Summer Journal Day 8
Saturday, August 8
Boy it’s cold outside. The temperature is definitely in the 40’s. What a good decision it was to stay here last night. Chris re-fired the wood stove this morning and it’s nice and warm in the camp.
We walked up to the shower just behind the kitchen at 6 o’clock this morning and got cleaned up. That hot water felt good. It was our first hot shower in over a week and for the both of us our second shower this month. What luxury.
The clouds cleared and the moon over the lake last night was spectacular. I got up and went outside after midnight just to enjoy the view. Chemquasbamtocook, or Ross Lake is big. Chemquasbamtocook is an Abenaki Indian word that means “where there is a large lake together with a river.” Chemquasbamtocook Stream runs out of the north end of the lake through Clayton Lake and over to the Allagash Waterway at the foot of Long Lake.
While I can’t say for sure, the Ross name probably comes from John Ross, a renowned lumberman who worked these woods in the mid 19th century.
Ross was the leader of an elite group of river drivers known as the Bangor Tigers. This collection of unruly Canadians, Indians, Irish, and native Yankees was known for their ability to get logs down any river in any conditions. In their time they were the toughest group of untamed bastards going and a close knit band of brothers that took great pride in their ability to do what others said couldn’t be done. Their fame and the name of their leader, John Ross is a chapter of American history similar to that of Robert Rogers and his Rangers, but has yet to be told.
The sunrise this morning was another of nature’s shows. The lake lit up in sparkling white lights in the early sun.
We’re clean and smelling good and I’m about to cook a big breakfast.
Saturday, August 8
We had a surprise this morning. Jake and Garry treated us to breakfast up at the main camp cooked by Don. The $31 a night per person that we’re paying doesn’t include meals. We have plenty of food and the cabin has a kitchen. But Jake insisted on treating us to breakfast, so why not. It was very nice of him. Don made eggs and sausage, with pancakes and homemade maple syrup. We also had plenty of hot coffee on this cold morning and orange juice.
After breakfast Don took Jake and Garry out on the lake to fish. Chris and I hung around the main camp for a while talking with Andrea, Don’s wife. Andrea is also a Registered Maine Guide. Bob, one of the guides that work at the camp, was heading out to replace the bait in some of the bear traps. Don and Andrea have 1,800 pounds of snack food, cupcakes, donuts, Twinkies, cookies and hundreds of pounds of M&M’s that they store in 55-gallon drums, which they use as bear bait. This is junk food heaven, if I had only known last night.
The bear hunting season begins September 1 and they begin baiting in early August so that the bears get in the habit of returning to the bait to eat often. Don and Andrea have several hundred bait stations out in the woods.
During the season they will bring a hunter out to one of their bear bait stations where he will sit in a tree stand and wait for a bear. They drop the hunter off in the morning and come back at sunset to pick him up. If he has a bear they haul it out of the woods and bring it back to camp where they skin and butcher it.
The only drawback for Don and Andrea is if the hunter misses and wounds the bear. Then they have to track it, following a blood trail, and kill it. This they’re usually doing at night in the woods and the bear is usually very aggressive.
I asked if I could spend the day setting up and replacing bait with Bob, but the location of bait sights is a closely held secret. With hundreds in the woods it is possible and not unheard of that anyone could just climb up into a stand and hunt the sight without the owner knowing. Chris and I had just popped out of the woods the night before with the story that we were just passing through, which however true, never happens. This far out into the woods, no one is just passing through.
Bob was baiting over by Nine Mile Bridge which is a spot I want to visit, so at least I’ll be able to get a road report. Andrea said Bob might be gone as long as 12 hours. That would be far too long to leave Chris.
After breakfast and our talk with Andrea, Chris grabbed his pole and fished right from the small dock where Don keeps his boat. He caught two fish right away. One was nine and a half inches the other six. He released them both.
Andrea says if we’re headed to the St. John we’ll need muskie lures. Chris doesn’t have any, so she said she’d check around to see if they had any extra.
Saturday, August 8
I tried to take a nap in my big double bed, but Chris was having none of that. So I got up and we spread the tent and the rain fly out in the sun to dry. Andrea put a gallon jug of water in their freezer for us to use in our cooler tomorrow when we leave.
Chris and I went for a walk up the road for about a half mile just to stretch our legs. Don had said at breakfast that there wasn’t a bear within five miles of Ross Camps. We came across a pile of bear scat not far from the camp. It was at least a day old as it had been in the road during the recent rain. We also found a pile of moose scat. I asked Don about this.
“Oh, that’s some big ole bear that hangs around here,” he admitted.
There is a mother fox and her kits living behind our cabin according to Andrea. I mentioned that I had a few pieces of ham left over from the night before and Andrea told me to put them out for the fox. She said she has been feeding them this summer. They got a little rice along with their ham.
The lake is beginning to kick up a little. It looks calm, but it’s deceiving. Out in the middle there are white caps. Don, Jake and Garry came back and have headed over to the St. John River to continue to fish. Jake and Garry had a laugh when they learned that Chris had caught a couple of fish right from the dock and they had spent the morning out on the lake only to return empty handed.
Saturday, August 8
The woods are so pretty, so peaceful, quiet and so full of life. I’ve been sitting in the sun reading Sig Olsen’s “Reflections from the North Country.” He talks about a oneness and awareness of being alone with the woods. It is possible to quietly sit and listen and hear the commerce of life here. In a peaceful way, everything is all hustle and bustle as birds sing and fly, moose browse, the fox family enjoys their ham and rice, insects buzz around and fish jump from the water chasing bugs.
Chris is reading again. I’ve never seen him sit this long at one time and read. This book has really got his attention.
People pay a lot of money to come to the woods to hunt and fish, or just camp. Our season passes for the North Maine Woods cost us $240. But that’s cheap compared to what the price would be if we spent all our time at a sporting camp or hired a guide. Living in a tent and being your own guide, I think, is more fun.
If we were home right now we would be surrounded by a sea of background noise that has become so constant that we no longer notice it. There would be people rushing around, in a hurry to get somewhere with everyone in hot pursuit of another dollar. There would be a TV going somewhere surrounded by comatose kids. Here nothing moves faster than time, and we seldom know what time it is. It’s wonderful not to see or listen to the news. Things are still happening in the world, but without us and that’s just fine. I doubt anything will occur over the next week or two that will make a difference to us. If something does, someone along the way will tell us. Right now it’s the simple pleasures, the simple life. If I want to take a nap; why not? The problem with taking a nap though is that Chris always seems to have something to ask or tell me and it seems to make no difference to him that I might be asleep.
Saturday, August 8
Chris has read more than half of his book. He reads for a while, then runs down to the lake and fishes for a while, before returning to his book. I did manage a small nap. Chris keeps catching fish. I got a picture of him with one.
We had tortellini with butter sauce for dinner. Chris had a glass of cran raspberry juice and an ice cream sandwich for dessert. We’re loaded with shelf stable food, even freeze dried ice cream.
We talked with Jake and Garry after dinner. They didn’t catch anything over on the St. John. They think they’re a jinx. Jake and Garry just laugh. Don is determined to find them some fish, but fish or not, they’re having a good time.
Chris got a chance to talk with Bob, the other guide here. Bob guided in Alaska for several years. He’s worked on Kodiak Island, the Keni and in the Wasilla area. He had some stories to tell about hunting and fishing in Alaska; of hundred pound salmon and big grizzly bears casting shadows as they walked by his tent at night. He hunted and shot dall sheep, elk, moose and grizzly in Alaska as well as fished many of the big rivers and small streams. Bob’s advice to Chris was to go. Do it while you’re young and you can. Plan on spending a few years and experience everything Alaska has to offer. It’s like no other place; savage, big and beautiful, a breathless landscape that has to be seen to be appreciated.
Chris listened and didn’t say much. I think he was just in awe of everything Bob said.
The views and opinions in the Enterprise blogs are those of the author and are not neccessarily shared by Falmouth Publishing.