Self Reliant Living,Canoeing,Musing, and Surviving in Maine. Huzza Huzza! Pour le pays Sauvage!!!

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Somewhere South of Zero

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Like a cleansing scourge moving across the land

The cold plunges down like a wave covering the beach

It’s touch burning skin hotter than any fire

Somewhere south of zero it becomes tangible

Tentacles reaching thru yonder window

Weaving…turning…penetrating thru all its path

Slithering across the floor to wind itself around my feet

Around and up to my shoulders

Slowly inching and pushing its way in

Audibly bursting the very sap in the trees outside

Raging with blue and white

Burning up all that is left of any warmth

and depositing the ashes as hoarfrost

The long fingers of the fire  thin to hairs

Singed by the touch of the cold

I feel the fight within…the gnawing against my existence

Outside the window is the level blank stare of the cold and the dark

And I wish for it to leave me at peace.

The Ghost Bobcat of ’04

Ghost Cat

  It was early December and the beaver trapping season here in Maine had recently opened.  There was ice on the flowage, but not near enough to walk on – just enough to hold the dusting of wet snow that had fallen a few days prior.  The beaver runs were still open, fervently being used to drag aspen under the ice and I had every one of them  I could find guarded with a 330.  My friend Peter was coming along that year and we arrived for the first check at the first trap to find a good sized beaver waiting there.  I got him out of the trap and to our chagrin we noticed that something had tore at the fur and eaten some of the meat – and each subsequent catch that day looked the same.  We could see bobcat tracks everywhere  and with the size of the flowage we figured we’d have to put a trap in for the cat as we planned to be trapping there a while.   The next visit there was a new dusting of snow and the ice had thickened enough for us to walk on.  The runs were still open from being used, and after another molested catch I pulled the sets in the runs and put in some snares under the ice, and in a thicket close to one of the runs I put in a pole set for the cat, using one of the skinned beavers as bait.  On our way up out of there I realized I had forgot  my fence pliers down there at the last snare set and we dropped our gear and went back down to fetch them.  When we arrived the tracks told the tale – In the 30 minutes or so we had been gone, the cat had descended from his perch on the hill and followed our tracks – checking each set including the snares and walking up and over the beaver house itself, and showing no interest in the set we had made for him.   Peter exclaimed that the thing had been sitting there watching us the whole time we had been there.  Pretty eerie and cool at the same time.  We went to check the trap several times over the next few days, each time thinking the cat would be waiting there for us and each time arriving to an empty trap even though there was obvious sign he was still frequenting the flowage.   At one point the set even attracted a mink enough to walk halfway up the pole.   I was thinking of everything I could possibly think of to entice the cat – we tried different methods of eye appeal and scents but nothing seemed to get him curious enough.  As a last resort I tried sound – years before I had purchased a cheap call out of a catalog somewhere.  Basically it consisted of a single sound speaker that attached to a squirrel like creature that would randomly move with the sound – Peter called it the dancing squirrel.  When I first bought it we brought it out in the woods to give it a try.  I turned it on and we hid behind a log to see if we got a response.  Within five minutes Peter whispered “bobcat” and I scoffed “ yeah right”  and got a “no dude, bobcat!” in response – I turned to look and sure enough there was a bobcat crouched down hurriedly stalking towards the squirrel.  We let him get close to it before I coughed and the cat turned in surprise at us and bolted back to the woods. That immediate response the first time out kind of spoiled it for the future as the next few times we tried the call nothing happened.  The squirrel was detachable and the small speaker could be set for a fast repeating sound for hunting or a slow repeating sound for trapping.  I figured I had nothing to lose and set it for slow  repeat and wired it under the boughs covering the beaver.  Our high hoped check the next time was again met with disappointment.  I decided I’d let it sit another three days with the speaker – the batteries would probably run out in that time anyway, and pull the set on the next check.  We both figured that at this point it wasn’t going to happen and I wasn’t surprised when Pete bowed out of the last check opting to spend the day with the wife instead.  I told him I’d give him a call if I caught anything.  I made the trek down to the flowage to pull the beaver sets and the cat set and I was daydreaming as I came up to the cat set until I saw him hanging there from the pole.  We had dubbed him the “ghost” bobcat since he seemed to always be there but we would never see him.  He wasn’t huge by any stretch but it felt amazing to have finally outsmarted a pretty smart cat as I stood there in shock admiring him.   I flipped open the cell phone and called Pete – when he answered I said “guess what I caught?” He swore and hung up the phone.

Big Maine Buck Dragging

Dragging a big buck out of the Maine woods -field dressed at 250 pounds.

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Loon Lodge Round Pond and Allagash Lake

I could hear the sound of the rapids ahead as the current of the river pulled us forward against all my instincts to be heading in the opposite direction. We were on the upper West Branch of the Penobscot River on a boy scout canoe and camping trip and I was all of 11 or 12 and about to experience my first quickwater.  It was late July and of course the little rip we were about to run was probably barely quickwater, but I was terrified and to my young mind this was the equivalent of some first descent class V drop and it took everything I had to steel myself and steer us around the little rocks poking above the river as we went thru, watching the bottom whizzing by.   I also however remember the immense feeling of satisfaction after looking back at the rip and thinking Wow…we just put a canoe thru that.

Tucked in with some books I recently found a small orange notebook – it was the one given to us, as Boy Scouts, on our Maine High Adventure trip.   Inside I found a short diary of our trip which I had written along the way — thankfully I had thought to date it — June of 1982.   Despite 31 years passing since then I do remember the trip well, as at the time, it awakened the call of the deep woods and adventure.  We stayed at Canada Falls our first night, and then Pittston Farm  which is now a hotel, but back then was the Seboomook base for Maine High Adventure.  We began at Roll dam — I remember them letting us go over the falls in a life jacket and a helmet — and thinking as I was about to go over that I didn’t really want to do this..but it was too late at that point.  I remember opening my eyes and being in a deep channel the sides of which were whizzing by.  Dad tried to run it in a rubber kayak and flipped over and I remember getting ready to dive in when by my timing he hadn’t popped up in time and just his felt hat was going down the river.002

 We spent the night on the island campsite – here’s a pic of Dad on the island;

008Moose on the river;


We stayed the next night at Pine Point and I remember taking a canoe out after supper with Rob Campbell to explore the stream that was near the campsite and seeing a huge moose cross in front of us on the way back.  We stopped at the Chesuncook Lake House   and lounged on the grassy bank eating home made bread and root beer.  We then ventured up thru Black Pond and Caucomgomoc stream to portage around the dam at Caucomgomoc Lake where we then went up Ciss Stream to Round Pond.  I remember the portage being really tough and pulling the canoes upstream as well.  At Round Pond campsite we fished off the rock and stunned the chubs we caught to feed the osprey which would come diving down to get them.  Our guide on the trip got some great shots of ospreys.  There was a wild strawberry patch there and we picked a bunch to put in our pancakes that morning.  We then climbed Allagash Mountain to the firetower which at the time was manned and we spent some time talking with the guy there – surrounded by maps and radios.

Our crew from the 1982 trip;

001And a subsequent trip in 1984;

002This spring I started thinking about perhaps recreating that trip and started casually looking at maps and considering options when I came across probably the only change in that region in all of those years — Loon Lodge.  After I showed Joyce what I had found that sealed the deal and we made reservations to stay there.  We could visit most of the places I remembered from the past and we could also get to Allagash Lake.  Loon Lodge is fantastic – nestled on Round Pond and built in 1984 and the owners are great people.  Shortly after our arrival I had to take a walk down to the campsite we had stayed at – the water level was really low which made it easy — it was just as I remembered it –

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It was rainy and thundering most of the afternoon which was ok – I had a bit of a stomach issue – my guess was the bacon wrapped scallop appetizer the night before – never order seafood inland.  The owners have a couple of dogs, one of which is older and only has one eye.  She abruptly appeared at the door as we were finishing supper so we let her in and pet her for a bit– sun is peeking thru the clouds as it’s going down.

I’m up with the sun the next day and get on the water fishing before breakfast.  The white perch are biting with a vengeance and it seems that I catch one with every cast.  An osprey flies up from around the campsite and gives me a circle – I wonder if he’s related to the one we were feeding in 1982.

Up to the cabin for bacon and eggs and we head to the portage trail to Allagash Lake to check it out and climb the firetower.  It’s funny – I wrote about getting into Allagash Lake several years ago here and I mentioned that I had not been to the carry trail and had not read any accounts of anyone getting in that way.  Turns out I was there in 1982 and it’s probably the easiest way to get into the lake.  You can drive most of the way until you get to a parking area and a gate.  From there it is about a mile to the lake on a nice grassy road – we did it with a canoe carrier and it was really easy.  As you get close to the ranger cabin there is a trail off to the right with a sign that says “carry trail”  – this trail comes out to a campsite on the lake but it is rather rough terrain.  The easy way is to stay straight and put in at the ranger cabin where it is a short paddle to the campsite.  We made it to the firetower and the hike is much more strenuous than I remember — the wind is blowing so hard that I don’t dare to climb up into the tower this time.  We have an early supper and the lake calms down enough for a canoe – the perch are still biting.

Sausages and pancakes for breakfast and I walk down to the lake for a look around – a moose and baby are feeding on the opposite shore.  A crew is down at the campsite getting ready to leave – I can hear someone say “listen up you guys need to hear this” – I don’t envy them traveling on the windy lakes.  We’re headed back to Allagash Lake – this time with the canoe in tow.  The wind is picking up steadily and we probably shouldn’t be on the lake but this is what we’re here to do so trying to make the best of it.  The wind begins blowing crazily and I can’t find a lee shore – swirling with 20 + gusts all from different directions.  I get a couple of tappy taps on the rod but nothing serious — we decide to get off the lake a mother and baby moose we see on the way back is worth the price of admission.  The carry trail campsite is very nice and I’ll be back to camp here.  We take a ride down to Caucomgomoc dam but I can’t find or recall how we portaged around it on our previous trip.   The road is good and we decide to head out that way and go home via Greenville.

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Hiking Hothole Pond

The trail begins at the Great Pond Mountain wildlands  at the North gate.  Follow the road to the first intersection and take the right fork  – at the end of the road is a little trail that brings you down to hothole pond – there’s a nice campsite on the other side of Hothole stream, which is shallow and easy to wade.hothole pond

Here is the data for one way – Pond back to road;

Name: 7/21/2013 10:44am
Activity type: hothole pond
Description: –
Total distance: 3.89 km (2.4 mi)
Total time: 1:10:06
Moving time: 1:00:56
Average speed: 3.33 km/h (2.1 mi/h)
Average moving speed: 3.83 km/h (2.4 mi/h)
Max speed: 7.79 km/h (4.8 mi/h)
Average pace: 18.04 min/km (29.0 min/mi)
Average moving pace: 15.68 min/km (25.2 min/mi)
Fastest pace: 7.70 min/km (12.4 min/mi)
Max elevation: 84 m (277 ft)
Min elevation: -21 m (-69 ft)
Elevation gain: 225 m (738 ft)
Max grade: 0 %
Min grade: 0 %
Recorded: 7/21/2013 10:44am

2013-07-21 10.33.18 Stitch

2013-07-21 10.35.07 Stitch

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Maine Cedar Camp for Sale

Nestled in a very private 30 acre wooded lot is a 16×24 cedar camp for sale.    Built in 2005 from cedar logs harvested from the property and located in Greenbush Maine which is between Lincoln and Old Town.  It has a covered porch, outside fire pit, a nice woodstove for those chilly nights, and solar panels for lights.    The Passadumkeag and Penobscot rivers along with Olamon stream are in close proximity and good for wildlife viewing, boating and fishing.  The property has mixed woodland with birch, beech, maple, hemlock, white pine, spruce, fir, and cedar in abundance.  Snowshoe hare, partridge, fox, coyote, bear,moose, deer, and even whippoorwill have been viewed on the property.  Snowmobile and ATV trails are close by as well.  Property is offered by Acres Away Realty– MLS number is 1064685 and can also be found here.
Enjoy it as a camp, or build your dream home in the quiet solitude.


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Dog Appeasing Pheromone


Last year my wife and I adopted a dog from someone that was moving and could no longer keep him.  In the past I had always had a dog and it had been a number of years since I had been in a situation where I could have one, and we both looked forward to Lincoln arriving in our home.  Every animal has its peculiar quirks and it was immediately apparent to us that he had not had the best life up until the point he entered ours.  Although he had a very loving and cuddling personality, there was also fear and anxiety – and he had apparently not been out in the world much.   My thought at the time was he would snap out of both of those with encouragement, patience and time.  We worked with the dog and bonded quickly.  Although a mix his appearance was predominantly yellow lab and when I first took him to water it was apparent that it was his first encounter, and he was scared of it.  After a few weeks he would drink out of open water – but he was sure to keep all of his feet on dry land and do a long stretch to get his drink.  Being summer with some encouragement from getting in myself we got him to enter the water – it was funny that he actually tried to walk on it by lifting his feet up out of the water with each step and within a couple of months he took his first swim – I’ll never forget the look in his eyes when he seemed to “get it” and with a leap of faith pushed off the safety of the rock to swim to me.

We assumed he had been around someone with a temper – any swear word or dropped object would send him into another room.  He also had what I would call a mild case of separation anxiety which waxed and waned some.  At first, he would pull out our winter gloves and hats and leave them around the house, and when I moved those to a location he couldn’t reach he began targeting books and magazines to chew.  I closed off his access to the books, and left an old magazine out each days for him to chew – there were days he would opt to chew it and days that he wouldn’t.   Over the past year he has made improvements in getting his self esteem and being bolder.

Then, about a month ago we had a big setback.  The dog had been active most of the day with a couple of walks and a long ride in the car and when we got in he went to his bed for a nap.  We had the oven on for supper and unfortunately it touched off the smoke alarm.  It had gone off before without inducing any problems in the dog but this particular time was different and it scared him badly – for about an hour afterwards he had symptoms of panic – visible shaking, drooling, and panting and not consolable.  After that incident things changed – instead of sitting with us on the couch at night like he used to he would pick one of his two beds to lie in.  He would come out to eat but warily and eyeing the ceiling as he did so.  We have neighbors that like to shoot off fireworks, and while they never bothered him before, they began to visibly bother him.  I was worried as all the gains we had seen were rapidly deteriorating and the days where he didn’t opt to chew the magazine I’d leave out for him were becoming few and far between.  I was looking at the web for suggestions and a path to resolution when I came across dog appeasing pheromone.   I was very skeptical of the product, especially with some people claiming it was great, and some claiming it was not.  I read a few studies of the product, one of which you can find here.    Essentially what DAP does is mimics the pheromone given off by a lactating mother and has a calming and securing  affect on the dog.  Studies have shown it to be effective in separation anxiety, fear of thunder and lightning, and excessive barking problems.  I figured it couldn’t hurt to give it a shot – it’s available in diffusers, collars, and sprays.  I purchased a room diffuser and put it in the room he spends the most time in.   After several hours I took him out for his afternoon walk and upon returning home he made his usual beeline to his bed while I made supper.  After we ate something unusual happened – he slowly came out of his room and joined us on the couch – something he hadn’t done since the “incident”.  He was happier, less anxious, more short we had our old dog back.  Over the next few days the separation anxiety stopped as well.  It seems by reviews I’ve read online that DAP works for some and not so well for others – I gave it a shot and it worked for us.

Backyard Fox

This fox was hanging around some last fall and disappeared for the winter.  I finally replaced the game camera that was stolen last summer and  put out some bait a few days ago.  The fox was hanging around just outside of camera range and last night finally got curious enough to come in to the bait.  He showed up at 1:30 and circled around until finally making a grab for the bait at about 4:30.


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OKPIK Maine High Adventure


The cold air seeping in woke me with a start.  I could feel it penetrating from every direction and I fumbled for the penlight and turned it on.   The vapor from our breath clung tightly to the air as it rose slowly to freeze on the walls of the tent.  Everything was covered in frost – the ceiling, the walls, my sleeping bag, and the hat I was wearing..the sides of my face….covered in white.   I looked at my watch – 2:30 am – and reached for the small thermometer I had placed on the tent floor when I crawled into the sleeping bag – I had to look at it twice – it read 22 below 0 F.  I leaned back on the makeshift pillow for a moment and listened to the stillness of the cold night occasionally broken with the loud snapping of trees in the cold air – often sounding like gunfire.

I was relaxing in front of a fire in the crispness of early morning when Crack! A sound like an explosion came from behind me in the woods. I scanned the trees and saw that a maple tree had “exploded”. The explosion caused a big crack in the tree about three feet high. When a winter wind stirs the frozen trees, they sometimes appear to burst vertically. When it was 40 degrees below zero at night, I lay awake and listened to the trees explode. That’s a true wilderness thermometer!

—Linda Runyon, The Essential Wild Food Survival Guide


I realized I had to pee….I cinched the mummy bag back over my head pulling it as tight as it could go so that only my nose was exposed to the cold and tried to go back to sleep.  But it didn’t go away.   I loosened the mummy bag and switched on the penlight again.  Everything I touched melted the frost on it and cooled my skin.  I thought about my boots out in the vestibule and cringed at the thought of putting those cold pieces of iron back on my feet to venture out to pee.  Then I had a thought – I was sleeping next to the door of the tent – I could probably actually relieve myself without having to get out of my sleeping bag.  It sounded like the perfect idea at the time and I reached out and unzipped the bottom of the tent door – inched my sleeping back over to it – unzipped the bag – and took a whizz right in the vestibule without having to get out in the cold air.  The next  morning was rather comical as the four of us rousted ourselves from the relative warmth to venture outside and crawling into the vestibule noticing the colored snow and calling out – wtf – who pissed in the vestibule?   That  morning we had a group member that had the beginnings of frostbite on his feet and each of us took turns putting his foot onto our chest to warm them up.


This was a trip with the boy scouts known as Okpik -Inuit for Snowy Owl and pronounced as (OOk’ pick).  A High Adventure winter camping/survival weekend that at the time (1980’s)  was in Howland Maine.  We had backpacks and sleds with our gear and skied into the woods about a mile or so and made camp…learning cold weather survival skills along the way.  One of the things that sticks out in my mind is heating the water we would drink for the day and then wearing it around our necks under our clothing so that it warms the chest..and learning to layer properly so that the perspiration from the days exertion wouldn’t freeze you later.

I remembered this story this morning at 3:40 am.  We’re in the middle of a pretty good cold snap here in Maine along with some pretty decent wind and this morning I felt that same sort of gentle brush of cold across my face that I felt all those years ago in that cold tent.  As I get older I feel the cold more  – I can

feel it enveloping and reaching out with it’s icy fingers.  And I remembered that on the two trips we took to OKPIK my Dad was there too.   On our second trip he experimented with digging a trench in the snow, lining it with a space blanket or similar, and sleeping in the trench with your sleeping bag with the theory that the surrounding snow would help to insulate you during the night.  However, he did this within the drip edge of a big spruce – a spruce that had a lot of snow on it from recent snowfall.  During the night the wind picked up a bit and the snow would slide off the spruce branches and onto him with an audible thump.  I was probably 14 or 15 on those trips which would have made Dad about 55 at the time.  I’m soon to be 45 and I would have to think long and very very hard before every going winter camping again – especially in those kinds of temperatures.  Dad’s pretty tough in my book.   If you’re reading this and you remember where in Howland the Adventure Base was please let me know – I’d love to go for a little walk up there after all these years.

Backyard Eagle

Woke up this morning to find an immature bald eagle feeding in the backyard.  I can’t believe it let me get as close as I did – I was starting to wonder if it was going to fly or defend.

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