Corolla Wild Horses!

A few months ago, my sister invited me to go along on the family vacation with her, her husband, several adult children and one of her granddaughters. To the Outer Banks. Let’s see. Two weeks in a house on the beach, or stay in Arizona during the beginning of the long hot summer. Which shall I choose?


View from the deck

The destination was Corolla (pronounced Cah-RUH-la. I immediately went online to find out if turtles might be laying eggs (too late) or eggs might be hatching (too early). But I did find out there were wild horses just up the road. No turtles, but wild horses!


These horses are descendants of wild Spanish Mustangs and have been roaming the peninsula for nearly five hundred years. This makes them some of the earliest full-time residents of the area, second only to Native Americans who were here. It also makes them the first permanent settlers from Europe.


And of course, there were horse tours available. As on the whale tour I took in Baja Sur a little over five years ago, there was no guarantee we’d see any of the animals. There are a number of tours available, but I ended up choosing the Wild Horse Adventure Tours.


I had wanted to schedule a tour in the morning before it got too hot, and I wanted it early in the week before predicted winds and rains. I got one early in the week, but at 2 pm. Hot time. But we had a fabulous tour guide named Will. Will Smith.


My brother-in-law, one niece and two nephews decided to go along on the two-plus-hour tour.


We headed north to the end of Corolla where Highway 12 ended. Oops. No, only the pavement ended. Highway 12 continues for quite a few miles along the beach. No pavement, no grading, just sand. Good thing we were in a Hummer!


That little road on the far east is on the beach!

Highway 12

Highway 12, taken through the windshield

We drove along the sand, then up into the dunes covering some beautiful area. Will pointed out a tall dune named Penny’s Hill (sorry, no photo). He said it was a kind of “walking dune” that, like all dunes, shift and move. He told us there were once several houses at the base of Penny’s Hill but the dune “walked” right over them and buried them.

Will also told us that the dunes near the beach used to be a kind of forest but all the tress had died out. He said they were just old, but I wonder if seawater may have helped kill them off.


After the trees died, humans created the high dunes closest to the ocean. They were created under the New Deal and they serve as a buffer for inland areas.


Inland a bit

After driving the dunes without seeing a single horse, we headed back for the beach. I began to wonder if the trip was going to end up being an expensive dune ride.

And then … there they were. Wild mustangs!


They were right on the beach near the shore, likely just cooling off in the seawater. It was a small herd, as they all are. Most herds are one male and several females though there are a few bachelor herds roaming about also. There are only about one hundred twenty wild mustangs in the area. Since they aren’t an indigenous species, they aren’t protected by the federal government.

Will slowed, even stopped, so we could take photos. We then headed further north and into another area of dunes.

We were still excited about seeing the horses on the beach when suddenly another small herd came running up the road right toward us!


Small herd headed toward us, taken through windshield

Will slowed and eased to the side of the road so they could pass, and then moved on. About a minute later we spotted two males up on the dunes. The two bachelors headed down to the road and to the herd we’d just seen.


One of the bachelors


This boy came off the dunes in search of a mate

As we turned around, it seemed a horsefight was about to break out. We caught just the beginning and then the herd and the two bachelors tore off into inland dunes and we lost them.


No photo of the fight – they took off too quickly

It was then time to head back south. We passed the old Wash Woods Coast Guard station.


Will told us a little more about the area on the ride back. In the two small developments we visited, all building materials had been hauled up the beach. The areas had their own community wells and, amazingly, had trash service. Will claims pizza is even delivered. “If you’re willing to pay, someone will do it,” he said.

On the way back, we again saw the horses on the shore. A crowd had gathered around them, snapping photos. We paused for him to remind the crowd that they need to stay back at least fifty feet – that’s what the law says – from the horses because they bite and kick. He said last year a woman was petting a horse when it suddenly kicked her. She landed in the emergency room and while there was issued a ticket carrying a $500 fine for not staying fifty feet away from the horses.


These tourists are way too close to the horses!

Ah, our tour was over. It was wonderful. I’d do it again in a heartbeat!




The Prime Suspect

I got a message from my housemate, Debbie, while I was in Bahia Kino, Mexico, relaxing on the beach. The message totally unrelaxed me.

Don’t worry, it said. It is taken care of.

Just the beginning scared me.

We had an attempted break in last night. But Chloe chased him off! Nothing appears to be gone or even touched. She must have gone after him immediately.

When Debbie got up that morning and wandered into the kitchen for her coffee, she noticed a long slice in the screen of the sliding glass door. The door has a security door over it but I have never bothered to lock it figuring everyone would believe it was locked. The security door was ajar.

And Chloe was missing! Debbie had watched her go to bed. Later she closed the dog door and then headed to bed herself. So where was Chloe? Still chasing the perp? Who knows. Then Debbie went back to the kitchen, examined the screen, and dialed 9-1-1. When she called, she was told it would be an hour or so before anyone could come. Unfortunately, Debbie had to get ready to go to work, so she arranged for a deputy to come by in the evening.

As she left for work, Debbie saw Chloe across the road and got her back inside quickly with a dog treat. She opened the dog door and left the house in Chloe’s capable hands, er, paws.

Debbie arrived home and just before the deputy arrived, she noticed Chloe out across the street again. What the hell? How did she do that?

That evening, just a little after Chloe had again been rounded up, Deputy Morales came by. Debbie said he was exceptionally soft-spoken and sweet, just the type to be reassuring for a woman who was understandably concerned.

Any suspects? the kindly deputy asked. Debbie could think of none.

He talked with her awhile and in doing so found we occasionally forget to lock up the house. He was, appropriately for a law enforcement officer, horrified. He told her to check the doors each night and to buy some rods to drop into the tracks of the sliding door and all the sliding windows. He also discussed video surveillance.

As Debbie and Deputy Morales talked, Chloe kept nosing about and Debbie proclaimed how she was so proud of the dog for chasing off the would-be burglar. My pup earned a few more treats and scratches.

And then, the lightbulb moment. Debbie and the officer took a closer look at the screen. Not a slash, but sort of sliced up. And how did Chloe get out again that evening?

A short time later, a look around the yard showed the gate to the road had been dug at and dug at and the gate shoved and shoved. There was room for a thirty-five-pound dog to slide through.

Clearly, Chloe had gone to bed and while Debbie’s back was turned had gone back out again – right before the dog door was closed. When Debbie closed the dog door she’d inadvertently locked Chloe in the yard. Desperate to get back in to food and water (and her comfy bed, no doubt), Chloe had broken out of the yard and scratched at the window trying to get in or at least get Debbie’s attention.

Chloe hadn’t chased off a burglar at all. She’d merely been trying to get into the house for a good night’s sleep.

With a reminder to lock up and secure the sliding door and windows, Officer Friendly departed. Chloe, I’m sure, had a bit of a grin on her face for getting all those extra treats and scratches.

Suspect 37408




Mazatlán – the Photos.



Mazatlán is the sea.




Mazatlán is high rises.


Mazatlán is traffic.


In front of the mercado


Busses and more busses

Mazatlán is el Centro.


Inside el mercado


Potatoes and chiles in el mercado – potatoes about 28 cents a pound


The main Cathedral


Inside the Cathedral


A well adorned entryway

Mazatlán is public transportation.


A Taxi


Another kind of taxi

Mazatlán is small enterprise.


Fresh squeezed juice


Ice cream cart


Shoeshine at the plaza


Sidewalk café

Mazatlán is sidewalk nightmares.


Mazatlán is her people.


Piñata party


“I’m a happy guy”


Fishing with just a line

Mazatlán is still the sea.

img_5882Fountain along the Malecón

img_5818img_5891Another statue along the Malecón


img_5789El Faro (the lighthouse)

and finally, Mazatlán



Mazatlán is the sea. The Oceano Pacifico. Twelve miles of sandy beach. El Faro, the lighthouse, the highest in all of the Americas, or in all the world, according to Mazatlecos, those from Mazatlán. It is rocky islands just off the coast and statue after statue along the Malecón, the walkway along the ocean. Rows of pangas, small boats used by fishermen and used to give short rides to tourists. Parasailing and kayaking, snorkeling near the islands. A water slide into the ocean. Sunbathing, bikinis, and topless women. Gaping men.

Mazatlán is high rises on the Zona Dorada, the Gold Zone, the tourist zone. Entire neighborhoods that cater to the the wealthy tourist. $300,000 condos and $200/night hotels. Trendy cafés and signs in English.

Mazatlán is drug wars. The war among those trying to replace Chapo Guzmán. It is extortion and gangsters in the neighborhoods. It is gunfire at night, in the clubs, in the barrios in the streets. It is the thirteen who were shot the night before I arrived.

Mazatlán is kindness. Men holding doors for women. Strangers helping a lost tourist, even walking out of their way to point out the correct street. Offers of food. Young women stopping to pick up something I dropped.

Mazatlán is traffic. Pedestrians scrambling across six lanes of moving vehicles. Cars and busses that blast through yellow lights. Honking horns and screeching brakes. Bicyclists and men on bicycle carts competing with trucks and busses on the roadways. Traffic jams in downtown Mazatlán Viejo, Old Mazatlán.

Mazatlán is El Centro, the downtown area. The mercado that fills an entire city block, bursting with stall after stall after stall of meats, vegetables, cheeses, taco stands, clothing, trinkets, purses and jewelry. And more. It is the the cathedral and the main plaza, Plaza Republica. Park benches and shoeshine stands. Wandering musicians. The small clubs where anyone can get up to sing with the band and old men play dominoes. Streets filled with shoppers and tourists, huaraches and Birkenstocks, mini skirts and aprons over housedresses. A man with no legs on the sidewalk, begging.

Mazatlán is public transportation. Truck-taxis with benches along each side running the length of the truck beds, the whole covered with tarps for shade. It is open-air taxis of small cars that look like offshoots of a Volkswagen Thing. It is city busses, each one decked out with photos, fringe, crucifixes, posters of the Virgin, saints and the Playboy bunny. Bus drivers who switch lanes into spaces so tight I wouldn’t try to put my car there, who talk on their cell phone while they drive, who text when stopped in traffic, who let their wives and children board without paying.

Mazatlán is small stores and enterprise. Tiny grocery stores every few blocks. Small restaurants on corners and in front rooms. Vendors on bicycle carts. Home garages turned into stalls where women sell snacks or men repair toasters.
Mazatlán is sidewalk nightmares. Sidewalks rise, they fall, they disappear. They are level with the street or two feet above it. They change levels, textures, angles and stability a dozen times in one block. Holes and cracks abound. Concrete, tile, dirt and brick, often all four along three connecting storefronts. Sidewalks in Mazatlán are to be respected, attended to while walking, and are not for the faint of heart.

Mazatlán is cosmopolitan. Many races, many nationalities, many languages. Theaters and museums. Public art. Business meetings in a café. Excellent coffee. Baguette, lobster, mocha, sushi. Fine dining. Nightclubs and waterfront restaurants, trendy shops. Women breastfeed in public.

Mazatlán is its barrios, its neighborhoods. Cars with speakers atop them cruise the street announcing fresh fruit, bread, or bottled water for sale. Neighbors in front yards or on the steps, chatting. Children playing soccer in the street. Fireworks at night because … well … because.

Mazatlán is her people. Mothers with babies and a gaggle of young children. A school outing with a long line of first graders and two harried teachers. Tourists with cameras, everyone with cellphones. High heels click click clicking down the sidewalk. Lovers oblivious to all others.

Mazatlán is still the sea. Fishing and fish markets. Dolphins and sea lions, seagulls and frigates. Turtles lumbering onto the beach to lay eggs, hatchlings erupting and scrambling to the water.


Post-Cruise Maine

img_5238I learned several things in Maine. First, leave stereotypes behind. I’d pictured Maine as a pretty “white” state, but the first two Maine residents I saw when I got off the plane were Korean. Next, one of the women working at our car rental place wore a hijab. And then I ran into some black folks. Maine, clearly, is not as white as I’d assumed.

I learned that most men wear beards (cold winters?). Lots of people in Maine are at least a little overweight (cold winters?). People there, for the most part, are incredibly friendly and helpful and welcoming. And hooray! Maine has no billboards and is astoundingly free of trash.

Maine is old. Old towns, old cemeteries, old houses. Some houses we saw listed for sale were 200 years old and more. Maine is full of hills. They call some of the big ones mountains, but if you’re a Westerner, they’re hills.  Yes, yes, I exaggerated and there are real mountains, though they’re more rounded, softer looking, than the ones I’m accustomed to. And the tallest one is not as high as Bisbee.


And, everywhere we went, around every curve, across every field, in every village and town, there was beauty.


But to the story.

The schooner sailed and motored slowly into the harbor, gently rocking its way slowly to the dock. We all gathered for a group photo, hugged goodbye, and made our way up the gangplank. We didn’t have to carry much because the crew members jumped up and began carrying things for us.


Once on land, Kathy, Barbara and I said our goodbyes to Cousin Jill and her husband Bruce, who was there to pick Jill up. Bruce is my blood cousin, but since he married Jill, I now have a wonderful female cousin too.

The remaining three of the group got into our car and headed north, past Camden (recently voted one of the ten best small towns in the US) and Belfast, then up towards Bangor. The two-hour trip took us nearly four because of all the stops we made at lovely spots.


Downtown Camden

We finally arrived in Old Town where we’d be staying the next four nights with Andrea of Clear Light Midwifery. We’d found her on Airbnb. And, wow! Once again, we couldn’t have picked a better place.


We had the whole upstairs of Andrea’s house. She stuffed us silly with her wonderful baked goods, pointed us to interesting places to see and even let us wash a few loads of clothes.


My sweet room

We all fell in love with her two dogs and two cats. We quickly became family – walking the dogs, feeding the chickens, and sleeping next to purring kitties. In all, it was a wonderful stay and I highly recommend Andrea and the beautiful place she lives in.

Our first morning there dawned gray and drizzly. We pulled on warm clothes, grabbed our rain gear and headed out. We roamed a cemetery and some back roads, finally ending up in Bangor. What to do on a drizzly Sunday? Browse the stores and have a good lunch.


We were all impressed by the quality of shops in downtown Bangor. No big chains, just lots of independent places and tiny chains of just four or five shops. Mexicali Blues is highly recommended!

On day two it was sunny but windy. We again donned warm clothes and headed out to Moosehead Lake searching for the ever-elusive moose. We saw none, but we sure saw warning signs.


We also saw lots of fall color and ate lunch at the Stress-Free Moose Pub and Café. More killer clam chowder!



On our third day with Andrea, we headed out early to Acadia National Park where we got in for free on my Senior Pass.


We drove the loop, saw seals, stopped for gorgeous views. We were unable to get into the park’s restaurant because it was totally reserved before we got there!


Then we headed up Cadillac Mountain. It is known for being the first place on US soil to receive sunlight for five months out of the year—mid October through mid March. This is due to its far eastern position and its 1500+ foot height.


The only negative at Acadia was the crowds. Well, and we couldn’t get into the restaurant. We hadn’t thought it would be busy but we were wrong, wrong, wrong. W-a-y too many people and we had a difficult time finding parking spots when we wanted to stop. But it was lovely nonetheless.



After lunch in Bar Harbor, we headed back to Old Town carefully not stopping at another LL Bean outlet. Whew!

When we got home Andrea was gone—delivering a baby! Also, a friend of hers had arrived for the night. Andrea eventually came in tired and in need of a shower, smiling about the beautiful new baby she’d helped bring into the world.

We left on Wednesday taking a pretty straight shot south. We wanted to be near the airport on our last night since we had a 7 AM flight. We walked Old Orchard Beach, succumbed to a serving of fried dough, walked it off, then went back to the restaurant Barbara and I had gone to our first night in Maine. Clam chowder!


Fried dough


Old Orchard Beach

Up early, returned the car and made it to our flight.

Goodbye Maine! We love you!


The Cruise

For years it was my dream to take a sailing cruise. I won’t do big cruise ships. They kill whales and dolphins and mess up small ports where they stop. So how to cruise? Sail!

I was turning seventy and decided that now was the time, so I booked on Schooner American Eagle out of Portland, Maine, during the fall color season.



And I invited girlfriends to join me.


Barbara, Jill, me and Kathy

We motored away from the dock in Rockland a little after ten am on Wednesday. It was a glorious sunny Maine morning, not even cool enough to be called “crisp.”  Everyone was on deck to watch town slip away.


Soon almost all on board had taken seasickness medicine or put on our pressure point cuffs designed to prevent seasickness. Due to the smooth sailing, however, none of that was necessary. By day two I’d taken off my cuffs, never to put them on again.


Protected (from noting) with my anti-nausea cuffs

We headed north, staying near the coastline, searching for the elusive fall colors. Maine had enjoyed a long warm fall, and that meant the leaves were just starting to change.


But change they did! In just the few days we were sailing there was a noticeable difference.


A few things about the cruise as a whole, starting with the not good. The only, ONLY not good was the lack of wind, and that certainly was not the fault of Captain John or the crew. It meant, however, that we had to motor rather than sail for a good part of the trip.


Buoys mark lobster traps in a calm sea

That said, everything else was as close to perfect as one can imagine. The four-person crew and the captain were experienced, friendly and helpful, and they all had a good sense of humor.


Captain John explains some of the basics.

Though there was no wind, shortly after we left groups lined up to help tug the ropes and hoist the sails. We knew we would find wind eventually.

The weather was beautiful, perfect, even the last day when we were totally fogged in. After warm days, blue skies and lots of sun (and some mild sunburn), the fog was a treat.


Taken a few hours after rising when the fog was finally burning off

The food was amazing, and there was so much of it! Beautiful salads, plenty of fruit, and everything was homemade. Each meal had breads, biscuits, cookies or pies – all baked in the schooner’s wood stove oven.



Lunch set out on deck

We stopped the last full day, Friday, on Wreck Island for a lobster boil Matthew the cook had even roasted eggplants and made fresh baba ganoush.


That along with good crackers, fresh veggies and several kinds of cheese proved the perfect appetizer. Then as we ate on the beach, one of the crew came around with wine.


I ate two lobsters, by the way.

We went ashore each day and two crew members, Chris and Justin, organized us into rowers and supervisors for the trip.


We roamed two small towns, one on an island, and visited another tiny island where we hiked through the woods to a lighthouse.


Everywhere we stopped the towns or islands were beautiful, full of vibrant fall colors, and where we saw people they were friendly and welcoming.


Church in Castine, Maine

One stop was long, and the four of us went separate ways but soon enough we had all slipped into a local pub for a glass of wine. Justin and Chris were there, just finishing a beer, so Jill quickly bought them another round to ensure we’d have enough time to leisurely sip our wine.

One bit of excitement was when we got attacked by a pirate ship.


The Pirate Ship!!

I was on deck, lazing in the sun and gazing out to shore, paying no attention to a cluster of people on the other side of the ship. Suddenly, BOOM!!! We’d been fired upon!


Justin’s fancy earplugs

The crowd on the other side of the boat was laughing and pointing at Justin. He had pulled a tiny cannon out of a box and stuffed paper towels into his ears as earplugs. Soon he lit a fuse and there came another BOOM and a puff of smoke.

This was followed by the folks on both schooners laughing and waving at one another. A few BOOMS. The only breaks to the lovely quiet on the water.

For three full days we glided between islands, sometimes at full sail when we picked up some wind.

Pumpkin Island

When the breeze was cool I slipped into my cabin to read, but otherwise I was on deck soaking in the beauty and the clear salt air.


Similar to my cabin, but mine was smaller!

I really cannot say enough about how good this trip was! We met people aboard who were on their fifth sail with Captain John on the Schooner American Eagle. They said they’d tried other sails but this was the best. Although we had no other experience on schooners, we all agreed it could not have been better. Five star rating!


Days Three and Four

Day three dawned gray and cool. Not ones to be put off by a little bad weather, we set off to Bath via back roads as recommended by Michael, our Couchsurf host.

But what is it about cemeteries? Both Barbara and I were drawn to one along the road. It had death dates in the early and mid 1800s. Although some had not died until they were in their seventies or eighties, many had died in their thirties, and quite a few were children or babies. The fragility of life two hundred years ago.




Bath is a sweet village on one of the many inlets along the coast. Michael told us that if the Maine coastline were stretched out into a straight line, it would be longer than the California coast. I looked it up, and yep. Maine’s coastline north to south is 228 miles long compared to California’s which is 840. But in a straight line, Maine beats California by about fifty miles, with a grand total of 3478 coastline miles. Compare that to its 228 mile length and that is a lot of inlets!


Bath has a major shipbuilding industry and there are also several small shops that build small wooden boats.



It has a very walkable downtown with an odd bookstore, interesting shops, antiques, and lots of warm clothing available. It also has one of the most beautiful libraries I’ve ever seen.


The library in Bath

Then we backtracked to Freeport where we met Michael and fellow Couchsurfer Rachel for lunch, and since we were in Freeport, the home of LL Bean, well, we just had to visit. And we ended up leaving dollars behind in exchange for some great clothes.


We settled back in at Michael’s house then left in the morning after a thousand thanks and goodbye hugs. Off we went back to Portland (back roads) where we picked up Kathy and headed out to roam the streets and go to Gilbert’s Chowder House. More chowder!


Now we we are three!


An old fire truck repurposed as a tour bus, downtown Portland

We did a bit of shopping and Barbara bought us a cigar to share.


Then we noodled our way north to Rockland where we met up with Cousin Jill (actually, the wife of my cousin Bruce, but she is now my cousin too since she married him.)


The final foursome

We had a light dinner of salad and then … we boarded the schooner!


Because the sail wasn’t fully booked, we each ended up with a private room. After settling in, we wondered how in the world two people could comfortably share such a tiny space. The answer is simple: Don’t stay in the room. Head out on deck.


We learned our way around the schooner and learned basic important terms: port, starboard, galley and head.

None of us slept well that night. Too many people in a small space. We could hear each other enter or leave the head, heard some snoring from several directions, and even heard someone talking in her sleep. After that, earplugs ensured a sound sleep.

On Wednesday morning we had a hearty breakfast and then had a bit of time to roam town and pick up last minute items we may have forgotten. Kathy and I did a strange thing: We walked to McDonalds. But there was a good reason. Honest. I wanted to see if what I had heard was true. I’d been told that McDonalds in Maine served lobster rolls!

Yes, it was true, but sadly it was out of season so I couldn’t even see it on the menu. The young woman behind the counter told us to come back in the late spring. Oh, well.

Back to the schooner where we waved goodbye to anyone around, and off we sailed.


Maine, Days One and Two

Day One: Departure, Arrival

Barbara and I flew out of Tucson while most of the city was still sleeping. As soon as we hit cruising altitude, I fell asleep and awoke just as we entered the Dallas area.


Smooth landing, quick dash to a new terminal, and then we were on the plane to Philadelphia.

On this leg of the flight I managed to read a while but still caught a nap.

In Philadelphia, a major cross-airport hike took us from Terminal A to Terminal F. We needed the hike by then after sitting and sitting. And sitting. Then we boarded and sat some more.

We landed in Portland, Maine, a little early and walked through the small but lovely airport. Can you imagine a terminal with seating areas filled with couches and rocking chairs? That’s Portland’s airport.


We soon had our bags and then our car. Warning! At Dollar rentals, a second driver costs $13/day! It is only $5/day at Budget. Keep that in mind the next time you travel with a friend. We surely will. Foxx, by the way, does not charge for a second driver. Sadly, there was no Foxx here.

We made one wrong turn but corrected quickly, and soon we were headed south on Highway 1, traveling a short distance to Saco. However, in the dark and the rain, it seemed a bit long of a drive. Just as we were sure we had passed our turn, I pulled into the left turn lane to make a u-turn and voila! The street where I was making the u-turn was the street we needed to turn on,

We checked into our motel then headed out to the Sea Salt Lobster House for steamy bowls of creamy clam chowder, some calamari on the side. And hey, some chocolate cake for dessert. We were smart and split the cake.


Long, tiring day, but here were are in Maine. As we flew in we saw acres of green dotted with fall’s fancy ladies: the maples and elms and other hardwoods all decked out in reds and golds. Hopefully it will clear tomorrow so we can do some dry wandering rather than soggy wandering.


Day two: Wandering in the Rain

We awoke to find we had missed sunrise except we hadn’t really missed it at all. Heavy, heavy skies meant all there had been was a lightening of the color from black to deep gray, so gray that most of my photos for the day look like black and whites.

We ran across some wild turkeys.


We first wandered south from Saco to Kennebunkport.


Lovely little area where we found a grocery/deli/coffeehouse/bookstore/post office. The yang man behind the butcher counter insisted we must, must try a Maine specialty: the Whoopie Pie. And he said if we weren’t going to buy it, he would buy it for us.


We succumbed.

Between us we ate less than half. Enough sugar to induce diabetic coma if we had even split the whole. We may nibble on a little more today.

North to Old Orchard Beach.


We wandered town and had the privilege to witness a proposal on the beach! We encountered a young woman setting out photos, jars of lights, and sprinkling rose petals. She was excited and quit nervous as she waited for her girlfriend to arrive.

It was a “yes,” and we went up to be the first to congratulate them.


North to Pine Point where Barbara stuck with clam chowder and I opted for the halibut chowder. We shared a large salad.


North to Cape Elizabeth where we visited Fort Williams Park.

There we stood in front of one lighthouse and could see two others! Maine is a lighthouse lover’s dream!


Then north some more, past Portland to Topsham where we stayed with our Couchsurf host Michael. What a great guy! He had six of us staying with him last night! The others leave today, we leave tomorrow. What will Michael do all alone? He has been hosting for years and says, with a big smile, that he hasn’t traveled the world but the world has come to hm. A wonderful guy providing a wonderful service.


Enjoying a meal with Michael and fellow Couchsurfer Rachel, from China.


Turtles, Part II: the Babies

When I visited Edisto Island, South Carolina, with my sister Jean and her family, one of my great hopes was to witness the hatching of baby turtles. I looked up the Edisto Island Loggerhead Turtle Project and found there was a presentation each Tuesday evening, so of course I had to attend. It was my second night on the island.

 My sister joined me for the presentation. We learned that there were nests ready to hatch at several beach access points. The town of Edisto numbers each access road, and when we left the presentation, we knew to look near numbers twelve, ten and seven.

 Two nights later, Jeannie suggested we go look for a hatching nest. We stopped first at number twelve and it was close to ready. The nest had already sunk, and we’d learned that the nests erupt a few days after sinking. We found a small group of people sitting around the nest, waiting, but they’d seen no activity yet.


So we went on to access number ten.



Prepping the runway

 There was a lot of human activity around one of the nests near number ten! We found one of the nests had erupted last night but only about half the babies had emerged. They were expecting the second half to come out very soon.


Smoothing out the runway

Remember, because of beach erosion, mama turtles can’t get up high enough on the beach to lay their eggs and end up laying them where nests could wash away or where high tides would drown the babies. Therefore, Turtle Patrol Volunteers had relocated these nests, and when they did so, each nest was staked out and a sign was posted that told the date the eggs were laid and how many had been laid.



So when the nests erupted, it was easy to figure out how many remained, and on the night we visited, the volunteers said we should see about fifty emerge.

And emerge they did.

Before the babies began climbing out, my sister dashed back to the house and picked up a few of her children. They arrived on the beach just before the eruption.

I didn’t know at first that the little round balls of sand were actually baby turtle heads. And the little pieces of what appeared to be leaves were in fact little baby flippers.


See the little heads and flippers?

Then the round balls of sand moved. Flippers began to push sand away. And then … eruption!


Out they came, one after another after another. In total, just about the fifty we’d been told to expect.

No lights are allowed on the beach at night. Mama and baby turtles tend to head toward light. Usually, the sea is bright under moonlight, so mamas, and their babies sixty days later, simply head toward the light to get to the sea. Red lights can be used briefly, but even those can confuse the turtles if they stay on too long.


The only light was the flashlight of one volunteer. He turned on his flashlight a few feet away from the nest, standing toward the ocean. The babies scrambled toward it.


As babies erupted and headed toward the light, the man slowly backed down the hill to the sea. The babies continued following the light. Down the sand ramp the volunteers had made. Down, down, down to the ocean.

There was a group of about fifty who had assembled to watch the eruption. All were enthralled, even the smallest child. A cheer went up when the first baby turtle went into the water to begin his sixty-mile swim to the open sea where he and the others will climb atop some seaweed and follow the ocean currents.

img_4107Before the whole crowd had gathered


The males will never return, spending their entire lives in the ocean. Females will return to land, usually very near where they themselves hatched, to lay eggs. They are not sexually mature and able to lay eggs until they are over twenty years old. After that, they will lay eggs every two to three years, sometimes creating three or more nests along the shore where they were born.


Only one in a thousand baby loggerheads live to maturity. Of the fifty or so we saw emerge that night, will any make it?


Look at that tiny guy headed into the big, big ocean!


Turtles, Part I

I am a turtle person.

I became one in a brief moment in the late summer of 1990 on a boat as I crossed Lago Atitlán in Guatemala. I saw a vision that included a sea turtle and I have had a powerful connection with turtles ever since. And before you roll your eyes at my vision, know I never much believed in them until I had one.

But this is not the story of that vision I had twenty-six years ago. This is the story of loggerhead turtles emerging from their nests, in what is called an eruption, on Edisto Island in South Carolina.


I was there with my sister and her family for about eight days. As soon as I knew I was coming I contacted the island’s turtle project. The day after I arrived my sister and I went to a turtle presentation held at a local coffeehouse.   (Sorry, the link wouldn’t attach correctly. Copy and paste if you’d like to take a look.)

There I met Pat and Susan, two turtle volunteers. The crowd at the coffeehouse learned that due to beach erosion, a climate change problem, turtles often have to lay their eggs too close to the shore and can wash away in a storm or be filled with seawater during high tide. If that happens, the babies will drown because the eggshells are permeable. So far this year about 90% of the nests on Edisto have had to be relocated to higher ground.



You can see the erosion in this photo of a turtle “runway”

To locate a nest, Turtle Patrol volunteers walk the beach each dawn during nesting season, May through early August. Volunteers look for mama turtle tracks to and from a nesting site. Then they use a probe, shown below, to find the nest. They start away from the nest to get a feel for the density of the sand and move closer. When the density changes and becomes less dense, they know they’ve found the nest.


Two turtle volunteers with a probe

When a nest is found, volunteers rope it off, moving it first if necessary, then date it and number it. That way they know when the eggs in each location will be ready to hatch.

Weather helps determine how long it takes the eggs to hatch, which is anywhere from about fifty-eight to sixty-three days. Both weather and placement in the nest help determine the babies’ sex. More males hatch in cooler weather, more females in warmer weather. More males are located at the bottom of the nest where it’s cooler and more females are at the top.

Sixty days or so after the eggs are laid, the turtle babies begin to hatch and their movement causes the nest to sink. When patrol members see the sinking, they create a sort of runway for the babies and put black plastic along the back and sides of the nest to force the babies toward the sea. Two to three days after the nest begins to sink, the turtles begin to emerge.


Crowd waits by the runway

An eruption.

Next blog post will be about the eruption and the babies!