“Turn around, there’s nothing back there.”
A couple of summers ago, a trio of tourists mistook me for a fellow tourist and warned me not to visit the Backshore of Peaks Island. They had made it two blocks down Island Avenue from the ferry when they discovered there is no Starbucks, no mini-golf—and no authentic re-creation of a quaint whaling village/mega souvenir emporium. Not on this island, at least.
They decided that the walk around the island wasn’t worth their time, and felt that by sharing with me, they were delivering a generous public service announcement.
I tried not to giggle as they sprinted back to the dock to catch the return trip of the same ferry they’d just arrived on. What these people didn’t know was this: The number one reason they should have continued to the Backshore was exactly what they’d said—there’s nothing back there.
The Backshore is the part of Peaks Island that faces east, toward the open ocean. Located about a 15-minute walk from the ferry dock, it is a part of the island where nothing is built between the road and the coastline—leaving close to a mile of unobstructed sea views.
For me, the Backshore is the absolute highlight of the four-mile walk around the perimeter of the island. It’s even better than the chartreuse house.
Yesterday I arrived at the Backshore from the north, traveling around the island clockwise. This is the more dramatic way to arrive, because the road cuts through the woods near Tolman Heights first. Stepping out of the woods gives you the sensation of emerging from, say, your basement, which you’ve been cleaning out for the first time in a decade. It’s trees, trees, trees….OCEAN!—which makes the panoramic view even more impressive.
If you arrive from the south walking counterclockwise around the island, you go through the woods after you pass the backshore. It’s till pretty, but you miss out on that big ta-da moment.
On the Backshore, ocean extends everywhere. Gulls squawk. You smell earth and sea. The sky seems a little more blue. Sometimes, when I walk alone and no one else can see, I allow myself to get a little choked up. It feels like I’m making a new discovery and reconnecting with an old friend—both at the same time. I imagine this was how Odysseus felt when he glimpsed Ithaca after his Odyssey. How Columbus felt when he stumbled on the New World. How Imelda Marcos felt the first time she visited the shoe department at Neiman Marcus.
I am so lucky to have been able to spend ten-plus years living in this wonderful place. Why am I moving to Georgia again?
Yesterday was an amazing day on the Backshore. Small waves rolled, water swished against the rocks. A few Eider Ducks—those black and white beauties coveted for their ultra-soft down—picked their way across the rocks.
I slowed down near the spot where my family scattered Grandma Amy’s ashes ten years ago. Near the spot, because the shoreline shifts continuously. Waves erode the granite boulders and deposit pebbles that fill former coves. It’s evolved so much over a decade that I can no longer recognize the exact spot. Grandma is here because she loved nature—so much that she allowed my adolescent father to keep a large bullfrog in the bathtub of their Scarsdale home. Aunt Matoo says it stank like a stagnant pond, but Grandma put up with it.
I know Grandma loves her resting spot—wherever it is.
Around the bend, Kate and Molly jogged past me. Both girls worked in my husband’s ice cream store when they were teens. That was almost a decade ago. Now Kate is a nurse and Molly leaves for grad school at Yale in the fall. Seeing them grown up fills me with Auntie-like pride.
My walk continued south. Rather than bore you with the details, here is–as they say in marketing–the high level summary: Cattails glowed on the marsh. A panting golden retriever trotted his master around the bend. Seagulls swooped. A woman lounged on a green bench. A young couple stared across the bay at Ram Island light.
More nothing for me, please.