Often a forgotten section of Acadia National Park, Little Moose Island provides visitors an opportunity to explore one of Maine’s undeveloped natural resources. That is, if you check the tide charts beforehand. The island is only accessible by foot at low tide from the Schoodic Peninsula.
Walking from the mainland to Little Moose Island makes you feel like bananas are strapped to the undersides of your sneakers. The dense bundles of rockweed and Irish moss draping the rocks may be slippery, but soon after you set foot on the dry, weather-battered basalt and granite, you realize that this slick journey was worth it. Alongside the sound of wind weaving through evergreens, the smell of ocean salt declines as the smell of pitch pines and spruces picks up with each step onto the island. Sun-bleached seashells lie in granite depressions and the foamy suds of the spittlebug dot wild herbs. Narrow, Robert-Frostian footpaths form a Celtic weave on the island’s vegetated spine, reminding visitors of the shrub-mazes popular in today’s yoga and Zen centers. It is the rocks and wildflowers, though, that really catch your eye:
At first sight, the rocks on Little Moose Island appear to be the same as on the mainland: there are dark basalt dikes intruding granite. The crevice patterns in the intermingling rocks on the island’s coast are more apparent than on the mainland. As you walk to the unprotected, ocean-side of the island, away from the mainland-side, the crevices are noticeably larger and the number of detached rock slabs increases because the weather is much harsher on the ocean-side of the island. The other major observations are the striations on the granite: tiny grooves mark many of the granite rocks. Are these striations the result of glacier-action over 10,000 years ago? Or did they form as blocks of granite weathered and slid off the island’s coast? Although it would take more than an afternoon walk to determine the answer, the occurrence of both striations and rounded granite faces suggests that glaciers created the scratch patterns, not too unlike the formation of rounded glacial erratics or whalebacks.
Little Moose Island’s wildflowers grant visitors a glimpse of the Northeast’s coastal vegetation. There are numerous types of white flowers on the island, from the small petals of yarrow and cow parsnip to the relatively large petals of the bunchberry flower. The vibrant blues, purples, and pinks are what I was interested in:
The largest and most profuse flower on Little Moose Island is the shrub rose, which dominates the mainland-side of the island and is eventually overridden by taller evergreens. This flower comes in pink, purple, and white varieties, and gives Little Moose Island the look of an English garden. Combining bush and species roses, shrub roses are a motley group of floral leftovers – the term “shrub rose” gives confidence to virgins of flower identification because it can be used on most rose-like flowers without going wrong. Parts of the shrub rose are rich in vitamin C and are used in cooking and certain medications.
Although shrub roses may be the most common June flower on Little Moose Island, the blue flag flower may just be the most beautiful. The blue flag, a type of Iris, is bright blue and can be seen sprouting out of granite crevices, as well as other areas. These vibrant flowers can be dark blue one day, and then sun-bleached blue the next day. The provincial flower of Quebec, this perennial herb has long been used in herbal medicines to treat syphilis, scrofula, and skin afflictions, such as burns or sores.
Though hard to find, harebell can be found on Little Moose Island. This blue or violet flower can be seen swaying in the wind towards the far end of the island. Common in Ireland, the name “harebell” comes from the traditional belief that witches use the flower’s juices to turn into hares. It has also been called goblin’s, witch’s, or Puck’s thimble. Harebell leaves are sometimes used in salads, and its root is thought to be a cure for earaches. Harebells have traditionally been used to cure depression and treat sore eyes.
Regardless of whether you’re a rock or flower person, timing the tides right in order to walk over to Little Moose Island is an adventure in itself. In addition to wildflowers, this island is the home of at least one porcupine, a variety of birds, and numerous barnacles and bivalves. The trip is well worth the slippery crossing over the intertidal zone.