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My name is Keith Michaud and this is “Letters From Away,” a blog written by a Mainer living outside the comfortable and sane confines of New England. The blog is intended for Mainers, whether they live in the Pine Tree State or beyond, and for anyone who has loved ’em, been baffled by ’em or both. Ayuh, I am “from away.” Worse still, I live on the Left Coast – in California. Enjoy! Or not. Your choice.
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- How Maine Became a Laboratory for the Future of Public Higher Ed | The Chronicle of Higher Education
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Tag Archives: canoe
UPTON — Aldro French peels off his shirt and saunters toward the edge of the aptly named Rapid River.
Kicking off his giant-sized, baby blue Crocs, he stands shin-deep in the water.
“I haven’t done this all summer,” says French with a slight grin, just before shallow-diving into the current.
French takes a few long, Australian-crawl swim strokes, pulling his head up once to look at the churning rapid below. He gives one strong scissors-kick, sliding head-first into the full force of the river’s current, arms forward, belly down like an otter.
French is barely visible as he shoots through the boiling turbulence and into a pool of slower-moving water below. He comes up slicking his silver hair back with his hand and smiling as he breast-strokes slowly to the side of the pool and the rock ledge leading to it.
A pair of helmeted and life-jacketed kayakers, who were playing in the whitewater, sit in their boats, nose clips on, watching. They shrug at each other as if to say, “What was that?”
French, 68, has lived on the Rapid River for 52 years. The waterway is literally in his backyard, and each bend and rapid are as familiar to him as an old friend’s face. He is the curator and caretaker of Forest Lodge. The lodge was the home of author Louise Dickinson Rich and the inspiration for her novel “We Took to the Woods.”
On the National Register of Historic Places, it is one of dozens of sites along the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.
Click on the link for the rest of this story by Scott Thistle in the Lewiston Sun Journal.
Today’s DownEast.com trivia question is fun. It is about “unorganized territory” or UT. I used to camp, fish, and canoe in some of that UT. It is essentially and specifically and eternally Maine.
What is “unorganized territory” and how much of it does Maine have?
The UT is land outside the boundaries of organized towns or cities, and is predominately found in the sparsely populated North Woods. The UT includes 16,250 square miles, or some 10.4 million acres, of the state’s 30,862 square miles, more than half the state.
FRYEBURG – Maine Registered Guide Fred Westerberg is in no hurry to get his canoes and kayaks on the river.
It may be costing him money in the pocket, but he’s been around the Saco River long enough to know you don’t rush Mother Nature.
“This is an outdoor business. You rely on the weather. It’s the chance you take. You don’t cry about it,” Westerberg said as he and his wife Prudy and their daughter Beth began cleaning up their Saco River Canoe & Kayak store on Main Street during a sunny, 80-plus degree day.
If it were a month or two later, he would be fielding calls from hundreds of people wanting to rent one of his canoes and kayaks that go out as many as 160 times during a summer weekend. But Westerberg, an Auburn native who opened up the canoe business in 1972 with his wife, is satisfied to wait it out.
When I was a kid – I don’t remember how old exactly – my family and my Uncle Wally’s family loaded up canoes on various mode of land vehicle and we drove to north central Maine and camped near the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, of which the Allagash is the central component. The next day, we put in canoes and we paddled out way north – the Allagash flows northward – for nearly a week of paddling along the waterway.
DownEast.com today had a trivia question about the length of the waterway and I was surprised at the answer. It seemed a little short, from what I remember of that trip. But then again, I was a youngster sitting in the back of a canoe. It was a pretty sweet adventure.
As I recall, we had to pick up the pace a bit about midway. A Maine game warden caught up with us to tell us that a relative of my father had died. He wanted to make the funeral services so we paddled double-time after we got the word.
Here’s the question and answer.
How long is the Allagash Wilderness Waterway?
Ninety-two miles in northern Piscataquis and western Aroostook counties.
Trust me, it seemed much longer than 92 miles.
I really should love the Winter Olympics. After all, I grew up in snowy, wintery Maine where winter sports lasted longer in the year than summer sports. Remember, three seasons there – winter, mud and July.
But not so much.
I couldn’t even get into it after a Maine kid, Seth Wescott, defended his Olympic gold medal by winning the cross-snowboarding competition. I still couldn’t get into it after Hannah Kearney, Lindsey Vonn, Julia Mancuso, Shannon Bahrke, Apolo Anton Ohno, Shani Davis, Chad Hedrick, Shaun White, Bode Miller, and more all picked up medals.
And I really don’t care about the medal count. The Cold War is over. There doesn’t seem much point in waging a Gold War.
As a kid I did frolic in the snow. I did a fair amount of tobogganing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling. I even ice skated for a while as a child, but I grew tired of falling on my bum. More than once while skating at the rink near the artisan well at the south end of Portage Lake did my feet come out from under me, landing me quite squarely on my tail bone. OK, “tail bone” is not the medical name for that remnant of an ancient tail, but you know exactly what I mean. And I mostly enjoyed the tobogganing, skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and, yes, even the ice skating.
There is no feeling of peace and aloneness quite like the one experienced after skiing or snowshoeing into the forest miles from civilization to stand and hear the bitterly cold wind blow through the tops of tall conifers and white birches. There you hear the heavy plop, plop, plop sound of snow being dislodged from branches and falling to the snow-covered ground below. It is so peaceful, so alone and so “quiet” by city standards that even the creatures of childhood stories, stories of boogeymen and headless woodsmen, come back to life just a tiny bit.
It was a time that I truly enjoyed the Winter Olympics. I remember rather vividly watching TV coverage of the Miracle On Ice. I recall watching the bobsled competition, the ski jumping and other winter sports, but nothing really took hold for me.
I remember in junior high school participating in winter carnival events – snowshoeing, speed skating, tobogganing – but no winter sport really took hold for me.
In the winter, I played high school basketball for the junior varsity and later varsity teams, and on the weekends I snowmobiled on or around Portage Lake or cross-country ski on some of the snowmobile trails in the forest behind my home on the hill overlooking the lake.
But nothing takes hold for me during these Winter Games in Vancouver. Granted, I watched in envy and awe at the women’s mogul competition in which two Americans and a Canadian stood to receive medals. And I watched a bit of the luge competition. The death of the competitor earlier in the week made it a morbid necessity, I suppose. And I watched a bit of Ohno racing and Vonn rocketing
I was born in Maine about as far north as you can go in this country, to be truthful, but I was born at about the summer solstice. I blame timing and the summer solstice, then, for not being a more enthusiastic cross-country skier or luger or hockey player.
As a child, I loved late spring and summer, running through the fields of wildflowers and mustard plants and into the forest, many times following the trails that had been cut for snowmobiles. All summer long I would play baseball, soccer, golf and rode a bicycle. And when I was not doing that, I was paddling a canoe, sailing a small sailboat or swimming in the cool Portage Lake. All the while, longing for the summer to last just one more day, one more week, one more month.
It doesn’t make me un-American to not care about the Winter Olympics. That might be akin to calling someone un-American for not liking baseball and failing to watch the World Series or someone not liking American football and not watching the Super Bowl.
Maybe next time I will strive to overcome my summer solstice-induced apathy toward winter sports and watch the coverage. Maybe.
The thing about trivia, of course, is that there are times when you simply do not know the answer to a question. That day is today – and almost any other day, for that matter.
Of course, given that I pick questions from DownEast.com’s trivia treasure trove, the answers almost always have a very clear Maine connection.
And in a way, today’s DownEast.com trivia question is a twofer – two questions for the price of one answer.
Where was the extension ladder invented?
Bangor. The Queen City is also the birthplace of the canvas-covered canoe.
I don’t recall if I ever owned an extension ladder, but I did own a canvas-covered canoe when I was a kid. It was built by a Canadian Indian from Quebec. I couldn’t get it out to California when I decided to remain, so I ended up selling it to John Robertson, of whom I wrote the other day. Given his skill, that canoe may still be cruising Maine waters.