Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Running on Deer Isle: Part II

This fall, a series of four essays is running in the Island Ad-Vantages, the local newspaper for Deer Isle and Stonington, ME. After each of my essays appears in the paper, I will also post it here.

About a year ago, I decided to run every road in Deer Isle, and now I've nearly finished my quest. If you see a road with a green or blue sign, I will have run down it. I've run hundreds of miles now on little dirt roads, on the crumbling pavement at the edge of Route 15, at the edge of the ocean and in the middle of the woods.

Over Christmas vacation, with snow on the ground and no vehicles driving to summer homes, animal tracks covered some roads. Deer, squirrels, rabbits, birds – sometimes all in the same area, running in circles and crisscrossing the road as though someone had sprinkled seeds on the snow. Surprisingly, I didn't see much actual wildlife (although one day I ran down a road where all the trees had faces). I saw a few deer, of course, standing on the road and then dashing away between the trees. On Christmas, I ran past a house with ducks on the roof and a horse in the yard. One day, I had been running for less than a minute when a movement on the side of the road startled me and I realized I had just run past a sheep! It wasn't tied up, but it clearly stood in the same place all day, right next to the road. "You'll never guess what I saw today!" I told my family afterwards, in a tone usually reserved for tourists who have spotted a moose.

According to my map, it is possible to get from the Reach Road to the dump, because Quaco Road goes all the way through. One day, I parked on the Sunshine Road, ran up Fish Creek Road, and took a left where indicated on the map. It was a dirt road, and then it was two ruts, and then two ruts with grass in the middle. Soon, puddles filled the ruts and I couldn't run more than a minute without stopping to tiptoe my way around the edge of the puddle, or pick my way through the middle on conveniently-placed rocks, or take a few steps and then make a flying leap across the whole thing and hope the dirt on the other side was solid. As the dump got closer, I started seeing all kinds of junk discarded in the woods. Half of a car from the 1940s, a refrigerator, an old mattress – all kinds of stuff that I didn’t know was back there.

On Lowe Road, I wasn't quite as fortunate. On my map, Lowe Road also goes through to the Reach Road. Once again, I parked my car on the Sunshine Road, and my boyfriend and I planned a long loop: up Route 15, across Lowe Road, down the Reach Road to the Sunshine Road and back to the car. However, as we ran along Lowe Road, we discovered that (like so many roads on the island), it ended at a house. No problem! We would find it: the old road, or puddle-filled ruts, or trail, which would take us to the Reach Road. We followed everything we could find, pushing through thorn bushes, wading through puddles, going east in an attempt to find the Reach Road. We ended up finding a long path through fields, which we followed east for half an hour or so until it ended in a clearing and we were completely lost. Eventually, we crossed some sort of fence and found a dirt road. But which way was out? I spotted a "Private Property" sign and reasoned that it had to be facing out, so we ran that way and found ourselves back on Route 15, popping out at Dexter Farm Road, which we had run past an hour before!

Me running down a typical private dirt road in Deer Isle

One day in the winter, I found myself running down a road that kept going and going, nearly a mile long with just one house at the end. This road was beautiful, sweeping past large boulders until it curved down along a natural beach, a private beach in a small cove, hard to see from out on the ocean and not marked on any maps. In fact, I found several such beaches on the island: small deposits of sand that couldn't be seen from the main road or from the bay, perhaps enjoyed by the same family for generations. At one beach, the sand extended out towards a small island, forming a natural sand bar. Beach chairs were wedged into the bank.

Late in the summer, I ran past a secret lily pond. Perhaps someone took flowers from Ames Pond, tied their roots to rocks, and tossed them in. Another day, I ran down a road which (as usual) ended at a house, but in this case the house was surrounded by cars, cars from every decade, and trucks, and tractors, more than 50 of them in all, cars that should have been in the parade and cars up on blocks.

And the dogs! Big dogs barking and jumping behind tall fences, tiny little dogs yipping from enclosed screen porches, loose dogs that come out into the road and chase me, growling. Once, a man happened to drive by at just as a loose dog was coming for me. He slowed down, rolled down his window, called the dog by name and told it to leave me alone. Thanks to this kind man, whomever he is, I was able to pass the house and keep running. Thank you!

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