Category Archives: Photos

Lunch out in Stockton

Here we are at the Beach Hut in Stockton.

Here we are at the Beach Hut in Stockton.

Went to the coffeehouse to work for a while today with the girl, then for a walk along the waterfront, and then to the Beach Hut in Stockton for a late lunch. Now were sitting back to watch a couple of videos. … She’s pretty cute, isn’t she!

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Photo of moose cow, calf wins Aroostook County Tourism contest | Bangor Daily News

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Paul Pierce of Mars Hill has been chosen as the overall winner of the Aroostook County Tourism summer photo contest for his picture of a moose cow and calf.

Other category winners include Tracey Ackerson of Woodland for the scenic views category, Johnnie Cancelarich of Presque Isle for outdoor recreation, Fred Grant of Houlton for cities and towns and Lori Prosser of Houlton for festivals and events.

All winning entries are available to view on the website at www.visitaroostook.com and the Aroostook County Tourism Facebook page.

Click to read more on the story in the Bangor Daily News on the photo contest.

Will write for food! … Or walk your dog!

Hey there! Hey there! I’m still trying to line up a freelance gig or two for the coming weeks. Please let me know if you are in need or know someone in need of a writer-editor-blogger-dog walker-house-sitter-dishwasher. Cheers!

Thank-you note to my scouting niece

The Girl Scout Cookies are freed from their bondage.

The Girl Scout Cookies are freed from their bondage.

[I received a fun package yesterday from my scouting niece Sophie. Actually, she is my only niece, but she is in a scouting organization, so she’s also my “scouting niece.” Regular readers may recall that I have lamented in the past that the packages my family sends me from time are full of sugary treats. At my age, who needs the extra pounds. Oy! So, I made my family promise to not send me any more sugary treats. But then the Girl Scouts – well, mostly their mothers – started hitting me up to help fill their cookie quotas. So, I had to send my sister a note to clarify that in no way was my earlier dictate to reflect the Girl Scout Cookie Season. That, I made it clear to her, was not the case. Girl Scout Cookies were OK for my diet. … I have a feeling I will be gaining a few pounds in the next few days. – KM]

Dear Sophie:

I received a package yesterday that you and Mommy sent to me. Inside were very yummy Girl Scout Cookies. I wanted to thank you very, very much. I am sure I will enjoy them. Thank you.

Now, I just have to decide which cookies to start with.

Love,

Uncle Keith

P.S. Please say “Hi” to your brother Max. I miss you both very much.

A package is opened.

A package is opened.

A cookie is liberated.

A cookie is liberated.

The first bite …

The first bite …

And another ...

And another ...

Just one more bite left …

Just one more bite left …

And now my had is free to grasp another cookie.

And now my hand is free to grasp another cookie.

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Urbanist and heritage developer Paul Oberman killed in plane crash | Treehugger.com

Urbanist and heritage developer Paul Oberman killed in plane crash | Treehugger.com

Here’s an earlier Bangor Daily News story.

One killed, one injured in plane crash on Maine-Quebec border | Bangor Daily News

Pair of unexpected packages brightens rainy day

This Christmas card image is of Mono Lake near Lee Vining, Calif. Mono Lake, known for salinity and tufa formations, is at least 760,000 years old, according to information on the back of the card. The Christmas card, the first I received in 2010, was sent to me by longtime friends, Rick and Michele.

This Christmas card image is of Mono Lake near Lee Vining, Calif. Mono Lake, known for salinity and tufa formations, is at least 760,000 years old, according to information on the back of the card. The Christmas card, the first I received in 2010, was sent to me by longtime friends, Rick and Michele.

The foggy, rainy prelude to an even bigger late-fall storm was brightened considerable on Friday when I received two unexpected packages in the mail.

One was a lovely Christmas card from dear long-time friends Rick and Michele of Vacaville, Calif. I have known the two since August 1990 when I joined the staff of The Daily Democrat in Woodland, Calif. Rick was the photo editor and Michele was a sales representative for the newspaper. I have spent holidays and vacations with them over the years, and I was the best man at their wedding.

The front of the Christmas card showed a lake with snowy mountains and snow-covered rock outcroppings and their reflection in the water. It is a lovely image. On the inside Michele had written “Recognize this lake?” and a smiley face.

Lake? What? I know this lake? What lake is this?

I had to look on the back of the card to learn that it was Mono Lake near Lee Vining, Calif. I had not recognized the lake even though I have been to its shores and visitor center countless times! What threw me off were the formations in the water; they looked like typical rocks, not the tufa formations for which the lake is known.

Mono Lakes does not have natural outlet and is two or three times saltier than the ocean. It is a natural nesting area for California’s seagulls. Brine shrimp, brine flies and tufa are pretty much all that grow there. The iconic tufa image – very similar to the wallpaper I have on my cell phone screen so I should have recognized the lake in the first place – are more like cylindrical shafts shooting out of the water. The lake was much deeper before Southern California water districts diverted water from the lake decades ago. The briny water caused each of the tufa formations to build onto itself until each reached the surface. The water diversions lowered the lake levels, exposing the tufa. They remain exposed even now even though the diversions have ceased.

In my defense, the photo, which was taken by Roy R. Goodall of Seattle, Wash., seems to have been taken along the east shore of the lake, a section I have not explored as much as the south and southeast shores. And it has been a while since I have seen Mono Lake in snow.

No matter what, it was still a very pleasant surprise. Rick and Michele, I thank you both.

The second package was a bit more of a surprise than the Christmas card. It was from a childhood acquaintance now living in Presque Isle, Maine. Penny is the daughter of pals of my parents and they owned the cottage next to the one where my mother lives now. Penny was a class or two before me in high school and I’m guessing every guy in my class had a crush on her – girl-next-door looks and long blond hair.

This is an image of my father probably taken in June 1982. It was one in a stack of photos a childhood friend – the daughter of my parents’ friends – recently mailed to me. I am unsure who might have taken the photo or where exactly it was taken.

This is an image of my father probably taken in June 1982. It was one in a stack of photos a childhood friend – the daughter of my parents’ friends – recently mailed to me. I am unsure who might have taken the photo or where exactly it was taken.

She and I reconnected over the summer via Facebook and not very long later she sent me an email that she had come across a few photos of my father, who died in July 1991. She offered to send the photos, but deep down I really did not think I would ever see them. Do not get me wrong – I’m sure Penny’s intensions then were to send them, but I also know the realities of life. We all are pulled in so many directions that it becomes difficult to find time for family and ourselves, let alone mailing photos to childhood acquaintances.

The second package I received was not just a photo or two of my father, but a stack more than an inch thick! Nearly none of the photos have dates on them, but I am guessing they have to be from the late-1970s to mid-1980s. They show my father, mother, Penny’s parents and others from my childhood. Nearly all of the photos were taken during “down-time” – weekends at the lake or at North Woods cabins, vacations to Florida, on camping trips, and even one taken of my father coming out of an establishment called “Dirty Old Man’s Shop” with additional signage of “Adults Only.” I’m guessing they were seeking out, um, a public restroom or directions. Yeah, that has to be it.

Here my father is poling a log raft that I’m guessing he hammered together on a whim one summer day in 1983. Personal flotation device? Yes, at this feet. Provisions? Yes, in the red cup at the “bow” of the raft. This also was among the photos recently mailed to me by a childhood friend.

Here my father is poling a log raft that I’m guessing he hammered together on a whim one summer day in 1983. Personal flotation device? Yes, at this feet. Provisions? Yes, in the red cup at the “bow” of the raft. This also was among the photos recently mailed to me by a childhood friend.

There are shots of my father paddling a canoe and poling a log raft that I have little doubt he probably nailed together on a whim shortly before the photos was taken. He is sitting on a folding lawn chair perched on the log raft, a boat seat pad/flotation device at his feet, and a plastic red cup balanced on the bow in which I’m assuming was a chilled adult beverage.

Here are my parents on a small vehicle ferry. I am unsure where and when this was taken, but the date on the back of the photo says it was developed in October 1981. I like this photo.

Here are my parents on a small vehicle ferry. I am unsure where and when this was taken, but the date on the back of the photo says it was developed in October 1981. I like this photo.

There are photos of my Dad and Mom together in happier times; they both are flashing genuine smiles. It is nice to see that just before Christmas.

This was another photo among the stack. That is childhood friend, Todd, at left, and I suspect that is the back of my head to the right. We were watching my small black-and-white television, probably trying to catch a Red Sox game. The date on the photo indicates the photo was developed in July 1982.

This was another photo among the stack. That is childhood friend, Todd, at left, and I suspect that is the back of my head to the right. We were watching my small black-and-white television, probably trying to catch a Red Sox game. The date on the photo indicates the photo was developed in July 1982.

There are other photos, too. There are a few photos of my sister – wearing glasses that are far too large for her face, but were the fashion at the time. One of my Mom in a Christmas sweater; I will not comment on the fashion sense involved. There is a photo of a childhood friend, Todd, and what I believe is the back of my head watching a small black-and-white television while on a camping trip, although I cannot recall the location. It might have been at a campsite near Sebago Lake. There is a photo of Penny standing next to my family’s Caprice Classic parked near the family’s tent camper during the same camping trip. And there are several of my Dad and Penny’s Dad, Dana.

It was heartwarming to see some of the photos from my youth. It was a reminder of much happier time.

It was very nice of Penny to send the photos. It was a nice early Christmas gift. Thank you, Penny, and Merry Christmas.

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Happy Hikers | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Happy Hikers | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram.

Fall in New England: Nature’s colorful mosaic

Fall in the North Woods of Maine turns the landscape into a colorful mosaic. Photo by Kelly McInnis

Fall in the North Woods of Maine turns the landscape into a colorful mosaic. Photo by Kelly McInnis

Thousands flock to New England this time of year to catch the changing colors at its peak. In the North Woods of Maine, the peak has already come.

Fortunately for me, a high school classmate, Kelly McInnis, shares her photography with her Facebook friends and then I often share them on “Letters From Away.”

I love the yellow leaves against the brilliant blue sky in the first photo. It’s wonderful.

This is Haystack Mountain in the fall. Photo by Kelly McInnis

This is Haystack Mountain in the fall. Photo by Kelly McInnis

The other three photos are a reminder of my youth. Haystack Mountain – not much of a climb, really – is located along the road from Ashland to Presque Isle. I lived in Portage, but went to middle and high school in Ashland. Presque Isle was the largest city in the area and the location of grocery stores, movie theaters, and other services, so we drove by Haystack Mountain a couple of times a month. And we usually climbed to the top every other year or so.

A high school teacher, Lynwood McHatten, told his students of a time when he was a teen and boys would go to the top of Haystack to set old tires on fire to give the impression that the long-dormant volcano was coming alive. It was good for a laugh.

Here's another view of Haystack Mountain along the road between Ashland and Presque Isle. Photo by Kelly McInnis

Here's another view of Haystack Mountain along the road between Ashland and Presque Isle. Photo by Kelly McInnis

This is the view heading toward Ashland from Haystack Mountain. Haystack is a great place from which to view the fall colors. Photo by Kelly McInnis

This is the view heading toward Ashland from Haystack Mountain. Haystack is a great place from which to view the fall colors. Photo by Kelly McInnis

Celebrating Common Ground in photos | Bangor Daily News

Celebrating Common Ground – Bangor Daily News.

Award-winning tourism photo | Bangor Daily News

Award-winning tourism photo | Bangor Daily News

Check out the winning photo for the Aroostook County Tourism summer photo contest. Follow this link to the Bangor Daily News or to the Aroostook County Tourism website. The photo is very nearly Rockwellesque.

The scenic views category winner took a shot of Portage Lake at sunset. It’s just as I remember it growing up! I’m guessing from the angle that it was shot from the south or southeast corner of the lake not too far from the public beach, but I could be wrong. It is unfortunate that the Aroostook County Tourism website does not allow for a larger version of the photos.

Offering viewers a sneak peek of autumn: Dry summer gives some trees early start on foliage season | Portland Press Herald

Here’s a photo I posted a few days ago showing the early change in color of foliage. This photo was taken not long ago near Jo-Mary Lake Campground in the shadow of Mount Katahdin. Photo by Kelly McInnis

Here’s a photo I posted a few days ago showing the early change in color of foliage. This photo was taken not long ago near Jo-Mary Lake Campground in the shadow of Mount Katahdin. Photo by Kelly McInnis

The fall foliage season has started, at least for some trees.

Some species are turning yellow and shedding their foliage earlier than normal because of the dry summer. But forestry experts do not expect conditions to affect the prime leaf-peeping season.

“We have noticed it especially with paper and yellow birch,” said Bill Ostrofsky, a tree pathologist with the Maine Forest Service.

Touches of red and gold always appear on some trees in the Maine landscape in late August. But the dry conditions have led to more color this year. Until this week, no significant rain had fallen over much of the state since June.

The lack of water caused leaves to droop, then drop, on bushes and trees where the soil was especially dry.

Click for the rest of the story by Beth Quimby in the Portland Press Herald.

Camping in Maine in the shadow of Mount Katahdin

Every so often I am reminded that I know some pretty talented people and some of them I’ve known a very long time.

Kelly McInnis was a high school classmate of mine at Ashland Community High School, MSAD No. 32. It was a consolidated high school with students coming from several different area communities. Portage Lake, where I grew up, was one of those communities.

Kelly, who still lives and works in The County, has a practiced eye when it comes to shooting photos. I seem to recall a photo of her from our high school yearbook, her red hair tied back and her wearing a baseball undershirt, the kind with the black three-quarter sleeves. In the photo, if I recall this correctly, she’s holding a 35-mm camera with which many of the other photos in the yearbook were shot.

But that was … holy, cow, about 30 years ago, so my memory may have faded a bit.

Anyway, Kelly shares here photos on Facebook and he graciously allows me to post them on “Letters From Away.”

Here’s Kelly McInnis’ campsite at Jo-Mary Lake Campground in the shadow of Mount Katahdin, the official end of the Appalachian Trail and the highest point in Maine. Photo by Kelly McInnis

Here’s Kelly McInnis’ campsite at Jo-Mary Lake Campground in the shadow of Mount Katahdin, the official end of the Appalachian Trail and the highest point in Maine. Photo by Kelly McInnis

Kelly was camping recently at Jo-Mary Lake Campground. The North Maine Woods Inc. at www.northmainewoods.org describes the amenities of the campground like this:

70 campsites along the shore of Jo-Mary Lake accommodate tents or camper trailers and most have a view of Mt. Katahdin. Boat launch, showers, flush toilets, dumping station, Laundromat, ice, fire wood and propane available. Sand beach provides excellent swimming. Five mile long Jo-Mary Lake provides fishing for landlocked salmon, brook trout, white perch and lake trout.

Sounds pretty plush for camping, but Kelly swears she roughed it by sleeping in a tent.

And there is Mount Katahdin, about 50 miles north of the Jo-Mary Lake Campground, according to the North Maine Woods Inc. website. Photo by Kelly McInnis

And there is Mount Katahdin, about 50 miles north of the Jo-Mary Lake Campground, according to the North Maine Woods Inc. website. Photo by Kelly McInnis

The campground is within the KI Jo-Mary Multiple Use Forest within 5 miles of the Appalachian Trial, with Baxter State Park and Mount Katahdin, the highest point in Maine, just 50 miles to the north. I don’t recall ever going to this campground, but I would now if I had a chance. It appears to be a wonderful spot.

By the way, I believe Mount Katahdin is still considered the official northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, even though as a youth I heard Mars Hill was considered by some to be the end of the trail, as it were.

But earlier this summer I read a wire story about how a portion of the Appalachian Mountains actually may have been left behind on the European continent when the tectonic plates shifted.

Anyway, a couple of Kelly’s photos show Mount Katahdin in the background.

Here’s another shot of Mount Katahdin in the background and rock piles in the foreground. Kelly wasn’t sure who might have made the rock piles, perhaps bored children, she said. I think aliens from another planet may have had a hand – if they had hands, that is – in the creation of what I like to call Ancient Rock Towers of Maine’s North Woods. Photo by Kelly McInnis

Here’s another shot of Mount Katahdin in the background and rock piles in the foreground. Kelly wasn’t sure who might have made the rock piles, perhaps bored children, she said. I think aliens from another planet may have had a hand – if they had hands, that is – in the creation of what I like to call Ancient Rock Towers of Maine’s North Woods. Photo by Kelly McInnis

Kelly didn’t know what the piled rocks were in some of the photos. Perhaps they are the product of a bored pack of children? Perhaps something more natural and mystical, such as the work of local native people? Perhaps something more mysterious still, such as the work of aliens from another planet? I think I’ll just call them the Ancient Rock Towers of Maine’s North Woods. I’m sure that will start showing up in search engines any day now.

Here’s another shot of the Ancient Rock Towers of Maine’s North Woods. Photo by Kelly McInnis

Here’s another shot of the Ancient Rock Towers of Maine’s North Woods. Photo by Kelly McInnis

Another photo appears to be shot at the edge of a stream or other water source and shows the beginning of foliage changing. It has been a rather dry summer in Maine and some of the leaves are changing sooner than they normally would, as documented by Kelly’s photos and, well, my Mom. She said the same thing when I called her Sunday.

Kelly took this shot to show the beginning of the changing foliage. Maine has gone through a very dry summer and some of the leaves are changing sooner than they might have otherwise. It also shows a pretty typical opening in Maine’s North Woods – slightly boggy and surrounded by thick woods. Photo by Kelly McInnis

Kelly took this shot to show the beginning of the changing foliage. Maine has gone through a very dry summer and some of the leaves are changing sooner than they might have otherwise. It also shows a pretty typical opening in Maine’s North Woods – slightly boggy and surrounded by thick woods. Photo by Kelly McInnis

And there is a whimsical shot of a dedicated Maine fisherman.

Hey, buddy, whatcha usin’ for bait. Kelly’s response to that he was using the worm from the tequila bottle. Actually, the creation of the fisherman and the shooting of it with the camera both show a bit of dry Maine whimsy. Photo by Kelly McInnis

Hey, buddy, whatcha usin’ for bait. Kelly’s response to that he was using the worm from the tequila bottle. Actually, the creation of the fisherman and the shooting of it with the camera both show a bit of dry Maine whimsy. Photo by Kelly McInnis

These photos were printed with Kelly’s permission.

Greats Falls Balloon Festival marks successful second day | Lewiston Sun Journal

LEWISTON, Maine — Thousands of people crowded into Simard-Payne Memorial Park on Saturday for the second day of the Great Falls Balloon Festival.

For some, the festival was a way to make money for charity. For others, it was a way to have fun with family.   

For 7-year-old Adriana Ellis of Farmingdale, it was all about the balloons.

“Mama, look at that one!” she squealed, jumping up and down as a rainbow-colored balloon slowly rose above the crowd Saturday evening. “I want a ride!”

Festival-goers and balloonists enjoyed some of the best weather the festival has seen in years. With little wind and clear skies, all 28 balloons took to the air Saturday morning, rising in waves until the sky was filled with color.

“It’s probably as beautiful of a launch as we’ve had,” balloon meister John Reeder said.

Click for the rest of the story by Lindsay Tice in the Lewiston Sun Journal

Maine stuff in my California apartment No. 10 – hearing ‘Acadia’

Scan of a CD by Jim Chappell inspired by Maine's Acadia National Park.

Today’s photos – scans really – are of a CD cover and a couple of pages from the accompanying booklet. It is an instrumental CD by Jim Chappell that came out in 1996, I believe, and was inspired by Acadia National Park.

The CD, of course, is called “Acadia.”

My mother gave me the CD as a gift many years ago. I don’t recall if it was a birthday gift or a Christmas gift or just a gift from out the blue. Moms do that from time to time, give gifts for no reason at all.

The music is very soothing, relaxing and comfortable to listen to – piano, violins, cello, French horn, flute, that sort of thing. It’s not Radiohead or The White Stripes, but not everything has to be.

The CD had been lost among other CDs on a bookshelf that I recently went through. I’m listening to the CD at the very moment that I am writing this entry and I’ll very probably hit replay once it plays through.

Part of the booklet reads:

“The quiet solitude of the deep woods … the rumbling roar of surf crashing on the rocky coast of Maine … the silent sweep of a falcon high above a shimmering lake and the whelping sound of seals on tiny inlets. This is Acadia National Park. It is a meeting of mountain and valley, forest and meadow, ocean and land in a symphonic splash of salt, spray and foam. It is sunrise from the glacier-flattened top of Cadillac Mountain, bathing the sea and nearby cliffs with a caress of soft pink and gold as lighthouses flash like fireflies from the surrounding headlands.”

Scan of one of the pages from a booklet that came with the CD by Jim Chappell.

It’s been a very long time since I’ve been to Acadia National Park, but that passage hits it pretty well on the head. I don’t recall the part of “lighthouses flash like fireflies,” but it was a pretty long time ago. It is Maine, after all, with lighthouses on nearly every other coastal bluff.

The CD carries song titles that will be familiar to those who have visited Acadia National Park: “Cadillac Mountain,” “The Carriage Road,” “Southwest Harbor,” “Long Pond Canoe,” “The Loop Road,” and “Jordan Pond,” among others.

Scan of another page from a booklet that came with the CD "Acadia" by Jim Chappell. The CD was inspired by Acadia National Park.

For total disclosure, I am again stretching the whole Maine-stuff-in-my-California-apartment thing with this entry. The album was inspired by Acadia National Park as Chappell spent a week hiking around Acadia and humming into a cassette recorder – remember, this was in 1996 and it was a little early for digital recorders – the melodies that became “Acadia.” But the booklet indicates the music was recorded in California – Sebastopol and San Anselmo. Let’s just agree that it is Maine-inspired stuff in my California apartment.

I tracked down what seems to be Jim Chappell’s official website, where you can find more information about the guy and order his music. Apparently, he’s still at it and his latest CD is being released later this month.

The booklet also mentions Friends of Acadia, a nonprofit organization working to preserve Acadia National Park. According to the booklet, 15 percent of the profits from the sale of the CD go to the group. Donations to Friends of Acadia can be made by mailing them to the group at 43 Cottage Street, P.O. Box 45, Bar Harbor, Maine 04609. There’s also information about the park, how to join Friends of Acadia, and more on its website.

This is an occasional multipart series of photos of things related to Maine that can be found in Keith Michaud’s California apartment. All photos in this series are shot by and are the property of Keith Michaud.

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Captured: America in Color from 1939-1943 | Plog Photo Blog

[A friend of mine – a photo editor for a newspaper in Northern California – passed along a link to a wonderful denverpost.com photo blog. Check out photos nos. 4 and 5. — KM]

“These images, by photographers of the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information, are some of the only color photographs taken of the effects of the Depression on America’s rural and small town populations. The photographs are the property of the Library of Congress and were included in a 2006 exhibit Bound for Glory: America in Color.” — Lead-in for the blog entry

Photo No. 4

Children gathering potatoes on a large farm. Vicinity of Caribou, Aroostook County, Maine, October 1940. Reproduction from color slide. Photo by Jack Delano. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

 Photo No. 5

Trucks outside of a starch factory. Caribou, Aroostook County, Maine, October 1940. Reproduction from color slide. Photo by Jack Delano. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Captured: America in Color from 1939-1943 – Plog Photo Blog.

Working Mainers featured in Colby exhibit | The Morning Sentinel, Waterville, ME

Working Mainers featured in Colby exhibit | The Morning Sentinel, Waterville, ME.

Happy Father’s Day

I'm hanging out with Dad at the beach. This had to be some time in 1963 or '64.

For some reason, this is the only photo of my father I have stored no my computer and I’m away from my scanner just now so I cannot post another. This is a photo of my Dad and me on a beach somewhere. It has to be about 1963 ro 1964 because, well, the little guy he’s hold is me and I’ll be turning 48 on Monday.

Dad died about 18 years ago, if my cyphering is correct, but I still think of him often.

Happy Father’s Day to all you dads.

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Remembering just how very important fishing is to me and ME: Part 2

The cover of a nostalgic note card distributed by L.L. Bean suggests the way fishing can influence family culture and legacy. Children learn fishing early and carry it on to teach their children.

It takes very little effort to recollect the thrill of catching a rainbow trout or call to mind the aroma of the day’s catch being pan fried over a crackling campfire. Those childhood memories are as much a part of me as is my DNA.

There is much I recall about fishing in my youth. The excitement of catching the first fish of an outing. The delight of catching the largest fish of the day. The satisfaction of catching the biggest stringer or filling the largest creel. The sting of failing to catch anything accept a hook on a sunken stump. The smell of bog and Woodsmen bug repellant. The feel of bait in my fingers. The buzz of mosquitoes and black flies in my ears.

These are among the things I recall most.

The memory of my first fishing experience as a child is lost to me now, however. I suppose I must have started fishing more than 40 years ago and I’m sure my father or other male relative mustered up the patience to take me to Portage Lake or a nearby stream to drown my first worm. And I do not recall catching my first fish, although I’m sure someone must have helped me reel in the catch.

I remember as a child using an old casting reel and rod my father had once used. The brand name is lost with time, but I seem to recall that the rod itself was burgundy in color and the reel likely was aluminum.

I don’t think I ever caught a fish with that rod. I was a little impatient to be drowning worms without instant gratification, so I often turned my attention to skipping stones or wading in the frigid water or running in the nearby forest.

I recall rushing through chores so that I could run to a spot under the crab apple tree that grew just beyond our yard. There I would use my father’s old folding Army shovel in search of worms, the bait of choice when I was a child. Actually, there was little “choice” in it as worms were the only bait we used.

After rushing through chores and to dig worms, I might jump on my bicycle and ride down the hill to the lake in a too-often fruitless attempt to catch something.

Later, fishing became an activity that helped mark various periods in my life – fishing in the streams, rivers, lakes and ponds of Maine, surf fishing in North Carolina, going after trout throughout Northern California and in the Sierra Nevada, and fishing for salmon from the deck of a sailboat while using my own unique method.

And, after all that, this is something I simply know about fishing – people who fish are better for it. Fishing can mend fences and build bridges. Fishing can create and strengthen personal relationships. Fishing can add to family culture and legacy. Fishing can teach an appreciation for nature and patience and tenacity and hope. Fishing is so much more than a sport and so much more than a way to provide food.

Camping and fishing for a lifetime

 A few years ago L.L. Bean, the outdoors outfitter based in Freeport, Maine, produced a set of note cards and on the cover of each was a nostalgic image highlighting outdoor activity. I have gone through the box of note cards except for one and it shows a father carrying two fishing rods, a stringer of fish, and an exhausted child. Mother, hands on hips, seems a tad upset that Dad has kept Junior out too long fishing.

It is an image of a simpler time. The memories of the fishing experience will far outlast the momentary wrath of a concerned mother. And father and son will experience far more fishing experience over the course of their lives.

I remember as a fairly young guy – perhaps about the age of the youngster on the L.L. Bean note card – piling into the family car with my parents and kid sister to go to “the big city” of Presque Isle. We went to a Zayre’s department store – or it could have been a Kmart by then, I’m not entirely sure – to buy a green canvas tent, a Coleman’s white gas stove, and other camping and fishing gear.

I’m pretty sure we went off the very next day to accompany family friends, the Cormiers, into the North Woods of Maine, a vast patch of lush greenery. Some of what makes up the North Woods very probably has never been seen by man.

It was the first camping trip for my sister and me and we were tingling with excitement for the adventure.

Our father loaded the gear into the car – I think my folks had a very red two-door Chevrolet Chevelle at that time – and followed the Cormier’s light blue Chevrolet Bel Air station wagon loaded with Leo and Bea Cormier and at least most of their pack of children. I don’t recall this for sure, but the car probably towed or carried Leo’s small fishing boat filled with gear.

 We followed them down the south end of Portage Lake and turned off the pavement to a dirt road and passed a pulp mill just outside of town before reaching a gate. I’m pretty certain Seven Islands Land Company in Bangor owned or managed the land so it operated the gates where for a few bucks you could purchase a permit for entry into the privately owned timber region.

But it wasn’t a particularly secure gate – no barbed wire, electrification, or gun towers here. As I recall, after a certain hour, the gate was thrown open with the idea that whoever went through at night when the gate was left open would stop off on the return trip to settle up for the cost of the permit. And, as I recall, the seasonal job of manning the gates usually went to a local resident who typically knew just about everyone in town.

It was as much a public relations job as it was a job of collecting money for the permits, which probably never cover the cost of the gatekeepers’ salaries and maintenance costs.

While this photo was taken during the winter, this is an example of how high logs are piled on trailers to be transported to mills. The photo was taken by Diana Michaud.

Beyond the gate the dirt roads were not bad, considering. The land company and the various timber ventures worked to keep the roads good enough to keep a steady flow of trucks loaded high with pine, spruce and fir logs moving out of the deep woods and to pulp and timber mills. Today, that activity has slowed to a trickle.

This photo, also taken in winter by Diana Michaud, gives the scale of both the width and quality of the dirt roads and the scale of the logging sidings in Maine's North Woods.

When we weren’t driving by landings that stretched beyond the next bend in the road and piled two stories high or higher with freshly cut logs, we were driving through incredibly thick forests.

And eastern forest isn’t what people in the West might think of when their mind turns to forestland. Redwood, Douglas fir and other western trees seem to grow broader and taller, but the forests are usually less densely packed. In the North Woods, pine, spruce and fire grow very nearly in a thicket. A person could walk just a few yards into the forest and then not see the road or opening he or she had just left. Truly thick.

 Why go into the woods when you lived on a lake?

 Some might ask, “Why leave one lake – Portage Lake – to go fishing at another body of water?” A couple of things come into play here. First, while so-called “staycations” have been pretty popular in recent years – you can get a lot of things done, including racking up rest – it really wasn’t a vacation back then unless you went somewhere. And camping was an affordable option for families.

Second, Portage Lake is a shallow lake and a lake whose shores for years hosted various mills. Waste from those mills and the vacation and resort cabins later built there went into the lake. The water was not particularly hospitable to trout and other species native to Maine.

For that and other reasons, Portage Lake was more of a starting-off point for hunting and fishing lodges deeper in the North Woods. Jimmy Stewart and Jack Dempsey, among others, have flown into Portage Lake via seaplane on their way to finer fishing.

However, my mother recently told me that there have been some efforts to restore trout and salmon to the lake and the Fish River system. I find that encouraging.

 Where was I? Oh, camping and fishing …

 Usually on these camping trips we would stop at a picnic area at a bridge over the Fish River just upstream from the Fish River Falls. There was a small pond upstream from the bridge and a trail that went downstream along the river to the falls and slightly beyond. I remember running down that trail to get to just below the falls. If I recall correctly, the falls weren’t very tall. More of a whitewater rapid, really.  I’m guessing an experienced rafter or kayaker might have made it down the falls quite easily and been disappointed with the lack of challenge.

After a quick stop for lunch or to fish briefly in the river or in the pond, we’d drive on until we rounded a bend and down a slight incline until the thick forest opened up to a camping ground across the dirt road from Perch Pond. We kids usually got out of most of the drudgery of setting up the camp and were allowed to run off, either into the forested hill or with assorted fishing gear to the stream-fed pond. Once there we would – while trying not to hook onto the friend standing near us – cast into the water in an attempt to catch trout. If we were lucky, we’d catch a handful of the tasty fish for dinner or the next day’s breakfast.

After fishing, we children might hike around to the downstream end of the pond to look at the beaver works. If the older Cormier children were around, they might take us by boat to the dam. Beavers over the years had constructed quite a dam and it was always interesting to see what new addition had been raised and whether we might be able to catch a glimpse of the buck-toothed contractors.

To this day I can picture that pond and the surrounding area, the way a stream bisected the campground and how the outlet of that stream was the location from where we usually cast from shore to fish. I recall an old log or two where I was shown for the first time how to clean a fish after catching it. I remember the black, boggy mud near the water’s edge. I remember the steep trail behind the campground. I’m not sure if that campground is still there; I hope it is so other youngsters can learn to fish and be outdoors.

‘Secret’ fishing holes are the best

I’m not sure how we stumbled onto one fishing hole not too far from the campground. I think Leo Cormier must have known about it. We would drive a short distance from the camp, get out of the vehicle, and hike down through the woods to a slow-moving and meandering stream with large pools where brook trout collected. The water was so very clear you could easily see to the stony bottom and the fish floating in the lazy current.

We would cast into the water and if we were lucky we would fill our fishing creels in an hour with very tasty fish.

Of course, part of the problem with fishing that hole – besides battling the brush just to get there and battling the blackflies and mosquitoes just to keep your own blood – was that brook trout can be on the smallish side. We probably threw back more than we kept.

I’m not sure if that fishing hole was a complete secret, but I would like to think that very few people knew about it then or know about it now.

 Floating down the Allagash

 We had camped along the Allagash Wilderness Waterway several times over the years, usually with relatives. My mother grew up in St. Francis, Maine, just down the road from the town of Allagash near where the Allagash River pours into the St. John River, which downstream becomes the northern border between Maine and Canada. Much of my mother’s side of the family continues to live in the greater Fort Kent-St. Francis-Allagash metropolitan region. (By “metropolitan region” what I really mean is a collection of small cities and towns that are home to some of the very best people on Earth.)

The Allagash Wilderness Water is a wonderful north-flowing waterway and well worth protecting.

Here I am in 1976 fishing near the Long Lake Dam during a trip down the Allagash Wilderness Waterway. I'm at left in this photo and with me I believe is Scott Collins, the brother of a childhood friend, Todd Collins.

Here we are again. From my position at the lower right portion of the photo, I suspect my line is snagged on something below the surface. That happens fishing.

Somewhere along the line, my parents decided it was time for a canoeing trip down the Allagash Wilderness Waterway before too many people from away learned of the pristine swath of thick forest and flowing river.

We went along with several family friends – the Cormiers, the Collins, and Chet Carlson.

My parents had purchased a canoe sometime before from a Quebec canoe builder and we rented an aluminum canoe to carry our family, fishing and camping gear, and provisions. It was quite an adventure. Sure, we saw other canoers and campers along the way, but it was quite out-of-the way. My hometown of Portage, Lake, with a population of about 450 seemed a crowed place compared to floating down the Allagash River.

I recall every so often we would pull in our paddles and simply float along, casting a line for trout.

One evening a few of us piled into a canoe and we poled it out to the center of the river to fish. I remember catching a pretty nice-sized trout, but I lost it when I tried to clean off some dirt. It floated out of my hand and downstream. A fish that got away.

We didn’t have much time for fishing for the remainder of the trip. A Maine game warden tracked us down to inform us that one of my father’s relatives had died. The rest of the trip was about paddling to Allagash.

We did stop for a bit at the Allagash Falls. Like the Fish River Falls, the Allagash Falls are rather gradual and canoeists, kayakers, and rafters can shoot the rapids. We portaged the gear and all but a canoe or two around the falls. A couple of us tried to shoot the falls, but we swamped the canoe. It was rather frigid, but fun adventure.

 New gear for Knights Landing

 I didn’t fish very much once I become involved in high school sports. There just wasn’t the time.

And things were pretty hectic in college, so I didn’t fishing then either.

In time, I ended up working for The Daily Democrat in Woodland, Calif., and there became friends with Rick Roach. Rick’s family owns a farm in Arkansas and he very much enjoyed the outdoor life. Still does.

The Daily Democrat was an afternoon newspaper which meant we got to work early to get the newspaper out by noon and we left the office by 3 or 4 p.m.  After a while I ended up investing in fishing gear, because sometimes after work we would load up Rick’s vehicle and drive past the Yolo County farms and asparagus fields to Knights Landing, stopping along the way for assorted bait and fried snacks. Yes, the bait and snacks often were purchased at the store from the same clerk that handled both the bait and the snacks.

We would then drive to a nearby canal and cast a line into the water. I seem to recall we were fishing for salmon, but I could be wrong. After all, I have been before. We would sit in lawn chairs – if we remembered to bring them or on the bank if we didn’t – drink cheap beer and smoke even cheaper cigars as we fished the afternoon into the evening, sometimes until after dark. If we stayed long enough and it became chilly, we would build a driftwood fire, light another cigar and open another beer.

We were fishing near Knight’s Landing on April 4, 1991, when news broke about the hostage-taking at Good Guys in Sacramento. We stuck around for a little while longer, but left a bit earlier than normal for us. Rick’s news bone was itching and he ended up joining the press corps there to shoot photos we printed in The Daily Democrat.

 Lake Berryessa, Twin Lakes and Cliff Polland

 Later, Rick and his wife, Michele, moved to Vacaville to work at The Reporter, he as the photo editor and she as the top sales representative for the newspaper. From the time we all lived in Woodland, we took annual trips to the Sierra Nevada to camp at Annette’s Mono Village outside of Bridgeport. Annette’s Mono Village is a ’50s-style camping resort, complete will log cabin restaurant. There are modern amenities, however, including an onsite store, bait shop, motel-style rooms, lodges, hookups for RV campers, restrooms, coin-operated showers, and laundry facilities. The resort is nestled in the Sawtooth Mountain range, which rims Yosemite National Park.

Annette’s Mono Village also is on the second of two lakes that make up Twin Lakes. If memory serves me correction – and memory isn’t always a good servant – Annette’s Mono Village has its own stocking ponds and the state also stocks the lake with various types of trout. Back in the day, Rick would sometimes rent a boat at the bait shop and we would go out to test our luck. Sometimes it was good; sometimes it was not so good.

A few years later Rick talked Michele into letting him purchase a fishing boat. It wasn’t large, by any means, but it was more than serviceable for Twin Lakes and at Lake Berryessa, not far from Vacaville.

Every so often during the summer Rick would give me a call – a time or two waking me up from a sound sleep after an evening spent at a local tavern – and say: “Mornin’, Sunshine! Let’s go fishin’! Let’s go slay some fish!”

Typically, I would mumble incoherently, tell him I needed to take a shower, but that I would be at his place in a half hour, which usually was more like 45 minutes. He would have the boat hitched to the back of his pickup, the boat loaded with fishing gear, fried snacks, and a freshly stocked cooler of beer. I would load my gear and we would be off, often stopping for gas before heading north on Interstate 505 and through Winters and onto Lake Berryessa.

Here's Cliff Polland with a nice fish he caught while camping at Twin Lakes near Bridgeport, Calif. The photo was taken by Rick Roach.

There were times we would stopped in Winters to pickup Cliff Polland, a long-time Reporter employee, one of Rick’s photographers, and a friend. Cliff loved fishing and the outdoors. There were fishing rods and camping equipment in very nearly every corner of his Winters home. And watercolors on the walls of fish he had painted.

Rick and I were the ones who found Cliff one day after he succumbed to illness. He is missed to this day as a friend, co-worker and colleague, and fishing buddy.

Typically, we would troll for trout up and down the lower part of Lake Berryessa, drinking beer and smoking cigars, imploring the fish to find our hooks. Some days the fish would be teaming in the holding tank. Other days we returned to order pizza. Either way it was always a pretty good time – a bad day fishing is better than a good day working.

 Jack Daniels and stripers

Rick and I went striper bass fishing in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta one weekend and brought along a third party – Mr. Jack Daniels.

I’m not saying it was a mistake, mind you. We fished and caught some fish. And we drank some beer. And whiskey.

After sunset we made it back to Rick and Michele’s home for dinner and my girlfriend at the time said to us, as we stood swaying like tall trees and a gale wind, “Y’all are snockered! What did you have to drink.”

“Us? We’re not drunk,” says Rick.

“It snell outta da bloat,” says I, referring to the bottle that we didn’t have on the boat and didn’t drink (wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more, say no more). Yeah, “snell outta  da bloat.”

We kept to beer on subsequent fishing trips.

 ‘That’s on my instructional video’

 There is something to be said about fishing out The Gate for salmon.

A former colleague and her husband, Teri and Dick Gilmore, are cool people who happen to own a sailboat that for a time they moored in Emeryville, Calif.

And from time to time they invited friends onto their sailboat to motor out the San Francisco Bay, under the Golden Gate Bridge, through the Potato Patch, and into the Pacific Ocean to bob around fishing for salmon and other fish.

Given the motion of the ocean, as it were, medicine was taken to combat nausea, which can cause drowsiness. Once we were fishing, the water lapping onto the hull, some of us – OK, me – usually became a little drowsy. So, there were times I would lay back for a nape with my head against the mast and the fishing pole locked in my arms.

On one fishing trip, I was on my back with my head against the mast, nodding off a bit – nodding of quite a bit, actually – when the rod was very nearly jerked out of my arms.

“Um, um, fish on!” I managed to mumble.

Somehow I was able to hold onto my rod, gather my legs under me, and begin reeling in a nicely sized salmon. I was able to pull it up to the surface and someone on the boat dipped a net into the water to get under the fish.

“Get the fish in the basket,” Teri said. She wasn’t quite up with the terminology for fishing equipment known by most as a fish net.

The fish eventually made it into “the basket” and onto the sailboat.

Here Cliff Polland and I are hamming it up after returning victorious from a trip fishing from Teri and Dick Gilmore's sailboat. I'm not sure if it was on this trip that I perfected the napping approach to fishing or on another trip. Rick Roach took this photo on his front yard.

Rick had brought along a large dowel to rap the fish on the head to reduce suffering. He missed the first couple of times and then made contact, shattering the dowel. (I later bought a Louisville Slugger T-ball bat and with model paint inserted the word “fish” between the “Louisville” and “Slugger” and we carried that bat on Rick’s boat for years.)

I caught a second salmon using “my method” – nodding off, head against the mast, rod in my arms – and we began joking that I could put together an instructional video to teach it to other fishermen.

 Things I’ve missed

 I missed out on ocean fishing with Rick and Cliff – I never seemed to have the money – although the three of us did book fishing packages not too long before Cliff died. We had visited an outdoorsmen show in Sacramento and the packages were nicely priced.

We never got to use them. I don’t think Rick or I really wanted to go after Cliff died, although I seem to recall that the fishing guide kindly extended the period in which we could go fishing after learning of Cliff’s death.

And I missed out on an earlier fishing trip to Alaska. Rick and Cliff had a great time and brought back great fish and even more wonderful stories. I regret that now more than ever.

 No river runs through it, unfortunately

 I haven’t been fishing in years and I sometimes wonder why something that has a deep, long-lasting influence on me is not part of my life today. I wish I was more like the main character in “A River Runs Through It,” someone who continues to fish throughout his entire life.

I miss fishing. I still have most of the fishing equipment I thought it necessary to buy after Rick bought his boat. What I do not have here in Stockton, Calif., is probably still in a storage shed at Rick and Michele’s Vacaville home.

Stockton is an inland port and some might think it would be a prime place to fish, especially since big-time bass fishing tournaments are carried out here now.

But not so much. The Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta is like far too many places in this world now, polluted with the things people throw in the water or into the gutter, which eventually make it into the Delta. And now a lot of what can be caught here is contaminated with one mineral or another.

Even so, it might be time to drown a worm or two before too long.

Maine stuff in my California apartment No. 4

Some blueberry stuff in my California apartment -- Guzman’s Gourmet Blueberry Salsa, Captain Mowatt’s Blue Flame, and The New England Cupboard Blueberry Pancake Mix.

This is an occasional multipart series of photos of things related to Maine that can be found in my California apartment. Today’s photo is of some blueberry stuff in my California apartment — Guzman’s Gourmet Blueberry Salsa, Captain Mowatt’s Blue Flame, and The New England Cupboard Blueberry Pancake Mix. The items came to me in a Christmas package from my family in Maine. Christmas packages always contain Maine foods.

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Baggage claim is located on the grass next to the terminal

"Mars Hill Regional Airport" taken by Kelly McInnis. Reprinted with permission.

Here’s a photo shot by Kelly McInnis taken in Mars Hill, Maine. She slugged it “Mars Hill Regional Airport” because of the windsock and what appeared to be a grassy runway nearby. She says it might have been used for crop dusters and such.

Kelly, with whom I graduated from Ashland Community High School in 1980, gave me permission to publish the photo and I thank her very much. I wanted to share it to show off the incredibly blue sky and lush green grass of northern Maine.

Oh, and Kelly’s Maine wit, too. 🙂