The following are some experiences and feelings of the times I have had and shared at the ‘camp’ over the decades, (built in ’42’) as written on a fall evening in 2000, during hunting season at my camp on St. Froid Lake, Northern Maine:
My thoughts oftentimes turn to the camp throughout the year. The place is a serene refuge within my mind that helps to 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, this retreat has been a part of my life, and will hopefully remain a part of my future. It is a rustic place in its simplicity, maybe this more than anything else is why I am 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 that now in the greater scheme of things, are all but forgotten.
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 sky from what I view back home. On a cool 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 aroma of pine. The eyes are dazzled by Jack Frost’s artistry among the hardwoods, this is my favorite time here. A calm cool 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 occasional wolf howl echoing around the lake seeking a response deep into the night. Spying the silhouette of a mighty bull moose by the mouth of fish river moments before dawn, or the 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 Cushmans Crossing, with its soon to follow rumble and clatter as it passes behind the camp, the sound slowly receding into the night down ’round’ the bend.
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 the partridge drumming in the deep woods as he played to an audience of one or more 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 and creations. 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, deer and other critters around the ‘next’ bend by hugging the rivers edge. It was from an 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 churned the water crossing a submerged beaver dam to escape, got a picture. From a canoe we have seen river 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 stove are treasured. 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) he gave me a grand tour from before sunrise to after sunset. I spooked him from three beds and only got one glimpse of his majesty as the last light of day departed the forest, it made my day. I never crossed another human footprint. I finally came out of the woods, about ten miles down the tracks, and eventually arrived back to the camp to meet a worried looking George Wild sometime 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 roast marshmallows and hot-dogs around the campfire at twilight. Some will remember the call of Bigfoot echoing across the lake as he returns bent on destruction, or the ghost of the Swede! Others may recall the dreaded Billiard!!! (no one was quite sure what a billiard was but when someone at night screamed that it was coming it scared the hell out of us kids). And then there are no end to practical jokes, with a knew one hatched every visit from some twisted mind, (a tradition). Time to hit the hay, and the deep ‘tick tock’ of the old clock lulling you to sleep, your ‘night light’ is a slow burning candle throwing spooky shadows over the rafters. Then there are Sunday ‘turkey shoots’ at the town of Eagle Lake 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, mmmm!
Old times reminisced, new times planed, it has all been, and will continue to be enjoyed by me. Savoring a piece of my wifes famous apple pie, or homemade oatmeal raision cookies, or still hunting deer along the base of Hedge Hog mountain, taking wingshots at partridge, or just chopping wood for the stove to fend off the northern nights, drawing cold pure spring water from the small well for all our cooking needs, as there is no indoor plumbing. I feel like I fit the place, gas lights, outhouse and all. If your of a mind to ice fish, have at it if you dare brave that time of year, Grampy did. There are many reasons, some too intangible to put into words as to why I love the place.
The trip up flies, the knowledge that I must leave and return to work makes the return trip drag. 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 enjoy natures intricacies, (cell phones don’t even work here). Many have visited through the years since Grampy built it 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 to sum it up with one word, it would be ‘priceless’.
Written by Mark Shean, 11-15-2000
Also visit: http://campfirenuggets.com/ A friends site.