The following are some experiences and feelings of the times I have had and shared at the ‘camp’ over the decades, (built in ’42’ by Grampy) as written on a Fall evening in 2000, during hunting season at my camp, St. Froid Lake, Northern Maine:
My thoughts oftentimes turn to the camp throughout the year. The camp is a serene refuge within my mind that helps counter stress, a retreat that relaxes me and lifts my spirit from the dull routine. It would be difficult for me to imagine the camp not being there. As long as I can remember, the camp was always a part of my life, and hopefully will remain a part of my future. It is a rustic place in its simplicity, maybe this more than anything else is why I’m drawn to it.
The camp was never intended to be more than it is. The only improvements should be maintenance, nothing more, Grampy told me that years ago. I agree. With all the worlds ever changing technology and constantly faster pace, the camp remains a still picture of old. Hewn from rough timber, a refreshing remnant of times past, times in the greater scheme of things all but forgotten now. I love the sight of the lake as a sudden storm whips the surface into whitecaps, when the boom of thunder and the crack of lightning fills the sky over the adjacent hills. The sky by night, enormous, unfettered from artificial lights, one can see clearly an amazing and limitless number of stars, a very different night sky from what I see back home. On a cool clear early morning I have enjoyed the beautiful Aurora Borealis shimmering across the heavens with my son.
The air is clean and crisp in October, filled with the fragrant scent of pine. The eyes are dazzled by Jack Frost’s artistry among the hardwoods, this is my favorite time here. A calm morning with the lake mirroring the hills. The eerie lullaby of a loon as he calls his mate on the mist laden lake at dusk, and the equally eerie reply. Listening to sounds coyotes make while ‘talking’ among themselves somewhere back in the woods, or the lonely howl of a wolf, deep in the night, echoing across the hills. Spying the silhouette of a mighty bull moose at the mouth of fish river moments before dawn, a brief glimpse of our national symbol traversing his lofty heights. The deep raspy call of a raven or the whistle of a midnight freight train at Cushman’s crossing and its soon to follow rumble and clatter as it passes behind the camp, the sound slowly receding into the night past the bend. Good memories.
I feel right at home when I step off a dirt road or train track and the familiar forest closes around me. I may follow a crystal clear murmuring brook and see speckled trout dart into the shadows beneath the banks. I have watched a partridge drumming in the deep woods as he played to an audience of three hens roosted in the pines, and listened to the nocturnal, cavernous croaking of huge bullfrogs among the water lilies at the mouth of the river. The absence of electricity bothers me not a bit, I do not come here for creature comforts, but rather for the comfort I get from seeing so many of God’s varied creatures. All of these things add to the allure of the camp for me.
A canoe is my choice of travel on the water, and due to its silent advance I have observed many a moose or deer around the ‘next’ bend on the rivers edge. It was from my Old Town canoe my younger brothers and later my son were all able to spy their first moose up close and personal. My youngest brother Art and I narrowly avoided an angry cow moose advancing on our canoe in defense of her calf. My son and his friend Eddie were with me as we rounded a bend on the back channel and came upon a stodgy black bear as it rapidly crossed a submerged beaver dam. Got a picture. From a canoe we have seen the otter playing their watery games and watched startled beaver slap the water with their broad tails in hasty retreat. With a little stealth a canoe can bring you these sights and more.
The brief times I have spent at the camp with relatives, and the times spent there alone, the pleasure of being in the company of old friends, and new, the sharing of fishing yarns and hunting tales next to the warmth of the old pot bellied wood stove. I thought I knew my way around until one snowy November day when I followed the fresh tracks of a huge buck,(found just three yards from the porch door) he gave me a grand tour from before sunrise to after sunset, I only had one glimpse of him as the last light of day gave out. Never came across another human track. I finally came out of the woods about ten miles down the tracks and arrived back to the camp to meet a worried looking George Wild after 10 pm.
The sun sets early don’t ya know, so out comes a cribbage board, checkers or chess, or simply a book to wile away the time. Maybe some tall tales told to wide eyed youngsters as we toast marshmallows and hot-dogs around the campfire at twilight. Some will remember the call of Bigfoot echoing from across the lake as he returns bent on destruction, or the ghost of the Swede! Others may remember the dreaded Billiard!!! (no one knew what a billiard was but when someone at night screamed it was coming it scared the hell out of us kids). And then there are no end to practical jokes, with a new one hatched just about every visit from some twisted mind, (a tradition). There are ‘turkey shoots’ at the town of Eagle Lake each Sunday to pit your skills against the locals. (I won a few over the years). The smell of brook trout or smelt rolled in a mixture of cornmeal and flour sizzling on an iron skillet atop the wood stove, mmm!
Old times reminisced, new times planed, it has all been, and will continue to be, enjoyed by me. Savoring a piece of my wife’s famous apple pie and homemade oatmeal raison cookies, or still-hunting deer along the base of Hedge Hog mountain, taking wing shots at partridge, or just chopping wood for the stove to fend off the cold northern nights, I feel like I fit the place and regret when its time to go. If your of a mind to ice fish, have at it. There are many reasons, some to intangible to put into words as to why I love the camp. The trip to it flies, the knowledge of returning to work and the trip back drags. But still I am always happy to see my wife’s smile upon returning, I guess there really is no place like home after all. ‘Harry’, mounted on the wall, will keep a glass eye on the camp until the next visit.
The Camp is a place to momentarily slow down our lives and appreciate natures intricacies, (cell phones do not even work). Many have come here through the years since it was built by Grampy in ’42’. I appreciate the camp and all this simple place offers, it may not be to every one’s liking, but if I were asked to sum it up in one word, it would be, ‘priceless‘.
Mark Shean written 11-15-2000 www.mafirearmsafety.com
Also visit: http://campfirenuggets.com/ A friends site.