Tag Archives: Portage

Returning to my roots – the great outdoors


Hiking a low mountain in Maine to California redwoods


“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” – John Muir, 1901

Growing up in rural Northern Maine, I was outdoors more than in. It was the thing to do. Camping, hiking, swimming, fishing, canoeing, sailing and more in the summer.

During the winters I was still outdoors – snowmobiling, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing – but spent a bit more time indoors. After all, it was winter in the deep, dark North Woods of Maine and being inside was about survival. I’m not completely crazy.

Behind my childhood home on the hill overlooking Portage Lake and the small town of Portage was a now-feral hay field and beyond that was a mountain. Not much more than a hill, really, especially by the standards of the Sierra Nevada or Rocky Mountains. It was no Mount Shasta or Mount Whiney. Just a plain, low mountain, ancient and worn, and covered with soft and hardwoods. More ancient than the Sierra or even the Rockies, I seem to recall. Just worn down over time. But in my youth it was a place for adventure and play and escape, with no limits to childhood imagination.

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From that field and mountain, I imagined exploring African jungles and Australian outback. I survived and thrived on countless imaginary deserted islands and roamed the American West ridding it of outlaws. From that spot in Northern Maine, my imagination allowed me to explore the world, rescue heroines and the underdog, and rid the world of the Nazi scourge. In my imagination, at least.

But there are times to imagine and there are times to simply do. I climbed all over that mountain in my backyard and countless others over the years. After a period of aimlessness at University of Southern Maine, I went to Chico State on National Student Exchange. I went for a semester … years ago. And I simply stayed.

Chico was nicely located for outdoor activity – close to hiking, camping and water sports, big on the bicycle culture. The only thing Chico is missing is the ocean. Sea and surf and salt air would have been wonderful there. It was also close to the Sierra Nevada.

But during the first holiday weekend I was in Chico, a group of NSE students and I took a road trip in the opposite direction as the Sierra. Instead we went to Crescent City along the North Coast, stopping to hike among the towering redwoods and along stony beaches. Later I worked as a wildlife firefighter for three summers, putting me deep into the outdoors, sometimes hiking and working in protected wilderness few people get to see ever.

Landing in Vacaville after working at a series of small newspapers, Lagoon Valley Regional Park and Rockville Regional Park were good places to stretch my hiking legs. Muir Woods National Monument in Mill Valley was another favorite place to lace up my boots and simply walk among the trees.

Being outside and hiking have been my life.

Until a couple of years ago, that is. I combination of a knee injury and series of girlfriends who did not share my love for the outdoors limited my exploration. Even limited my adult imagination, I suppose. I did not go to the forest and mountains for far too long. I should have visited the doctor sooner to work to mend the knee and left those disinterested girlfriends behind to go to the forest and mountains. I did neither.

But time passes and knees mend. Thought of disinterested girlfriends fade quickly. I’m back to hiking. And I’m loving it again, just like I always did.

The latest hike last weekend took me to Calaveras Big Trees State Park for the South Grove Trail. And, yes, there are very big trees in the Calaveras Big Trees State Park – giant sequoias, ponderosa pines, sugar pines, incense cedars and white fir, with Pacific dogwoods, leopard lily, Hartweg’s iris, crimson columbine and more. The foliage was passed peak when I hiked the South Grove Trail and the Bradley Grove Trail, about 10 miles of hiking. But I will go back to hike a few other trails.

I plan to hike for decades to come. On the Bradley trail, I ran into two couples and they all must have been in their 80s and there they were hiking. A lifetime of activity means a life worth living.

I’m glad I’m back to hiking. It has been a part of my life since I was a small child climbing that low mountain. It’s part of me. It always was. It always will be.

“The mountains are calling and I must go.” – John Muir

Vietnam veteran installs flags across hometown of Ashland | Presque Isle Star-Herald via The Bangor Daily News

Vietnam veteran installs flags across hometown of Ashland | Presque Isle Star-Herald via The Bangor Daily News

Portage to Quebec caravan plans in the works | Presque Isle Star-Herald via Bangor Daily News

Quebec Caravan plans in the works | Bangor Daily News.

Portage Lake axes indicate trade link | Bangor Daily News

[This is a cool story for those who know Portage and Portage Lake. Of course, “portage” is the French word used for the act of carrying a canoe or other boat overland, which would happen when travelers had to move from one body of water to another. This is where I grew up. Jim Dumond was a longtime game warden in the area and I believe owned Dean’s Motor Lodge for a while. And the Gagnon name is a very familiar one in Portage. It will be interesting to see just how far back they can track these artifacts and if there are any more there. — KM]

PORTAGE, Maine — Every object passing through a person’s hands has a story to tell.

Sometimes those stories are centuries in the making and take years to tell themselves. Just ask Jim Dumond and Antoine Gagnon of Portage whose story of trade between two nations and two hand-forged axes dates back to the mid-1600s.

The axes initially were discovered in the 1950s on a piece of land known locally as Indian Point on the banks of Portage Lake.

“My grandfather Fred Cliff was clearing some land in between two camps, and the fellow he hired to pull stumps turned over some dirt and there were these old iron axes,” Fred Edgecombe of Kure Beach, N.C., said during a phone interview Saturday.

Now retired, Edgecombe owns one of those camps and has one of the axes.

“In the late 1970s my cousin got the larger of the two axes and I got the smaller one, and we’ve been sitting on them ever since,” Edgecombe said. “Nobody had much of an interest in them and all of sudden, it’s like, ‘Wow, people are interested.’”

In fact, Dumond and Gagnon are very interested in the axes and what they represent.

Last summer the two men got a good look at the old tools and, thanks to some intensive research on the Internet, were able to match the symbols on the blades, indicating they had been crafted from iron ore mined in Spain around 1640.

“These trade axes are just awesome,” Gagnon said. “They looked like a metal hatchet, [and] on the sides were stamped a cross within a circle.”

According to Dumond and Gagnon, the trade axes — so called because French and British trappers and colonists traded them for furs with the area’s Native American residents — probably found their way to northern Maine thanks to the Acadians who came to Maine around that time.

Both men say they have Acadian and Native roots in their family genealogies and are fascinated by what the blades represent.

Click for the rest of the story by Julia Bayly in the Bangor Daily News.


The secret of Secret Rock is no secret at all — local lore

It must be the triple-digit temperatures that regularly hang over the San Joaquin Valley like a hammer against white hot steel just pulled from the forge.

Or perhaps it is because I was born on the first day of summer, the longest day of the year, the summer solstice.

Or perhaps it is because I grew up in the frigid expanse of the Deep Dark North Woods of Maine and it will take a lifetime – or longer – for all of me to thaw.

It really doesn’t matter. I’ve been thinking about summer quite a bit lately. More specifically, I’ve been thinking about the summers of my youth. And local lore.

Even before teachers started talking about summer reading lists and vacations of which they so longingly and protectively spoke – they always seemed to have a look in their eyes that spoke of the anguish that came with the long, long academic year – it was time to crank up Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out.”

In case you forgot, here are the lyrics to that lovely tune.

Well we got no choice

All the girls and boys

Makin’ all that noise

’Cause they found new toys

Well we can’t salute ya

Can’t find a flag

If that don’t suit ya

That’s a drag

School’s out for summer

School’s out forever

School’s been blown to pieces


And so on.

But there was much more to the summer than sitting around listening to a man named Alice.

Sure, there were summer jobs and chores and that sort of thing. Summer school for some; summer camp for others.

And, occasionally, the dreaded family vacation. Being cooped up in a car for hours upon hours was no way to spend a summer vacation.

But there was so much more about summer than those things.

There were pickup games of baseball and basketball. There was golf. There was swimming and canoeing and sailing. There were barbecues. There were Red Sox games on the black and white TV. And more.

There is something special – mystical, even – about those summer days of youth. Days of personal and community lore, if nothing else.

Portage Lake is nestled among hills and mountains of central Aroostook County. State Route 11 winds its way from the south over a hill and down into the flatland where rests the town – Dean’s Motor Lodge, Coffin’s General Store, the post office, a few more businesses, and homes for several hundred residents.

Except for the public beach, the seaplane base, and the Forest Service facility, year-round homes and vacation cabins are sprinkled on the wooded hills and flats that make up the shore of Portage Lake.

The ancient hills for the most part are gentle and worn down over millions of years of shifting plates, pounding rains, persistent winds, and – a late-comer to the wear and tear – man and machine.

A contrast is an outcropping of earth and rock – very probably New England granite – that overlooks the water and town from just east of the lake.

Every community has lore. Some of it is good. Some of it is not so good. Some of it is simply neutral. Local lore many times sprouts from older children trying to impress younger children, the local lore that includes stories to scare younger children. It’s the lore passed down from generation to generation to generation of the people who are born, live and die in such places as this.

Part of the lore of Portage is a slab of stone known among generations of Portage school-age children as Secret Rock.

There was never any treasure or tragedy associated with Secret Rock, at least none that I recall these many years since. No pirates or other scallywags buried booty near Secret Rock. And no love-struck, lovesick couple ever took a plunge from Secret Rock.

There were no frightful creatures hiding in the cracks and crevices of the quartz-injected granite, no monsters hiding in the nearby forest. It was simply a rock, a rock not much larger than a tennis court, as I recall.

Frankly, there wasn’t much “secret” about Secret Rock. I could see Secret Rock from my childhood home, especially in fall and winter when the trees were free of leaves. And there were times when ant-size figures could be spied crawling up the face of the steep trail that led to Secret Rock.

Perhaps the secret was the one most children kept from their parents when it came to potential peril. After all, the trail up to Secret Rock was steep and children of a certain age did not tag along because they could not make the climb.

The climb also could not be made in winter. Snow and ice covered the rock and the trail leading up to it.

Climbing to Secret Rock was a summertime activity.

But it was the lore of the land and climbing the slope to Secret Rock was a rite of passage for generations of Portage Lake children.

Not far beyond the rock – at least, not far as I can recall – was another steep climb and the road that led to the local golf course with its holes set out along the hills just beyond the town.

It was an adventure for children to climb to Secret Rock and not much of an added strain to continue on to Portage Hills Country Club.

We all need local lore.

It is part of regional lore and national lore and global lore. It helps bind us a community. It solidifies shared memories of our youth. It gives us a common ground and reminds us that our differences, no matter how massive, how divisive, can never defeat us if we hold to local lore and all that it represents.

We all need local lore. We all need our Secret Rocks.

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I was born in the friendliest town in Maine

It’s always nice to be considered the “friendliest” person on the block. It may be even more compelling to be from the friendliest town in a state.

Well, I’m not from that town, but I was born there. I was born in a hospital that was on a hill overlooking the river that served as the U.S.-Canada border as it flowed through Fort Kent, Maine, one of two cities in the Pine Tree State to claim the title of “The Friendliest Town in Maine.” The other is Wells, on the coast.

At least, that’s according to the DownEast.com trivia question today.

What two towns both lay claim to the title “The Friendliest Town in Maine?”


Fort Kent and Wells

Fort Kent is the city in which my parents went to high school, as I recall, and pretty much was the center of my early years. I recall driving from Portage to Fort Kent to visit relatives and friends and for family functions, to shop, and for medical care – dentist, doctor, and optometrist.

And while our family visited Wells when I was a child and we had a very lovely stay, I do have relatives living in Fort Kent to this day and I most certainly have to give Fort Kent the edge when it comes to friendliness.

Well, perhaps not the agents at the border crossing. They’re not always that friendly.

This Maine native just can’t get into the Winter Games

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.

Decline of white-tailed deer more than just about coyotes, bears

George Smith yesterday again wrote in his DownEast.com blog about the decline of white-tailed deer in northern Maine.

It appears unscrupulous landowners may be just as to blame for the drastic decline of deer as are back-to-back harsh winters and predators such as coyotes and bears. (I blogged about a Chamber of Commerce in Maine that had promoted a tournament for killing coyotes. That shows the level of frustration in the region.)

Personally, one of the more stark passages in the blog read:

At some northern Maine game registration stations, more bear than deer or moose were tagged. For example, the Fish River station registered forty-seven bears, twenty-three moose, and just four deer. The Portage station tagged ninety-two deer in 2007, thirty-one deer in 2008, but only nine deer this year.

I’m pretty certain the “Portage station” is Coffin’s General Store, of which I have written before. The Mom occasionally helps out at the store and she told me in the fall that kill numbers had dropped off drastically, but 92 to nine in just two years is terrible on so many levels.

For those who are non-hunters or anti-hunting, annual deer hunting is significant to the life and livelihood of Mainers. It is a rite of passage for youngsters in which responsibility, gun safety, and an appreciation for the outdoors are taught. It also is a significant economic component for rural and remote areas of the state where unemployment historically has been high. Hunting camps and other lodging, restaurants, gas stations, guides, taxidermist and more feel the pain in a poor hunting season.

Smith writes about the loss of wintering habitat for deer and how a land sale and swap ended up costing the state some of that habitiat.

Smith, the blog’s author, lives in Mount Vernon and is described as “a columnist, TV show host, executive director of the state’s largest sportsmen’s organization, political and public policy consultant, hunter, angler, and avid birder and most proud of his three children and grandson.” He knows that of which he writes.

Click this link to go to George’s Outdoor News blog.

Officials say ice still thin on Maine lakes

Car parked on frozen Portage Lake.

A car parked on a frozen Portage Lake in Aroostook County can be seen in the left third of the photo. It is unclear what year the photo was taken, but it was taken from the parking lot of the public beach.

 I grew up in Portage in Aroostook County, which is located on Portage Lake. Every winter we would skate, snowmobile and cross-country ski on the frozen ice. I never did it – because it always seemed too darn cold – but others would haul ice shacks onto the ice every year to fish. 

It was a part of life living in the Great Deep Dark North Woods of Maine. And it seemed every year or so someone would fall through the ice, usually while riding a snowmobile or driving a vehicle on the ice.

And the highlight of the spring was the “ice-out contest.” Yep, a local fundraiser where you buy a ticket betting on the time and day that the ice would be “out,” which I believe was determined by whether or not the local game warden could pilot a boat pretty much from end to end of the lake without being impeded by ice. Above is a photo taken from the Portage Lake public beach parking lot. There is a car on the frozen lake and to the right you can barely make out that there are a couple of people on the ice, probably skating. I do not recall when the photo was taken. 

Below is the top of a story on the Bangor Daily News’ website about the Maine Warden Service again warning people to stay off the ice. I’ve also included a link to the rest of the story.  

By Nok-Noi Ricker     

Bangor Daily News Staff     


Personnel from the Maine Warden Service dealt with a number of emergencies on Maine waterways over the weekend, but none that resulted in serious injury, agency spokeswoman Deborah Turcotte said Sunday evening.      

“We’ve responded to a number of incidents on lakes throughout Maine,” she said. In every case, “the people have gotten out of the water.”      

Even though residents are being warned about the thin ice on Maine lakes, especially the deep-water ones that are covered with a thick layer of insulating snow, people continue to break through, she said.      

Here’s a link to the rest of the story.      



Decline of deer and deer hunting in Maine

Deer hunting, especially in the North Woods, is a pretty big part of life for Mainers. It is a rite of passage for boys and girls whose fathers – and sometimes mothers – drag them to their first hunters’ breakfast , pile them into all sort of vehicle, drive them into the wilderness, and help them slog through the woods to just the “perfect” site for bagging that first deer.

I know, I know, Bambi was a deer and killing deer is bad, bad, bad. At least, in the minds of many people.

But in many parts of the country, including Maine, hunting is more than just sport. Deer and other game are hunted for meat; some families, especially in this economic climate, are looking for meat from game to help them get through the winter. In most cases, it is not a life-and-death situation, but it is pretty serious.

And the deer population – and the subsequent decline in deer kills – is way down.

The effects go well beyond those to the individual hunter. I came across a blog entry on DownEast.com about the decline of the deer population and the far-reaching effects on the local and state economy. It is a pretty devastating situation.

Stores and restaurants, outfitters, sporting goods stores, hotels and motels, and hunting lodges, some of them in the same family for several generations, are hurting financially this year in part because there are fewer deer and fewer deer hunters.

My mother, who occasionally works at the small general store in my hometown of Portage, Maine, where deer kills are registered, said the take this year has been incredibly disappointing. She echoed some of the comments by the blog’s author, George Smith, who is described as “a columnist, TV show host, executive director of the state’s largest sportsmen’s organization, political and public policy consultant, hunter, angler, and avid birder and most proud of his three children and grandson.”

Smith wrote that deer population has been reduced by two back-to-back rough winters, poor habitat, and thinning by bears and coyotes. That – and I would dare say the sluggish economy – have caused longtime hunters to cancel or shorten their trips to the North Woods. Others have cut short their trips after spending days in the woods and not spotting deer or deer sign.

The blog outlines the economic hardship being caused to businesses and the financial loss to the state’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife in license fees.

As Smith says, the only real fix in the southern part of the state is to have a milder-than-recent winter. Mother Nature controls that.

But he also quotes a former game commissioner warning that deer hunting in the North Woods may never return. That would be a terrible loss to poor Mainers looking to stretch their grocery dollars by putting game on the table. And it would be even more so for the future generations of would-be hunters who will never be dragged to their first hunters’ breakfast, loaded into a rig, and taken to remote spots in the North Woods seeking to bag their first deer.

Columns on Maine visit revisited

A friend not long ago suggested I go to Maine for a visit and write a few “Letters From Maine,” rather than “Letters From Away.”

I had done that years ago as a newspaper columnist and promised her I would try to post a couple of the columns here.

For several years I was the opinion page editor at The Reporter, the daily newspaper in Vacaville, Calif. I was responsible for the daily comment and opinion pages and the Sunday Forum section. Besides editing local and wire commentary and shepherding the page production, I also wrote a weekly column.

Because of the size of the operation, there was no option for columnists but to write commentary in advance or to e-mail columns when on vacation.

That is what I did in 2005 when I returned to Maine for a visit. I had done the same a few years earlier.

Here are the 2005 columns. It is not my best writing. I blame that on the stress of preparing for a cross-country trip and then the relaxing effects of having arrived. Enjoy!

If it all goes as it should

By Keith Michaud

If all goes as it should, I fully expect to be awakened this morning by a tousle-haired 5-year-old and his precocious 3-year-old sister.

If all goes as it should, I should wake to the smell of coffee, pancakes, fresh paint, and air freshened by pine, fir, spruce and the White Mountains.

If all goes as it should, I will be towed to the kitchen table by those toddler-alarm clocks, and I will drink that coffee, eat those pancakes, tour again the new home in which I will be a guest. And then be guided by the tousle-haired 5-year-old and his precocious 3-year-old sister on a tour of the grounds where they will point out the various features of their new home.

You see, if all goes as it should, I landed at the Portland International Jetport Tuesday evening and was greeted by my mother. And from the Portland, Maine, airport, we should have traveled to my sister’s new home in the quintessential New England community of Fryeburg, just on the border with New Hampshire.

This is where my sister, her husband and their two children call home. It is where they hope the children will attend some of the finest schools in New England, including Fryeburg Academy founded in 1792. Yeah, 1792. New England has a lot of old in it, too.

After a day or two in Fryeburg, my mother and I will travel the seven hours north to the Deep Dark North Woods of Maine to the tiny town where I grew up, Portage, situated on the southeast corner of Portage Lake. I am guessing that not a lot will have changed since the last time I visited three years ago. The ribbon of state Route 11 will come over a rise and into a clearing, and after an easy curve and descent down the other side of the hill, Portage will come into view.

If the weather holds – it is New England, after all, and it rains nearly every week and the humidity is always suffocating – the sky will be a hazy blue, the lake will be dark and spotted with white caps, and the surrounding hills will be emerald green and lush. It will be lovely. Homes are sometimes separated from neighboring homes by hundreds of feet, not mere inches as they are in California.

If all goes as it should, I will settle into a natural, comfortable routine that will involve mostly reading from a perch on the deck of my mother’s cottage, chatting with my mother, cooking for her, and playfully taunting her two Pomeranians I dubbed Fat Boy and Devil Dog. I will golf on the course where I learned to play the game many years ago.

If all goes as it should, I will be reminded of my youth. I will recall friends and events. For two short weeks, I will be in one of the most peaceful places I know. If all goes as it should. And it should.

(The author was the opinion page editor at The Reporter in Vacaville, Calif., when this column was first printed on June 29, 2005.)

Sharing a place of peace

By Keith Michaud

There is no arguing about the grandeur and spectacular beauty throughout California and the West, from the coastline to the Sacramento Valley to the Sierra.

That beauty has been recorded in words and images for all to enjoy.

But it is impossible with mere words to describe the haunting beauty of Maine sunset over a glassy flat lake – the blinding orange of citrus fruit afire, the red of pomegranate, the muddy purples of the coming night, the pastel greens of the tropics grown into the Northern sky, and the deep blue of childhood dreams.

I am vacationing in my childhood home – Portage, Maine. My apologies, but I must subject those who have never been to New England to a travel column on perhaps the most peaceful place on earth.

This peaceful place puts most people’s definition of “casual” in the same category as frantic, where the pace of life is, as they say here, the way it should be.

On an evening just days ago, there was the most spectacular sunset and the pace of life here dictated that a moment be taken to appreciate it. There is no gauge for measuring the beauty of a sunset, but this one ranked among the best. And the beauty of it, the grandeur of it, was made so as much by the people with whom it was shared as the influences of nature and God.

I have lived in California longer than I lived in Maine and I have not been back to visit here in a few years. But this place, this soil, these trees, this air, these people, these sunsets, make up what I am. In many ways, they are me. They are my blood.

I love this place. I wish with all my soul that I could visit more often, but I cannot. My life is across the nation in Vacaville for now.

It is perhaps that distance and that separation that makes me think of this place nearly every day. It is those things that make me wish I could somehow transport it to where I am, or that I could transport all that is important to me in California to this spot in the Deep Dark North Woods of Maine so the best of the two worlds could collide here with me in the middle.

There are good people wherever you travel. Trust me on this. And if you have lived a half-decent life, finding those people will never be a problem. They will find you.

It will not be long before I will have to return to Vacaville and the routine and obligations that are my life. But for a few moments, the tranquility of this boyhood home provides the comfort of a lifetime.

(The author was the opinion page editor at The Reporter in Vacaville, Calif., when this column was first printed on July 6, 2005.)