Tag Archives: camping

Rainfall washes away much – just not memories

Rain showers soaked much of Northern California the other day. It was not enough to cause serious problems beyond localized street flooding, but it was a nice, steady, wet change of pace for a region that regularly sees summertime temperatures above 100 degrees.

The showers washed away dust and soot and grime and brought with it that cleansing smell that comes with the first real rainfall of the year, the smell that reminds us of childhood things. It permeated the air for much of the day.

It was nice.

It was refreshing.

And beyond the gray skies, it was illuminating.

Stockton needs a good washing from time to time. Stockton is a dusty, crusty, musty city and dusty, crusty, musty cities need washing on a regular basis. Otherwise, they turn to dry silt and blow away on the winds of indifference.

The water gurgled through the drainpipe just outside an opened balcony door and the sound of raindrops hitting the leaves just beyond was audible. A ping, ping, ping came from the stove vent as the drops crashed onto the vent’s hood on the roof.

Cars splashed by up and down the street. With ample time since the last major rainfall, oil and dirt had built up on the street surface. California drivers very likely had forgotten that the water from first real rainfall of the year loosens that oil and dirt from the street, causing slippery driving conditions.

And many people abandoned outdoor adventures for the comfort of homes and HD televisions and the National Football League or a movie classic.

The rain reminded me of my childhood spent in the North Woods of Maine. Why wouldn’t it? Mark Twain – or someone else – wrote about the weather:

“If don’t like the weather in New England, wait 15 minutes. It’ll change.”

Or something similar, at least.

The point is that New England weather – especially in Maine – is a fickle thing and occasionally a very harsh thing.

In the North Woods of Maine there is plenty of precipitation and there is much time spent bundled up against the weather – rain, sleet, wind, snow, and more snow. As a child growing up in Aroostook County, it seemed that rain came nearly any time of the year, even in winter if it was warm enough to turn snow and ice to sleet and then rain.

Despite being well-suited for the weather, Mainers make a sport of grumbling about it. If it rains too much, it’s bad. If it rains too little, it’s bad. If the wind blows, curses!

But we worked in it and we played in it and the forest grew green because of it. And rivers flowed and lakes rose because of it.

And the National Weather Service and the local weathermen – they were all weathermen then – were slandered and their manhood questioned whether their daily weather prognostications were correct or not.

I recall a childhood memory in which my mother is driving my sister and me north to Eagle Lake or Fort Kent or Saint Francis to visit family. Outside the very bright red Chevrolet Cheville it is raining – the windshield wipers slapping back and forth and the wheels splashing along the roadway. My sister and I are arguing over which of us will be Mom’s “co-pilot” on the trip north, along the way imagining that the car is a plane and the ornamental buttons on the passenger door and dashboard are plane controls.

Truly, neither my sister nor I were “pilots” of any kind; at the time, our young legs could not reach the car’s floorboards.

Later on, in a newer memory, I recall camping on the shores of Perch Pond with the rain coming down hard for what seemed like days. Part of the memory includes playing games in the Cormier’s sprawling family tent, part of it includes being perpetually damp, part of it recalls the thin thudding sound the raindrops made as they hit the canvas tents, part of it recalls the heavy, clinging, soaked clothing.

A memory from about the same time recalls a trip into the woods to pick fiddleheads, raindrops hitting the hood of a windbreaker I wore for the trek into the woods not far from Portage Lake. The forest was drenched. Each step brushing against the ferns and grass and small trees brought an even more thorough drenching, soaking shoes and socks and pant legs and the human legs under those pant legs.

I remember watching the splash the drops made – millions upon millions of them – in the nearby river and the sound of the drops slapping the trees above and the accumulated water tumbling from saturated leaves to the saturated ground beneath. It seemed prehistoric.

Still later, while in high school, we practiced soccer in the rain – and occasionally in the snow. The rain then did not seem to cleanse things, but to make them simply sodden and muddy and heavy from the weight of the water. Soccer shoes and socks became heavy, sweatpants and sweatshirts clung to shivering teen boys, and baseball caps worn in practice and on the sideline in a futile attempt to ward off the rain became soaked. Water and mud and grass stains infused in the clothing and the body by the rainfall.

Other memories of New England rain abound, of course, because rain is so much a part of the history of the place – the forest and the land and the water and the air – and of the people.

But rain washes away dirt and grime and occasionally flushes away things made by man and Mother Nature, but rarely does it wash away memories.

After all, memories are merely refreshed by a good rainfall on a fall day.

European nations approve Appalachian Trail extension | Bangor Daily News

AUGUSTA, Maine — The North American leg of the International Appalachian hiking trail got a major boost Thursday as chapters in several European countries endorsed the project, which promises to become the world’s largest trail network.

Trail clubs in Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, England, Ireland and Wales formally joined the International Appalachian Trail during a meeting in Aviemore, Scotland, IAT officials said.

The IAT is an extension of the Appalachian Trail, which extends from northern Maine to northern Georgia along the Appalachian Mountains. The IAT begins near Maine’s Mount Katahdin and extends through eastern Canadian provinces. Hikers can continue on the IAT by crossing the Atlantic Ocean by boat or plane and picking it up in Greenland and Iceland, IAT officials said.

“By joining, they [the international chapters] will set up a trail in their territory,” IAT geologist Walter Anderson said. “Now we have jumped the pond.”

Click for the rest of the story by Glen Adams of The Associated Press in the Bangor Daily News.


New camper fulfills stricken boy’s wish | The Morning Sentinel, Waterville, ME

New camper fulfills stricken boy’s wish | The Morning Sentinel, Waterville, ME.

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.

Camp!/Swim!/Hike! | DownEast.com

When Maine’s state park system was created by the legislature in 1935, it consisted of a single area of land. Since then, it has grown to more than forty diverse properties, from ocean and lake beaches to picnic areas and campgrounds to trail-laced mountains and lush forests. To celebrate the state parks’ seventy-fifth anniversary and to guide you to the place that suits your mood, here’s a play list — play as in walk, boat, swim, and splash. These suggestions are somewhat whimsical. Most parks are, after all, destinations for many different kinds of activities, not just the ones highlighted here. Find out more about an individual park’s natural features and facilities at the Maine Department of Conservation’s Bureau of Parks and Lands Web site, www.maine.gov/doc/parks, or call the bureau at 207-287-3821 and ask for a brochure.

Click for the rest of this piece by Virginia Wright in Down East Magazine.

Summer tradition at East Orland lodge offers magical experience for campers | Bangor Daily News

Back in the summers of 1962 and 1963, Bob Mercer signed on as a counselor at a boys camp in East Orland called Flying Moose Lodge.

For two summers, he led excursions into the wilds of Maine, from Baxter State Park to the Allagash to the Appalachian Trail.

After two years, he left Flying Moose Lodge.But Flying Moose Lodge never left him.

“There’s an ambiance about the place,” Mercer, a Bucksport resident, said earlier this week, revisiting his old stomping grounds as another season’s Flying Moosers (“strong and husky, here we gather, tanned and dusky,” according to a popular camp song) went about their daily business. “There’s a feeling that when you walk down the path, the world ended at the public beach, and this is a whole different world here. After 40 years, it still feels the same.”

Click the link for the rest of this story by John Holyoke in the Bangor Daily News.

 Flying Moose Lodge

Where: On Craig Pond, East Orland

What: A trip-focused summer camp for boys

When: Seven weeks each summer since 1921 (with a hiatus during World War II)

Who: Owned and directed by Chris and Shelly Price

How to get in touch: Go to www.flyingmooselodge.com for more information.

On Mount Katahdin, sharing a family tradition| Bangor Daily News

On Mount Katahdin, sharing a family tradition| Bangor Daily News

Program helps Mainers become First Time Campers

First time campers relish home comforts | Lewiston Sun Journal

Raffle winner pitches first camp in Camden Hills | Bangor Daily News

To learn more about the state parks, visit the Maine Department of Conservation website at: www.maine.gov/doc.

Nateva: Jammin’ Oxford County | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Nateva: Jammin’ Oxford County | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

For more on the festival: www.natevafestival.com

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.

Keith’s ride, Part 8: So far, the road ends with a Honda CRV

[This is the eighth of eight or so blog entries on the cars and other vehicles I have driven. So far. It may or may not be of interest. Enjoy. Or not. It’s your choice. – KM]

Isn’t it always the way. You start a project and something gets in the way – job search, reading, laundry, and just plain distraction and procrastination.

I’ve been trying to finish off this series of blogs on the vehicles that I’ve driven over the years and there seems to be something in the way each time I sit down to write. I do want to finish off the series, especially since I’m so close to the end. So far, anyway.

But, frankly, I’m not sure it was worth the wait.

Despite that, here it is in all its glory.

* * *

I was disappointed when I lost the Rodeo in the crash. I liked it well enough, it was dependable, it provided some presence and power on the road compared to my previous rides, and I hadn’t been forced to spend that much time and money on maintenance and repair.

Granted, the gas mileage was not great with the Rodeo and over the years I had become more concerned with what the Rodeo and vehicles like it were doing to the environment. I was feeling guilty and a bit embarrassed that I was contributing to a problem that we can no longer ignore. Every little bit done to reduce those emissions will help.

Despite that guilt and embarrassment, I had planned to drive the Rodeo for at least another year before looking for a new ride. I had been trying to pay down some credit card bills and I wanted to direct my money toward that and not toward a new vehicle just yet.

But, alas, it was not meant to be.

Stockton’s mass transit system got me around for a couple of weeks after I lost the Rodeo, but that got old pretty quickly.

* * *

A friend in Vacaville who works with several auto dealerships there tracked down a deal for me on a lease of a 2008 Honda CRV. She had been driving an older version of the model and loved it.

I had always liked the looks of the Honda CRV and the Toyota RAV4, but I could never afford the popular vehicles. They are fairly compact, yet the driver and passengers sit fairly high for better visibility. They were both stylish and dependable, notwithstanding Toyota’s most recent cataclysmic problems.

Honda always seems to hold one of the stop spots in customer satisfaction surveys so I figured I would not be disappointed. And to this point I have not been.

Picking up the CRV was a bit bothersome, I suppose, because the dealership had limited color selection in the model I could afford. Remember, this was before the ugly economy came crashing down around all our heads. People were buying cars, especially brands like Honda, so I knew that getting the color I wanted was going to be hit-and-miss.

I waited at the dealership three hours or so after signing the paperwork, because a dealership employee had to drive to Sacramento to trade a CRV with one at a dealership there for one that was the proper color, sort of a metallic blue. The wait was worth it to get my first ever “new” vehicle. Each of my previous rides had been used vehicles.

On the good side, the dealership took care of returning my rental car, which was nice of them. And the deal was and is pretty good.

After finally getting the CRV, I drove it to my friend’s home in central Vacaville so she and her husband could give it a lookover. They liked it enough to offer me dinner. Well, they probably would have offered me dinner even if they hadn’t liked it.

I believe it was the following day that I first drove it to work and parked under the Crosstown Freeway parking structure across the street from The Record building. I was a touch nervous leaving it out there since The Record is not in the best neighborhood, but it was going to be daylight soon enough and the guard shack for The Record was just across the street.

Later that day or within in a few days – the memory fades soo quickly – we heard scanner traffic in the newsroom that the van belonging to an accused child molester had been spotted on a levy road pullout west of north Stockton, a place where local police are called often because of dumped stolen vehicles. I drove the CRV out to check out the report. It was nice to be driving my own vehicle again after having been forced to drive The Record’s fleet vehicles.

It was a nice day for a ride – sunny, but not too hot, which are rare days in California’s Central Valley in the spring, summer and fall months. Typically, the sun bakes the valley floor and those who dare to tread on it.

The reason for the ride was not so great – chasing down an accused child molester.

Every law enforcement officer and half the reporters in the county were looking for the guy. I seem to recall that someone at a nearby restaurant or a passing boater had reported the van, thinking it had been abandoned. So, it wasn’t a surprise that when I arrived there were at least a San Joaquin County Sheriff’s deputy or two and an equal number of California Highway Patrol officers.

It didn’t take long to learn that the accused child molester had killed himself in his van parked in a turnout at the end of the levy road. Of course, we couldn’t see that from where the police kept the media, but that is just as well. I’m never in the hurry to see brain matter splattered all over the inside of a van.

* * *

There have been far, far more trips in the CRV that were positive and pleasant, trust me. It must have been a few weeks later that trip to the levy road that I took my first real roadtrip in the CRV. Friends and I have been going to this same campground in the Sierra Nevada for the past 20 years or so for long Memorial Day weekends. Actually, the friend who helped me get the deal on the CRV has family living in the area so she’s been going up there all her life.

For some reason, one lost from my porous memory, I was unable to make the extended part of the trip. But I figured I could drive up for at least part of a day.

I took off from Stockton much later than I had planned, which was a bit of a miscalculation since I decided to use a loop that I had mostly not driven before.

I headed out of Stockton on Highway 4, a mostly two-lane ribbon of asphalt – sorry for the cliché description of a plain, old road – and into the Sierra Nevada. Up in to the mountains and through towns such as Cooperopolis, Murphys, Arnold and the Calaveras Big Trees State Park, Dorrington, Lake Alpine, and over Ebbets Pass. It is a truly beautiful winding road through some very scenic trees, mountains and valleys.

After going along the East Fork of the Carson River for a while, I turned onto state Highway 89 and up and over Monitor Pass. It is another beautiful and scenic stretch of road that goes up and over Monitor Pass into a valley where the West Walker River flows. I then took U.S. Highway 395 south – through or near places such as Coleville, Walker, Topaz Lake – to Bridgeport, a lovely and historic ranching community.

I turned onto Twin Lakes Road and to Annette’s Mono Village. The place is set back on the eastern short of the upper of two lakes. In many ways, it fits what I imagine a ’50s-style camping resort looked like, with a log cabin for a restaurant and bar, regular barbecues for guests and other family friendly events, and a place to buy bait and beer. There are areas for tent campers and various areas for campers with travel trailers and RVs, and there are lodges and motel-style rooms.

From the campsite you can hike into the Hoover Wilderness located in the Inyo and Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forests. Trailheads located in Virginia Creek, Green Creek, Robinson Creek, Buckeye Creek, and the Little Walker River provide access to trails within the Hoover Wilderness.

This is the U.S. Forest Service’s rather conserve description of the Hoover Wilderness:

“Bordering Yosemite National Park along the Pacific Crest and falling away to the Great Basin to the east, the Hoover Wilderness is a spectacular piece of the Sierras. Soaring peaks, glistening lakes and lush meadows are just some of its awesome spectacles. The headwaters of the East Walker River can also be found in the creeks of the Hoover Wilderness.”

It is much, much more beautiful than that.

Bodie State Historical Park, Mono Lake, and Mammoth Lakes are within easy driving from Bridgeport, as are other scenic areas.

But this roadtrip did not include hiking, visiting ghost towns, or visiting lakes, briny or otherwise. I was here for a very quick visit, but it was the trip itself that was the goal.

With a touch of envy, I hiked from the parking lot of Annette’s Mono Village to the “usual spot.” For years, we had selected the same spot to camp, one slightly uphill from restrooms and shower facilities – yeah, I know it isn’t exactly roughin’ it – in the shadows of jagged mountains and a huge dead sugar pine. That’s where I found the usual suspects and I hung out for a while visiting with friends that I usually see only on this annual trip.

But I didn’t stay too long, despite every effort by my friends to persuade me to stay overnight. I wanted to complete the loop and get back to my own bed. I had taken off from Stockton much later than I had wanted and the trip up into the Sierra had taken quite a bit longer than I had anticipated, so I needed to get back on the road.

For the return portion of the trip I turned off just shy of an old California Department of Transportation yard onto state Highway 108, also known as the Sonora Pass Highway, which took me near the U.S. Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center. I have a feeling the men and women assigned to the facility were getting a much needed and much appreciated holiday weekend barbecue – I could see the smoke and smell what had to be delicious burgers and dogs. And long lines of marines lining up for chow.

Soon after passing the base, I began the steep, winding incline. It is an incredibly beautiful, scenic and dangerous road, made more hazardous when drivers of oncoming vehicles attempt to take their half of the road from the middle, which happened several times.

But the trip through the Sierra was well worth it. There are few places quite like the Sierra Nevada for raw scenic beauty.

This leg of the trip took me through the Sonora Pass and down into or near the Sierra and Mother Lode communities of Dardanell, Wagner, Cow Creek, Bumblebee, Strawberry, Cold Springs, Long Barn, Sylvan Lodge, Mi-Wuk Village, Confidence, Twain Harte, and Sonora. Then it was onto state Highway 49 – yep, Highway 49, as in 49ers, in Mother Lode gold country – to Angels Camp and then state Highway 4 through Cooperopolis and back into Stockton. It was a long day.

* * *

I took several shorter roadtrips after that, usually involving meeting a friend for golf or simply to stretch my legs, as it were.

Those trips ended about a year ago, unfortunately. I could no longer justify the cost of such trips after I was laid off. I do so very much look forward to more trips in the future once I find a new job and get back on my feet financially.

OK, the bottom line is that the Honda CRV is not a particularly sexy ride. But it is practical, gets great gas mileage, is an ultra-low fuel emissions vehicle, and is, well, a Honda. I am happy with the CRV, at least for now.

See you on the road.

Rides of My Life … so far

Part 1: Jeep Commando

Part 2: VW Bug

Part 3: Dodge Duster

Part 4: Chevrolet Caprice Classic

Part 5: Nissan pickup

Part 6: Suzuki Sidekick

Part 7: Isuzu Rodeo

Part 8: Honda CRV

Bookmark and Share