Choose Your Own Adventure

Around here, islands are the gateway to the sea. “Where?” you may be asking. At the Island Heritage Trust (IHT) on Deer Isle. My name is Jessica Crandell, and as the intern for IHT this summer, I spent countless hours viewing this way of living. I am currently enrolled at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania as a double major in Geography and Nonprofit Management. I was born and raised in Northern Virginia and have been visiting Deer Isle since I was a child. Experiencing residency in all three different states has given me a unique perspective on how important it is to appreciate the community and environment you are in.alex and Jess

Whether an island is preserved by IHT or has an easement, the isolated flora and fauna flourish under limited development opportunities. During my internship, Alex Drenga, the Stewardship Director at IHT would take every opportunity to use the boat for monitoring, and always extended the offer of an island journey to me. It was such a great learning experience to drive the boat around, monitor easements, and develop trails on preserved islands.

Traveling to these islands allowed me to explore and delve back into that childish curiosity that I had been relearning from the children’s environmental educational programs at IHT led by Martha Bell. It just so turns out that exploration is not just childish, but crucial in making sure that nothing against the management plan of a property is happening on any of the preserves or islands.

On one of these lucky days that we were out an island fee property of IHT, Alex, several volunteers, and I were clearing a new trail. Throughout the day, there were plenty of deer signs: scat, bones, and tracks. Despite this, no deer was ever in sight.

Towards lunchtime, Alex mentioned a meadow in the center of the island that could be seen on satellite images. He could tell this immediately piqued my interest and sent me on my merry way to go exploring. I had no idea what to expect other than a sunny and grassy area with maybe some wildflowers dotted here and there. As I neared the meadow, its location was very noticeable from the sunlight peeking through the trees. It was almost as if I was walking through the wardrobe in The Chronicles of Narnia, with the spruce branches blocking my view of what was up ahead until the very last moment. Suddenly, I was in a haven of flowering milkweed. And what comes with milkweed? Monarchs. Everywhere. Zipping from plant to plant. One of the most wonderful and overwhelming habitats I have ever seen.DSC_0285

I was so taken aback by what I was seeing that I had not noticed how quiet I had been. As I started to make more noise by taking pictures with my camera, I heard a bustling through the meadow to my right. When I looked up from my camera, an eight-point buck was staring at me, so close that I could see the fuzz on his antlers. Behind him was a smaller buck, equally as frightened. Before my mind could grasp the idea that a deer almost ran right over me, they leaped off into the woods.

I was startled but fascinated. How crazy was it that I got to experience that special whirlwind of a moment? It’s times like these that I must sit back and think about how I got there, was it fate or just chance? Connecting with the land is so important in bringing moments like this to others. IHT plays a crucial role in bringing public land to the forefront of the Deer Isle community. And all land trusts have an important job to fulfill by helping with community connections. We can all establish healthy and sustainable practices for stewarding while feeling a part of our environment. What I learned from these deer is that the moment doesn’t choose you, you choose to go out and experience it.