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Mooselookmeguntic – Visit #1 2015

As mentioned in a prior post, my wife and I had “planned” to make our first trip into-the-woods, last week, to return to Mooselookmeguntic Lake, in Maine.

While things don’t always go according to plan, EVERYTHING, ALWAYS works out for the best.

The “original” plan was to arrive on Monday, after attending our nephew’s college graduation party, the preceding Sunday. But, due to poor weather, we decided to delay the camping expedition by 2 days and take the opportunity to spend a couple of days with my folks.

Interestingly enough, as we pulled into their driveway we again heard that awful grinding sound from the front-end of our truck. This was the same sound we experienced on our return trip from Canada, over the Christmas break. However, this time it was coming from the right hand side. So, I looked into our maintenance records and found that the last “fix” was the replacement of the hub assembly on the left hand side. It now seemed that we were due for the same procedure on the right hand side. My wife could have said (but didn’t) “I told you we should have had them fix both sides the first time.” 🙂

I assumed the quickest fix for this would result from a dealership in Bangor and wasn’t disappointed!

Upon calling Quirk’s Chevrolet and describing our symptoms, they said: “We can get you in on Wednesday.” Uh-oh, I thought. That is when we are supposed to be “in-the-woods”, according to our latest plan.

I responded: “We are scheduled to head into-the-woods on a camping trip Wednesday, so this would be too late. Do you have anything sooner?”, to which he responded: “We are already over-booked.” I then asked: “Do you have a Suburban or other vehicle that I could put my canoe on, that we could rent, so that we can keep our plans?” His response: “We really don’t have any vehicles that big to loan. Let me see what I can do…” After a very short period of time he indicated: “We can jam you in, in the morning”, to which I responded “That is awesome. Thank you very much! I’ll bring the vehicle right in, so that it is there for you first thing in the morning.”

The result: Quirk Chevrolet called me at 8:30 the following morning to indicate the truck was fixed. Fantastic! We can keep our “revised” plans.

This was a much better outcome than what might have happened if the weather wasn’t bad and we had headed straight into-the-woods only to have this trouble materialize when we were MANY hours away from a facility with the necessary parts for such a quick fix.

Now that this was taken care of we could spend some relaxing time with my parents. This included, having a GREAT lunch of delectable seafood at a newly refurbished restaurant: McLaughlin’s Marina in Hampden. This is where my folks typically launch their boat on the Penobscot River and head to Penobscot Bay, on the coast of Maine. A beautiful boat ride that we’ve taken with them a few times, although the weather wasn’t permitting on this visit.

We also visited Cole’s Land Transportation Museum.

Now, to be perfectly honest…On any other day, I might have driven by this place and said to myself “I’d never get that 2 hours back in my life, if I visited (what would seem to be) such a boring place.” But, I would have been completely wrong in that judgement. We did spend a couple hours there and learned some fascinating things regarding the evolution of transportation for consumers and industry, especially as relates to the great state of Maine!

For example: Did you know that there is a Model-T Ford snowmobile conversion kit? This is where the word snowmobile first came from. Someone decided to build an attachment / kit to convert a Model-T Ford into a snow-going machine, and received a patent for doing so in 1917.

What amazing ingenuity!

After all this excitement, my wife and I then headed into-the-woods!

Upon checking in at Stephen Phillips Memorial Preserve, we loaded our gear into the canoe in order to make our paddling trip to Student’s Island. The goal: make only one crossing with everything needed for the next 24-hours.

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Success!

Although Cindy convinced me that we should return for the firewood and rations we’d need for the remainder of our trip, to get it all behind us. Very good advice!

Since this trip was in early June it still gets pretty cold at night, in that part of Maine. On the first night the temperature dropped to a mere 39 degrees. Upon waking in the middle of the night my feet were freezing. But, we had prepared by bringing along a cheap comforter. Once we slung that over our sleeping bags we were plenty toasty for the remainder of the night.

Even so, upon rising in the morning, we could clearly see our breath in the frosty air. This is when you truly know you are living 🙂

A confession: As I share information and photos about these trips I get a “little” worried that it will attract more people to this amazing / secluded place on our planet. But, instead of being selfish, here we go. My 2 favorite scenic photos from this trip are as follows:

Sunrise (with fog) on Mooselookmeguntic.

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Mid-afternoon as we paddled around Student’s Island seeking the prized trout.

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After several hours of paddling, keeping our worms wet and NO FISH we returned to our site. And, because we still had an abundance of worms we decided to cast our bait out and let it float around via bobber. The result: Cindy catches the ONLY / sizable fish on this trip.

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While it wasn’t a trout she at least caught a fish (and beat me again). My dad is again probably going to make some crack about asking Cindy to teach me how to fish 🙂

Here I am sitting in our front yard, enjoying the view.

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And finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t share a great experience that you simply CANNOT achieve while in civilization. That is, viewing a crystal clear, star-filled night sky. Yes, you can see “some” stars while in civilization. But, when you are in the middle of nowhere, with no light pollution, there is so much more to the night sky! On our second night, as we gazed upwards, we spotted 3 VERY BRIGHT lights, which we simply assumed were stars. Such is NOT the case. They were planets (Venus, Jupiter and Saturn). No, I didn’t identify these all by myself. I used the SkyView app on my iPhone which easily allows you to identify any heavenly body, including: planets, stars, constellations, satellites, space stations, etc. If you have an iPhone, give this app a try. You will be “star struck.”

After only a few short days of camping, on this first trip of the summer, we made our way to Kittery, in southern Maine. Here we found, on a prior trip, a great restaurant (Roberts) which serves outstanding raw oysters. So, we decided to spend the night in Kittery and return home the following day.

And, upon arriving home after being away for a week, we found the house in “reasonable shape.” That is, the boys did a pretty good job of upkeep.

So, all-in-all, a great getaway with no major surprises on our return (that we’ve found yet 🙂 ).

It is only early in our summer-long break and we have plans for other adventures. So, more to come…

All the best!

Mooselookmeguntic – We’ve been there (thrice)

For our last hoorah, before the kids go back to school, we enjoyed a final camping trip of the summer, returning to Mooselookmeguntic Lake. This, being our new favorite spot on the planet. Evan (our youngest / 17) was able to join us!

We again stayed on Students Island at a site requiring about a 3/4-mile canoe trip from the mainland. Because Evan was with us we had to bring our gear across in 2 loads. As in our prior trip, the arrival crossings were a breeze. Or, should I say there was no breeze/wind. More on that, when we cover the departure crossings a few days later…

Here is Evan about to enjoy the trip to Students Island.

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This was our front yard.

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The main agenda: fishing. If you’ve read the earlier posts covering our 3 previous camping trips of the summer, you’ll recall that Cindy is the only one who has caught the desired fish (trout). On this trip 19 fish were caught (small mouth bass and shiners; no trout). Perhaps Cindy caught the last one 🙂

On one of the mornings Evan and I took the canoe out. We were enjoying the beautiful day, the sound of loons calling one-another and we were catching fish. Evan spotted a bald eagle flying just a few feet off the water, only 30-40 feet from us. The magnificent bird then climbed, seemed to be preparing to dive for its breakfast, and then flew off towards Students Island until it was out of site.

Cindy remained at our campsite, reading her book. At least we “thought” that was all the excitement she was having.

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Jurassic Park?

Upon our return Cindy had a story to tell…

As she was lying there reading, catching some rays and listening to the same loon calls we were hearing, she saw our bald eagle swoop in, along with another large bird (which she couldn’t identify) and together they started thrashing around in the trees just above her. As this was occurring a squirrel was screeching for its life; likely the object of their pursuit. At this point, Cindy began backing towards the water in the event the birds came to the ground in their frenzy, talons flipping around as they fought for their meal.

Shortly after this action subsided she observed a pack (sounds better than a flock, for our story) of 6 ducks darting across the surface of the water towards her, as they were chasing and diving for fish just a few feet from shore. Another feeding frenzy was taking place before her eyes. This scene reminded her of one of the Jurassic Park movies when the little dinosaurs were preying upon the young girl on the beach.

She considered giving me a call over all this excitement, but decided to wait and tell us once we returned from our fishing excursion.

After enjoying a few days of great weather, fishing, swimming, time together and starlit night skies we reached our final day.

Our Departure Crossings (A.K.A. “Note to self”)

On our day of departure we awoke to the sound of waves, which were a few levels above “gentle”, lapping at the shore.

Based on this, and the forecast, we knew we had to promptly pack for the 2 crossings we needed to make, prior to the wind picking up…

Cindy and I easily made the first crossing with a full load of gear. It only took about 10 minutes, the wind being at our back.

Evan remained at the campsite with the small load of our remaining gear, for the 2nd crossing.

After unloading the gear on the mainland I quickly departed for the return trip, leaving Cindy behind to stand watch over our gear. Within 30 feet of shore I realized that, well, I was kind of in a KITE! I had almost zero control of the canoe.

Instead of heading in a northerly direction, where our site was, I was being blown south!

The best I could do was paddle furiously to hopefully reach the southern tip of the island before being blown out into the larger/open part of the lake. After an extended adrenaline rush, I made it to the southern end of the island! Not my intended destination, but at least I was ashore.

At this point I began rowing up along the shore of the island, in my quest to reach our site. So far so good, as I was protected from the wind by a jut of land…Until I wasn’t…

The kite factor returned.

After attempting to paddle directly against the wind, and I wasn’t even around the bend (of wind protection) yet, I knew this would be futile. So, I let the wind blow me back south to one of the unoccupied sites on the island, with a nice sandy beach.

I attempted to call Evan (there is a great cell signal out there), but it rolled immediately to voicemail. His battery was dead…

By now, he was definitely wondering what was going on, as I should have made the return trip by now. Because our site was on the northern end of the island, around a bend, he could not see what was going on.

From here I pulled the canoe ashore, left it behind and began the 3/4-mile hike up the island to our campsite; in my flip flops. I hadn’t planned on a hike, especially on a trail consisting primarily of roots, rocks, mud and that sort of fun.

After about 20 minutes I made it back to the site. There was Evan – still waiting for me to return and pick him up. As he gazed off into the lake I crept up behind him. When I was within 6 inches of his ear I whispered: “maybe they left me.”

He freaked. Probably needing a change of underwear.

This has special significance as he had previously made a comment, while we were at home, as he observed our camping gear stacking up for a prior trip, saying: “Are you guys coming back?” And, to make sure he made it on this trip he joked: “I am going to wake-up early and be waiting with the camping gear to make sure you don’t leave me at home” 🙂

After laughing hysterically for a few minutes and sharing the details of my crossing, we decided it was time to head to the canoe.

We placed the remaining gear on our backs and hiked the 3/4-mile trail back to the canoe. And, even though I was in my flip flops I thankfully received only a few nicks on my feet.

Once we made it back to the canoe we loaded the gear for our crossing. The wind was still blowing and the waves were bigger than before, but with 2 paddlers we easily made the crossing.

So, my “note to self” is: don’t try paddling in the wind, when going solo! Until then, I seriously thought I was an experienced paddler. I had certainly met my match that day.

All part of the adventure 🙂

We hope to return to Students Island (by the summer of 2015).

Mooselookmeguntic – We’ve Been There (Again)

Continuing in the spirit of reinforcing why one would go about doing “all the hard work” outlined in this blog, just sharing some of the freedom that can be realized…Here we go again – “into the woods.”

Camping Trip #2, during the summer of 2014…

Just a few short weeks after our prior trip to Mooselookmeguntic Lake we again headed to our new, favorite spot on the planet. And, as much as we tried to orchestrate the logistics and scheduling with our boys, it was just Cindy and I, once again 🙂

This time we selected a site requiring a 1/2-mile canoe trip across the lake, to Students Island. A 1/2-mile doesn’t sound long, and it isn’t, unless you are rowing a canoe weighed down with gear such that you only have a few inches margin for error (should the canoe tip) before taking on water. Or worse, rolling the canoe and having all your gear floating around, or sinking to the bottom of the (deep) lake!!!

Cindy doesn’t look convinced, does she?

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Thankfully, the trip to the island was pretty much a breeze. Or, should I say there was no breeze/wind. We’ll cover the wind factor later…

This was our front yard.

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After settling in, it was time to catch some trout. We had a much better shot this time, with the canoe, than fishing from land (as we did during our prior visit). The good news is that a nice, foot-long trout was caught. The bad news (for me) is that it was caught by Cindy 🙂

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And, yes, she guts her own fish. What a woman 🙂

Since we were keeping the rest of the family up-to-date by posting pictures to iCloud my Dad had the opportunity to jab me by asking when Cindy was going to give me a lesson on how to catch that prized fish (the trout). Father, go pound sand!

Later in the week we were doing some fishing (in my attempt to surpass Cindy’s accomplishment). We were in the middle of the lake in our canoe and commented that the weather was looking kind of peculiar. That is short for: the clouds look ominous. And, the forecast on my iPhone corroborated by indicating that t-storms (which bring wind) were on their way. The middle of a fairly large lake, in a canoe, is NOT where you want to be for t-storms.

Knowing that we still had to make a trip to the mainland to get some fresh ice for our…provisions…we headed for the campground’s boat launch, hopped in the truck and took the short ride to the village of Oquossoc, ME.

On returning from the village we observed the lake, in combination with the wind. It was no longer tranquil. It looked a bit, well, angry. Just the same, we had to get “home.”

So, we shoved off in our canoe and soon realized this was going to be a battle. The trip that previously took less than 20 minutes, with a fully loaded canoe, took us “at least” 45 minutes as we rowed across the heaving lake (taking on water as waves crashed over the canoe) and then up the shore of the island – against the wind.

Phew. We made it.

This is our front yard, shortly after the crossing…Doesn’t look so bad, from land…But, do you see those white caps? That is when you know it is rough (out there).

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As we settled back in we noticed a visitor walking down our path. A woman had come to ask if she could check out the lake from the vantage point of our site. You see, her family was scheduled to leave, but feared the crossing in their fully loaded canoes, including young children. NOT a good proposition at this time. And, the forecast only suggested that it was going to get worse as the day proceeded. So, they hiked back to their site to wait it out. Thankfully, at about 7:30pm, the wind died down enough to allow them safe crossing. So, they made their escape. And, as far as we know, they reached the mainland 🙂

Cindy and I enjoyed our final night.

We knew we’d be back – again (to Students Island)!

In future posts I’ll share details about our other (summer of 2014) trips – “into the woods.”