"Defer no time, delays have dangerous ends." - William Shakespeare
Time with children is not "spent," it is invested. If you are a parent, you already know this. It was August, and the end of the summer vacation was drawing near for my youngest daughter and her friends. Before they went back to school, I wanted to give them another little adventure, so I took them on a little camping trip to Maine. Now camping for me is a matter of solitude and simplicity, only the minimum gear and food needed to keep body and soul connected. However, camping with three girls in their early teens, even though they are three pretty darn tough kids, is as the British say, a bit of a "faff." That's okay though, for these three I'll do a ruddy great faff. A faff with bells on. So off we went at the rump end of August on a faff, er camping trip, to the woods of western Maine, at the South Arm campground on Lower Richardson Lake.
|Old Blue Mountain behind South Arm Campground on Richardson's Lake, Andover Maine. The Appalachian Trail crosses Old Blue.|
The drive north was uneventful. The three girls talked or played on their Nintendo DSIs. As we rolled along the highway Rachel started trying to get the truckers to blow their horns. Every time we passed a truck I saw Rachel's arm pumping up and down in my rear view mirror. This is the time honored sign language known by kids and truckers alike that says "Blow your airhorn man!" I lost track of the number of blasts she managed to coax out of the big rigs, but I couldn't help but wonder how many other drivers had the bejeezez scared out of them by the unexpected cacophony at 70 mph.
The skies darkened as gray clouds sank lower and squatted on the tops of the hills. A call from Rachel's mom, who was watching the radar online, alerted me of impending rain at our destination. This rain was not associated with the approach of Irene but it was rain none the less. It seemed that the setting up of camp would likely be a wet affair. In the end, it was. The drive had taken six hours, with a short stop for lunch in southern Maine. Around 5 p.m., under a light but steady rain, we arrived at the campground. After checking in at the rustic office, I immediately went to work rigging tarps while Janet and Rachel helped Emily set up the tent the girls would use. Following a hurried dinner of delicious home made soup, the rain became more determined. This drove the girls into their tent to call it an early evening while I cleaned up the dishes. Finally, with the girls fed and settled, tarps rigged well enough for the night, the last light of day gone, and the rain steady and hard, I set about erecting my own tent. It was with great relief that I finally crawled into my sleeping bag, opened a book, and cracked a well earned beer. The steady tattoo of rain on the taught tarp lulled me to sleep after an hour or so. The beer may have helped a bit as well. As Morpheus took me, I hoped the dawn would arrive a bit less wet.
|I reorganized the camp after the rain of the night before caused a hasty make-do initial arrangement.|
|The camp site overlooked a shallow inlet of Lower Richardson Lake. The open site allows for RV use but makes rigging tarps a bit tricky. A liberal use of much rope and many knots fixed that.|
|The shallow inlet behind our camp site. Spotted Sandpipers and Belted Kingfishers were in residence here and were repeatedly harassed by a local Sharp-shinned Hawk|
|Rachel rests on the roots exposed by the unusually low water level of the lake.|
|Emily and Rachel manned one canoe while Janet and I manned the other.|
|The girls start exploring the brook.|
|Rachel cools her feet in the clear water of the brook|
|Emily and Rachel in the brook.|
|Rachel works on her cairn.|
|Emily builds her cairn of sticks, rock, and mud. A sort of Pueblo-cairn.|
|Rachel's cairn is complete. (It's not really as big as it looks!)|
|The three amigas have finished their masonry.|
|A Cabbage White (Pieris rapae) nectars on an aster.|
|We push further up the lake.|
|Our next port of call. A lakeside campsite is hidden by the spruces at the far side of the sandy beach.|
|Janet walked in the water while Emily and Rachel wandered through the tall grasses.|
|Black-shouldered Spinyleg ((Dromogomphus spinosus). A common club-tail dragonfly of lakes and rivers in the east.|
|A male Meadowhawk. I did not determine which species of Meadowhawk however. These common and oft overlooked dragonflies are gorgeously colored when properly seen.|
|The campsite was set on a rise above the beach. Konwing Rachel can not resist a challenge, I told her I bet she could not climb the bank. As I expected, she then set about proving me wrong. It took a couple of tries but she did.|
|Emily joined Rachel in the fun scrambling up the bank.|
|This picture probably best embodies the reason I brought the girls on this late summer trip, a gift of time and beauty on a northern New England lake.|
|Rachel and Emily drifting.|
|Rachel hangs while Emily looks as if she studying a new life form.|
|Striking a pose.|
|Rachel has climbed into a large root cavity while Janet and Emily clown.|
|The campground has cool fire rings with South Arm Maine cut into them. When the girls climbed into their tent to go to sleep I ended my night with a beer and a book by the fire.|
In the morning I made breakfast again for the girls and started to break down the camp for the trip home. It's a lot of work doing all this as the only adult, but I didn't mind. I felt very lucky to be able to do this for the girls. By noon we were on the road. Rachel's mom and Emily's dad both filled me in on the latest forecast by phone calls. I decided we still had time to swing through New Hampshire and the White Mountains on the way south. I also wanted to get dinner at one of my favorite New England eateries/breweries, Moat Mountain Smokehouse and Brewery in North Conway, New Hampshire.
The drive across western Maine was briefly interrupted when I stopped at the Sunday River Brewery to pick of some growlers of ale for myself and for the girl's parents. As we approached the New Hampshire line, Rachel was blown away by the spectacular mountains, as I hoped she would be. Janet and Emily have seen them before but this was a new experience for Rach. She repeatedly mentioned how it reminded her of her trip to Yosemite with her mom and brother the previous year. I love bringing new experiences to the people I love, especially when they are kids. When we finally stopped across from the Mount Washington auto road base so the girls could photograph the mountains and spend some money at the gift shop, I pointed out the sharp peak of Mount Adams to Rachel and told her that her brother and I had climbed that peak the previous year. Her eyes grew big at the thought of climbing so high. I have to admit, even after having climbed so many of the White Mountains myself, the peaks when viewed from their feet still look dauntingly high to me! It was time to roll on, the girls and I were looking forward to dinner at Moat Mountain Smokehouse. And Irene was coming...
|The second highest peak in the White Mountains, Mount Adams, rises among northern Presidentials. Mount Madison is the right-most peak and Mount Jefferson, looking smaller than it actually is, is the peak to the left|
|Emily uses the view scope to study Mount Washington while Janet clowns. This is across Route 16 from the Mount Washington auto road base.|
|We settle in for dinner at Moat Mountain Smokehouse. Oh Emily, can you ever stop clowning?!|
|Rachel uses a yam fry to show her happiness!|
I had intended the trip to be a last fling of summer for the girls, camping, canoeing, swimming, and stargazing in western Maine. I wanted to give them a fond memory to take back to school with them, and I feel I accomplished that. I loved every minute of it myself of course. Ultimately I didn't give them the last memory of summer however, Irene did that. The start of school was delayed for days as the region's power distribution structure recovered. Still, it was all part of a bigger whole. I hope these three stay friends for their entire lives and build volumes of memories between them. It was a joy to share in this one with them.
|Emily, Rachel, and Janet at a stop on the long ride home.|