Nahmakanta Lake

We always stop at the Portsmouth traffic circle- long ago for dinner- this time for coffee. We left Dan's house in the early morning agreeing to meet Jim with his plane at 2 PM west of Millinocket at Katahdin Air. Mark S is in search of cappuccino, the rest of us just a jolt of jo. In cooler seasons I'll drink the same coffee sitting in the holder of my truck for days (I learned this from my brother Peter...okay,he taught me to reuse tea bags, is that so different?), but to a man we agree that this stuff is undrinkable. Funny too, because even remote filling stations in Maine have the same rows of gourmet (so called) coffee in Thermos lines. This is Wednesday, October 10th, but let's start from the beginning.

This year we began planning our trip in mid July. As you will see we quickly agreed
on when to go, but not where to go. Or whether to sleep in our tents as we had done for twenty years, or return to a cabin similar to the one we stayed in last year.

Adam sends the first volley days before Mark and Ginger's party:

"Gasp! Yes, here we are, a theoretically comfortable distance in advance of
our annual ritual, but the weekends are filling up fast. A little birdie
(Ornithopterus Millerii) tells me Mr. Schreiber has an end-of-September
conflict, and my wife has begun to insert various potential commitments into
my own fall schedule. As this weekend's glorious (though unvernal) weather
reminds us, there are great times and not-so-great times to be in Maine (or
St. John's -- any takers?), so we'd best be about our scheming, lads.
I suggest we all come to Mr. Schreiber's this Saturday with some record of
our schedules and spend a not-too-antisocial bit of time comparing notes and
identifying windows."

Even before the party, Mark Q bails (a ski trip west takes precedence) and then Dan:

"Questions have begun around our home fires about 'where we are going this
year', to which I've had no responses -- yes, I agree, time is nigh to plan.  
However, due to my mother's coming up for an extended weekend, I doubt that
we will make it to I will provide my input after you
socialites square your calendars."

Dan is the first to offer dates and the first to speak his mind about this cabin thing:

" you go:
Weekends I *cannot* make it for:
- any weekend including & following Oct 12-13
- any weekend including & prior to Sept 8-9
Which basically leaves open:
- weekends starting with Sat 9/15, 9/22, 9/29/ 10/6
My preference:
- 5 days leaving Wed 10/3 returning Mon 10/8
Destination preferences:
- North Maine woods destination
- A camping not cabin adventure"

Short replies from Adam and Mark Q and suddenly what has always been a difficult part of the
process, the actual dates of the trip, take shape. From Dan:

"I guess if pressed I could do weekend of 10/12, but only if we return on
Sunday 10/13, cutting short 1 day.
Sounds like this might be the only weekend all can arrange..."

In the middle of these exchanges Adam and I plan Dan's birthday present and card.
Here is the inside of the card, created by Adam:

Back to planning, Adam is the first to suggest actual camping sites:

"A perusal this rainy morning of a copy of the Maine Atlas and Gazetteer leads
me to offer up for your consideration the following potential destinations,
in my order of preference. The first is not, to my knowledge, accessible by
road by persons of our technology, the last is as far up as Eagle, thus a
long haul if by road, and the second may have entirely too many roads, though
I think they're vestigial.......
1) Rainbow Lake, 69-10 by 45-50 (bottom center page 50)
2) Canada Falls Lake, 70-03 by 45-50 (lower left page 48)
3) Grand Lake Seboeis, 68-40 by 46-16 (lower right page 57)"

And again:

"I have a new candidate for choice 1 or 2:
Nahmakanta Lake, 69-09 by 45-45 (bottom center of page 50, top center of page
42 -- right on the joint). More topography, located in Public Reserve Land,
very few roads.
My Gazetteer is missing the sheet with pages 41 and 42, presumably taken out
to take with us on Henderson."

Then I chimed in. I called the same company we used last year to fly us to Henderson
and inquired about a different lake but one with a cabin. I was as determined to stay
inside, at least one more year, as Dan was to maintain our identity as tent bound folks.

"...about Katahdin Air: 685 for four days at Lower Hudson, plus
130 roundtrip per person. According to Toni, Jim's only cabin is Henderson,
all others are owned by others." Here the cost seemed prohibitive,

Dan, doing his best to retain the soul of this group and stay away from the seduction
of a cabin, fired back with a proposal to canoe the Allagash after flying to the head
waters. That would be breaking camp daily, something we had stopped doing
many years ago. Adam, not reading Dan's entire email (goddamned speed reader!),
jumped in enthusiastically.

At this point, needing an ally - and thinking I might be able to conquer by division-I
wrote to Adam:

More passing thoughts (just between the two of us):
Dan is looking into an Allagash paddling trip. We get
dropped off (the ferry charge per vehicle is a c-note), then
paddle, stop, set up camp, wake up, break camp, and repeat for three
or four days. All with meagre supplies given the carrying
capacity of Mr Jim's plane. We're doing this now because we are all so
young in in such great shape. And you encouraged Mr Sushiman
in his pursuit of this venue.
Obviously, my preference is a similar trip to last years, but I'll certainly
go along with the group. I just find something about that plan
amusing. Or as Newton might say, for every cabinized camping
suggestion, there is an equal and opposite suggestion.

Diane would say I'm being my usual duplicitous-snake-in-the-grass self. I have no intentions of going along with the group, I'm sleeping inside no matter what, but I'll keep death threats in my quiver, until politeness, and back stabbin, fail.

Adam, needed a bit more prodding (not to mention another look at Dan's
trip link), so I sent this only to him:

And yes, I am a group dynamics sleuth and I saw (call it all a fantasy, I won't mind):
Dan getting defensive to our response (I'm taking blame here where I shouldn't, I knew
to keep my mouth shut because everyone already knows my preference) to his suggestion
to camp on Chamberlain and recreate Thoroughfare and beyond. The trip that was aborted.
Then Mr I-can-get-along-with-everyone-and-I-will-always-stand-up-for-the- picked-upon Mark Q,
reverses his position and sides with Dan. The group sway, though, is a cabin and (for reasons
you and I have discussed at length and I can not comprehend) Dan does not want to do
a cabin is now finding an alternative. That's fine, but for me, I'd
rather he moderate his alternatives. And it won't deter me from coming up with a my own
fantasy trip. Okay, I'll leave out that which would get us divorced.

Adam goes back to thoroughly check on Dan's Allagash trip idea and writes a new, much better
thought out - obsequious maybe (to my way of thinking), email to Dan.

When I responded to your email about an Allagash trip with "Sounds good!", the operative verb indicated purely auditory comprehension. Alas, I had not followed the offered link, whereby I might've better understood the trip you are "pursuing". You'll note that the two pictures are of an unloaded canoe shooting some serious whitewater and a capsize. Not to mention the effort of making and breaking camp every day, not to mention the vastly diminished food rations such a trip and access would impose. Or do I misunderstand your intention?
I know you have misgivings about a cabin, but this is the polar opposite of giving a cabin experience a second chance. This takes us back to the days of the Bow Trip and then some. No lake in sight! Is this really the trip you propose? If so, we should talk again as a group -- I may be out on a limb here, but I'm not sure I want to do this version of a trip, certainly not without some discussion and group buy-in......
I don't mean to be brusque, but there's not that much time left to sort out alternatives, and this seems (at least to me) a radical departure.
What are your thoughts?>>

With this Dan opens the door, a crack at most, and I jump in with my cabin possiblities. Even Mark Q is finally expressing a preference for indoors and that swings it. All this time, bemused Diane, says to me,"Up until two years ago, if someone had suggested sleeping in a cabin, good god,or even a tent, you would have exploded. Why do you find it so hard to understand Dan?" To which I could only answer with one of my patented blank looks. Anyway, it was finally settled, a cabin on Lower Jo Mary Lake.

Adam scanned a magazine photo, doctored it a bit and sent this teaser to all of us:

The view from Antler out onto Lower Jo Mary?


In the middle of discussing with Adam a short story I was reading by Christopher Tilghman,
the World Trade Towers came tumbling down:

I agree with your cogent assessments below. " The apparent ease (or at least
equanimity) with which his characters inhabit their own flaws and tolerate
those of others." I identified with both characters, judging neither. Just seemed
like a tender love story with a hopeful ending. But as in his other stories, an
open ended, real life ending, one where you are left to bounce around in
your own speculations. I just loved his
But all that seems so much smaller right now. Good grief.

Adam' s reponse:

Good grief, indeed. It feels strange to be carrying on "regular life".
It's as if I feel we're all supposed to stop-change-start something else
now, but there's still the flow before it was interrupted, at least here.
Not the patriotic, defiant "Carry on -- they want to disrupt you, don't let
the bastards get you down" issue exactly, but just what IS the "correct"
response? I've no impulse to cry, there's no one with whom to get angry
(yet), and I feel like I'm holding my breath, 'cause I feel somehow there's
another shoe that hasn't dropped yet.......
I went to a 10:30 meeting downtown in the heart of the financial district,
arriving just as everyone was evacuating. I got into the garage
effortlessly, had a brief meeting on a trading floor that was being
evacuated, then sat underground for 1-1/2 hours trying to get out, and
another 45 minutes in downtown traffic. Overall, though, I actually found
it quite civil and efficient, given what was occurring......
Hope this horror hasn't hit you too close to home. I know no one personally
that I can think of, thank God, save for Amy's friend Emily, whom we feel a
little confident is probably okay (was that English?).

And mine:

None of us can possibly understand how this event is going to forever
change our lives. From tv images of the buildings collapsing (witnessing thousands of deaths) , to
security changes, to how our children will now experience the world.
And on and on. I'm sure we know people who died, it's just a matter of finding out who they
Another stellar fall like day and I'm thankful to be pounding nails.

9/11 diverted our attention from cabins vs tents and I admit I was anxious about leaving my family, but Adam was the first to bring up the subject. Smothered (and uncovered below) among paragraphs on what vehicles to use:

I hear no one questioning carrying through our Fall Trip in light of recent
events (as I am not -- I need it more than ever),

Me (how typical is this response?):
I too have some worries about leaving the wife and kid home alone,
but I've decided in my own self interest to go anyway.

We didn't communicate much more via email about 9/11. Instead we drifted off obessively looking for some way to cram all five adult bodies into one vehicle with all the gear and food we normally bring. We considered Mark's tailer until we realized no one had a trailer hitch, and that at highway speeds, the trailer looking for any lane the towing vehicle was not in, swayed from side to side. We finally decided to use Linda's Ford Explorer after Dan had the Firestone tires replaced. I couldn't have been happier, sitting in the back seat next to Mark and Mark, memories of amusement parks from my childhood danced in my head. One special one sitting in the outside seat of a rocket shaped ride that did nothing but spin in circles. With my fat friend Arnold Englebert slammed against me, taking even a shallow breath was a ridiculous wish. I don't remember why, but the trip home from Maine wasn't nearly as painful. Maybe I walked.

Adam and I have spent the past six months since our return trying to duplicate the artistry of last year's Henderson Pond web site. However, I think for both of us the perceived calm of this trip prevented any burst of creativity. Except for Adam's poster. Underneath, of course, I'm sure our experiences were colored by the events of September 11. We found out from Marko, the Altanta based, recently divorced, raido toting, hoticultruist hiking the AT about anthrax sent to The Enquirer and other news outlets.

But I'm not delving into that stuff - the subterranean glue that keeps us together(or not). Instead I'm looking at Lower Jo Mary without history and here is my short version.

In our patriotic float plane we landed on the clear waters of Lower Jo Mary.
Our cabins - kitchen and sleeping - beckoned us like young women in
low cut dresses. Moving our gear from plane to cabin we cheerfully
bid adieu to our favorite pilot, Mr Jim.

Thrilled by our accommodations and the thought we would not be
assaulted by the chilly north winds, we set about to complete
the moving in stage of our house keeping duties. May I also say, as an aside,
we were thrilled by the clean out houses with their adorable door handles
crafted from honest to goodness, authentic Maine branches.

Without much hesitation, we moved into the larger of the two sleeping
cabins, unfolded the extra cots and tided up. If only we had flowers to
adorn the sunny window sills!

Later, we would sit happily in front of our roaring camp fire, trading
stories of our youth and marveling at the pleasant night, accustomed as we were, to
keeping warm by rotating our bodies like pigs on a spit.

Oh, but pigs we were, gorging ourselves on one fab meal after another. From
Sushi to stuffed shells, raspberries to French Toast, banana cake to baked chocolate
chip cookies, all accompanied by no less than fifteen bottles of wine. We ate
heartily and we ate until we could eat no more!
With smiles on our faces and bodies resembling those stuffed shells; we would
parade single file off to our waiting beds, whistling a Bicycle Built For Two. Ah,
what a wonderful metaphor that tune was. Or better perhaps with this loving group, A
Bicycle Built For Five. With never an impertinent word, we had paddled together, hiked together,
did dishes together and by god, we even did our back exercises together.