And giant rocks line much of the island. Flip flops are not a good shoe option, and barefoot, well, I salute you if you're that hearty.

The dropped boulder on the far beach is a bit submerged
during high tide, blocking the path.
The beach is littered with oddities.

Sure. Just a random femur in the sand.

*pinch pinch*

Ugh, these prickish cormorants were all full of the machismo.
We've all had run-ins like this--ladies, am I right?

This thing was enormous. Its brother lived on the opposite beach.
Mid-morning, Noelle texted me while I was napping on the beach (yeah, texted, so what?), "Moving camp. Want to help?" We went from staring at a bush to staring at this:

And this:
Not bad.

Oh, and this:

In the distance is the Deer Island sewage treatment plant.
A rather shitty view. Nyuk nyuk.

We lazily watched boats: The New England Aquarium, the Provincetown ferry, the T ferry, UMASS boats, sailboats, fishing trawlers, kayaks, motor boats . . . We realized quickly that there isn't much else to do on an island. We became like old men, peering out at the water, saying things like, "That one is going fast." "Bet that's a whale watch." "Not many people going out today, eh?" I think we bored ourselves.

Thankfully, our friend Gienna came to visit! We were both impressed and grateful that she tackled the water taxi sitch and made the journey. We lounged, waded well into the ocean, walked the inner island paths, checked out forts, picked blackberries, and then pretty much sat around in our underwear while our clothes dried. Oh, and ate lots of cheese. But that's sort of a given.

The ferry system apparently runs on a special nautical time to which we landlubbers are not keen. We were 15 minutes early for the ferry, and it was already trying to make a break for it. In fact, it had to turn around and come back for someone else who had missed it. Attention boat people: When you look at a clock, 6:30 is when hands are in opposing vertical directions. That is all.

So the rules on the island are no dogs, no alcohol, no fires. Neither of us has a dog, so we didn't break all of the rules. And I enjoyed when the geeky ranger (let me just say ALL the other islands had McDreamy rangers; we were stuck with ranger-lites) paid a visit to remind us there should be no fires. He saw a handful of twigs collected in our fire pit and said, "Whatever you do, don't burn THAT!" as if we had sawed up a spruce. Whatever, lil ranger-lite dude.

Food was a curious proposition. We needed to keep gear to a minimum, and a cooler wasn't an option. Emails throughout the week went something like this:

Me: Peanut m&ms are a perfect food.
Noelle: What about bologna? It's full of chemicals. It'll keep a couple days, right?
Me: I'm having pregger-ish cravings. What about fake cheese, crackers, and gherkins?

This kind of talk gets you a grocery bag that looks like this:

The apple was from Gienna.
Mmmm...fluorescent yellow centers...
Bagel with Alouette and salami that has been out in the sun for two days.
And I'm still alive!
Day three we woke up to find we had about a cup of water between us and six hours before we could hit a CVS or its kin. So, Gienna, we humbly thank you for pushing the apple on us. We shared it and delighted in its succulent juices.

Old lady carts rule.
Bye bye
As we pulled in at Georges Island, our hearing faltered.

What we heard:

Me: Last call for Crazy.
Noelle: All aboard the Flying Clown


"Last call for Quincy"
"All aboard the Flying Cloud."

Shit, that was just creepy.

The trip was fun. I would go again if I knew I could get one of the good sites. Otherwise, I'd camp elsewhere. It's small enough to be a good two-hour visit before hopping off to another island. Really, being on the water and seeing all the islands was an experience in appreciating Boston even more. A lot of history, a beautiful view, and a mash of nature and industry

I leave you now with pics of forts and fauna . . .

This looks more like a Roman bath than a fort structure.


At the bottom of the pic are two kildeer, spectacular little scurrying birds. It's nice to
see them in their natural habitat, rather than flat on the work parking lot.