A seasoned nature writer scales the hills and valleys of Maine’s rocky coast.
Camuto (Creative Writing/Bucknell Univ.; Hunting From Home: A Year Afield in the Blue Ridge Mountains, 2003, etc.) surveys the largest and most mountainous of the state’s islands, Mount Desert Island, dramatically describing the awe and limitless wonders found along the “roughly ten-mile-by-ten-mile wolf’s paw of granite.” It was first discovered by French explorers in the early 1600s. Then, in the 19th century, it was rediscovered by artists who were instantly enraptured by its rugged natural splendor. Recorded in his journal as “field moments”—random observations enjoyed without the intrusion of the general public—his excursions Camuto scouring the great expanse of Acadia National Park and hiking to survey the vista from his perch atop Cadillac Mountain, then navigating tricky channels by kayak, where he appreciated the landscape from the water. The author rented a cabin, befriended the locals and spent many months identifying indigenous bird species, examining the bountiful marine environment and enjoying a “walk through time” on the storm-battered coastline and challenging trails that bisect the summits of Champlain and Dorr mountains. At times, Camuto gets sidetracked, overwhelmed by the minutia of the moment: “The marsh dares you to get close to all these things, to become one with its otherness, to pay attention, to learn, to be satisfied, as marsh life is, with its own unnamable being.” These eye-rolling episodes aside, the author writes with grace, and he touches on points of interest with the trained eye of an ecologist. His keen observations are deliberate, informative and written with poetic flourishes both languid and meticulous.
Luxuriant language and an evocative sense of natural beauty translate well onto the pages of this literary tribute to the Maine coast.