A road trip from my home near Hampden on Route 1A is one of my favorite excursions. The plunging road offers views of mountains, ocean, forests and rivers – there is so much endless green and blue to admire. With every mile that goes by, I can see more of the beautiful display of God’s work that reminds me how much I love our great state of Maine.
But on days when I want to do more than just take everything from my car, Route 1A has plenty of destinations to explore and unbox along the way. My favorite destination is Sears Island.
Accessible from Route 1A in the small town of Searsport (between Stockton Springs and Belfast), Sears Island stretches about two miles north to south and is known for its beaches, hiking trails and hiking trails . The island is full of useful amenities, from its paved walking path to its port-a-pots, which my younger sister told me were “the cleanest she’s ever seen.” The island also offers a few picnic tables, wooden stairs to beaches, trash cans, and even a small free library filled with good books.
Sears Island was once known as Wassumkeag, and it has been used for fishing, hunting, and camping for as long as people lived in Maine. The David Sears family bought it, and after four generations of owners, the name was officially changed in the mid-1800s to Sears Island. It was used during Prohibition to smuggle into the country, and during WWII weapons were shipped from its docks to our European allies.
One recent morning, I loaded up my 8 month old and his jogging stroller, and we hit the road for a walk on the island. In our vehicle, we got off 1A and turned at the small blue sign marking the entrance to the island. At the end of the aptly named “Sears Island Road” is the small, wooded and unpretentious island. We crossed the causeway and parked near the entrance to the trails, and once the little guy was tucked into his stroller, we took the wide, paved path that runs through the center of the island. I especially like this trail because it offers a good walk even as we move into the cold late fall and winter seasons here in Maine.
It was an unusually warm morning for early November (a mild 54 degrees), and I quickly found myself throwing off my sweatshirt. After about a mile, as we approached the end of the island, the asphalt path turned to gravel. Although this path is still easily passable, it can get muddy in the spring or after some bad weather. It was a bit muddy that morning from the recent rain, but it was nothing that my jogging stroller, hiking boots, and happy 8 month old boyfriend couldn’t handle.
It was around here that I first heard the bright green bell buoy from Sears Island.
A bell buoy is a buoy fitted with a large bell and attached in the ocean. Its primary purpose is to warn vessels of passing dangerous shallow waters, and it rings almost constantly when tossed about in the waves. Her heartwarming “clang-clang, clang-clang” became the singing and peaceful soundtrack of our walk.
We got to the end of the path, I untied my little guy and got out onto the island’s modest breakwater. We explored for a little while, and I pointed to the buoy that fascinated him so much. As usual, when he encountered new things, he would just suck his hand and stare at her and stare at her. I couldn’t help but smile at his fascination.
Clockwise from left: Danielle Hines 8 month old son watches her as they explore the trails on Sears Island in November; A paved road, closed to vehicular traffic, crosses central Sears Island; Algae float along the shore. Credit: Courtesy of Danielle Hines.
After a little while, I strapped him into his stroller again and off we went. As we walked, I pondered this bell buoy and its metaphorical implications. As of this writing, the 2020 election results are still coming. Between this US election and the ongoing global pandemic, the last few months have been increasingly anxious and the news has at times been feverishly frightening.
But for this bell buoy, it doesn’t matter what happens. Whether there is a calm sea or raging storms, through sleet, snow and sun, it stays. The bell does its job, protecting ships and even providing a little joy to whoever hears its song.
I hope that whatever happens to this election, as long as we have to hold out during this pandemic, we can all say that we are striving to achieve the same things – to protect each other and to spread a little kindness and joy whenever we can.
Danielle M. Hines is a Recreational Travel Host in Maine, Founder and Director of The Bangor Area Homeschool Players, and an upcoming author. She enjoys exploring her home state of Maine, playing with her new baby, and reading just about anything she can get her hands on.