Then Things Really Went South
Great Captain’s Island, Greenwich
August 4, 2012
[This directional extreme was visited in Dagobah-like humidity during the Connecticut Extreme Geo-Tour 2012 with the most excellent Tom from Twelve-Mile Circle and the equally excellent Scott from The Scenic Drive. The were the extremely generous winning bidders to do this to benefit The SMS Research Foundation. They rock.]
This was it. This was the one geographic extreme smack dab in the middle of our day full of geographic extremes that would determine success or failure. This was what our entire day was built around and this was what limited our available days to just a few weekends in the summer.
It could be said that I spent more time figuring out how to reach Connecticut’s southernmost point than the rest of our 16 hour day combined. So of course it went off without a hitch. Right?
There was a risk, of course of rain or choppy seas on our appointed day, which we couldn’t have done anything about. That wouldn’t have bothered me too much really, as weather is just one of those things. As you can see, we had no such issues on our Extreme Geo-Tour 2012 day.
Here’s the important thing: Greenwich hates you. They really, really hate you. You don’t live in Greenwich so therefore you are an absolute wretched nightmare. They don’t want you in their town. Do not eat there, do not shop there and most importantly, do not enjoy any of their parks or – GASP! – beaches.
So much of Greenwich is “private” and “residents only.” And believe me, that crap is enforced in Greenwich. (I just had solar panels installed and one of the guys told me that their last job was in Greenwich. Now, Solar City drives these garish bright green vans with Solar City printed all over. He said they weren’t parked 3 minutes on a residential street before TWO Greenwich cops appeared and demanded to know what they were doing and to show ID. I believe him 100%.)
During the planning phase of the Extreme GeoTour 2012, many, many months ahead of time, I checked the tidal charts for the various summer weekends that would work for us. We were going to take the ferry out to the island and the ferry only runs a few hours either side of high tide. This narrowed our options, but we hit on a date that it would work in August.
The next challenge would be to arrive at the dock on time, for the ferry only runs hourly. Wasting an entire hour on the docks in Greenwich would severely disrupt our record-breaking* attempt.
*If any such asinine records existed.
And since we would be hiking and driving a lot in the hours leading up to our appointed ferry time, well, you can see how meticulous I had to be in planning. (As a reminder, prior to Great Captain Island we were driving from Avon to Salisbury to hike to the northernmost point, the highest point, the CT-MA-NY tri-point… getting to the highest pond and deepest lake, then down to the westernmost point – passing the largest lake and largest land-area town – all before the ferry. We are hardcore.)
But lo! That was the easy stuff to figure out. For like I said, Greenwich doesn’t want the likes of sweaty non-hedge fund managers poking their unwashed toes into their Sound waters. We had to somehow secure a parking pass AND a ferry ticket for each of us. Sound easy?
Not even close.
We arrived in Greenwich at the optimal time. I was pleased.
Parking was the easy part. They’ve installed new kiosks in the lots and that’ll be $20 please. (As I was paying for the day, as part of the original deal – and really, these guys came from Rhode Island and Virginia after all! – I quietly parked up at the Bruce Museum for free. Yeah, cheap, I know, but it’s only a 5 minute walk and even though there are 20 signs telling me I would be towed for doing so, I figured I’d pull the “I’m the Museum Guy!” defense. Fortunately, I didn’t have to.)
Now we had two hurdles to get over. The easy one, the ferry tickets, are sold at the ferry dock. 10 bucks a head. Done.
Hold on there Skippy, you didn’t think you could just buy a ferry ticket did you? Hahahaha, no. THIS. IS. GREENWICH.
In order for our horrifying non-resident selves to hand over the $30 for the ferry after (ostensibly) paying $20 to park, we had to produce three non-resident daily park passes. Duh. So we’d just buy those passes here too, right?
You must figure out the calculus of the Greenwich Parks brochure. Daily Park Passes are sold at three places, all with different hours and the two with weekend hours having cryptic acronym-only names:
Daily Park Pass and Daily Parking must be purchased at either:
Town Hall, Mon.-Fri. 8:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. May-Oct.
EGCC 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. every day May-Oct.
WGCC 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Sat/Sun and Holidays June-Sept.
Do you love Greenwich yet? I had a secret weapon at my disposal though. A local! Yes, my good friend Caroline, who lived in Stamford at the time has a good friend Sue. Sue lives in Greenwich. Caroline and Sue were planning on spending the day on Island Beach, which is a Greenwich town beach half as far out into the Sound as Great Captain Island. Could she not only figure out where EGCC or WGCC is, but also convince her friend Sue to help her pick up the three Daily Park Passes for us?
Yes. Yes she could.
She can tell you the hell she went through purchasing these dang things for us in the comments if she so chooses. (She lives in London now, one of the few places on earth more expensive than Greenwich. Cheerio to her then.) Suffice it to say, Sue was confused and annoyed by the whole thing.
For our part, seeing these two women waiting on the dock for us, three $6 Daily Park Passes in hand, with 10 minutes to spare for the ferry, was wonderful beyond words.
Having Caroline mock us for those ten minutes for doing what we were doing all day was also wonderful. Receiving the disapproving glare of Sue for those ten minutes was also quite special. So off they went, picnic basket and bikinis in hand to go lounge on Island Beach. And off we went to Great Captain Island to sprint for the southernmost point, sprint back to the ferry and head straight back to the docks.
Are you still with me? Good.
(You can blame Greenwich and its absurdity for the length of this page. This island was, in fact, completely inaccessible to non-Greenwich residents until a few years ago. And if you’re bad at math, reaching the southernmost point of Connecticut – and all of New England for that matter – will cost a single law-abiding non-Greenwichite $36 in 2012. $68 for three of you.)
The Actual Island
The ferry ride is about 23 minute long. It’s a lovely ride, as you slowly glide out of the inlet past impossibly expensive restaurants and $20 million dollar mansions. This is straight up Vanity Fair stuff if you haven’t discerned that for yourself.
I chatted up the ferry-boy and explained our mission.
“Ok, so how much time until this ferry goes back to town?”
“Hm. How far is it to the lighthouse do you think?”
“Hm. What if we run?”
“How do I know how fast you run? And a lot of it is on sand and then rocks.”
“Hm. What happens if we don’t make it back to the ferry.”
“We leave. Duh.”
“Can I pay you to hang on until we get back.”
“No. I live in Greenwich. You are unshaven and your friend is drinking tap water. Don’t be ridiculous.”
Darnit. He had a point.
Tom was out of the running, so to speak, as he is frankly too smart to attempt what Scott and I were about to do. (Keep in mind it was in the 90’s at this point.) So he would stay nearer the ferry and perhaps try to distract the ferry boys from leaving on time, should it come to that.
Scott and I were going for it. Scott and I are stupid. At least I kept my shirt on, whereas Scott did not. (You’re welcome.)
The second we could start running, we started running. This was not fun running, as the first bit was across deep sand. It felt like we were running in deep sand.
Like, for real for real.
Through the woods, past a dozen or so rich people wondering if we were coming for their jewels and keys to their yachts. We ran on.
The lighthouse was always visible, which helped our psyches. We ran across the uneven and quite frankly, dangerous sea wall thing. Every second mattered.
“Whoa! You! Stop!”
Crap. Some warden guy.
“What in the world are you two doing?”
“Running to the lighthouse, but we want to catch the ferry back.”
Warden guy looks at his watch.
“Go! Go! Run!”
Cool. Through some wetlands and up the hill to the lighthouse, which is private (my page on the Great Captain Lighthouse here). 9/11 memorial. Snap a couple pictures. Seals down on the rocks. No time.
Holy crap I’m out of shape. And my word was it hot.
Through the wetlands, over the sea wall dangerous thing, past the warden guy…
“Go! Go! Run!”
A look at my watch and – WHERE DID THE TIME GO?! We weren’t going to make the 15 minute deadline, and the 18 minute drop dead deadline was looking nearly impossible.
Into the woods, past the rich people who had now gathered in a protective circle to better fend against these two running lunatic island marauders. “Oh dear! They are sweating so profusely!” cried one.
There’s the ferry! It’s still there! Tom started yelling, “Come on! Run!” Surely they wouldn’t leave with us in sight… would they?
Oh yeah. Greenwich. Of course they would. With pleasure.
Back into the deep sand. I hate life.
Onto the gangplank, literally, as the ferry boy was undoing the rope. We sat on the bench and attempted to catch our collective breath. Old, rich people gave us the old, rich people evil eye. Tom was beaming ear to ear:
“Did you make it?”
“Was it AWESOME?”
“I had to beg the ferryman to hold up. It was really, really close. You took 19 minutes. They were totally leaving without you so I tied myself to the dock and held this old rich lady at knifepoint.”
“Nah, just kidding. Except they really were going to leave you and I really did have to convince them. Nice chaps.”
Indeed. If not for their kindness, We’d have been impossibly behind on our schedule and our day ruined. (We still had to get to the smallest Indian reservation in the US (a visit here) and then all the way east over to the easternmost point in Sterling. We have fun.)
Please watch this… this is how it was here not too long ago…
The state Supreme Court DID rule against the town and the people in that video, but Greenwich found loopholes to the ruling: Make it nearly impossible for non-Greenwich residents to access their fine beaches. But we did it! We beat the ridiculous system!
As the ferry slowly made it back into port, I looked out at Island Beach silently thanking Caroline and Sue for their help. I profusely thanked the ferry guys for their understanding. My car was still safely parked at the Bruce. Success!
Well, sort of.
At some point, while driving to our next destination, Tom began quietly mentioning what he was doing while we were running across the island. He helpfully pointed out a small little detail I’d overlooked in all my obsessive planning.
Here’s a visual:
Oh. What’s that? The true southernmost point of Connecticut and therefore all of New England was a mere 2 minute walk down the shoreline from the ferry dock? And our death-defying run, our terrifying of the natives, our brush with the law, our mild trespassing over the private lighthouse lawn, our rousting of the nesting terns, our near-abandonment at sea… our entire absurdist inanity was completely and totally unnecessary?!
Well, I did say I was stupid. (I also said Scott was stupid, but that’s unfair as he was merely following me, the leader. Scott is not stupid.)
So, did I reach the southernmost point of Connecticut and therefore all of New England? You know what? Yes. Yes I did. I was geographically approximately close enough. And frankly, I’m not sure we legally could have clambered over the rocks to the true southernmost point. We certainly SAW it as we ran off and onto the ferry. And the point we ran to was merely 20 feet more northern anyway. And, and, and… Shut up. It counts.
Like when Hoang and I went to the southernmost point in the US, at Ka Lea on Hawaii – we didn’t actually climb over the rocks to the waterline, and we’re perfectly fine saying we were further south than any human on US state land at that time. This was the same deal. When we stepped one foot to the right of the ferry gangplank, we were totally more southern than any other person on land in Connecticut at that moment.
I call it legit.
And if you have a problem with that, I encourage you to sort out the Greenwich insanity and go nab the point yourself. Jerk.
CTMQ’s Extreme GeoTour 2012
CTMQ’s Geography page
Linda saysAugust 9, 2013 at 11:44 am
Oh. My. Gosh. I am so glad that you posted the link to this older post on your FB today as what a hoot to read! I can totally picture you and Scott running across the island, frightening the locals, and doing your best to reach your destination – in the heat and humidity no less. What an epic story and good on you for not-quite-but-almost-so-we’ll-count-it reaching of the southernmost point in Connecticut/New England!
As for Greenwich, guess I’ll shy away from there as I’ve barely got two nickels to rub together most days, never mind money for a Hedge Fund and a new Mercedes! ;-)
Sage Alum saysAugust 9, 2013 at 2:44 pm
Loved this story! You nailed Greenwich, though I do know 2 nice people who lived there for awhile, but they moved away, so perhaps the exclusivity was too much for them too…
Twelve Mile Circle saysAugust 10, 2013 at 9:15 am
This was a highlight of a day of highlights. I absolutely believe it counted as making it to the southernmost point (12MC is all about convenience). More important, we can say we were some of the rarest of the rare: completely independent non-Greenwich residents — not even guests of Greenwich residents — that managed to crack their code, jump through their silly hoops designed to make it as difficult as possible for the public to have access without running afoul of court decisions, and trample across their pristine beach. I’d love to see their statistics on how many people manage to do that every year. It can’t be more than a handful. The most delicious part of this story was that we spent only 15 minutes there. In your face, Greenwich! We didn’t want to hang out with y’all anyway.
Actually, kidding aside, Greenwich should be thankful for us. They now have written and photographic evidence that Great Captain Island is a “public” beach even if it’s open only to three determined geo-geeks for a brief moment, to reach the southernmost spot in Connecticut.
The Basement Geographer saysAugust 11, 2013 at 2:49 pm
Wow. I am actively traumatised just reading about such a closed-off place. At least in our uber-rich neighbourhoods up here, they even still pick up hitchhikers once in a while.
An epic journey, indeed. Thank you for sacrificing your lungs for our entertainment (and for sticking it to Greenwich).
Tom Fatone saysAugust 24, 2013 at 11:49 pm
Wow, great story and well written too. I actually felt that I was along for the ride. I would love to for an adventure with you guys some day. Have you thought about getting to the New York / Connecticut state line divider marker in Greenwich?
Sarah Chamberlain saysFebruary 12, 2014 at 8:26 pm
This article had me laughing so hard! Thanks for sharing your Greenwich adventure