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Bottle Island, Junior Lake 1997

The brilliance of the Big Dipper, framed against a cloudless, dark sky, and quite a bit above the horizon over Junior Lake, was overshadowed by the towering fountains of white light arching from the water's surface. These curtains of light would move progressively higher into the sky, as if to fill the ladle above.

Dan and Adam were the first to venture onto the beach, away from our sky-obliterating campfire, to see the very beginnings of the Aurora. Unexpecting, and disbelieving, Adam convinced Dan that this was not the Northern Lights. Minutes later, after their return to our cozy fire, I walked onto the beach, where by now, the unmistakable Aurora raised the hair on the back of my neck. Fearing the white shimmering curtains would suddenly vanish, and leaving my good friends yawning at my description, I ran back to get their attention. We stood awestruck, and watched the light show until it was a faint glow over the horizon. That faint glow left us scratching our heads like chimps in a cage. We had seen that glow many times before but always assumed it was some distant (Canadian?) town.

This was our second night on Bottle Island, the first time we'd seen the Northern Lights, and a night before, in an attempt to catch a Frisbee throw from shore, Dan tumbled from his canoe into the forty-six degree water. Through the years Dan has provided much late night entertainment. There is the infamous lost watch, the spontaneous, brown bear-like climbing of a tall pine, and this dunking, where given the blazing transit time from water to shore, he claims he never felt the water's chill. I might suggest red wine was a factor.

Bottle Island was first suggested by Maineguide Paul Smith, who runs Ominventures from his home in Lincoln Maine. Paul even rented a canoe to latecomers Mark Queijo and Bill Lewis, freeing them from using our dilapidated castoffs. This was Mark Schreiber's first camping trip with us (might have been his first camping trip ever), and in spite of the hard ground, driving wind and rain - the usual stuff - he adapted like a woodchuck to my newly sprouted broccoli. We didn't know then, that years later he'd be driving the rest of us to be more active. Sit and read! You can do that at home! Let's hike! The sooner he has a mild stroke and becomes more like us, the better. But I digress.

Bottle Island demonstrated how resilient and adaptable we all are. If you look at the array of photographs, you would never know that a mere two hundred fifty yards from the island's edge is the cabin whose dock we used to launch our canoes. From that cabin is a not so long drive back to Lincoln where we had spent our first night, after our late meal in Portland. This was clearly our least rugged adventure, although it might have been the coldest. Even for those not in the water. Also, when we arrived, the wind was so strong we moved the picnic table (more domestication) from the windy side to the lee, where we set up camp. Okay, we probably knew the wind would shift, and our new site would become the exposed site, but it was on the water's edge.

We accommodated this camping equivalent of Ernest Shackleton sailing the Endurance to Tahiti and even joked about it. When Mark Schreiber was off collecting more gear with Dan, Adam and Bill went back to the cabin across the water, retrieved a sink leaning against the backside of the cabin, and then mounted it to a prominent tree at our site. We even laid our toothbrushes on the rim. We waited patiently for Mark to see that we do bring everything, if not the kitchen, at least the bathroom sink. When we canoed off the island (Bill needed to get back home) and couldn't return because of the wind and waves, we simply drove to Bangor, ate at a nearby Olive Garden, and then watched the Patriots from the comfort of our rooms in a Holiday Inn. In the interest of moderately full disclosure, when confronted with those canoe intimidating seas, Mark Queijo was the only one willing to risk his life in a crossing attempt. The problem was, we couldn't just shove him off alone.


View from our campsite

Dan and Mark arriving with more food.

Mark S signaling for the porters.

More Photos

Adam Kibbe & Bill Lewis before dinner