My Book!!

One opportunity that the blog has brought me is the co-authoring of a guidebook, Paddling Southern Maine! It is something in which I take a lot of pride! My writing partner, Sandy Moore, and I have created a book with 54 amazing trips that are within about an hour of Portland! Our motto as we wrote the book was wanting to 'get people to spend the day on the water and not in their cars!'

If you want more information on our book please visit Sandy and I are available to attend/present various functions/events. Please email me at for more information!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Crystal Lake, Gray, Maine

This post is another blast from the past.  I paddled here in April of 2012, but didn't post it.  Read the notes section for more information on that.

Body of Water: Crystal Lake, Gray, ME [Maine Gazetteer Map 5, B3 ]

Directions (from Portland, ME): From Portland head north on 95 (Maine Turnpike)  and take Exit 63 Gray/New Glouster.  Off the exit bear right into the center of Gray, follow signs for Rt. 26.  (The intersection in Gray is funky, with Rts. 115, Rt. 4, Rt. 26, and Main street, you will be turning left onto Rt. 26. You will pass the Maine Wildlife Park (Gray Animal Farm).  Keep your eyes open for a left turn for North Raymond Road.  (There is currently a small convenience store at the corner)  Turn LEFT onto North Raymond Road. You don't go very far before seeing the lake and then turn Right onto Mayberry Rd.   Parking is on the left across the road from the lake.  

Boat Launch: Boat launch site is from Wilkies Beach.  (I think it is most used by townspeople, but it was accessible for us!)  The put in is easy in and easy out.  Gravel entry, gradual slope.
Hours of operation noted on the sign say: 
May - September 5:30 a.m. - 8:30 p.m. October - April, Sunrise to sunset.  

Parking: There were a lot of spaces available for parking.  I would say about 15 vehicles, maybe more can park here.  I am sure in the summer it is a lot busier, but in early spring it was empty!

Wildlife: We saw a duck.  I am sure in the summer there is more wildlife than we saw!

Notes: No fees.  No bathrooms.
Crystal Lake... in Gray... I hesitated about putting it on here or not.  As most of my readers know I like places that are quiet, serene, and perhaps a bit isolated.  I also like places where I can explore off shoots and find places that feel unexplored.  Crystal Lake is not one of those places.  However, I also know that other people have different preferences, so decided to post it. (One of the friends who was with me had heard about it from other people as one of the places they LOVE to paddle.)   I didn't take many pictures, but will share what I have.  (They are not great quality.)  There are few places along the lake that are not waterfront properties, many many houses/camps.  I didn't feel like that pictures of people's houses was what I wanted to share.  

There were a couple of cool places to paddle... 

One of the few non house covered areas...

Notice the fleece shirts.  It was April and COOL temps.  


A reflection shot...

This would probably be a great place for beginners or for families with kids who don't have a lot of endurance.  I am not sure of the boat traffic there during the summer, but given the number of houses I would expect it would be a busy spot.  

Lower Range Pond (State Park), Poland, ME (From September 2012)

*Note:  I paddled here last September but somehow did not post information or pictures at that time.  I was recently asked about this place and realized I had not posted it.  I am choosing to share it now and may revisit this place soon to take some better pictures!

Body of Water: Lower Range Pond, Poland, ME [Maine Gazetteer Map 5,  A3]

Directions (from Portland, ME): From Portland head north on 95 (Maine Turnpike)  and take Exit 63 Gray/New Glouster.  Off the exit bear right into the center of Gray, follow signs for Rt. 26.  (The intersection in Gray is funky, with Rts. 115, Rt. 4, Rt. 26, and Main street, you will be turning left onto Rt. 26.  Stay on Rt 26 for a while.  (I will try to get mileage soon!)  You will pass Maine Widlife Park in Gray Maine, a.k.a. Gray Animal Farm. Once you get into Poland you will want to be watching for the intersection of Rt. 26 and Rt. 122.  Turn Right onto Rt 122.  Watch for signs for the state park.  You will turn left onto a paved road and will stay on that for a bit then turn left onto the Park Road.  

Boat Launch: You unload your kayak in the parking area and then carry it to the beach area to launch.  It is a short distance to walk, but if you are solo you may want a cart of some kind to easily get to the water.  The launch itself is a sandy beach.

Parking: There is a lot of parking.  The parking lot is gravel and depending on how busy, you can park fairly close to where you put in.  Not a great picture, but there are spots to park and plenty of them!

I did see this sign, but didn't see a specific place that was designated for launching... I headed to the beach area and was fine.  I would imagine you could launch a kayak from the beach at any time.  But do note, the sign says Boats are expected to be off the water by 5:30p.m. 

Fees: There are fees to use the park.  I have a state park pass so I do not have to pay, but these are the rates.  (Or they were for 2012)  

Wildlife: Canada geese, loon, birds, & turtles

Notes: There are bathrooms at the park.  I am not sure how late into the fall they are open, or how early in the spring, but they are there.  Because this trip is a little outside of Portland the bathrooms are a great bonus! This park is a popular place for school field trips in the spring and with families with small children.  I was there in mid September and I was one of only a few people there. When I got to the beach there was a flock of Canada geese.  I had heard them land (Wish I had been there to get pictures of that! Timing was off a little!)

The day I was there it was windy, so I decided to put in and head to the right as I had looked at the map and seen that there was more water to explore that way than if I went left.  I stuck to the shore and it was a great paddle.  I was pleasantly surprised that as I paddled to what I thought was the end of the pond, it kept going.  It felt like I was kayaking from pond to pond.  If you look at google earth, enter Range State Park and follow Lower Range Pond and see how far you can go.  I paddled all the way to the bridge which is Poland Corner Road near Plains Road.  Anyway.. despite it being a windy day I found that once I got further away from the wider part of the pond, it was quite peaceful and calm.  There were lots of lilies and various places to explore.  I saw a loon and a heron, both from afar, but was excited to see them.  I did see a couple of other people out paddling, but didn't feel encroached upon at all.  I am not sure if motorized boats are allowed here, I didn't see any, but again it was late in the season for boats.  After I reached my turning point and approached the beach the wind was pretty strong.  I contemplated exploring the other parts of the pond, the part I would have seen if I went left instead of right when facing the water, but decided it was safer to call it a day.  (I was solo and cell reception was limited.)  This is a place that would be good for paddlers of all levels.  People who like to explore different places as you paddle would enjoy it here.  Here are some pictures:
Just a random shot of my Gazzeteer!  (Very useful!) 

After making my way through the geese on the beach I headed up the pond.

This was as close as this loon would get! 

I think this would be a beautiful place to paddle once the foliage begins to change.  

lily pads! 

The not so focused picture of a blue heron...

One of the places, fairly narrow, I got to explore.  I paddled around the log, just liked the way it looked! 

Turtles! You know I love them! 

I like this picture, two turtles swimming under the reflection of my paddle! 

I was impressed at how far these smaller areas went on.  I kept expecting it to end, but it kept going! 

It was a very peaceful paddle.  

Heading back to the bigger part of the lake.  

Seeing the tall reeds makes me think how different this would be in early spring prior to the vegetation growing so much.  

Some fall colors beginning to show.  

Again, this is a place I need to revisit.  I think I would get some better pictures.  I do recommend coming here to paddle.  You could spend a lot of time exploring.  Bring a snack and water and enjoy!  
(I will try to go again this summer/early fall and update the photos and directions/mileage.)  

An added note... if you have children and want to make a day of it, you may want to consider visiting the Maine Wildlife Park.  (My recommendation would be to do the park earlier in the day when the animals are more active.  Also, in hot and humid temperatures I have found the animals hide and stay out of the sun.  Miler days are better to visit the park.  Also, some public libraries offer free passes to the park if you reserve ahead of time!) Here is a link to the park:

Great Pond, Cape Elizabeth

Body of Water: Great Pond, Cape Elizabeth, ME [Maine Gazetteer Map , between A & B and 4 & 5]

Directions (from Portland, ME): Follow Rt. 77 into South Portland.  Once in South Portland Rt. 77 merges with Broadway. Stay in the right lane and turn Right to stay on Rt. 77. (Across from Mill Creek Park)   Stay on Rt. 77 until you pass by Cape Elizabeth High School then turn right onto Fowler Road. Drive down Fowler Road until Fenway Road, on the left.  (About a mile down.)  Follow Fenway to its end and park in the cal de sac.  Look for the trail to get to the launch site. 

Boat Launch: To get to the place to put in your kayak, you are going to have to walk a bit.  Of the places I have kayaked this is the longest walk.  I would HIGHLY recommend having a cart of some kind to move your kayak if you are doing this spot solo.  (I was with a friend and we walked into the pond first to see how far we had to walk.  I am terrible at estimating distances I walk, but it probably was a 5-10 minute walk, depending on how many times you stop to rest your arms!) Once you get to the place to put in the kayaks, the launch site is great.  Sandy and gradual slope into the pond.  Here are some pictures of the walk and launch site:

Again, I recommend a cart of some kind if you are doing this solo! 

From the cul de sac, head straight into the woods...

This is a small decline. Once you see the boat racks, you are close! 

People from the town participate in some kind of lottery/rental system to be able to keep their boats here.  

After the boat racks the trail splits, to the left is a nature trail, to the right is the launch site! 

And, there it is! 

It was a bit of a walk, especially compared to other places I have kayaked, but the seclusion truly makes this a hidden gem.  

Parking: There is not a parking area specific for using this area.  I read online that people are expected to park on the sides of the street, respecting the homeowners, and walk into the pond.  (There was only one other vehicle parked on the street when I was there.)

Wildlife: blue heron, painted turtles, cormorant, hawk, many other birds, probably frogs, and I was told this is a great bass fishing spot.

Notes: I had heard about Great Pond.  I had heard that only Cape Elizabeth residents were supposed to access it, but I did not find any such signs and figured as long as we were respectful we would be fine.  (And I was right!) To be honest,  I underestimated this pond.  I had chosen it because a friend of mine, who I have taken kayaking a couple of times, has decided to buy a kayak.  One of her friends was selling one and my friend wanted to try it out.  She asked if I could help her transport the kayak and go with her for safety sake and it was close to where her friend lived.  Since I had to work during the day I figured it would be a quick test paddle and would call it good.  Even when we arrived I was pretty neutral about it.  After seeing we had to walk in a ways and I was doing most of the heavy lifting on both kayaks (my friend's back was bothering her) I was not sure it would be worth the effort.  But it was! (I do love sharing my love of kayaking with people, so I am happy to help people, just like a good payoff of great kayaking for the hard work!)  Where we put in I could tell that the pond was a decent size, but as we paddled we found lots of nooks and crannies to explore.  I like places where you paddle around a corner and you can't tell if it is a dead end, so you paddle in and sometimes, if you get lucky, you find a whole other area to explore. The scenery here is unique, compared to other places I have been.  The pond is surrounded by cattails and reeds.  (At first I thought it would bore me, but it was pretty!) It was a great place, especially if you want a place to go after work!  I also think this would be a great place for beginners and for families.   One unique feature was being able to hear the foghorn from the Fort Williams lighthouse nearby.  As we were paddling we could hear its tone and it was cool.  Here are some pictures:

This was taken shortly after we launched, looking across the pond.  It was a little breezy, but still an easy paddle.  

After putting in we decided to go left and keep the shore to our left, again making sure we knew how to get back to the launch site.  The cattails were sooo tall!  

There were also many lily pads and lilies.  Some areas were so full of lilies it made paddling a bit of a challenge.  (I bet in early spring, with higher water levels and less vegetation,  there are more places that are accessible.)

There were of course some dragonflies! 

In one of the 'hidden' areas I came across this beaver house.  We did not see a beaver, but this seems to be proof they live here.  

Very peaceful! 

As always, a toe shot! 

As we paddled I kept hearing turtles plopping into the water, but didn't see them...until this guy.  He was a bit brave, but also plopped in the water not long after taking this pic! 

Then I saw this... at first I thought the turtle's shell was shedding, but then I realized it was a dragonfly! I hoped to have a chance to get a better angle... 

And I did!  I was so excited they stayed like that long enough for a couple of pictures.  I love this picture, one of my favorites! 
I didn't notice it at the time, but there is a leach on his back leg... not as cool as the dragonfly!

The way the sun was shining it was hard to tell exactly what kind of bird this was... but I believe it was a cormorant... a small one, but it was duck like, and had some of the same features.  I do like the silhouette that I got because of the angle of the sun.  

This is the one where I think it looks like a cormorant.  

It kept making weird motions with its neck.  I think it was trying to swallow a fish.  

The clouds moved in.  (It had rained all morning but cleared up.) 

It was pretty.  

There were a few houses on one side of the pond.  but the feeling on the pond was that of seclusion and tranquility.  

As we approached the take out site a heron was there, but flew away before I could get a good picture.  

Again, this was a place I underestimated. Because I prefer to paddle in places with limited boat traffic I really enjoyed this location.  The walk in felt a bit inconvenient, until I was out paddling.  It did not take me long to decide this was well worth the extra effort.  
A side note... If you are looking for a kayak, if you are just getting into the sport or looking to change your kayak model, try them out.  My friend did not like the kayak she used yesterday.  She liked how easily it turned and maneuvered, but she is fairly tall and the cockpit was too small for her to be able to move around much.  By the time we got out she was hurting.  Kayaking is so relaxing, or should be.  Worrying about your level of comfort should not be part of the experience.  The lesson here is before investing in a kayak, try them out.  Go to a place that will allow you to get in and paddle, paddle for a while to see if it fits your body and needs.  If you are going to buy one used, ask the owner if you can try it out.  The worst they can say is no.  Another option is to go to places that sell kayaks and provide opportunities to test out different kayaks.  A good retailer is going to provide that opportunity.  If you have friends who are kayakers, try a paddle in their boat and see what you think. 
I am very tall and not a beanpole, so I need a boat that is long and I want one that is stable.  I love a big cockpit.  I have had knee surgery and need to reposition myself as I paddle. I would not like kayaking if I had a kayak that did not allow me to do that.  Know yourself and your body and know where you will be kayaking most in order to get the right yak! 

Keep Paddling! 

Oh... by the way... Got this sticker in the mail the other day... had seen it on someone's boat on facebook and tracked down the source.  Someone designed them and is selling them in Michigan.  

THIS is my kind of church!  
Photo: A new sticker for my truck...figured since I am a minister and all...I should have a religion!!!