It’s a beautiful evening. The sun has finally seen off the miserably wet weather that forced us to stay a day longer at the put in. Some of my wet clothing may finally dry out! Three pails of water are hung over a fire of fir brush. One to boil spaghetti for dinner, the others for drinking and dish water. The fire burns quickly in the sharp breeze – efficiency is paramount – whenever there’s a flame, heat something over it!
It’s our first full day on the water on our North Maine Woods canoe trip. Muscles must be reacquainted with the pole and paddle. Body clocks must be retuned for canoe travel. Rise at dawn, retire at dusk. Life’s easier this way – on the water before the wind gets up, hit camp early and set up at leisure. Paddling into wind on a big lake or open stretch of river can be torture for both mind and body.
After dinner there’s an intrusion from the 21st century – an outboard motor. It’s two fellas out fishing from the sporting camp further down the lake. They stop by for a chat. Out in the woods hospitality’s the same the world over. They stay for a while and chat about the fishing, their outboard (which it sounds like they’re slowly killing) and Maine life. They putter off cheerily into the dusk. The outboard doesn’t sound so cheery.
It’s a cold night and one by one we withdraw from the light of the camp fire and exchange it for the dark of sleep. As I drift off accompanied by the loons calling I reflect on the day and prepare for the next. Tomorrow we hit the river, swollen and running fast after the rain. Here dreams are made and skills tested.During my time in the North Woods of Maine I was a paying guest at the excellent Jack Mountain Bushcraft School run by the ever hospitable and knowledgeable Tim Smith, registered Master Maine Guide, admirably assisted by his cousin Cletus.