Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Honoring Rachel Carson

Thursday June 27,  2013
Site 1, Exeter Elms Campground
Exeter, New Hampshire



We’re taking a sneak peak at Maine.


It’s not that there aren’t many things to see in New Hampshire.  it’s just that this is as close as I’m going to be camped to the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, a place Winnona cannot just stop by and visit.

I’ve wanted to visit the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge for ever and ever.  Carson is one of my BIG HEROES.  Can I call her a Shero without getting trouble?? 

There isn’t any reason to hang around Exeter Elms as you saw yesterday so even though it’s an iffy weather day, rain predicted of course, we drive 45 miles up I-95 into Maine to make my wish come true.

After we pay $.75 to New Hampshire to drive on their section of 95 for about 10 miles and then we pay $3.00 to drive on 95 in Maine.  And here I thought 95 was an Interstate FEDERAL highway constructed by my tax dollars rather than a toll road.  Wrong again it seems.


First stop, visitor’s center


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When we reach Maine we stop at the Visitor’s Center where I pick up way more information than I can possibly read.  I also see this sign which I love posted just in front of the walkway to the snack vending machines.   Given that it is at the bottom of the 3 signs and so small, do you think anyone really reads it?





But the big thing about the visitor’s center is that their flame azaleas were in full blooms.  Aren’t these stunning?   This is only one bush of an entire bank of them blooming outside the large glass window in the rear of the building.


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I love getting my Blue Goose Passport stamped.


My original desire to full time came about because I wanted to see all the National Wildlife Refuges after living in Virginia Beach and visiting Back Bay frequently.  I bought my Blue Goose book years ago and am getting it stamped as often as I can.   Since then I have also picked up the passport books to the National Parks and to the Florida State Parks.  It really is lots of fun.

When we arrive at the Refuge and go into the office they graciously stamp my passport book as always.


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Blue Goose Passport 001 



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We look around at the information on Carson nearly all of which I already know but it is a very nice informative educational exhibit and a good way to begin your day here.   She really is very largely responsible for the big boost the environmental movement got in the 1970’s.








Rachel Carson was a woman ahead of her time. 


Upon graduation from college, in itself an unusual accomplishment for a woman, she was awarded a scholarship for graduate study in biology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.  In 1929 this was an even more exceptional recognition of her academic success.  In 1936 she was one of only two women employed with the Federal Bureau of Fisheries at a professional level.   Her first book, Under the Sea Wind was published in 1941.  In 1943 she was promoted to the position of aquatic biologist with the newly created U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  She became Editor in Chief of all Fish and Wildlife Service publications.  Her second book The Sea Around Us was published in 1952 and was on the New York Times best seller list for 81 weeks.  Its success enabled her to resign her position in 1952 and devote her time to writing.  She concluded her series on the sea with her third book The Edge of the Sea.

Her final book, Silent Spring, was published in 1962 and created a storm of controversy as well as personal attacks.    Strong attacks came from the pesticide industry. Ironically as she strove to protect us and all life from the ravages of pesticides and other chemicals in our environment, she was ill with cancer and died two years after her book was published.  I wonder if she lived long enough to know how great her legacy was or if she died feeling she was under attack and discredited.

  The refuge website has a short but excellent biographical sketch of Rachel Carson.  You can read it here.


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This is one of my very favorite pictures of her and I love the quote they selected to go with it.  Her books are filled with wonderful quotes.

“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction”











Time to go out and see some of the beauty Carson dedicated herself to protecting.


The refuge encompasses 5400 acres in several parcels along 50 miles of Maine’s southern coast.  Most of it is closed to the public as it is a wildlife only refuge.   This area which contains the office also has a one mile trail along the upland edge of a salt marsh.  


The trail is really lovely and walking it is somehow very peaceful.  The paths wind through white pines and hemlocks with oaks and maples intermingled.  The ground cover is ferns.  There is something about a ground cover of ferns that makes the forest look lush and verdant.


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I find myself walking more and more slowly as I gaze out to the salt marsh between the upland forest and the ocean. Even with the totally fogged in skies from all the rain we’ve had, it is so magnificent.

The marshes are flooded and drained twice a day by meandering tidal creeks like the one we see.  It looks like a nice grass lawn around that creek doesn’t it?  And it sort of is but if you take any steps out there you’ll sink right into this tidal marsh.


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The tidal creek twists and turns as it winds through the salt marsh. 


At any wide turn, or meander, tidal currents erode the outside bank as they build up the inside bank.  The creek will carry the soil away spreading it through the marsh.   I love. the patterns the water has created on the edges


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These small ponded areas are called salt pannes.  They are low spots in the marsh that hold salt water as the tide falls.  The water evaporates concentrating salt in the pannes.  Only specialized salt-tolerant plants can grow here.   This marvelous planet of which I am lucky to be a part is  SO amazing.


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As we are standing on the board walk trying to take in all this beauty we hear footsteps and turn around to see a BEAGLE ALERT.  Here comes Roscoe.   He’s very busy taking his person for a walk and with all the smells. He doesn’t really have a lot of time for any head scratches but he’s just darling.  I do love beagles and have to meet each one I encounter.   It wasn’t until I was putting this post together that I realized I had cut off his owner’s head.  Opppss sorry.


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Ok Back to the Marsh now where was I???


At this point on our walk Branch Brook merges with the Merriland River creating the Little River which flows to the ocean.  These water ways so close to the varying tempered ocean are so tranquil.  They are nurseries for many of our shellfish and finfish. 


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The marsh is almost a mystical place.  It’s so quiet, so lush, so restful.


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This is a garden of Eden type spot, just so lovely and perfect as it is needing no altering or improving by man.

Everything here seems to be working perfectly to keep the habitat running smoothly for all the sea life, the fowl and the people.  All are nurtured and protected in a perfect interweaving.

I don’t know whether things usually grow larger in a marsh or if all the rain in the last month has caused these huge leaves.  Maybe they are what brought the garden of Eden to mind.  You could sew them together for clothing.


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As we near the end of this one mile loop, I think to myself that I could easily just keep right on walking around again through the upland habitat looking out on the marsh that separates the forest from the oceans and protects us all from the violence of storms as it cleans our waters and nurtures our sea life.

I do want to walk down to the ocean though and there is no way through the marsh. 


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I can’t recommend this lovely, easy hike highly enough to anyone and everyone.  It is more than worth going out of your way to spend some time here.  It’s a little office and short path but it makes a big impression even on a day that is overcast and rainy like this one.  We have spent the entire morning and come away feeling relaxed, refreshed and reinvigorated by this wonderful tribute to an amazing woman. 

We leave this lovely spot to seek out the path to the sea next door at the Wells Reserve at Laudholm.  But that will have to wait for another post. 


Thank you Rachel for everything.

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  1. This is a wonderful tribute to Rachel Carson, beautifully composed and nicely articulated. Surely she did not live long enogh to know the power of the legacy she left.

  2. Indiana and Ohio charge tolls for I-80, and there are probably others.

    I'm hoping to see a couple of wildlife refuges on my trip - I have the Passport book for the National parks as well as one for American lighthouses, so I might just get the Refuge book.

    Have you heard of Scott and Helen Nearing who were back-to-the-landers in the 1960's & 70's, first in Maine and finally in Vermont? Their books are so interesting and I recommend reading them if you can even find the books now.

    1. I have read all the Nearing's books including the wonderful final one by Helen Loving and Leaving the Good Life . They were my mentors when we first bought the farm and went "back to the land". Thanks for reminding me of those wonderful people and times. I've put visiting their home in Maine, which is now called The Good Life Center, up on my list of things to do while we are there.

  3. Thank you, Sherry, that was incredibly lush and restful. It is hot out west and I enjoyed the cool respite. Beautiful

    1. So glad you enjoyed it Sue. I enjoyed being there very much and you seem to have gotten exactly the feelings I felt and tried to pass on in the post. Thank you.

  4. Loved going there ... we took a lot of the same pictures. spent the day there ... what a wonderful person she was.

    1. Glad you got to see it Carolyn. She was a wonderful role model.

  5. Beautiful place and beautiful post!!! So glad you got to RCNWR, knew you would love it. As you said, it was peaceful and mystical:o)) Your gonna love The Wells Reserve...can't wait to read your post on that;o))

    1. So glad to hear you too found it peaceful and mystical. I could hardly put my finger on what it was but it was wonderful. On to Wells.

  6. What a lovely place that is. Rachael was definitely ahead of her time. Those flame azaleas are gorgeous. I don't believe I've ever seen them.

    1. Karen, Flame Azaleas grow wild in the spring in North Carolina. I think I saw them last near Craggy Gardens. Now that you have a Georgia summer home you can run up there next spring and see them in person. They really are striking.

  7. A great tribute ... and you did a beautiful job of taking us along on the path. Love the marsh scenes.

    1. Thank you Erin. I did want it to be a tribute to a woman I much admire. I'm glad you found it so. The Marsh is beautiful isn't it and to think that for years we filled them in thinking them useless.

  8. what a nice spot for a hike and quite a tribute to a women of such stature in the environmental field - thanks for sharing as I didn't know about this spot...

    1. Thank you Heyduke. It was intended to be a tribute. I'm glad you found it so. Perhaps you can stop by on your next trip to New England.

  9. A beautiful place....super tribute to Rachel....

    1. Thanks Jeannie. I'm glad you like it. It was a wonderful morning spent there.

  10. I first read the Silent Spring when I was 12 years old (now in my 60's). Even then, the book made an impact on me. Since reading it, I have always been an organic gardener and dedicated recycler, even before it was "cool". I've never once used a pesticide. If only more of us could realize the potential for saving our earth, one person at a time.

    I will definitely put this on my list of places to visit.

    1. Welcome to my blog Seamstress. It is wonderful to hear that Rachel Carson made an impact on you. She changed the direction of my life...well she and a number of others. I too was an organic gardener before anyone had even heard of it. No pesticides EVER. We really can help by just being mindful rather than selfish. I hope you get to visit. I know you will love it. Hope to hear more from you here.

  11. Wonderful tribute to Rachel, Sherry, and a wonderful walk for your readers! Beautiful. You do find the most beautiful and interesting places to visit.

    On my trip to Long Island NY a few weeks ago, it cost me a bundle for tolls. One out of several right in a row was $15.00--. I missed the NJ turnpike toll--so confusing getting off and no one in the booth, but got it in the mail, yesterday. 2.90 + $50 something for admin fees. Highway robbery in the truest sense. I can't imagine what it would have been if I had had my trailer with me.

    1. Those tolls really are pretty irritating but I guess there is less and less money to keep up the highways. If the roads are good, I guess I don't mind paying. It was a small price to get to see the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. Thanks for the compliment on my choices of places. I'm so glad you are along for the ride.

  12. Rachel Carson left some big shoes to fill. You fit them nicely. :c)

    1. Paul, that is the nicest compliment I have ever received. I have no where near her impact but I do what I can and love the outdoors for sure as she did. I'm humbled that you see me that way. I'll try even harder to live up to it.

  13. Absolutely a Shero! Silent Spring should be required reading in school. I didn't read it until an environmental studies class in college. She was an amazing woman.

    1. You are so right that Rachel and other environmental writers should be required reading in school. But the most important thing is to get kids including high school kids out into the natural world and away from computers. Whenever I am invited to a baby shower I nearly always give the gift of Rachel's book A Sense of Wonder.

  14. Beautiful post, Mama. I agree that she likely did not realize she would make history. I would love to walk that path - it sounds like such a moving and special experience. You should be touched by all these comments - they are true. Your passion for the natural world and her champions (such as Rachel) is exemplary.

  15. Great post- really beautiful pictures and another "must see" spot for us.

  16. Sorry for being a little late to post a comment here. I want to reaffirm everything that has been said about the inspiration you provide not only in encouraging others to seek out such places, but in sharing your wisdom about honoring Mother Earth. Bless you!


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