The Maine Coast, Revisited

Paddling With Alice’s Awesome Adventures in Brunswick, Maine

Story and photos by Gretchen Braulick

For some reason, when at a crossroads, I’m always called back to the same places. I thought this was an issue at first – the issue being that I’m constantly trying to travel back to places I’ve been, versus going to and exploring new destinations. I’ve since realized that there is always something more to learn in a place.

This summer, my fourth summer in Maine, the coast has given me a whole new range of destinations and insights. The rugged life of living off the ocean’s bounty, that practical lifestyle away from the rat race of the rest of the world, seems so easy here, at least through an “outsider’s” eyes. Here, I am learning and adventuring, yet still comfortable when I get back to base at night.

On a recent excursion, I had to stop for a minute to take in the fact that I was not only standing on a shoreline founded in 1628, but I had a view of an island home once owned by Admiral Peary, the man credited with discovering the North Pole. Green crabs were eyeing my red toenails and oysters barnacled to the rocks shared comfort with me, watching local fisherman “sprint” through the seaweed at low tide collecting all they could. The fog rolled in off the ocean like ghosts of the fishermen and their catch.

When I first arrived from Chicago in May, I was a bit homesick. I soon recognized a familiar place; a small cottage on Orrs Island my parents showed me on a previous family visit. It was a place they stayed when they were first married, the place where they conceived my older sister. This island has become an important moment in time for my family. It is also the first place I ever tasted lobster, cooked on a camp stove as we sat in the grass. I remembered the old weathered clapboard siding and cedar shake home, with a sweep of daisies and the sun bouncing off the water.

Three years later, I’m back and I’ve caught that same sun off the water many times in just the first couple months of living here. It’s hard not to keep going back to Orrs Island. I have visited other islands in Casco Bay, but one island caught my eye in particular in the distance that called for my visit: Mere Point.

It was on Mere Point I met Alice. It’s not everyday you meet a woman who is willing to take you and your camera out for a private sea kayaking tour through the islands. Alice, what a woman. I have never met someone who is so open to becoming a friend and a personal guide in just one conversation.

When I first met her she reminded me of my mom. They both hang glass witch balls above their kitchen sinks and have the soul and voice to welcome anyone who steps into their home. Her home always smells of fresh baked goods because she bakes almost every day.

Alice owns her own guiding company called Alice’s Awesome Adventures on Mere Point in Brunswick, Maine. She teaches sea kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, and trains anyone across the U.S. to become a guide. When I met Alice at the Mere Point boat launch, it was just she and her two kayaks, her Subaru, and a trunk full of life vests, with the biggest smile on her face waiting for my arrival. After I caught on to the basics of sea kayaking we discussed the rich history of the area as well as her own personal history and experiences living on the same island her entire life.

If anyone needs to know about the Casco Bay Islands, and living the Maine Island life, she is the person to ask. Maine has 4,600 islands and I was lucky to get up close to some of them by seakayaking. During the tour she pointed out an island that you can see straight down the center of the bay. It is the dome-shaped Eagle Island, originally owned by Admiral Peary. I was fascinated as she continued to tell me the history of the area.

As we continued the tour we pulled our kayaks off on an island with red spruce trees. The island is known to have deer that cross on the ice and stay through the winter. The coast was covered with fog and the seaweed was like a blanket of slippery yellow and green hair. After dragging the boats ashore, we made our way up the rocks to find a place to eat. We feasted on her homemade chocolate chip cookies and lemonade and chatted. Afterwards, she taught me how to search for green crabs, oysters and mussels, pulling up the seaweed and searching through the rocks.

She told me that last spring, she found two deer skulls with their antlers tangled together, washed up on shore near her home on Mere Point. She explained that the deer must have been fighting on an island and gotten entangled when one fell into the sea and pulled the other one in as well. Alice was lucky enough to see the remains of nature’s circle of life. And I was lucky enough to learn about it.

I realize I am fortunate to have the experience of returning to the coast of Maine. Adventuring with Alice was the icing on the cake for this visit, and I’m sure I will return again for another glimpse into the life of Maine.

 

 

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1 Comment

  • Your article has created a big desire to head east! I’m a kayaker from the midwest (yes, there
    are lots of kayakers in Iowa!) and was curious about the magazine my cousin’s daughter started
    working for. So exciting to see your writing and photos. I’ve never been to Maine, but I was drawn in to
    the experiences you describe. Congrats Gretchen! Jan Mabe

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