One is silver and the other’s gold

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Mike meeting Dad for the first time on the east shore of Maine’s Umbazooksus Stream. That yellow thing is the collapsible sail that he was experimenting with that summer.

The summer of 2014 was Dad’s time for a grand adventure, a 200-mile section paddle from Spencer Rips on the Moose River to the village of Allagash on the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. He had started out alone and was planning to meet me, so we could do the Allagash together. Our rendezvous hour at the Umbazooksus Stream bridge came and went, though, with no sign of him out on the water. I decided to go exploring.

It turns out that you can drive into the last campsite on the east shore of that wide stream, really an arm of Chesuncook Lake. Down through the potholes and brush I went, until suddenly emerging right next to an ancient picnic table complete with roof.  Set up next to the table was a roomy canvas cabin tent looking lived in and loved.

It was too late to escape without being seen. I stopped and walked down to the shore to say hello to a friendly-looking man sprawled in a camp chair.  Mike Messick, from Missouri, had many a story to share and a history of long, adventurous road trips following wherever the spirit would lead.

That morning, it had led him to us or, rather, us to him.  After Dad arrived, over a cup of Mike’s freshly brewed coffee, we found ourselves inviting him to join us on the Allagash. This was a bit beyond the boundaries of our usual behavior, but it turned out to be the birth of a strong friendship.

Hastily, knowing the day was moving along, we spread out maps, jotted down the name and number of our favorite outfitter (Tylor Kellys Camps in the village of Allagash), and agreed to meet a few days later at Umsaskis Bridge.

Even though we were a bit late in arriving there, Mike was waiting for us with a campfire crackling…and the rest is history, part of which made it into the pages of my new adventure memoir, Upwards.

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New friends, united by the river.
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Picking blueberries at the campsite that had it all, including two whitetail bucks, a moose, a gray jay, and plenty of sunshine to light up our morning. An evening view from that campsite, Deadwater North, graces the front cover of Upwards.
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There’s nothing better than blueberry pancakes and bacon
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Mike was at home in (or under) a canoe
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Moon over Round Pond
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Until we meet again…saying farewell at Michaud Farm

I’ve been thinking this week that our lives flow along as glistening threads in an almost unfathomable web, their intersections our places of decision or serendipity. My author’s walk, still in its infancy, has been strewn with crossings, some joyful surprises, others the fruit of grasping courage with both hands and making them happen.

I’ve met trail founders, penned prayerful inscriptions for friends and strangers battling cancer, and sent copies of Upwards to stores hundreds of miles away. Through it all, the abiding kindness of people and the strength of their stories has filled me with new energy. On Thursday, I came in from my morning bus ride with the students of Bus #14 to discover that my school was celebrating ME, with snacks and speeches and lots of love! The handmade card below, created by Karen Hight, is one I will always treasure.

I’ve found there is something in those who go to the rivers and forests of the north that reflects those places and their intrinsic character. These are souls who live by the rhythm of the seasons, who know gratitude and peace. Rooted in the land, they love hearty meals and heartier laughs, have simple stuff, but complex thoughts. They are people like Mike, who quickly become dear to the heart. If you have gone there, you know. If you haven’t, I hope you will!

 

Upwards: The life of an author 3 months out

Three months out from what, you ask? Actually, many of you are deliberately NOT going to ask, as you’ve heard about little else from me for many months!

Just in case, though – three months out from holding Upwards in my hands. That shiny new cover, those color photos, my words in print. Actually, the cover won’t be shiny. One decision firmly made is to have a “Matte/Satin” cover. And color photos? That’s my hope and dream, but I’m waiting anxiously for cost estimates for a center section of photos.

No matter how thrilled I am about publishing, the whirlwind of life goes on. The end of the school year is upon us, bringing field trips and frenzy. This week, we visited the Maine Wildlife Park in Gray, Maine. Run by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, the park cares for and exhibits only animals that are unable to live in the wild.

The more natural habitat areas were fascinating, while I struggled to watch two black bears panhandling for treats beneath a machine being fed by an endless stream of quarters, the huge glass window above obscured by a wall of captivated children.

After taking the above photo, I decided that I would learn about the Canada lynx. (That’s Canada lynx, not Canadian lynx, just like the goose). The bobcat, also found in Maine, is a different critter. Similar in size and appearance, there are differences between the two species: Bobcat = shorter legs, smaller ear tufts, smaller paws, more likely to look spotted or striped and Lynx = the opposite. The tip of a lynx’s tail is solid black, the bobcat’s black on top and white below. Plus, in the deep snows of the north woods, a sighting will probably be a lynx, well-adapted for life there.

Somewhat of a picky eater, the lynx dines on snowshoe hares at least 75% of the time, eating 1 to 2 per day. Historically, lynx populations have cycled up and down in rhythm with hare populations. In Maine, however, both have been booming for years, as young spruce-fir forests grow back following devastating waves of spruce budworm mortality. The young-growth timber provides ideal cover for the lynx’s favored prey.

I can’t recall having seen a water snake in Maine, until my visit to the wildlife park. Research seems to indicate they live only in the southern half of the state, so my best chance will be during my excursions close to home.

Out on the pond this week, it was cool and my sightings were all avian. It’s too early in the season to take the leaves for granted and the maples were particularly striking. Vivid red clumps of maple keys jumped out among the shoreline greens and pinks, and I tried to draw in calm as I paddled and let go of some of the excitement that is keeping ME keyed up!

One afternoon, swallows had overtaken the water and swooped in acrobatic dance, surely happy to find many squadrons of mosquitoes on patrol. They can also drink mid-flight, quickly scooping up water from the surface. On shore, a solitary spotted sandpiper winged from stone to log ahead of me, the first time I’d observed this species on McCurdy Pond. Now, today, a quiet Saturday, I rose with the dawn again and hope to squeeze in another paddle among the expense-filing, permission-requesting, photo-choosing tasks of a busy soon-to-be-published author.

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Messing Around in Boats

Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing around in boats.

Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

If there’s a special young person in your life, between the ages of 10 and 14, please consider the NFCT’s Nothern Forest Explorers Program for them this summer. Five days of wilderness paddling under the expert care of a registered guide and accompanied by an environmental educator interning with the NFCT. The cost is fair at $500 for 5 days; some scholarships are also available. No paddling experience is necessary.

Click the Northern Forest Explorers link for additional information and to apply. Down below the photo are quick descriptions of the trips.

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Wilderness paddling gets in your soul and brings you back to the river, creating memories like this day on the Allagash with my father and my son Taylor, who took his first wilderness trip at age 7.

Currently, there are openings on all five of the Maine trips, including the 34-mile Moose River Bow Trip near Jackman, which was my first solo wilderness paddling adventure back in 2010. Here are all five options, the third and fourth only open to Maine residents:

July 5-8 – The Moose River Bow Loop Trip led by Adventure Bound

July 18–22 – Western Maine’s Mountains, based on Flagstaff Lake and led by Adventure Bound

August 1–5 – Thoreau’s Maine, led by The Maine Winter Sports Center, paddling the waters of Thoreau’s journeys in The Maine Woods. 

August 8–12 – Maine’s Wild Allagash, led by The Maine Winter Sports Center, paddling the Allagash Wilderness Waterway from Umsaskis Lake to Twin Brook.

August 8–12 – Richardson Lake Explorers, led by ELC Outdoors and expanded to include an adventure ropes course and whitewater rafting, based on the Richardson Lakes.

If I was 10 to 14, there’s nothing I’d rather do this summer!

Wind and water

“Welcome home,” whispered the gentle waves
Spring still life

Well, I am debating whether I can manage without taking my iPad Mini this summer.  I already know I can’t live without my binoculars and GPS and SPOT and phone and probably my camera, at least for the latter part of the trip.  So here’s my first “phone-only” post!

We’ve been away for the first bit of April vacation, so yesterday morning was my first paddle on the open waters of the lake, totaling 6.6 miles.

Going out, I was headed into the wind, but got quite a push from the current on the usually placid river, about 1.5 mph.  On the way home, thank you wind!  Birds galore: swallows, flickers, buffleheads, an osprey, Canada geese, and a pair of very vocal loons. I thought I heard a kingfisher, but have yet to see one this year.  I may add a couple more photos from the camera after this experimental post works.  More soon on our explorations earlier this week…

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Pair of buffleheads on the sparkling lake
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“Are you looking at me?”

A Good Friday

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Today the temperature reached 60 degrees, according to The Weather Channel.  After joyfully noting this miracle, I hurried home to walk the dog, then set off for the river, where I promptly came as close to being stuck as has ever happened with my RAV4. I guess you really can’t just drive ANYWHERE with aplomb. A bit of maneuvering and I was back on the gravel boat launch drive and unloading.  What a joy it was to slide my kayak into the water for the first time in 2015.

Remember those stories of the earliest wilderness explorers, who wrote of vast flocks of waterfowl, more than could be counted? That was the Pemaquid River today. I felt like an interloper, one who had arrived weeks before human presence was allowed.  On every side, ducks took flight and Canada geese honked belligerently from the water and on the ice.

My muscles know that I paddled today (and did my upper body workout with the weights).  There is that familiar little nagging stab in my back, about halfway down and more to the right than to the left. Today I logged the first 2 miles of what will be many hundreds for the year. It was a good Friday and also Good Friday, with worship at the Bremen Union Church after my paddling adventure.

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Liberated from its winter captivity in the barn, my paddle once again dipped and dripped in a comforting rhythm.

Lisa’s homemade granola

032415 homemade granola

Have I already confessed how many hours I am spending watching videos or reading articles about backpacking food? Which, of course, sometimes segues into watching other people’s adventures, instead of planning my own.

One of the videos I watched suggested mixing granola with dry milk at home, then simply adding water for breakfast on the trail. So I purchased some fresh (not four years old) dried (not fresh) milk and tried it out. The milk tasted great. The sogginess of the granola is not for me, though, so I guess I’ll enjoy mine dry.

Later that same week, my friend Lisa was making homemade granola with our students at school. She generously shared the recipe. This is actually my second batch and the recipe as it has evolved so far. Lisa’s original recipe called for more salt and the raisins (or chopped dried cherries) were optional.

Ingredients:  3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (900 cal), 1 cup sliced almonds (480 cal), 3/4 cup shredded coconut (210 cal), 1 cup golden raisins (436 cal), 1/4 cup brown sugar (209 cal), 1/4 cup maple syrup (210 cal), 1/4 cup vegetable oil (520 cal), 1/2 t. salt

Combine all ingredients except raisins in large bowl, mixing well. Spread on greased baking sheets and bake for 1 hour at 250 degrees, stirring every 15 minutes for even toasting. Cool on wire racks, then add raisins and store in airtight container or plastic bag. Lisa says it lasts quite a while.  So far I have eaten it too quickly to know! Total calories would be 2,975 or around 250 calories per 1/2 cup serving.