The last few weeks have been full of high adventure and hard work as we made the transition into the camps. Many times over the last few months I have told myself how easy it would be to be at the camps today. That it was nothing like the wilderness my grandmother encountered when she set forth to embark on her adventure. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It seems that the old mountain and cabins were destined to prove to me the error of my thoughts from day one.
We arrived at the dusty dirt camp road outside of Kokadjo around 11am; hungry and weary with two kids, 9 chickens, a dog, and two cats. Before us awaited our first surprise. The paper company who owns the road that traverses Lazy Tom Bog had decided it was time to replace the planks on the bridge. I certainly did not disagree, but I must confess my heart sunk as we rounded the corner and saw the log boom truck ripping up the bridge. My husband was leading the convoy with a trailer that wasn’t going to be backing up and turning around. As he went forth to assess the situation, I settled into the truck seat and began thinking..hmmm..what do I have in this car to feed two hungry children…luckily by this point my fluffy orange kitty Caesar had pretty much lost his voice, so I at least had a few minutes of perspective. Some peanut butter crackers and a McDonald’s apple pie later (I know the horror), I had two children who were momentarily satisfied. Myself I was thinking, “Well that will teach you for thinking this was going to be easy, you forgot who controls the roads, now you know.” Luckily for us the job had just begun and the VERY nice work crew pieced the bridge together as we went across. So what could have been an extremely long day, morphed into only a minor delay. It was a tight fit and one that required perfect alignment of the tires but we made it!
We arrived at the camps (dubbed the “old cabins” but my eldest daughter) to a sparkling lake and crystal blue sky. We couldn’t have been happier as we unloaded and began the process of unpacking. The next two days involved lots of organizing of the home cabin as we removed broken items and rearranged the cabin to fit our needs and lifestyle. As I looked at the mattress stuck on the floor (Dana has promised me a handmade log bed) I realized that was going to have to change, it was bringing back to many memories of my poor college days, when the best I could afford was a mattress on the floor. My husband who is ever dutiful to oblige my seemingly ceaseless needs, crafted up a frame and the mattress was quickly elevated along with the box spring.
The next few days we spent cleaning and scrubbing cabins. New curtains were hung, over 400 pounds of laundry was done, and each cabin was inventoried for dishes, pans, linens, and pillows. From sunrise to sundown we worked. Then on the third day disaster struck. I received a panic stricken message from Dana via the camp phone (luckily I was returning to the cabin and heard the phone ring) “Christy, I’m by Lazy Tom and I’m on fire.” Judging from the tone of his voice, I knew this was real, so I sprang into action. Dialing his cell phone back I got no response. Hastily the girls were loaded, and I began the truck ride up the very bumpy driveway (which has since been graded several times). I dialed 911 and learned my husband wasn’t on fire, his truck was. Still continuing I drove towards Lazy Tom, reminding myself in my urgency that I was on freshly graded dirt roads with two small children. It was not an easy task to moderate my foot on the accelerator, but I think for the most part I succeeded. As I drew closer to the scene a black plume of smoke billowed into the air. As I rounded the corner I heard several explosions and saw my husband’s truck ahead fully engulfed in flames (I later learned some of the explosions were the tires). It was like a bad scene out of an action adventure movie, so surreal. My husband had been frantically trying to rescue our last load of camp supplies and all his tools from the truck, he had burned his left hand in the process, but was oblivious as he was now attempting to thwart the blaze from continuing into the nearby woods. He had one couple that had stopped to help him (I was amazed to find out later that one man had seen Dana’s truck engulfed and had proceeded right on his way!). I backed up my truck as by this time the ammunition Dana kept in his truck from hunting seasons past was making its debut. It really was quite impressive. In hindsight neither Dana nor I even thought to take a picture or even a movie with our phones. At this point I redialed 911 to ensure someone had engaged the forest service to let them know the fire was now in the woods. Great I thought, this will be our claim to fame, we are going to burn down the North Maine Woods. Fantastic.
Dana continued his efforts to beat back the fire. Meanwhile the woman from the extremely nice couple walked down to my truck and explained she and her husband had managed to place some of our belongings in the back of their truck and they would be taking it to the camps. My husband was ok, but had burned his hand. Knowing my husband, I knew it might be time for intervention, so as fire fighters and the Forest Ranger arrived and doused the fire. I gathered the girls and made sure Dana did not brush off the EMT and his attempts to help him. Meanwhile, my three year old aptly commented “Daddy’s truck looks like a baby truck.” I guess it did, covered in white foam and sitting on the frame on the ground. The truck was a total loss. We managed to save most of the new mattress pads we bought, but the blankets, field guides, and most of the new linens, were gone. To us this was inconsequential, because we had Dana and despite the burns to his left hand and being badly shaken up (which is to be expected after seeing ones truck go up in flames unexpectedly) we realized what was most important us was having him safe. So what caused this? Well it was a 2007 Toyota Tundra, but my husband is a loyal die hard Toyota fan and does not believe it was a Toyota failure. The best guess we have is either a rock punctured the gas line, or perhaps got stuck in the brake caliper. I could be getting those hypothesis wrong as I really am not that mechanical. But basically it underscores a message Gramp drilled into my head at any early age…drive slow and carefully on freshly graded roads. The rocks are sharp and can damage tires, and apparently other things.
So my mom sprang into action along with my sister, urging me to catalog the items I had lost and reordering blankets, towels, washcloths, and other things. I still need to get new field guides and books, but will wait for awhile before I begin that chore again.
So once the dust settled from that adventure. We began working again on the camps. Dana quickly has fixed all the mechanical items here, from the tractor that needed a slight tune up, to the dump truck, outboards, and bulldozer, he has managed to get it all up and running. I think he is enjoying the tractor immensely and it has become an indispensible tool for a myriad of chores around the cabins. From docks, to wood, to outhouses, the tractor is multi-faceted. We have got all but one dock in the water (many of the docks will need to be rebuilt this year). Canoes have been placed out and most have had years of dirt scrubbed off. The laundry shed has been thoroughly cleaned and the floor is once again visible and all the supplies neatly organized in a fashion that will make cabin changeovers easier. All the cabins are open and ready to receive the first spate of guests coming this weekend.
My cousin Joe arrived last weekend and he and Dana cleaned up a pile of wood and cleaned every chimney in all the cabins. We have begun work on what I have dubbed” the Bermuda triangle”, which is an area in close proximity to the home camp and workshop that has been used by the former operators as a hodge podge dumping ground for various assorted broken lawn chairs, tables, and metal items.
Dana has begun the restoration of the Main Lodge, as much as I dislike ANY change at the camps, I realize that he must dig out around it and jack it up to save it. So as he uncovers new layers of rot, and lifts the cabin to let it breathe, I see the daily progress and know that in the end their will be a finished product that will last for many years to come.
I have placed the bird feeders up and made the first batch of homemade hummingbird food tonight. I had placed a few bird feeders out in the open and wondered why they were not being frequented, then I realized I had basically set up a Merlin fast food takeout. So have since relocated the songbird feeders to sheltered spots where the Merlin’s will have to work to secure their daily buffet.
We have been blessed with frequent moose sightings, great fishing, and no black flies as we opened up the camps for the season. I had forgotten the silky softness of the camp water and how it makes my normally coarse hair smooth as silk. The loons arrived two days after we did and each night we are serenaded to sleep by their soulful lullaby. The coyotes have been visiting too, we have heard them from across the pond, and a few nights ago they were on the prowl near the top of the driveway. We have heard many reports of bear sightings, yet they have eluded us so far. The mountain has blessed us with views of the top draped in snow.
Today I redid the sign for Archie’s point and blazed and cleared most of the trail. There are three blow downs close to the camp that will require the chainsaw. I have decided that it is probably time for me to learn how to operate the thing, so I am not bothering Dana with the trail maintenance. As I made my way to the point, the wood warblers joyfully escorted me, Black and White warblers, Black Throated Greens, and Swainson’s Thrush’s sang me down the wooded path the entire way. At the end of the trail I was greeted by the three loons and scenic mountain views. The beaver has been active and there are so many perfect beaver logs here that I know Gramp will be amazed. I have told Dana how Gramp used to fashion hand-made lamps from the “perfect” beaver logs and I hope he will think it is a great idea to replicate.
I have felt an urge to paint the light that illuminates the landscape each morning and night, and finally today Dana remembered to pick up my pastels from home so I can set up an easel in my spare time when the mood consumes me.
Last night I awoke to look out my bedroom window and feasted my eyes on the most amazing array of glittering stars, the sky was alive with all the constellations, and they silently stood sentry over us as we slept peacefully in our cabin beside Kokadjoweemgwasabemsis. During the night, Mose apparently decided he needed some fresh air, and opened several of the latched doors in the main lodge. Dana’s father watched one door open and now is a believer that Mose is definitely still the guardian of Spencer Pond.