Upta camp

Since we're Mainers now (well.. as close as a non-native person 'from away' that doesn't have roots going back three-plus generations in the state can get, anyhow), we've been talking about Camp. 

In Maine, going 'Upta Camp' is a tradition. Families have a cabin or a house on the beach, or even a stretch of land that buts up against a river or a lake that they can pull their camper onto or pitch a tent. There's a lot of water in Maine, and more than enough to go around. And failing that, then a Camp near to one of the ski resorts up in the mountains will do nicely. 

There are lots of varieties of Camp. Many of which are as nice (or nicer) than the primary house, with all the amenities of home. Which to me, kind of seems like cheating. 

I'd been planting the seeds of an idea with my Bride for a while. We were watching HGTV and some 'small homes' show, and saw a little log cabin. 

"Ooh. That looks good. Look - they have a woodstove for heat. None of that sissified electric stuff"

Then I'd turn on an episode of 'Naked and Afraid'.  

'Put a tent in there someplace, and that would make a nice Camp, doncha think?'

Somewhere in there, I got my Bride convinced that we should rent a place for a week this summer, and try out a Camp. I found a place someplace between Portland and the Canadian border (about 5 hours away), and showed her the cabin (above). 'That looks nice, doesn't it?'

After she said 'yes', I explained that while you could theoretically get there by car - on a logging road, and only if you had some serious 4 wheel drive, and still had to pack in the last mile by foot - it would be such an adventure to take the float plane in. 

That's our ride. It wasn't big enough to carry us all at the same time. So we took a couple of trips, along with all our gear. It was loud, and it only flew about 600 feet off the ground. There were hills going by above eye level as we flew in. 

But when we landed, we were in Maine heaven. Not another soul nearby. It's the only cabin on the lake. The sounds of the loons, and the fish jumping in the lake were amazing. The cabin was built of spruce felled and peeled on the property. All of the forest around us for miles was private timber land, and there were no neighbors for miles. 

Of course, there was also no electricity. Or cell coverage. Or running water.  

There was a fresh spring trickling out from underneath a rock about 200 yards through the woods down a trail. 

('I see a bear!' The Boy shouted this at me as we unloaded the gear and waited on the girls to arrive on the second flight in. I laughed, but I looked rather carefully down the trail towards the spring - which we still had not yet walked. 'It's moving there!'  

It was a log and some dappled sunlight waving through the trees. But I admit, it was an exciting few minutes while I tried to spot what the Boy was seeing.) 

Despite the 'roughing' it - the cabin was amazingly well outfitted. There was a kitchen cabin with 4 beds, and a connected 'sleeping' cabin with another 5. (Overall the place could've slept 16 people). Both cabins had a woodstove - we kept one of them going all the time. There was a propane fueled refrigerator and a stove top, and inside 'camp' lights with gas mantles. 

There were packs of cards and leftover spices. A few cribbage boards and a half dozen hunting and fishing magazines to read if the mood struck. There were 2 canoes and a 2 person kayak, and plenty of trees near the lake to string our little portable hammock up in. And a pair of adirondack chairs to laze in. 

And we had the best outhouse I've ever had the pleasure to sit in. 

It didn't take long to slow down once we settled in. It was quiet and peaceful, and the lake was gorgeous and welcome to swim in during the early afternoon hours when the temperature reached 80 degrees or so. 

We all read a lot, and hiked a lot, napped frequently, and just enjoyed the pace of the woods. At night, we'd listen to the cries of the loons, and once to a pack of coyotes ranging through the woods near camp. 

All of our meals were either cooked over the fire down next to the water, or in the woodstove in the cabin. Every meal tasted amazing, with that earthy, welcome tang of fire and smoke. My Bride had planned every meal (there were spreadsheets involved, and cryovac packaged portions), and we still ended up with more food than we needed. The first night was ribeye and asparagus. And that was just a sample of how well we ate while we were there. 

The kids both took to the woods readily. The Critter was just back from 4 weeks of sleep-away camp in New Hampshire (and not exactly thrilled at the idea of another week without access to her phone and friends), but admitted that the quiet was welcome after living in a cabin full of chattering 14 year old girls for a month. 

She didn't move too far from the lake for the duration of the week. 

The Boy and I were the ones to explore. The cabin backed up onto a 700 foot high peak (see my earlier note about how high the plane flew), and he and I climbed up and around and through the woods, finding and forging trails, and peeking underneath rocks and fallen logs. He asked me a couple of times as we were out exploring if we could stay there for ever. I'm pretty sure this boy likes the woods. 

He got his very own pocket knife for this trip (he turned 9 a week after we got back), and took to carving and whittling. Only cut himself once. And it didn't bleed too badly. So we're declaring victory. 

The morning after we arrived, we were all hanging out near the lake, and the Boy shouts 'Hey! Moose!' 

I had a moment of '...probably right next to the bear you spotted earlier' until I looked up, and saw a 7 foot bull moose standing in the water at the end of the lake. Sure as shit. Our first moose. (Not just this trip. This is our first moose spotting since moving to Maine). 

The moose proceeded to calmly walk out into the water and graze on the lily pads and water grasses, and then did something I never would've imagined. It completely submerged itself, diving down beneath the water for several seconds. It would pop its head up every once in a while, and we could see the water flashing and cascading off its antlers. It did this for about half an hour, before it got back up and wandered into the woods. The entire time, I think the four of us sat slack-jawed in awe, watching this gigantic beast. 

The next day, we saw a cow moose and two calves a little further around the corner of the lake - that was early in the morning, and I didn't have a camera with me. Because the Boy had woken me up at 5:30 am to go fishing. 

He has been wanting to fish for years - since before we left Massachusetts. And I finally ran out of excuses on this trip, and broke down and bought him a pole.  He was so excited about this - despite the fact that I hadn't been fishing in over 25 years. My Bride and I were you-tubing videos of how to clean a fish on the drive up, as neither one of us had any real idea anymore. 

We didn't catch a thing all week. The lake is full of brook trout and land locked salmon, and we got several good bites. But our skill or luck wasn't there, and we couldn't reel any of it in. But he wasn't deterred. He'd spend an hour or more quietly casting out and slowly reeling in, or letting his line sit in the water as I paddled us out in the canoe. He found the zen of fishing immediately. It was the coolest thing I've probably ever done for that Boy, and I was beyond myself with joy at being around him while he was having so much fun. I was also huddled around the hottest, strongest coffee I could make. It was 5:30 in the morning, and we were out on the damn water in a canoe, after all. 

On our last morning, we woke up to a pouring rain, and all of us decided to back up in our sleeping bags a little longer, and listened to the rain hit the roof of our cabin. The plane couldn't get there through the weather, and we waited a few extra, welcome hours before our return to civilization. 

I don't know if we'll ever buy something like this on our own, but I'm pretty sure all of us would be up for going back to this little spot of magic. 

Bucket list: see a monkey in the wild - check.

Last month, we went to the Philippines, for two weeks of sunshine, beaches, extended family and relaxation.

I took a lot of pictures. It was almost intimidating to sort through them all. So I'll let you do that.  Click any of the photos to see the expanded set. 


There was a lot of beach time.  It's a country of islands. Drive a bit in any direction from wherever you are, and you're going to hit a beach. 

We took full advantage.



But there are other things to see. We hit four or five islands - Bohol was probably our favorite. It's a mid-sized island someplace in the middle of the country without  any major cities on it. It has things like ancient coral hills (the Chocolate hills) and the world's smallest primate to see. 




We also hit Cebu (briefly) on our way to Boracay, and then back up to Manila, the local Chinatown, where we ate food being sold by people in small carts. 

There was a lot of excellent food eaten on this trip. 



But maybe the best thing eaten was the grilled chicken intestine on a stick ('isaw').  By the Boy. Who forced his mother to trade his other options so he could have more. 


That many islands required a lot of schlepping around. In various means of transportation.



Ok. I admit. It was mostly boats.

But I know you. You've only been looking at these pictures waiting to see the wild monkeys. That's ok. I'd be the same.  But first: drag dancers on a beach throwing fire.

 The kids were fascinated by this show. I couldn't drag them off the beach. About a half hour into it, I asked the Critter if she knew that these weren't really ladies, in the makeup, with the bikinis. Her jaw dropped onto the sand. 

Ladies, men or something else - the show was definitely worth watching. 

OK, ok. Now, monkeys:



I made them stop the van so that I could get out and take that picture. My Bride's cousin came out with me. 

I took some pictures of this group of monkeys sitting idly by the roadside. I took a few steps closer and took some more picture. I took a few steps closer again, and brought my camera up. I asked my cousin: "Hey - is this monkey gonna charge if I get too close?"  "I don't know, bro. But if he does, I'm tripping you and running back to the van."

Thanks, cuz.

Eventually, we had to head home. It was a fantastic trip and worth repeating. 

After all, there are still 7,000 islands we haven't seen.


If you can't score a lobster in the next month or so, I'm sorry. I ate them all.

 A couple of weeks ago, we packed up the family and headed to Maine. Even though I've been at work and traveling again since returning, I'm still enjoying the fantastically chill post-Maine vacation & relaxation buzz. Though that also could be the large quantities of melted butter I consumed with my lobster rolls.

To accommodate the family, dog and relatives for a week, we rented a house on the coast south of Boothbay.

I don't know how the heck we found a place on short notice that had its own private beach, but I'm going to chalk it up to clean livin' and excellent karma.

Every day, I would wake up to this view out to the ocean. 

A short walk down the hill would get you this.

Since we were kind of in the hinterlands, I kept telling the kids to keep their eyes out for Moose. A moose. Mooses. Moosi. Whatever.  We did not see any moose. I was disappointed. I did, however, see a lot of smaller wildlife.

The absence of large fauna might have been due to us bringing our own. Maggie came along for the week. She seemed to enjoy it. 

The kids definitely enjoyed it. The Critter and I tried to eat all of the seafood before the week was over. Fish? You bet. Lobster? Surely. Clams? Pass mine to her, please. Her standards are lower. I draw the line at bi-valves.

As much as The Boy enjoyed the beach, on the other hand, he insisted that I pick up and inspect any shell he found to ensure there was nothing alive within it before he'd handle it. 

I respect his sense of self-preservation. 

We were joined by my step-mother, and her lovely friend Batty. Batty's real name is Betty. But she told us a story about a little girl calling her 'Batty', and I will forevermore call her this. (I did ask, and she said this was ok.) A classier and more game pair of ladies, you could not hope to want along for any adventure. That's Batty on the left.

Most days were spent toodling around the Maine coast, or thinking about what to eat next. Or toodling around while thinking of what to eat next. But we managed to squeeze in a little time for games. Like staring contests. 

Did I mention we ate a lot of seafood? If you're anywhere within the New England area, figure out how to detour through Wicasset, and get yourself a lobster roll. Holy crap, that's a lot of lobster. And you'll notice that there's no mayonnaise, only a small tub of healthy, wholesome butter. Because mayonnaise comes from the Devil. And butter is straight from Heaven.

And Red knows that. 

Mostly, there was just a lot of relaxing, and enjoying the company, in as peaceful environment as you might wish. 

On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd put this week in Maine someplace just above "perfect"