Fall winds spin their blustery breezes through the campyard and woods near the pond, clouds of leaves billow forth in the driveway, coating the land in a finely dotted tapestry of russet brown and fine gold. Thus begins my favorite time of year at Spencer Pond. Gone are the ruthlessly hot days and fierce heat and with September begins the joy of autumn, of woodfires, of leaves, of long walks up the mountaintops and across the rocky ridges. Ruffed Grouse peak out from the edge of the roads and we have been blessed this week with wildlife sightings galore. The bull moose have begun the rut, changing their normally solitary and quiet habits in search of love. The massive giants come bellowing from the woods, leaves adorning their horns, scraping across trees and limbs as they charge forth in search of that perfect cow. I think the cows seem to change their behavior as well. Last week we had two guests that were awakened by the guttural calls of the moose. Behind their cabin was a cow with at least one potential suitor, she managed to keep him at bay for awhile, scooting in and amongst the cabins, while he walked along, calling deeply and cajoling her to come join him for amore. Later she was joined by another cow and yet another suitor who was missing an antler, for three days they kept things lively around here, busy at all times of day and into the evening, but now they have retreated across Archie’s point and into the woods, infrequently heard, but still in the throes of instinctual patterns that spring forth in the autumn woods. Dana perfected his manmade moose calls during this time, and to his delight has had plenty of opportunity to practice this new found skill. I am less than ecstatic about his escapades, especially when I happen to be on a sojourn deep in the woods with him. Often after a few unladylike phrases, I make a hasty retreat and leave him alone to face the bounty he acquires. The coyotes have also been quite active this year. There have been several sightings up and down the roads, and our guests have been delighted to get some great pictures of an animal that many have never seen and infrequently heard. Our coyote pack continues its nightly ritual between 11pm and 2am circling the base of the pond and yipping and causing quite a racket as they traverse the swampy land and moss strewn forest. Rafts of ducks have landed on the pond over the last few weeks. We have twice seen a flock of over 20-30 mergansers swim in front of the cabins. Their presence eerily peaceful as the fog lifts across the water. The geese have started moving as well and we hear them honking a noisy symphony in the sky as they move across and land rather clumsily on the top of the water.
We have been blessed with so many wonderful guests who we are pleased to invite into our home and share the magic and the splendor of the cabins with. We have had guests travel from Russia, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Canada, and even as close as Greenville. All have soaked in the beautiful weather, the great conversation, and the rich experiences these camps impart. Dana and I have repeatedly been thankful for this new circle of friends and the things we are able to learn from them and the gift of Spencer we are able to give in return. Everyone walks away deeply enriched and that is where the magic starts.
Mose has been a charmer this season too, one young guest was walking along the shore and found a 1901 penny in near perfect condition on the morning she was to depart. This thoughtful young lady offered it to us since she knew that was when the cabins were built, we would have no part of it, knowing that Mose must have been duly impressed with her and left her the present to find. He certainly works in mysterious fashion, cajoling stories out of even the most skeptical, and bringing a different level of adventure to the camps.
I have awoken early on several occasions to go sneak a peek at my favorite constellation Orion. He starts to twinkle in the early morning sky at this time of year along with dozens of other constellations. It is amazing how the night sky is always changing, yet ever the same, a beacon for eons and a sign post for many that have not forgotten how to navigate by the stars.
A few weeks ago I found myself on the back side of Tom Young cliffs, compass in hand charting myself a new course to the top of this familiar landmark. I find I have outgrown the manmade trails and in my free time I search for adventure and begin to explore the nooks and crannies and secret wonders this township has to offer. Although I am certainly no Dick Manson, I am never disappointed. On this day there was a fine forest with open glades and nice walking to explore, huge rocky crevices to climb atop and mossy banks to discover. The wildlife sign was abundant, bears and coyote tracks along with moose, and I suspect just a few other ungulates (however as a true hunter I must be careful not to divulge any secret spots I may stumble across.) It is amazing to me how few have traversed these parts and the vast woods sprawl forth beckoning me to uncover their secret realms and hidden treasures.
Recently we have been blessed with an abundance of fungi, springing forth from the decaying limbs and forest floor. We have had a few guests who are extremely knowledgeable execute harvesting forays emerging triumphant with bountiful bags of oysters, boletes, and others that remain unknown to my untrained eye. Someday under the expert tutelage of some sage mycologist I will saunter forth on such an expedition, but until then I will abstain. It is interesting what cultural differences Americans have regarding the purveying views on mushrooms in the woods. I know I am missing a treasure trove, and like the berries I harvest, there are probably some fungi equally safe, but my culture has taught me otherwise and so I can’t take the risk, but thus miss a deep reward I am sure.
Our oldest daughter has enjoyed these last few weeks with her dad fishing and scouting out wildlife. Her dad took her out fly fishing one night and after he had soundly “taught” her the correct methodology she sallied forth and caught lunker after lunker on her hook. Her desperate father trying to recoup his losses changed flies and technique to no avail. With arched eyebrow, she drly commented “Daddddd…you have to reel it in very sloooowww…like this.” Even after her helpful critique of his skills, he was not able to bring forth even the smallest perch to redeem himself. I found this escapade especially hilarious and looked forth on this particular evening as living proof that my daughter has obviously inherited her mother’s fishing skills and ability to disarm a grown man overly confident in his fishing skills. She is a natural even at four years old!
I was finally able to find the time to make my way to the summit of Little Spencer Mountain, and was rewarded with some of the best views I have ever had from any mountaintop in Maine. Dana learned that the reward of the peak is worth the effort and I see many new expeditions in our future as I truly believe mountain climbing is somewhat addictive once one gets started. Katahdin, Traveler, and Big Spencer loomed to the Northeast, Misery Gore, Enchanted, and the Kineos to the West, from the southeast we saw the White cap and Barren range, along with the Gulf Hagas line and Lily Bay and Baker in the foreground. Finally in the distance of the south arose the faint blue outlines of Bigelow, Sugarloaf and Crocker, looming in the foreground was the majestic Squaw mountain (which has been redubbed Moose on the topography charts). Ragged, Chesuncook, First and Second Roach, Moosehead, all dotted the valleys from which these mountains sprung and we took in the fresh air of pure exhilaration of such an amazing panorama. Next on my list – the summit of Big Spencer, an elusive climb for me, for it has been on the list for years yet I have never taken the journey.
This has been an incredible year, we have enjoyed the companionship of our guests and we have allowed the beauty and simplicity of our life to soak into our souls, creating a place that will dwell in our heart forever. Already I feel the pangs of remorse at the thought of leaving for winter, and I know these last few weeks will pass quickly by. We are not excited to return to our modern home with all its modern contrivances, we will miss the soft glow of the gas lamps, the crackling of the fire, and the flickering kerosene lamp with its particular aroma nestling around us. The girls will miss glorious days spent adventuring barefoot beside the pond, free to be children and roam away from plastic creations and the noise our daily life exudes. The water bath gurgles with fresh salsa, green tomato mincemeat, and spaghetti sauce processing. I look mournfully into its depths wishing I could figure out a way to jar up this, this simple reality, which is the essence of life at Spencer Pond.