Monday, December 9, 2013

Crescent Beach in December

A spectacular snowy day on the beach.
Despite what my friends in Florida think, Maine in winter is wonderful.  We have your frigid days, yes, but we also have your bright, sunny days when I think there couldn't be anyplace more beautiful.  Saturday we were handed one of those amazing days and we loaded up the dog and headed south on our way to Massachusetts for a Sunday half-marathon we ran.

After stopping at Standard Baking in Portland for a snack (where I gobbled down a brioche roll and half a blueberry scone where I ate something very healthy) we made our way to Cape Elizabeth.  I love this area, which has a road sign that says "State Parks -->" -- as in plural, as in, there are two amazing state parks right next to each other; Crescent Beach and Two Lights.  (Portland Head Light/Fort Williams Park, owned by the town of Cape Elizabeth, and Scarborough Beach State Park are close at hand as well.)

Although it hadn't snowed at all at our house, a fresh layer of snow coated the trees and fields in Cape Elizabeth, white and clean under a winter sun.  We debated whether we should visit Two Lights or Crescent Beach, and decided Two Lights would be better in spring, when the lobster shack there is open.  Crescent Beach it was.  The giant parking lot was literally empty, so we parked in the sun, clipped the leash on Dory, and headed over the snowy boardwalk to the beach.

This beach is known for very gentle surf, making it popular with families in summer, and we were treated to tiny breaking waves just as expected.  The beach stretches for a mile end to end, and we had a terrific walk along the sparkling Atlantic waters; meeting many others enjoying the day as well.  Lots of people had their dogs out, and Dory had a good time either sniffing them or looking menacing towards them (Miss Congeniality she ain't). 

I like you!  You're big and fluffy!  (Notice my scruff is up though!)
This is a really intriguing beach.  Tons of seaweed and kelp was washing up in the surf, with a lot of holdfasts visible, and my favorite -- Laminaria digitata, horsetail kelp, in abundance.  On the northern end of the beach there were piles and piles of seaweed, all covered with snow today.  Dory thought this was quite the thing, and I might have joined her nosing around looking for cool stuff but I didn't want to take my hands out of my mittens and get them wet -- just a bit too cold for that!

A holdfast without its kelp.

Pebbles on the beach -- I'd bring water shoes in summer.
Laminaria digitata, my favorite.  Notice the bryozoans.
Maine is rocky, even on the sandy beaches!
Kelp flotsam.
We made our way over to Kettle Cove, also a State Park, and enjoyed hiking around the upland trails to Maxwell Cove and John Cove.  Ledges of granite frame these sandy beaches, and although it was high tide we climbed out on them to have a look around.  I need to take a geology course, because I wish I knew more about how these were formed -- as Damon said, they looked like petrified trees all lined up.  They were fascinating.

This rock formation was really amazing.
Protosand, Damon says.
Ledges at Kettle Cove
Upland trails.
Lichen is common at the top of the rocky intertidal.  I think this is Xanthoria parietina, shore lichen.
I can see why people love this beach so much.  It's right by Portland; it has plenty of room to spread out; it's mostly sandy (but I think I'd wear water shoes if I came in summer, as there were plenty of pebbles); and Kettle Cove is tantalizingly close.  We had a great time and this will tide us over until the next warm day in Maine.

To get there:  From Rt 295 in Portland, take exit 6A.  At the first light, turn right onto Rt 77, State Street.  Follow Rt 77 through Portland and over the Casco Bay Bridge.  Stay on this road through Cape Elizabeth to the State Park, right after Inn by the Sea.  $4.50 for Maine residents and $6.50 for non-residents.  Well worth the price . . . .