“Keep the Thorn to Keep the Rose”

My smart watch showed “snow showers in Danforth.”  It is the time of year when Greg and Katie scramble to open the storage garage and sort out where all the “stuff” accumulated over the summer and summers before will be stacked away for the next year’s adventures.  This year not only do we need a bed for the canoe and my old power boat, but I recently shipped up to camp my complete library of books accumulated since the mid-1970s. Greg is to build, over the winter, a new set of shelves to house my beloved, mostly-read books in my man cave-office-studio.  I always feel comforted surrounded by books, as I am by the small fireplace in the studio.  Next spring, I will organize the books, and figure out where my fly-tying apparatus goes, as well as my painting easel and other assorted tchotchkes. But now things are winding down.  The closing up of camp in the fall coincides with my birthday in October and is always a time of reflection for me.

A recent article in the New York Times, “Fall Can Be a Season for Building Resilience” by Erick Vance, describes the melancholy one feels at the loss of sunlight and greenery at the end of summer.  Yet those who “lean in” to the discomfort can gain from it, as it enables them to build up a tolerance to other fears and uncertainties in life. “Mindfulness” is another way to simply observe and accept life as it is rather than thinking about change as a source of distress.  Useful advice, as this autumn is a bit scarier than most given what is happening in the world:  important mid-term elections at a time when our democratic system is at risk, an escalating war in Ukraine and the threat of nuclear confrontation, plus the economic turmoil of inflation—and we cannot forget about the damage caused by Hurricane Ian on the west coast of Florida.  It is getting harder for me to read and accept the front-page news.  I know I must keep abreast of what is happening in the world, but it is becoming burdensome.  I find the obituaries and wedding announcements more enjoyable than the current events being reported.  Personally, I am fortunate to be healthy, to have a life filled with adventure, love and career success.  Yet there is an unsettling feeling of uncontrollable events on the horizon.  My form of mindfulness is to delve into a good book to take me to another place. Mysteries, biography, classics, as well as a new project—research on a historical novel I plan to write about my father’s escape from Ukraine during the First World War in 1918, and his journey across Europe to Argentina and eventually to upstate New York. Now there was someone with resilience. 

Vance also talks about autumn as a time of year for “harvesting” memories, looking back and collecting the moments, good and bad, without judgment: “Keep the thorn to keep the rose.”  At my age, I have plenty of thorns, but even more roses, for which I am grateful.  The months ahead will be filled with various adventures and other ways to cope with the blues the changing seasons can bring, and of course my professional work is always a constant source of fresh challenges and excitement.  And camp opening in May is only eight months away. In the meantime, stay warm, Katie and Greg.

Camp with the Kids

My adult children and grandson were waiting for me curbside at Bangor Airport.  They had all arranged to gather at LaGuardia to fly up together for their exclusive week with Dad at camp. My son-in-law Peter was on his cell catching up with business as my daughters waved me over.  After quick hugs and hellos, everyone piled in the Bronco, anxious to get to camp–but not before our planned stop for lunch at Governors, a family restaurant which is part of a chain exclusive to Maine. 

                A family week together at camp has become an annual event for the past several years. When we are all under one roof again it is immediately like old times, though we have had our separate homes for years now.  Shared meals and campfire stories of times past and plans for times to come reconnect us and deepen bonds. 

                I planned to take everyone to Sucker Lake for fishing and a cookout.  Kara and Peter opted out for yoga and conference calls.  Brooke and Billy drove with me in the Bronco over the snowmobile path to the entrance of the lake area.  A bumpy ride but the Bronco handled it as advertised.  Greg met us there with a portable battery-operated motor for the rowboat moored at the shore.  The motor was silent so the quiet of the lake was maintained as we traveled the short distance to a small island for a barbeque.  Greg started his campfire while I waded into the water for a few casts.  Billy tried his hand at wading and casting alongside me and I noticed he was more confident in his technique this year.

                Lunch was a typical Lenny picnic menu:  hamburgers with mustard and relish.  The appetizers and dessert were catching a bass, so after a few bites I rushed everyone into the rowboat to find a spot where the fish were waiting for us. 

                We maneuvered over to a promising-looking cove and before long Brooke and Billy caught several mid-size fish.  Dad landed a few but the exercise was to have the kids experience the lake and its surroundings.  There were no camps along the lake shore, no signs of anyone else.  Just pure wilderness.  Truly a heavenly place.

First Cast

          I headed to camp solo this past week. I wasn’t alone intentionally, but my invited guests declined for various reasons.  Anyway, I wouldn’t really be alone once I got there.  I envisioned days of backwater fishing with my camp caretaker, Greg, using my new 4 weight rod—a birthday present from an old colleague—and I would spend at least a day on the water with Andy, my long-time fishing guide at Wheaton Lodge. 

My first morning back I awoke easily at 5:45am, the sun dousing me with warmth through the bedroom window.   Quick to caffeinate and with metal coffee cup in hand, I sprinted down to the dock for a few casts off toward the rocks, past where the local ducks were sunning themselves.  The bass were disturbed by my casts and fled, so I sat for a bit at the edge of the dock, scanning the lake and the few boats trolling for landlocked salmon and lake trout. East Grand Lake never ceases to amaze me.  What was my hurry this morning? The water lapping at my feet at end of the dock and the quiet sound of nothingness was like a soothing balm.

After a time I was ready for fishing – perhaps the gods would provide for a bit of catching. I headed to Wheaton’s and Andy greeted me with a grin. Knowing I would not arrive at daybreak he had already trailered over to Spudnick Lake and dropped his East Grand canoe into the water.  Wheaton’s had prepared us a cold lunch, which would give us more time fishing – no lakeside picnic over an open fire–as there was a thunderstorm forecast late afternoon.  We set off into a breezy but beautiful, partly cloudy morning on the lake. Sitting with the wind at my back I closed my eyes and savored the moment, the sun on my unshaven face, with only the sound of the small motor pushing us along to break the silence.  Andy steered us over to a small cove sheltered from the gusty winds.  We dropped anchor and using one of Andy’s hand-tied yellow poppers I cast into the still water among the rocks and downed branches.  Andy advised me to think like a bass: first scan the fly, then swim around it a couple of times then, if the fly moves, lunge for it.  So using my bass mind, I retrieved the line a few times and…whack a hit!  I set the fly and stripped in the line with my left hand.  I brought a lovely small mouth bass to the canoe.  Andy excitedly scooped the fish into the boat and grabbed his cell for a photo. He was as excited as I was to have caught a fish first cast out.

First cast first catch.  In a larger sense, it is almost a metaphor– for those times in life when taking a new chance on something yields results.  There have been times, when faced with a challenge, I went for something new—a first attempt at a solution—that led to a success. For instance, in my early years practicing law I decided to review the dissent in a case as the starting point for an argument to overturn precedent in a forthcoming case. This was an unconventional, fresh approach into unfamiliar waters that in the end resulted in a win. I used that strategy a number of times after that.  My first big case in the Hamptons that received some press came about when I argued against the Town preventing a portion of beachfront from development without any legal basis to support the ruling. My challenge came from the dissent in another case which argued that “policy does not make law only a properly enacted legislative act of the municipality.” In that case I cast into an area where the courts wouldn’t usually venture in overturning an action of the Town. The day fishing with Andy was a delight as always. Things don’t change much in northern Maine.  Andy’s Maine style reflects the nature of the water. He is even yet spirited. A great fellow to fish with.
Back at camp Greg and Darcy prepared for the next day at the backwaters off River Road.  I had in past years tried fishing from the top of the water, but now with nymphs I would try my hand below the surface. My old Grumman canoe was propped against a fallen tree when we arrived at the edge of the pond. The paddles were in tattered shape having been ravaged by a bear per Greg. As usual Greg used a tree branch as a paddle to get us into the middle of the pond.  I cast out, using my new rod and waited.  A very slight, almost imperceptible movement of the bopper sitting on the water surface was the signal that a fish was on. Greg yelled at me to set the hook. Like I wasn’t moving as quickly as I could once my brain registered that yes Lenny a fish was on one of the nymphs below the surface. We did not have a net so Greg brought the fish to the canoe by hand over hand stripping in the line.  A beauty–the colors of a Monet thrashing around in the bottom of the canoe while I took a few photos. Once again it was the first cast into fresh water.  I wish every cast could be a first cast.

Fresh Air

May 2022

It was a breath of fresh air coming off the Delta connection in Bangor.  Greg was waiting for me by the luggage carousel, where I joined him to watch for my fishing bag to emerge.  Baggage claim was busy.  I was surrounded by excited, happy faces, and there was an air of anticipation.   I noticed a few fishermen like me in the group among the locals returning home.  Bangor is the drop off for northern country commuters. It is the last stop before Canada and the wilderness of Aroostoock County.  

As we drove north on I-95 the air was cool and full of pine scented excitement.  The roadside trees had thickened with spring growth.  Greg filled me in on camp life since we last spoke in person in October at my 82nd surprise birthday party.  That night was a once in a lifetime experience, especially seeing Katie and Greg dressed in evening clothes –out of their usual Maine camp wear.  Now back on their home turf we caught up on post -covid life.   Katie was suffering from a continuous loss of taste and dealing with a lost appetite.  Greg still doesn’t have a cell phone.  He got along without one for 60 plus years so why get one now he says.  Per Greg, the fishing this spring is as exciting as ever.  Lake salmon and brook trout are as large as can be with trolling streamers.  The turnoff at Lincoln was a welcome sign that we were closing in on Danforth and my camp on the lake.

All very exciting and intriguing to me, as if from another universe. Returning north from Florida where only last week I fished the Loxahatchee River with Captain Charlie for snook in a flat boat to here on Maine’s third largest lake.  Now on to Restigouche in Canada for a few days of salmon fishing.  It is like a trip to the moon for me.  From one universe to another to another.  In the fishing brotherhood the people are all the same—honest and trustworthy.  Brothers of nature we are. 

Dipping My Toes in the Water

April 2022

At the end of my recent column, Comp Beginnings, I dipped my toes in the water off the dock at camp and drifted into a blissful state of mind, a quiet moment absent of the stress of everyday life as I know it. My old friend and dutiful reader, Jay, a retired surgeon living in New York City, commented after reading the column, “Why do you find happiness in the wilderness of Maine?’ What motivated me to spend clips of time over the summer months at Camp Kabrook, going back and forth between there and New York, to a place that was remote and often complicated and time consuming to get to? Why was it worth it? I must look back for the answer, back over my 82 plus years, to a starting point in time in the early 1950’s, when I begged my parents to sign me up for two weeks of sleepaway camp at Camp Seneca on Seneca Lake, a day’s bus ride from my hometown of Rochester. It was there in nature, in the beauty and the challenges I faced in the woods and the waters of upstate New York that I saw clearly what life could and would be-to come of age and to be “my own” person. I was no longer Marty’s kid brother but an individual– albeit still a youngster and a pimpled immature kid, but it was the start of something. Being on my own in the woods in a tent with new friends and young girls not far off was thrilling. The water activities at Seneca Lake drove me to push my physical effort to new limits. I felt a new excitement for adventure. The most exciting adventure was a trip to Seneca Falls a war canoe-a vessel big enough to hold 12 kids and supplies- several miles away and it was the ultimate physical challenge. To qualify for the trip, I had to swim out to a dock anchored in the middle of the lake. The level of endurance required was beyond anything I had felt before. In terms of physical activity, my only basis of comparison was summer softball at the Kodak Park Athletic League. Only a handful of us campers were able to qualify, and I was elated that I was among the chosen. This experience instilled in me a deep sense of confidence and accomplishment, both inextricably linked with the outdoors. Thus began my lifelong Jove of the water and wilderness.

Later in life, after college, everyone moved into apartments in the city. I never felt completely settled, a sense of wanderlust always churning to live beyond the concrete and glass. t needed grass and sunshine upon waking. My motivation to move to East Hampton with my young family, although driven by my wish to control my own destiny, was also in large part to experience the ocean and open spaces of East Hampton.

In later years, my passion for fly fishing was, now in hindsight, more about the journey and not the destination. It was less about catching fish and more about getting back to the wild. My camp was not a destination initially. I stumbled upon it, on the way to a fishing trip in Canada with friends Lori and Ted, who happened to have a family camp on East Grand Lake, where we stopped en route. It was that sea plane ride, landing at the dock of the camp next door to theirs, with a turned over For Sale sign, that hooked me on the idea of my own wilderness camp in Maine. I had read a lot about fishing camps and have a slew of design books on camp design and architecture. In fact, I once had an architect design a camp for a waterfront site on the West Branch of the Delaware that I wanted to buy but never did. Later, after visiting Blueberry Farm outside of Knoxville, Tennessee, I had an architect draw plans to replicate a fishing camp for my property in the Hamptons. Neither of these camps were ever built-my destiny it seems, was Maine. I suppose it has always been my desire to recapture some of the magic of Camp Seneca. I only needed the right place, and l found it on East Grand Lake.

Camp is more than a place to fish the morning lonely. I share the love of the water with my family- my girls and my grandchildren, my Patti, friends Lore and Ted and numerous others who drive the distance to walk down to the dock and dip their bare feet into the quiet waters of East Grand lake and dream like I do.

The Last Ice Cover

April 2022

I awoke at daybreak, the crisp air in the cabin still bearing the pine smell of the last burn off in the great room stone fireplace. I had slept under the heavy quilt Patti ordered for just this type of cold spring weather. A wool beanie kept my bald head from freezing during the night. The morning sun reflected off the ice covered lake through the cotton curtains that have been hanging in the bedroom window since my first visit to Camp Kabrook, before it even had a name. Back then they were old and in disrepair, but Katie revitalized them-washing, sewing and ironing them back to life, those old­ fashioned curtains from another era that reminded me of my late mother–she would have done the same with them as she never let anything go to waste. I arose slowly and felt the cold shock of the wood floor on my feet. I hurriedly slipped on my fleece lined moccasins and donned one of my old flannel shirts for a walk down to the dock. I decided to make a pot of fisherman’s coffee with lake water and eggshells-the eggshells an old camping trick to keep the grounds down.

I had arrived late the night before, my stay at camp only a stopover en route to the Restigouche River in Canada for salmon fishing. I expected the ice to have melted off by the time of this planned visit. Greg had given me a heads-up but on arriving so late on a moonless night I could not make out the
white sheet of ice crystal across East Grand Lake. The grassy lawn from the house down to the dock was a spring green, in contrast to the wintry lake scene. The fire pit was stacked high with newly cut limbs – Greg’s handiwork. He had also moved the picnic table off the dock, up near the enclosed porch for
storm protection. I crouched down at the edge of the dock, and with coffee pot in hand, tapped the ice, searching for an opening into the fresh lake water, but the ice was tight against the edge of the dock. I walked over to the wooded area where my nap tent is fitted during the season. There were small, deep pools adjacent to the large rocks that were not completely frozen over. I dipped the coffee pot into one of them and filled the pot to the brim. Back at the house I turned on the stove and ground the coffee beans, spooning them into the coffee pot. Next, the crushed shell from a fresh egg went in on top of the grounds. I filled the pot with the steaming hot water and hoping for the best, I waited. After a few minutes, I poured a bit of this black substance into one of my metal coffee cups and sipped the best and strongest and ground-less coffee ever. Whoa I did it. Now that I was fully caffeinated, I put on my hiking boots to go explore the last ice cover of the season. The ice on East Grand Lake is not like the glass-like surface of the ice rink in Central Park. It is like course and heavy sandpaper. The wind from the northeast creates curls and dips in the ice. Tracks from vehicles and other devices criss-cross. Further out there are occasional drilled holes for ice fishing. I only venture as far as the entrance to my cove. l am unsure of myself and aware of the risks of walking too far out. I am alone, but calm. The wind whispers a song of happiness. I am in the place where I fine solace. The air is pure. The little forest animals scurry looking for food and find the ice a major highway from point A to point B. I walk across the ice cove to my neighbors, Ted and Lori’s camp. No one is home. They are on long Island. I walk around their main cabin. A small watercraft is covered with canvas. The wood pile is still damp from melting snow. I envision Ted’s dad who lived at this camp for many years after his retirement from Grumman on Long Island, waking up every winter morning to enjoy and breathe in the landscape. The war in Ukraine is far away and out of mind. The rate of inflation, the Dow, and interest rates are some 80 miles away in Bangor where The NY Times is sold. I am at peace.

Camp Beginnings

April 2022

It is early April and in my small corner of the world, my friends and family all know I have only one thing on my mind: fishing camp. Darcy, the daughter of my camp neighbor-carpenter-fishing guide ­buddy Greg, sent me a photo of her latest ice fishing catch on East Grand Lake. She said the ice is at its thickest, some four feet, and the fishing end of March has been the best all winter. Darcy would know. She, Greg and Katie have been ice fishing at camp for 35 years, at least since Darcy was born down the road in Danforth. Greg and his partner Jimmie are putting the finishing touches on a new home office ­studio-fly-tying-library cabin. It is our joint design to keep me out of Patti’s way in the main house and a place where the sounds of the computer and printer are not bothersome at all hours. I also selfishly wanted a place to have a fly-tying setup as well as my painting easel available at my whim. I also plan to ship north many of the books I have accumulated in my East Hampton library since the early 1970s. I figure when the time comes, and it will, my kids can have a great evening bonfire in the open pit and get rid of Dad’s damn books which he would never part with all these years.

My first planned trip north this year is scheduled for mid-May. I spend a few days traveling through Bangor to the Restigouche Lodge in Canada to fish for salmon. I am staying at camp on the trip up and on the return. Seems the distance from Bangor to the salmon lodge is some six hours driving. It is also an excuse to get on the dock for a morning of fishing with a fresh brew in my hand. Nothing beats that.

Over the next month, Greg and Katie will be texting about the mice in the fireplace. I know my little four-legged friends must complain when Katie comes through with her vacuum cleaner, clearing them out of the fireplace and the sofa cushions where they have been comfortably embedded all winter.

As the snow continues to melt the lawn miraculously comes to life. Greg hauls in topsoil to fill in the ridges created by the early spring mud on the lake side. Katie will go to her plant shop for flower bed annuals in an array of colors. They will brighten up the little gardens now buried under rocks and snow. The bird feeders will be replenished for the arrival of the feathered friends whose sweet song announces the arrival of spring in northern Maine. We also have a family of ducks who find their way to our cove year after year, always turning up for camp opening. They are the welcome home committee. Katie keeps a bag of bread bits and ends for them.

By far the best early morning time, aside from feeding the ducks and casting a fly rod that first morning, is sitting on the edge of the dock with my feet dangling in the water, eyes closed, taking in spring: the scent of just-bloomed flowers, the sounds of birds and small animals scurrying over the rocks near shore, the trees swaying gently in the wind from the northeast, the occasional fishing boat trolling in the distance, the water lapping on the edge of the dock. The water quiet.

A Winter Break Part II

February 2022

At the end of my last column, I had just dozed off from exhaustion after a full morning of travel by plane, truck, and snowmobile, en route to my Maine camp. I’d had an early departure from Florida, arriving by nine, then drove the hundred miles or so from the airport, only to find the last mile under
five feet of snow. My plans to go snowshoeing when I got to camp were thwarted for the time being, but when I woke up from my nap, I was rested and ready to go.

I saw the snowshoes propped up against the fireplace screen where Greg had left them, after retrieving them by ladder from their place above the front door. I picked one up and examined it. My friend Lori had purchased the snowshoes for me at a thrift store, to use as decor when I first moved in, and they were clearly from another era. The wood was shellacked, the leather lacings were brittle and I looked skeptically at the bindings. Would they hold up once I was out on the snow? J would soon find out. Greg came up from the dock and showed me how to lace up over my boots. I do not have snow poles so used my fishing sticks in their place.

The trail up to Sucker lake is lined with red plastic tags tied waist high to trees and they were still visible at the entrance to the trail, despite the accumulation of snow over the past several months. As I made my way across the road, I turned and gave Greg the thumbs up. We had arranged for him to pick me up at the trail head at Route 1 after I had circled the lake. The silence in the woods was
deafening. I could hear my breathing as I crunched through the snow. The shoes seemed to be holding up as I slowly and carefully progressed. An occasional small animal ran across my path without even a glance at me, as if I were one of them and not to be feared. The sun, still high in the sky, warmed me as it illuminated my path, the bright light reflecting off the snow and the glistening ice crystals. I reached Sucker Lake in a short 30 minutes. The trail around the lake had been plowed down by the regular use of snowmobilers. The walk was now a bit easier for me on the packed snow. It was much slower than in the summer when the only concern is not to slip on pebbles or fallen tree detritus. I still had to be wary of protruding rocks and those hidden under the snow, which could rip up my bindings. The lake was frozen over. I was tempted to walk out on the ice to the island that Greg has taken me and my friends to many times for picnics. But I had to be cautious. I wasn’t about to take a spill now. I was alone and it seemed no one was around for miles. I erred on the side of caution and stayed on the trail circling the lake. After a while, I stopped for a rest and texted Greg to give him enough time to meet me at the parking lot at the trailhead on the other side of the lake. It was the same trailhead I had taken a few
years earlier and got lost. I didn’t want to relive that adventure. I was proud of myself that I had made it so far without mishap. Let’s keep it that way I kept repeating to myself.

After a while, I peeled off my jacket and tied it around my waist. I had only gone another few paces when out of the woods came a huge buck with a massive rack. He stood not ten feet away from me, his dark fur contrasting sharply against the brilliant white background. His breath steamed from his nose and mouth. His eyes were black and foreboding. We stared at each other, both of us motionless. Not a movement. I was frozen in place. I was certain he was as startled to see me as I was him. So far, the snowshoe walk had been peaceful and uneventful. Now here was a 300 lb. creature that may
perceive me as a threat and charge. I had no idea what to do other than stand still. I recalled reading that if a bear approaches you are to curl up on the ground. Again, I erred on the side of caution. I
untied my jacket and sat down. I tucked my head inside my jacket and wrapped my arms around my body. After counting to 100 I peeked out and saw that the buck was indeed a friendly. He was busy nibbling something from a bush and had lost interest in me. I rose to my feet and proceeded south to where I would meet up with Greg. I now had a good story for him and my friends back home. How many people come face to face with a giant buck on their Sunday stroll-while wearing ancient snowshoes?

Winter Break

February 2022

It was winter break so to speak. Patti thought I was crazy. I was headed to camp from the airport in Bangor and the February sky was bright blue, wisps of clouds here and there the only reminders of the recent snowstorm. Exiting on I 93 I travelled north. The snowbanks along the side of the road grew steeper as I neared Danforth. I was feeling adventurous, and decided that when I got to camp, I would take down the old thrift store snowshoes that have been hanging over the doorway for years as camp decor and give them a go outside for the first time. The trail up to Sucker Lake would be perfect as it was one I had hiked numerous times in the summer. When I arrived at the turn off to Boulder Road, site of my fishing camp, l saw that the snowplows had only cleared the way in to Cowger’s Lake Front Cabins, a good mile down the road from my cabin. The snow looked five feet deep against the trees along the road as far as I could see. My snowshoeing plans were now set back until I could actually get to my camp. I figured walking was impossible. I would need to hitch a ride on a snowmobile and required Greg’s help to do it. It was past noon.

Greg was 45 minutes away at his winter camp in Drew Plantation and when I finally reached him he was ruminating about fixing something or other on one of his rigs. Yes, Jimmy had a snowmobile he said, but we needed to get to River Road to find him since Jimmy’s cell wasn’t working in the cold. waited the hour or so in my car for Greg to arrive and despite the lost time my enthusiasm for a snowshoe hike was still there. Looking around at the winter wonderland was all it took. Greg finally pulled up in his truck and I hopped in. His truck was as cold as Hattie, which for Greg, a Maine native, was like room temperature. Jimmy, Greg’s buddy, was a good source for a snowmobile ride as he collected everyone’s discards in Danforth and was sure to have a powerful enough vehicle to traverse the five-foot snowdrifts. Driving back south now to Jimmy’s took some time as he lived several miles outside of town.

Jimmy came out of his house in a t-shirt like it was August. Mainers sure are different. We loaded the snowmobile onto Greg’s truck and sped back north along Route 1. Not a soul was in sight on the road or off. We made the left on Greenwood Lake Road, onto snow packed down from both snowmobilers and ice fishing traffic. We followed the camp road as far as we could to where the plowing had ended and where my car was parked alongside an embankment of cleared snow. I would have to leave it there for the time being.

We got out and dropped the snowmobile onto the road. I seated myself behind Greg for the trip down to camp, my first ever ride on a snowmobile. I pulled my beanie cap over my ears and was ready to go. Along the way the snow ahead of us was undisturbed except for a few animal tracks- ­heavier ones from deer, but mostly the light footprints of smaller creatures. Behind us, our tracks left no doubt about what created them. The reverberation from the loud engine caused the fir trees to shake their branches at us, dropping large clumps of snow as we passed by, sometimes hitting their intended target. We shook it off. Greg was child-like in his enthusiasm. He grew up snowmobiling in these woods. It was his winter sport. The ride was exhilarating-the rush of cold air against my face as we flew across the bright, white landscape somehow energized me and exhausted me at the same time.

Soon we reached camp. Snow had drifted off the lake against the front cabin door. It had been closed for the winter so we opened the door slowly, expectantly, letting in the first fresh air in months. We decided to make a fire to ward off the cold before preparing for the snowshoe expedition. Greg opened the damper and as to be expected a few mice scampered out I poked around to see if there was anything in the cabinets I might take as provisions on the outing but came up empty handed. Greg had a fire going in no time. The heat from the growing flames combined with the hint of smoke in the air was like a warm embrace. I settled into the deep, down sofa cushions, happy to be at my camp, memories of last season on my mind as I closed my eyes. Greg laddered up to get the snowshoes down for me, but as he likes to tell the story, by the time he got down with them, I was already snoring on the couch.

Ice Fishing with Katie

January 2022

Katie was sick with Covid for a month, quarantined with Greg in their cozy family home in Drew Plantation, Maine.  After gaining some weight back as well as her appetite for fishing, Katie pronounced that she was about crazy from being cooped up and wanted to ice fish—her favorite sport after fall moose hunting.  The stretch of East Grand Lake where Katie and Greg have their summer camp was not yet frozen over.   They would go to the Cove on the lake instead–their sweet spot for ice fishing.  In a secluded area north, off Route 1 in Danforth, the Cove provides easy access and 5 feet of ice.  

The preparation for ice fishing began the day before.  Greg assembled the deer blind tent for transport while Katie organized all the essentials:  an ice drill, a “Mister Heater” portable unit that runs on propane, as well as rods and bait. Then, the provisions for the long hours out on the ice:  a small, metal barrel with a grill attached to serve as a fire pit for hot dogs, plus water and beer.  Finally, the attire: heat-lined camo snow jackets, long underwear, flannels, wool sweaters, hats, gloves with hand warmers, wool socks, foot warmers and rubber boots.

The next morning, Greg and Katie left at daybreak–5:00am– in below freezing temperatures, for their day of ice fishing. On the way, an unexpected snowstorm blew up.  Typical Maine couple dream date.  On arrival, Greg set up the tent with the heater then drilled through the ice so Katie could jig the fishing line to her heart’s delight. After being Covid sick for a month, Katie was now happy and energized by the outdoors.  Then Katie started catching.  A 17” salmon for starters followed by a 13” salmon, then a 13” trout before lunch.  Lunch was Greg’s special “red hots” cooked over the coals in the fire pit.  The only mishap was when Greg dropped his dog in the snow, which he rinsed off in the fishing hole.  Katie said it was the best ice-fishing holiday she has had in years.  A true Maine vacation day… and the best antidote to a bout of Maine Covid.