Camp doesn’t feel the same this year. The pandemic has spread its wings all the way north to the Canadian border with Maine, and of course beyond. But here in this remote outpost, where the feeling of escape from civilization has always been a welcome relief, the desolation seems especially stark. The RV camp across the lake has no lights at night. There are no boats on the water at daybreak trolling for lake trout. The public ramp at East Grand Lake is empty of boat trailers. Renee’s doesn’t have the early morning crowd for coffee and homemade donuts—just a new hand-written sign in the window saying “open for take-out.” There is no wait at the sole gas station in town, but the small country deli—the only food store within a 40-minute drive- has customers. I stand behind a woman in line to pay and notice her SNAP card. The people here are dependent on the spring and summer fishing crowds, now almost nonexistent. There are no kids playing in the old, lower school ball field. Camping and fishing seem unlikely to spread the virus but people have to travel to get here, whether from Boston, Bangor or like me, from New York.
The rest stops are off limits and closed for the most part. The motels en route are closed. No Hortons or McDonalds, except for drive thru. It is a long trip from the Long Island ferry—some ten hours from Old Saybrook to Danforth. I drive non-stop followed by two weeks of self-isolation in my cabin. The fish and wildlife are blissfully unaware of the raging storm we humans are forced to seek shelter from. The ducks in the cove have returned. The loons coo away night and day. The romance of nature sustains me through the solitude, along with the shelves full of the books I have been working my way through on rainy days. The comfort of a hearth fire puts me to sleep at night. Going out on my ancient Gruman aluminum canoe in the early morning hours transports me literally and figuratively, far away from the waves of a virus. There are no wakes from motorboats. The water is calm, lapping gently at the side of the canoe. I will stay for a while.