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Quiet Island Life

It is so pretty this time of year on South Abaco island. The greenery is lush, the weather is mild, the water is warm, the silence is enormous.  Our ears feel as though they might implode from the peace and quiet.

The front yard is green, lush and relaxed. Stillness prevails.

The beach has no one on it.

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Since we arrived in Portland we have been working on a Concentric Circles Discovery Program.  We start from our home with the closest possible restaurants, parks, stores, and places to visit and then slowly work our way outwards, in a circular fashion.
Less than a mile from our place we have discovered the Rose Gardens which are absolutely beautiful.  We walk there almost every day.  It is uphill all the way  and offers us the possibility, if we wish, to take a short cut that includes marching up 220 steps to the top of a hill before reaching the rose gardens.  If we are not in the mood for taking all those steps, there is a road we take instead that zigs and zags its way more humanely to the top.
We have also visited the Japanese Gardens which are 350 feet farther than the Rose Gardens.  They, too, are absolutely beautiful.  However, there is a fee for visiting the Japanese Gardens, while on the other hand, the Rose Gardens are freely entered.
This week, we discovered Pittock Mansion which is  about 2.1 miles walking distance, from our place.  We drove up there on Saturday, and this was the view (see below).  One sees downtown Portland, Oregon and Mt. Hood  in the background looking so powerful and beautiful.

 Today we visited Pittock Mansion again, but this time we walked through town and then zig-zagged up to the top,  a very good aerobic work out.

On the way down, to reward ourselves for the walk up, we stopped at Basta’s for happy hour where we had the best pizza and lasagna to go with a glass of wine and a glass of beer.

This is really too much fun.

At this rate of speed, we will be busy walking in concentric circles to interesting sites for years to come.  

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Our lake is of two minds.

On the weekends it is a party place,roaring with motor boats and groaning with jet skis, people shouting and laughing sometimes in the middle of the night in the middle of the lake not realizing all of us can hear every word they say, radios blaring.

Our closest bird neighbor, the Blue Heron, looks a bit irritated as he flies by, lands on a tall branch and just sits there waiting for everyone to leave.

On Monday through Friday, the lake is characterized by peacefulness and silence, where birds fishing and people kayaking prevail.

Early Morning Kayaking


On Saturdays and Sundays we listen to 20 foot boats roar, motors gulp and rip as they lurch from place to place in the water, sometimes making so much noise that we have to stop talking to wait for them to go by.  When this happens, our guests often ask why there are no noise regulations for the motor boats on this lake. We say we don’t know why, but we think it might have something to do with the fact that a whole lot of marinas profit from boat use on this lake.

Sometimes we giggle at the ridiculousness of an oceanic boat trying to use the lake for recreational purposes, looking a bit like a hippopotamus in a bathtub, hugely out of place with the size of the lake.  Then we talk about how happy we are with the new regulations that are stopping such big boats from using the lake now that there is a 26 foot limit, even though these older already licensed gigantic boats are grandfathered in.

Water skiers fly by behind roaring motor boats  with boom boxes on full blast from the boats, sounding like large roller skating rinks, then kids wave to us as they scream by on their inner tubes pulled by groaning motor boats, waves from the boats splashing noisily against the beach.

I wonder whether they ever wonder what nature sounds like when they are not here?

Luckily there is an 80 foot rule from our shore which discourages boats from entering into areas where we swim.  But even then, we still have to listen to their motors . Starting on Friday when people clean off their decks by turning on their leaf blowers to rid them of the 7 or 8 leaves.each one painstakingly attended to while the leaf blower roars like a lion blowing each tiny leaf into the water along with tiny branches and pieces of dirt that might have accrued over the week.  God forbid that weekend company should touch a leaf with their feet.

We take our late afternoon swim out front hearing the roar of engines, screaming jet skis going crazily in circles to nowhere, all causing huge tidal waves to hit the waves hit the shore, splashing and flipping contents against the dock.

We  know that the weekend is coming to a close when we hear that familiar jet skier who, for at least the past  five years  finishes off his weekend by going round and round in circles, full blast, jet ski roaring, the jet ski burping and belching as it tries to swallow all the water caused by this crazy fellow just  steering the jet ski round and round in circles, going nowhere fast.  Eventually he gets tired (or perhaps dizzy or bored?) from doing this and he gives up and goes home.  We all say, “ahhh, he’s finally done.”  Sometimes our guests ask us, “what is this man thinking about when he goes round and round in circles?”  None of us really have a good answer for that  We have no idea.

It does look joyful on the weekends. Big, showy umbrellas are placed on docks for friends to gather and sip drinks.   Children splash with buckets along the shore.  Dogs lap water from the edges, barking at the waves and at each other.. Everyone is having a good time and they think that this is Candlewood Lake.  And it is.

But it is only one of the Candlewood Lakes that we have.  There is another one.

We wake up on Monday mornings to a beautiful,quiet lake, with birds soaring above, lake waters sitting still, perhaps small waves lapping quietly, a calm breeze softly roughing it up but only in spots.  This is a lake of kayaks and sailboats, and for large parts of the time, no boats of any kind at all. Neighbors speak with neighbors from the lake shore without shouting.  Muskrats sometimes swim by, sniffing and snuffling in the water.. Birds swoop and dive between the trees.  Our Blue Heron sails by, finding a nice rock to stand on and peers over the water hoping to see a fish.

Our lake is just one hour and 20 minutes from New York City. Imagine what it must endure.  On the weekends, it is taken over by those who have rented boat moorings at nearby marinas, or clubs added to the people like ourselves who own property and have numerous weekend guests, on or near the lake.

I have been told that on the weekends we can have up to 3,500 boats trying to use this little lake for recreation.  Now that really is a traffic jam. But compared to the traffic jams in Manhattan, this area feels rural, or at least forested or significantly more close to nature.

We have wild turkeys, coyotes and even black bears roaming nearby, blue herons, flocks of geese fly by as well as condors that sit on big rocks and look for fish and big red tailed hawks circle overhead.  When I get up early in the morning and go down by the water, I see fish over two feet long just hanging out by the edge of the lake and snakes coiled up and resting on rocks over by the island, swallows and yellow Baltimore Orioles flitting from tree to tree at the edge of the water, truly a lovely setting.

We have now learned to roll with our schizophrenic cottage life.   We used to try to ignore the boat noise.  This is impossible.  So now we just embrace it and say, “here come the boats”.    On the weekends, we smile and wave at the people going by in their noisy roaring boats, we smile and laugh at the inner tubes full of children  screaming and shouting as they careen behind the family boats sometimes children tipping over and having to be retrieved, we chat with the families watching their children jumping off the rocks and hanging out in their boats over at the nearby islands. We kayak between them, they joke with us about “want a race?” and we always say, “sure”.

On Sunday evening, toward sunset, we get a glass of red wine, some chips and sit down and watch hundreds of boats as they head back to their moorings, sounding like a major battalion leaving a battle ground, knowing that we will not hear from them again for the rest of the week.

We wake up on Monday morning to silence.  It is wonderful.  We are now a little cottage on a quiet lake in northwestern Connecticut, at least for the next five days.

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We visited Rolling Harbor yesterday.   Part of the fun was finding it. 

Last time we were there, about two years ago, we hiked down using an old established logger road.  But now, someone has built a home there and the old road is blocked off.  We stopped and asked a local how to get there. 

Good news.  The Delphi Club and  others  worked together to develop a “Go Around” so that people can still park and walk down.  I photographed it so that others may have an easier time finding it.

How to get to Rolling Harbor

White Rock on Right Side of Road, Going South

Drive down the main road away from Bahama Palm Shores and head toward the Delphi Club and  Schooner Bay.  About 5 miles after Bahama Palm Shores, there is a big white rock on the right side of the road.  When you see the rock, turn left. This white rock is the marker for the Delphi Club and is also the marker for the trail to Rolling Harbor..

Follow the sign that says “Service Road” to the Delphi Club.  After a mile or so, see the  sign for the Delphi Club then stop the car and pull off to the left and park.   Look for a gap between two large trees on the left side of the road and discover the walking path to Rolling Harbor.

Service Road to the Delphi Club

 From there, hike down to the bay.  It is really worth the little trek that is required.   Along the way, there are some beautiful trees, lovely coppice and when we went, we saw a very friendly (and large) grasshopper.

Walking path to Rolling Harbor

The trail becomes thinner and thinner until it is just a footpath, then it hits the beach.

Pretty Copice
Friendly hello from a local grasshopper.
Toward the end of the hike, one sees the ocean ahead.

This is when the walk becomes so striking.  We step through some invasive Hawaiian Sea Grapes and  Casaurina Pines and suddenly we emerge to see a lovely, relatively small, harbor with the waves rolling in with great force.  In front of the Delphi Club, the invasive species have been removed and the view of the cliffs is very striking.  The scene is powerful and pretty.  The beach has the whitest, smoothest sand.

We walked from one end of the harbor to the other, delighting in the rolling waves, the beautiful site of the Delphi Club up above on the cliffs, and the magnificent coral rocks circling out and protecting the harbor from the big ocean waves, but not too much.

I am constantly taken aback by the beauty of the small harbors tucked in along the Abaco shores. Rolling Harbor is one trip that I think we will become a tradition for our family to visit.  It is a very special place, so nearby and reasonably accessible.  We need to encourage others to continue to use the footpath down so that it doesn’t grow over and become inaccessible.   

Rolling Harbor curvature
Stepping off the path and onto the beach
Delphi Club up on cliffs in the center of photo

This is a perfect short hike and great place for a  walk-down beach picnic.  Let’s remember to carry our bottles and papers out with us when we go. 

Another great way to visit Rolling Harbor is to call ahead to the Delphi Club and make a reservation for dinner at The Delphi Club Lodge.   Come a bit before dinner and take a walk down their lovely steps to the beach.  Then return to the Lodge and have a drink while sitting on their great porch.  Watch the sun set over Rolling Harbor.  Then step inside The Lodge for a really nice dinner, in a really great setting, with good friends. 

We are lucky to have the choice to visit Rolling Harbor through a private bone fishing club and to also be able to visit it using public access ways.  It is  important that there are options so that all of us might continue to visit and share such a beautiful place.

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Yesterday we went up with some friends to Treasure Cay and spent some time locating the Blue Hole near there.  At first we couldn’t find it, but after asking some very helpful locals for assistance, we finally figured it out.  As we drove up the road toward it, we could see a forest fire raging in the background in the  general area where the wild horses live.  But since we were on a wide and safe road, we forged ahead.

This Blue Hole we were looking for is 3.6 miles north of the Treasure Cay road and to the left for 2.5 miles. 

The blaze was apparent in some places.  The smell of smoke was everywhere. 

We parked on a two-lane dirt track that we thought was the road to the Blue Hole and the guys walked ahead to see if they could find it.  We followed after they shouted for us to come.  We  walked down the road past the burning grasses along the side. 

An old truck drove up and a woman stepped out. She is Milanne Rehor, a person who has dedicated her life to protecting the wild horses on the island.  She is worried that the horses will be badly affected by all this fire as they are losing their grazing areas.  We chatted with her for awhile, then she got back into her truck and left.

We stood there, listening to the crackling of small fires, amazed with the strangeness and beauty of the setting.

Milanne Rehor

It is fun to read about Blue Holes in the Abacos and there is a lot to learn about them.

They tell us that the top of the water in a blue hole is fresh water and deeper down is oceanic saltwater.  There is a  layer in-between that really doesn’t support much life.  The story of the blue holes is fascinating.

But when you really get to a Blue Hole,  it feels eerie to peer down into one. It is deep and possibly treacherous.  It feels as though if I were to fall in that I might sink and  never be seen again.

There are people who swim at this site and find it a wonderful experience.  Next time I will wear my swim suit and give it a try, but think that I will do it with a life jacket on just to appease my instincts.  If you look closely at this photo you can see the rope tied to the tree where people swing to jump into the water hole.  They tell me that the water is refreshing.

We did not exactly jump in, but one of us did check out the temperature of the water.

 

I took photos of the hole from different angles. It is an amazing site.

See how deep it is?

If you ever have the chance to go find a Blue Hole, please do.  It is well worth the effort.

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Kayaking Tour in the Abacos

Ricky Johnson, of Abaco Nature Tours took us out for a kayak ride just five miles from High Banks.  It was a delightful tour.

He is very knowledgeable about the plants and birds and points them out as he goes along.  We learned a great deal about our local natural habitat from him, as well as stories about how Bahamians use plants for nutritional and medicinal purposes. He also advised us on a great herbal drink to give to kids who say they are too ill to go to Sunday school.  One look at the drink and they are well again.  He is informative and friendly and really kept us interested in where we are and what we are seeing around us.

A half day tour with Ricky gave me a perspective that I did not have before on the plants and birds that comprise the many micro-environments that  surround us.

Ricky picked us up at 8am and drove us just a short distance from where we live.  He headed up the road toward Marsh Harbour, made a hard left into the woods and we bumped along on a two-tracker until we reached the western side of the island, filled with shallow lakes and canals, and marls that lead to the ocean.  The tide was on its way down, so when we touched our kayaks into the water and headed out, we had an extra push from the tide taking us out.  I figured I had better rest up, because coming back was going to take some heavy paddling.

We headed across the lake toward the marls.  Then Ricky signaled for us to go right into the marls with our kayaks, into tunnels of roots that made a really beautiful canal.  We could see small fishes around us everywhere.

The water was rough and pushy on one side of the marls, and beautifully peaceful on the other.

Ricky grabbed a red mangrove root and we all joined him and sat there and chatted about where we were and what we were seeing.  We rested up, knowing that we had to push to get back.

Then we turned around and headed back to the shore to head home, through the tunnels and out into the open, wind-pushed tide-driven lake.  

He held our interest by pointing out the birds and plants of interest on the way back.

In all, we probably traveled ten miles, of which one or two of them were in the ocean water.  Yet in this short half -day trip we discovered a great guide and a very interesting tour of our area, listening and learning, and paddling.  Great fun.  I really recommend it.

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Rainy Day in Paradise

When it rains on this island, it rumbles.  
Last night lightening streaked across the sky, thunder woke us up several times.  Finally, early yesterday morning, it burst into rain.  We got up to watch.  Our electricity was off inside the house, but there was plenty of electricity in the sky.
Front road mud puddles
Afterward, bright grey water settled on the dirt road out front
quite different from the brown mud-puddle 
that we get in New York.  This water reflects softened coral rock.
After awhile, the sky broke open with scattered light.
The ocean was still but the sky was not.

Plants opened up and started uncurling from their parched positions, relaxed with water.

This coconut palm captured the joy of water received.

Our Birdhouse

The backyard looks greener, softer.  The birdhouse sits midst stunning greenery.

Sabal Palm tucked under old almond tree stump.
Native sea grape in rain.
Wet hibiscus overlooks native plants.
Our upper deck, as our neighbor call it, overlooking nature’s theatre.

A perspective on our home from the  point of view of the native sea grape.

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