Saturday, August 1, 2015

How To Recharge The Batteries On A Writer

My husband and I started a tradition a few years back, especially once we could leave the children on their own: we go camping for two weekends and the five days between for a total of nine days away from civilization. We time this to coincide with out anniversary, and when it became clear that, if we didn't go far enough, the bosses would be caling our cell phones with all kinds of stupid questions....

Yeah, the only standing rule about the place we choose to go is that we drive north until we lose cell service, then drive  a minimum of ten more miles just to make sure we can't be reached. We've found some very interesting places, many of which allow free camping, if you can find them and are daring enough to leave the cilivized world behind for a bit.

This year, the place we chose to spend our vacation time was a little Maine gem called Nugent's Camps ( on Chamberlain Lake, not too far from Baxter State Park and Maine's tallest mountain, Mount Katahdin ( We usually have either taken our camper or our tent for these excursions, but this was something new, a cabin on a lake with a gas stove, gas refrigerator, gas lights, a wood stove and a privy out back. For entertainment purposes, I brought along a notebook, and when we arrived, I started a daily journal with brief entries about our adventures.

As they used to say on such shows as Dragnet, "The story you are about to see is real. The names were changed to protect the innocent."  (Who am I kidding. I lost my innocence almost 40 years ago.....)

So, without further ado:

Day One: Mother Nature is reminding us of the honeymoon

Nugent's Camps. Fifty miles or so from Kokadjo, Maine (population: Not Many per their sign) where we lost cell service. A check in (and payment of a fee, as it's part of the Maine North Woods system) at the Telos Gate, then a sign-in at the Chamberlain Ranger Station, where we leave our vehicle and take to the boat to get to our destination. It's going to take two trips of somewhere between 4 and 6 miles from the boat launch to the dock at Nugent's. The dog and I ride over on the first run with the idea that I can get us settled in somewhat while Bill goes for load two.

I've zipped our sleeping bags together, taken some photos of our really nice digs, and am trying to decide what else to do to amuse myself when it starts to thunder - and I hope Bill is still at the truck when a fierce storm comes barreling in. I'm hugging the scared dog when there's a brilliant flash, a loud crack, and the thunder coming immediately - hinting that the worst of Nature's fireworks are happening directly over our heads...

It's precisely at that time that Bill, partway back to the cabin with our second load, has his motor conk out. He's in a metal water...with lightning flashing overhead....and his motor is dead. Hoping the lightning strke didn't totally fry his motor, he waits a moment and tries again....


He's still getting drenched to the skin despite a gortex raincoat, but at least he's moving toward shelter.

The second load contained my duffle bag, which is supposed to be waterproof. Liars! Within minutes of Bill arriving at the cabin, safe and sound, half of my clothing is hung around the cabin on conveniently placed nails. Seems I'm not the only one since this place opened in 1936 to have to hang my clothing to dry...

I suppose, considering that our honeymoon, on top of a mountain, involved being INSIDE the storm cloud, we should have expected such a greeting. We're soon laughing about it over a tasty meal.

I can't wait for Day Two!

P.S. Kudos to Rob, the camp host/manager, because he went out in that storm to meet Bill at the dock to haul the rest of our gear to the cabin, deluge or no deluge. That is one dedicated host!

Day Two is for the letter F: Flexoril and Fly Fishing

After our ceremonious entry to Nugents, with the evidence still drying all around us, drying, Day Two is for relaxing.

I did one of the two things in the title for this day's entry, Bill did the other. Match them up.

Stretching out the aches from the long (almost 6 hour) drive with the last 50 or so miles on dirt roads becomes a walk up the snowmobile trail that brings in campers for ice fishing during the winter. (ATV's are forbidden because of past damages in the North Woods, so the only summer access is by boat or float plane.) There are no sounds of civilization short of the generator that runs from 8 am to 8 pm to provide energy for such things as the water pump, as your "running water" is you running up the hill and get it from the pump.

The radio, also dampened by Nature's enthusiasm, finally dries out enough for us to try to see what we can listen to for the week. One station is yammering on and on about the Red Sox, who are as abyssmal as always. The other station is from Canada, all in French.

We're listening to one of those stations right now. Guess which one and you win this cute little kewpie doll.

(I read this aloud to Bill, who teased that it wasn't fair to give Pookah as a prize to somebody. I disagree, because if I was speaking of Pookah, the little hairy grandchild who moved up from New York about 5 years ago and somehow became a permanent fixture in our house, even though we didn't want any more pets, I would have to be offering you the cute little grumble monkey, because Grampa doesn't like little dogs, so Pookah must be a monkey....)

Day Three - 3 a.m.


Third morning in a row of waking up at 3 a.m.!

I expected it Saturday morning, as Bill is like a little kid at Christmas when it's time for vacation. He's awake early every year, but the Sunday and now Monday wake-ups...

....and this morning, we're also greeted by another loud storm, so I'm sitting up to make an entry...

It's still better to be in a cabin instead of on a mountain, feeling the building lightning as a crawling sensation on your skin...

My Maliseet foster uncle claims that living through a storm on the top of the mountain means that we got through Glooscap's anger and were blessed.

We're being blessed again...

8 a.m.

Second wake-up brings good news. With only a couple of exceptions, all the clothes are now dry. As the clothes disappear from the nails, we look less like an old fashioned laundry and more like a comfortable camp. The station that was talking about Red Sox reveals itself as WTOS, the Mountain of Rock - one of the stations we like to listen to.

Their weatherman, Russ Murley, gives us hope that the clouds will break up and then we'll have a couple of fairly nice days. Huzzah! Maybe we can go have some fun without being drenched again! While waiting for the sky to break up, we spend another day just relaxing, me reading the latest from Katorah Kenway on my Kindle for as long as the power lasts and Bill reading his North Woods Journals.

And we slowly realize that we haven't seen anyone in any of the other cabins. Apart from the camp hosts/managers, Rob and Stella, we have the whole campground to ourselves!

Day Four - The Train, Boss, The Train

Another 3 a.m. eye popping, but I stayed in bed until 4:30, when Nature's Call got too loud to ignore. The clouds that rolled in around sunset have left us with another grey morning, but Russ Murley says it's going to burn off, so we keep the plan we made while enjoying the brief glimpse of sun from our porch.

Today's adventure: a boat ride to a hiking trail that brings us to some adandoned locomotives that Bill took pictures of when he did the Allagash paddle a few years ago.

2 p.m.

Having left on our little excursion around 9-9:30 with advice from Rob as to how to find the opening for the hiking trail (Bill visited from the other side, Eagle Lake, so he knew there was access from Chamberlain, but not where.)  Per Rob "Go into the cove to the right after McKeon Point and go as far back as possible." Bill and I are expecting a break in the trees. There isn't one, as the tramway that used to cut through the woods between Chamberlain and Eagle Lake to transport wood out of the north country before roads were cut is slowly being reclaimed. We eventually find a small dock and a footpath, so we pull the boat up, get our gear, and make the hike. Bill carries drinks and snacks, I carry my camera for the album that's going to be put up onto my Facebook page. (

There is something of a display up there maintained by a conservation group with three plaques explaining the whole logging operation that build the tracks and worked the tramway. There are two massive steam engines sitting and rusting in a clearing as well as a lot of man made items left where they were last used. In one way, it's rather sad that it wasn't kept as more of a natural history museum instead of being left to rot away. In another way, it's a truly awe inspiring tribute to the resiliency of nature. If man was to die off, the primeval forest would return, hiding the blemishes that we foolish ones have scarred the earth with.

Even white caps blowing up on the lake when we come out of the cove can't dampen our spirits, and a nice hot shower (one of the amenities that one pays for and which must happen while the generator is running - and which Bill is enjoying while I write this) is as welcome as the beautiful sunny day.

Of course, as each day passes in this spot, the kind of cabin setting that Bill and I have been wishing to come across for years now, we are arguing about just one thing: Who is going to be the adult who is going to force us to return to the civilized world on Saturday?

At this point, we've come to the agreement that Pookah, even though he's only 5, will have to be that adult....

Day Five - The Witching Hour and Nesowadnehunk

For this 3 a.m. wake up, which I jokingly called "the witching hour" (referring to "the power of three") and got Bill calling it that, we're sitting out on the porch, listening to waves crashing on the shore from the strong wind coming down the 13 mile length of Chamberlain and looking at the stars in a briefly clear sky. When we get cold, we go back to cuddle in the sleeping bag and discuss the plan we had for the day. Our drink cooler needs ice, and we have traditionally used that "ice day" to go into a town where we can get cell service and take care of any minor emergencies that have come up.

The wind kicks up a little more as the sun comes up, and because I have some back damage that makes being bounced around hurt for days - and sometimes weeks, if the nerves are pinched just right - Bill decides to do a test run to see how rough it's going to be. (Of course, there's also the still healing stomach muscles from my hernia surgery that he's concerned about at well.) As I write this, I'm watching him bob across in our small boat, and I'm going to trust his judgement on how rough it is.

Part of what he wanted to do was show me the camps that were for sale one of the times that he was up in this area in the past. The camp is Nesowadnehunk Lake Wilderness Campground ( - and has long been an inside joke as the place we'd want to buy if we ever won the lottery. (It's no longer for sale, but it's the kind of place we'd love.)

In the meantime, while we were checking out the trains yesterday, the cabin next to ours was inhabited by three men from Kittery who bought "the American Plan", which includes meals. (We brought our supplies along and are cooking for ourselves.)  We're guessing that part of last night's supper was strawberry rhubarb pie, because there was a plate on one of the porch chairs when Bill went out that wasn't there at 3 a.m.

I really love strawberry rhubarb pie, but I've put it in the refrigerator for supper. I sounded like Dean Winchester from "Supernatural" when I found it, though.

"Mmmm! Pie!"

Day Six - When were we transported to the ocean?

Our little adventure to the "mainland" turned into a bit more than we bargained for, starting with Bill trying to show me the location of another of the wilderness camps we were thinking of renting from this year. We didn't find Ross Camps, but we did see a bear race across the road. Unfortunately, I had no time to grab my camera...

Then he showed me where he stayed a couple of times, in a little free spot called Sourdahunk, with only three timy spots and an unmaintained (except by you) outhouse. It was kinda scary going down the almost overgrown road going to it, but very pretty. We skipped the trip into Nesowadnahunk to get to Millinocket for ice and a refill of gas. Clouds started to get thicker and greyer as we did our errands. On the way back, we opted to skip seeing Nesowadnehunk for fear of being caught in a storm.

We were right to worry.

When we left, the lake was as "stirred up" as we ever see Little Sebago, just down the road from our house. There is always a "safe passage" space near one shore or another. When we came out of the river where the boat launch is, however, we discovered the dark side of Chamberlain. The wind was coming down the lake from the north, kicking up waves like we hadn't seen since we lived in Florida and used to take a Boston Whaler out to little islands in the Gulf for beach camping.

The Whaler had a pretty powerful motor, capable of taking on the large waves of the Gulf. The small boat we were in has only an 8 horse. The normal half hour trip from the river entrance to the cabin took us an hour and forty minutes. Way off it the distance, as if it were Moby Dick urging Captain Ahab to battle, the big white rock island kept appearing and disappearing as we rose to the top of a wave, then went down into the trough.

Needless to say, between the almost two decades old back damage and the newer stomach surgery, I'm writing this is some pain, debating whether it will be worth the fog tomorrow that the Flexoril always brings. Bill is making us corned beef hash and eggs for breakfast and joking that he's going out to troll for sharks, as the sound of the waves hitting the shore this morning remind us of beach camping on the ocean.

No matter whether I take Flexoril and sleep or just spend a quiet day finishing a thick Stephen King that I started a while ago (as I finished the Katorah Kenway on Tuesday), I'll be having another quiet day at the cabin.

Day Seven - Winding Down The Clock

The current plan is, since we're hearing that rain is moving in on Sunday, that we're going to try to get everything we don't absolutely need for Saturday night and Sunday morning out to the truck tomorrow. Poolah, who suffers from a little puppy stomach problem called pancreatitis, is starting to act a little off, so without really getting ill enough to need to visit the vet, he's silently telling us that we really DO have to return home soon.

Even with as damp and grey as the day appears at 7 a.m., Bill is talking about going out again to do some fishing, and I figure it's time to fire up the laptop, which I brought along, but haven't turned on, so that I can take a good look at the photos I've been taking all week and decide if anything needs to be reshot before we leave for home. There are also several shots around the camps that I want to take, as well as taking a quick look at the other cabins to see which one we should request should we decide to bring our son, his lady, and the three grandkids up here to enjoy some quiet time away from technology. (I personally think they'd benefit from such an excursion, should we be able to afford it.)

If we were independently wealthy, with the funds to be able to just stay here for a second week, I would be in hog heaven, but the decision to go back to civilization would be that much harder without the need to work for a living. It's hard enough to think about returning to the "real world" as it is, as this place has touched the part of my soul that has longed for the ability to buy ourselves a little piece of land that is off the grid and put up the kind of camp like the one we've been enjoying.

For any of my readers who would like to go to a place where the kind of hunting and fishing camp that our forefathers enjoyed is still there for YOUR enjoyment, I strongly recommend Nugent's Camps on Chamberlain Lake. True, the lake can go from smooth as a baby's behind to rougher than the ocean during a fierce storm, but the peace and serenity is well worth anything Mother Nature choses to throw at you....

Day Seven - Part Deux

It's been sprinkling all day, with grey skies with very few breaks, but Bill, decked out in his Gortex rain gear, brought us home a nice, fresh whitefish for supper (very tasty when filleted, dipped in flour, and fried up in a pan, I might add).

As I've been saying all week, this would be my dream place to live, with the daily things to do in order to survive (such as cutting wood for the fires, running out to the mainland for 100 gallon propane tank refills, etc.) as the only "necessary" things to do. (No getting up and having to deal with traffic and such to go to work and kill oneself for the meager dollars that we get rewarded with now.) Bill thinks that the daily survival mode stuff would get old after a while, but I honestly have to question myself....

Would it be worth it to live like this forever???

Day Eight - Taking Stock and Making Choices

Today is what we're officially considering "packing to go back" day, as we're planning on only having coffee here in the morning and stopping at Auntie M's in Greenville for a brunch on the way back through town. As a photo on Facebook will show, it's technically a shorter distance to Millinocket to pick up the Interstate for the trip home, but the Interstate is just lots and lots of fast speeds and not a whole lot to look at for about 192 miles....

And Bill, during his trips to this area, has made the last day brunch at Auntie M's into a tradition....

Once the packing is done and Bill has gone to take the loaded boat to the Ranger Station and transfer everything to the truck, I'll have more reading time, which I've thoroughly enjoyed. I've read Katorah Kenway's "His To Have", her third release in a series, from cover to cover. I've finished Stephen King's "11/22/63", which I actually started two vacations ago, but never managed to finish (and which I forgot at home last year - silly me). I'm about half-way through Stephen King's "Doctor Sleep".  Something tells me that one of the first things I'd have to do if I actually WAS able to spend more time here would involve going to a book store and stocking up or getting several notebooks to continue work on several stories that I'm in the process of writing or editing.....

Bill has also been enjoying some quiet time to read, as he's gone through several issues of his sportsman's magazines that he'd allowed to pile up due to a lack of reading time at home...

Before I left for this trip, someone had posted one of those little games in which Facebook tries to pretend they are fortune tellers. According to this game, I'm supposed to have three things happen to me in 2015: 1) World Tour, 2) Dream Vacation and 3) a Ferrari. (I jokingly posted the result to Facebook with the comment "Can I trade the Ferrari for a classic Corvette?")

Now I'm sincerely hoping for the World Tour and Ferrari part to come true, as I've already had the Dream Vacation....

Day Nine - Home Again, Home Again....Dammit......

Our last day in this marvelous place dawns and we, regretfully, have to return to our real lives. I help to roll up sleeping bags while the coffee perks, then I make sure to clean the cabin while Bill loads the things we have left into the boat. We leave the plate that our unexpected pieces of pie in the middle of the table along with one of the few remaining "limited edition" copies of "Night of the Tiger", my business card for Northern Bard Publications, a note thanking Rob and Stella for everything - and a rather generous "tip" for them as well to help maintain this beautiful place for future genereations to enjoy.

The wind is blowing again from the north, but since it's behind us for the final trip out to the Ranger Station, it almost feels like Mother Nature is sending us home with her blessing. The rain that was forecast holds off until all of our belongings are stored under the truck's cap and we're on our way out toward the Golden Road. Two moose - one of whom is standing on a lawn between Kokadjo and Greenville, causing a stir among the tourists who pull off to get a photo - make an appearance, but my camera has been stowed away, so I don't get any photos. The brunch at Auntie M's, however, is extremely tasty and I've resigned myself to the return by the time we pull into our side yard to unhook the boat and start the unloading process.

We're back in civilization for another year, but somewhere deep within my soul lies the peace and serenity of Nugent's Camps. I will keep that feeling with me, and when I find myself getting stressed out, I can go to that special place through meditation, bringing myself to this sweet peace that I feel at this time....

Now comes the research toward next year, when we hope to find another place like Nugent's to be able to recharge and refresh the way we did this year.

To Rob and Stella and the Thornton Family: Thank you SO much for all you do! May your lives be truly blessed!

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