Journal Entry 9/2008
North Woods Adventures
Let me suggest that every day up here in the North Woods is an adventure, whether dealing with the mundane or something out of the ordinary, for adventures include both the wonders of nature and man-made escapades, and combinations of both. They may be considered work or play; they may be on land or water or in the air; they may require “toys” like motorbikes, kayaks or sailboats, or merely an attentive eye. But all are part of life where we spend our summers.
Care to explore the hundreds of miles of back roads and trails, all dirt, in our neighborhood and visit several other lakes, all different, but all pristine? The best way is by motorbike, and this is what Bill and I did yesterday afternoon (see picture). So several hours and 43 miles later, with sore buns and paralyzed right hands (throttle controllers), we had been past the Unknown Lakes to Duck Lake and back to Middle Chain Lake, where we ducked under some trees to wait out a brief shower, and then capped the trip with a 6-1/2 mile ride in to Lower Chain Lake (and an equal number back) over a VERY challenging road – bony (rocky), deeply rutted, with mud holes, downed trees, tall grass and protruding bushes. It was worth every mile and every stiff joint to partake of scenery so splendid: clear water rimmed with hills, with little or no human activity in sight; roads lined with beautiful large boulders (pushed aside to make the road) and goldenrod in full bloom; woods with majestic spruce, hemlock, and birch as well as meadows of baby white pine (the official tree of Maine); and the sweet smell of ferns and moist vegetation. By the way, a large piece of this road is a dirt superhighway built by the Passamaquoddy Indians with your and our tax dollars; they did a lovely job and we are fortunate to be able to benefit from it!
It was pretty windy on this trip and with it blowing straight down the length of Lower Chain Lake, we saw some of the biggest waves and whitecaps we’ve ever encountered. Some wind makes for good sailing, which we have done several times recently. Bill and I went out last week in our Phantom sailboat with winds of 10-11 miles/hr. I’m generally in charge of the dagger board and sheet to adjust the sail while Bill is the tiller man. We tacked nicely down-lake into the wind, turned and ran with the wind toward home. We were REALLY moving, the hull making that humming sound as it speeds along! Bill decided that we should jibe to cut over toward home port, so we prepared to do that. I started pulling in the sail, Bill turned the tiller……YIKES!......the wrong way, quickly realized and tried to adjust it in the other direction, and in an instant I was overboard with Bill immediately following, and the dagger board was sticking straight up and the 8-foot mast with sail presumably straight down. This is the first time we have ever capsized this boat! We were near Dollar Island which is across from us, and before we knew it, there were 4 motor boats coming to our aid. Now you have to understand that on most days, one does not see even 4 boats on this lake – we are REMOTE! Two were people from away, staying at Spruce Lodge at the head of the lake, one was a college-age friend, and the other was the family from Dollar Island. We were able to get the mast and sail off and get leverage with the dagger board to right the boat, and then we went ashore on Dollar Island and got a ride, sailboat in tow, back to our dock. We had life vests on and the water was warm (low 70s), so it was not life threatening, simply humiliating! Now doesn’t this boat look innocent on its mooring on an overcast and calm day? (See picture.)
What is so adventurous about blueberry picking? It’s the whole experience. I have been picking blueberries since I was a child. It is a joy to have many bushes (high-bush type) on our own property, on the bank or overhanging the water, and this year, we have had a bumper crop and large berries (see picture in which I have measured 2 of the biggest berries, together to be over an inch; also, these are 2 of the first quarts I picked).
Blueberries have been in for about a month and so far I have picked about 15 quarts, made pies, muffins and cake and had them on cereal or just plain. I’m sure you know that they are one of the best foods nutritionally. There is also a certain peace in the process of picking, blending in with the rest of nature, sharing the bounty along-side yellow jacket wasps, squirrels, birds, ants and spiders. One day, on a leaf, I saw a caterpillar that was in the middle of its transformation to a butterfly or moth; its antennae were beginning to form along with wings. I have also discovered that yellow jackets will not sting when you are vying for the same blueberry or even touch them accidentally, but Bill and I both discovered they DO sting when you happen upon their nest – they had started one somewhere near the top of the stairs going down to our dock……OUCH! A little red squirrel came down a tree limb next to where I was picking and was surprised to see me there; it stopped in its tracks, looked at me, stood there for about 30 seconds watching and then scampered off. I’m sure I’ve told you that one year I saw evidence that a bear had beaten me to a trove of berries that overhang a big rock – they are around. Two female neighbors went for a walk up Bear Mountain Road, just down the road from us, and encountered a bear on their way back, coming toward them. The bear continued to move forward, so the women backed up slowly, picked up large sticks and held them up high to make themselves appear larger, and the bear went off the path into the woods. But the women didn’t know how far the bear had gone and they still had to pass the spot where the bear left the path; they were SCARED! The birds – as I’m picking, I listen to their beautiful songs and the vibrant sound of their wings as they take off quickly from a nearby tree. I have been hearing the chick-a-dee-dee-dee of the chickadee recently; these birds stay in Maine all winter. Some of the best blueberry bushes are in our cove with its southern exposure, thus lots of sun. This is actually an outlet to the lake from a wetland in our woods – this year with the water so high, it has become an inlet too. As an outlet, it carries silt from the forest into the lake and this promotes growth of vegetation which fish like; leeches like it here too – after all, this lake is a complete ecosystem-- and I have become a captive audience for them as I might be standing 45 minutes picking a quart of blueberries from one bush. Every time in this zone, I seem to pick up at least one small one, about an inch long. Sometimes they have gotten into my water shoes as I sink down a couple of inches into the silt. Today, I felt a pinch, and sure enough, one had attached itself near my ankle. They will not hurt you, but they are a little annoying and somewhat disgusting. One should not pull them off because their suckers can become embedded in the skin; so the procedure is to let them eat, then they will drop off into the water. I think the guy today ate, got tired and fell asleep because he was attached for awhile until I moved sufficiently for him to drop off. The other thing about leeches is that they exude a substance that inhibits clotting, so when I came out of the water, blood was streaming down my leg into my water shoes. Bill has been working in this zone to clean it up some, removing dead waterlogged trees and branches and vegetation; he wears long pants and socks, with the pants tucked into the socks – now there’s an idea!
What is it like to go kayaking on the night of the full moon? It varies, but it’s always wonderful. In July, Bill and I went out just as the sun was setting over the last hill (about 9PM) but it was overcast, so there was a sense of twilight and mystery. Right away, we met a family of ducks who didn’t quite know what to make of us, quiet as we were in the night – we didn’t belong out there then. Two of them each quacked once and went swimming normally on their way. Had we encountered them during the day, they would have done their scuttling, scrambling movements. Then the cry of a loon in our cove, not more than 100 feet away, pierced the night and echoed all around the lake. The moon was visible only through horizontal strips in the clouds. The humidity was pretty high; we could smell the lake ecosystem. We noted the lights on Little Raven and Raven Islands, both inhabited, as we made the journey around them. By the time we got back, we had been about 2-1/2 to 3 miles. In August, it was a clear night with the moon rising over the lake from our house, making a path of light across the water. When we rounded Little Raven Island, we were directly in its path. In minutes, the color of the moon changed from orange-yellow to a creamy yellow. We could see lights from five camps and hear a generator at one. As we looked up at the stars, a jet and its contrail passed between stars in the Big Dipper on the way from Europe to Bangor International Airport; our lake, Sysladobsis (Dobsie) is on that flight path. The water was totally calm. Again, we were the only humans out there. How beautiful! What a joy!
To round out our adventures, lately I have been up on the woodshed roof removing moss while Bill has been wielding the chainsaw, primarily taking down dead trees in our wet zone and then stowing them as filler. Is this work or play? It’s all part of what goes on here….and we love it!