Sunday, July 31, 2011

Goodbye, July.

This summer is passing in the blink of an eye.  Before I know it, I'll be packing for the Great Southward Migration again.

My absence for the past week or so has been due to me just plain being busy.  Sorry about that- sometimes life gets ahead of me, and I have to run to catch up.

In the good news department, however, our guys really came through for us, and we got Togue all buttoned up and cleaned up and spiffy for a group that arrives tomorrow.  First, a quick reminder of what we started with:

And where we were two weekends ago:

And here's where we finished up this afternoon:

We still have a bit more to do to really finish it off, but it's in such better shape than it was at the beginning of the month!  We'll put hardwood down on the floors, we're going to add a window to the pond-facing gable end, and I'd like to renovate the bathroom, but the major work is done.  I have to say, I really like how the ceiling came out- it far surpasses that tile!

So goodbye, July; I hardly knew ya.  But you were good to us, so thanks for that.  Here's hoping August is similar but maybe sticks around a little longer.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The New Whitman Ridge Trail

Our nice weather today (before our humdinger of an isolated thunderstorm) prompted me to take a quick hike up the new Whitman Ridge trail.  The Maine Conservation Corps crews have been hard at work for a few weeks and have about a week and a half left to go in this stint.  The new trail starts between Togue Pond and the road to Denny.  It runs through the wood for a short bit before it crosses the road to Denny and continues up a second old road where I remember my parents cutting firewood when I was a kid.

Eventually, the trail splits off and starts winding around the southwest side of Whitman Ridge (or Whitman Mountain, depending on what map you look at).  It stops at two very pretty overlooks over Perch Pond and continues on toward Upper Pond.  I'm not sure yet where it ultimately stops- I ran into one of the crews and decided I probably shouldn't make a nuisance of myself.  (Interesting enough, the fellow I talked to also wasn't sure where the trail was going to stop...)

The trail is definitely a work in progress, and I'm glad it's still flagged.  (I had to look for flags a few times where the crews hadn't done much cutting.)  I think it'll be a nice one when it's complete, although I have to make the same comment about this trail that I did about the Black Overlook to Deboullie trail: all of the saplings have been cut off at 1-2" above ground level.  They make for fairly slippery and treacherous footing in hiking boots, but in my Vibrams, they're downright dangerous.  They're low enough that they get covered by leaves and pine needles, and I have a nice bruise on the arch of my foot from one I stepped on today.  I just couldn't see it, even though I was watching the trail pretty closely.  I probably won't try running that trail until I'm a lot more familiar with it.

I also took a quick spin over to Crater Pond today- I had forgotten how pretty that pond is...  And I stopped at the bog on my way back to endure ridicule from a deer- ptttttbbbb.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Guide's Test- the Whole Shebang

I'm one of those people for whom early is on time, on time is late, and late is unacceptable.  So I left Camp in time to get to Augusta well before 3:00 for my 4:00 test.  I was below Sherman when I got a call from Gloria; IF&W had just called to say that the tests were going quickly today, and that if I could get there at 3, there'd be a good chance they could test me then.  Sweet.

I arrived at the IF&W headquarters a little after 2:00.  My alter ego took care of a couple of calls to Virginia, and I (we?) headed in.  I checked in and apologized for being early for even the earlier testing slot, and the lady behind the counter (Marianne, I believe her name was) said, "That's ok.  Would you like to take your written test while you're waiting?"

I had no idea that was an option- I was expecting to wait a few days or weeks and then take the test up in Ashland.  I had studied for the oral exam, but there were plenty of things I still needed to review for the written.  Still, I could always re-take it if I bombed...  Sure, why not?  She handed me the two test booklets (recreational and fishing), and I sat down at one of their little desk cubicles.  I had finished the recreational test and had gotten about 9 questions in on the fishing test when they came to get me for my oral exam.

I was ushered into the testing room and greeted by two very nice gentlemen (whose names I've already forgotten- I apologize).  Introductions were made, and the two examiners began organizing the testing papers and topo maps.  I caught a glimpse of the map that I'd be using for the map and compass and lost person scenario.

No way...  Couldn't be...

The papers shuffled some more, and the examiners wrote my name on the top of the exam sheets.

It was.  I had to ask.  "Are the exam maps generic for all of the tests, or are they specifically chosen for each test candidate?"

He gave me a funny look.  Fair enough- it was a funny question.  "We pull from a group of general maps.  Why do you ask?"

Home sweet home.  I was staring at a topo map of the Deboullie Township.

I told you serendipity ran in the waters of Red River.  *grin*  I explained exactly where on the map I live, and we all had a good chuckle.  They decided not to switch maps on me, and I tried to calm my nerves.  Map and compass was up first and got me off to a rocky start.

Unless you do something often enough that it becomes second nature, there are two ways to remember things- rote memorization and understanding.  Rote memorization is faster to pull from the ol' filing cabinet in the brain, but it'll also fail you more often, especially when you're counting on it not to.  Foolishly, my brain jumped right to it as I began the map and compass portion of the test.  I first had to pull a true and magnetic bearing from the outlet of Gardner to the inlet of Fifth Pelletier.  The true bearing was simple.  Then I started shaking- do I subtract the declination from the true bearing to get the magnetic, or from the magnetic to get to the true??

I was sweating bullets.  I had no idea where the line was drawn between fumbling because of nerves and fumbling because of incompetence.  I had to avoid that line.  Think, think, think.

My mind went blank, blank, blank.  Numbers, options, and basic high school geometry jumbled in my head like cars on the DC Beltway.  I couldn't get away from the rote memorization to the understanding!


On the Gardner quadrangle topo map, the declination is 18 degrees west; that means that a magnetic bearing of 360 (or zero) degrees equates to a true bearing of 342.  Hence, to get from true to magnetic, you add the declination.  I can't believe how long it took me to get back to that simple knowledge in a high-pressure situation.  I'm still shaking a little because of it.

Comparatively, the lost person scenario went very well.  (In fact, I think I can say that the lost person scenario went pretty well in general.)  My lost person had accidentally taken a spur off of a decent approximation of the Ridge Loop trail and then sprained her ankle when she got down to the small pondlet between Galilee and Gardner.

On my wildlife and pfd identification exam, I missed the lake trout and almost called a bobcat a lynx, but otherwise, it was uneventful.  I was amused to see that one of the "what type of pfd is this" flash cards showed the pfd's label- including the fact that it was a Type II (in small print).  Always the honest one, I pointed it out to them.  Sorry, future test-takers!

I do need to hone up on water rescues- I just don't deal with them a lot. I guess I'll be heading out into the pond this summer to flip some canoes over! That used to be a fun pastime when we were kids, and I bet it's still fun now that I'm an adult.

When everything came out in the wash, I passed the oral exam, nerves and all.  My examiners were very kind and said that they would both be comfortable with me guiding their families, which I take as a high compliment.

I wasn't done, though.  I went back out to the front desk, where Marianne told me that I'd passed the recreational portion of the written exam.  That was pretty darn exciting- no matter what happened with the fishing portion of the exam, I was licensed.  I sat back down and hammered out the remainder of the fishing exam.  I'll admit that I didn't do nearly as well on the fishing written exam as I would have liked, but I guess it wasn't too bad for a spur-of-the-moment situation.  I passed that as well, and I left IF&W with my two-category license and my spiffy patch.

Today was another good day.  Thanks a million to all of the guides who took the time to chat about the test with me!  I couldn't have done it without you guys.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


It was a slow morning here at Red River, which gave me the chance to get out on the water to take some pictures before the weather turned a little stormy.  Although Great Blue Herons are plentiful in Virginia, even near DC (my alter ego is working on one project that boasts a 41-nest rookery), they're a pretty rare sight up here.  We're treated to it only a few times each summer, so I was pretty excited when I saw one fly across the pond.

I hopped in a canoe and stayed as far away from him as I could while getting close enough for my telephoto to see him.  He was crouched in the sheep laurel, unmoving, for at least five minutes.  Then he struck and came up with this:

Yum- trout for breakfast.  From where I sat, it looked like a not-too-shabby 8 inches or so.  He seemed pretty happy with it, too.

Unfortunately, I had my camera on automatic for the first several minutes I was watching him, so while the background foliage came out beautifully, he was terribly washed out.  I had to play with the light levels in Photoshop to bring his color out a little better.

I smartened up after he took off from the shallows and landed on the downed spruce by the Island.  With my camera on one of its manual settings, the heron looked a lot better, so I decided to bother him a while longer.

After about 20 minutes, he'd had enough of the paparazzi treatment, and he took off for the cove on the other side of the rock pile. On his way out, he was kind enough to treat me to this beautiful view.

I've also posted a few more on our Flickr photostream. It was a good morning in the Deboullie Township.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Four Days and Counting

Wow- it's the middle of July already.  I say that not because this summer is going so fast, which it is, but because July 21st is this Thursday.  I have to be in Augusta at 4:00 that afternoon to take the oral half of my guide's exam.

I'm still waffling between happy thoughts and sheer terror.  I've picked the brain of every guide that will let me, and they've given me some good advice and some things to study/research/remember.  Based on all of those conversations, I should do fine, but part of me still feels brutally unprepared.

Most of the problem, I know, is in my head.  For instance: by all accounts, the map-and-compass portion will want to find out if I can orient a line to both true north and magnetic north, do a back-sight, and maybe a couple of other minor things.  In my head, though, the testing panel will want me to plot the best course from one point to another, and then back to the starting point, for multiple groups of varying ability.  (Sure, the college kids can go over that 30% incline, but if you don't avoid that mountain and that swamp with the Elderhostel group, points will be docked.)

(And if you cheekily refer to them as Hostile Elders instead, points will also be docked.)

So I'll take a few minutes each day to do a little last-minute cramming, but I'm just going to go for it.  I do need to brush up on my coastal birds/ducks and a few other things that I never deal with, but I think I'll be able to at least make a worthy effort on the inland questions.

Which just leaves one matter to be resolved...  What in the world do I wear?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Togue Progress

We've made huge strides on the Togue project.  The pine on the ceiling is half complete, and it looks really neat so far- very barnish and worlds better than the white tile:

If all goes well, the ceiling will be complete tomorrow.  That's the easy part.  The hard part will be *cough* rebuilding-the-wall-and-floor *cough*

The wall had to come out so we could jack the cabin up off the ground, and the floor had to come out so we could access the substructure.  It should only take a couple of days to replace the wall and sheathe in the floor, and then once we add new hardwood, it'll be absolutely amazing.  I'm also excited that we're replacing the old door with a window instead.  The door never really worked anyway, and the window will let some nice afternoon light into the cabin.  We'll eventually rebuild the crumbling fireplace chimney, as well, but that will be a future project.

That's all of our rebuilding news for today!  It's been a pretty quiet day in the woods otherwise.  We did have a gang of loons go crazy for fifteen minutes this morning; check out our Flickr set for a few more pictures.  (While you're there, take a look around our other photos as well!)

Friday, July 15, 2011

It's Just a Duckling Time of Year

I had another post written for today, but I'm in the mood to post some duckling pictures instead.  (They grow up so fast.  Other news can wait.)

Here's our resident mallard, which I mistakenly identified as a black duck the other day.  (At least, I think it was a mistake.  The two species interbreed quite a bit, resulting in very dark mallards, but I think these chicks have too much yellow in them to be black duck chicks.  Anyone who knows the species better than I do can feel free to correct me in the comments!)  If you click on the photo, it'll take you to a much larger version, as well.

I also found out today that Pushineer has a mama merganser with four chicks.  I apologize for the bad photo; she was all the way across the pond, and even my amazing new telephoto lens couldn't zoom in that far.

We also had our gang of three loons hanging around the pond today.  I'm not sure where they come from, but we see them around now and then.  They're always three, and we know they're always the same gang because they do a crazy dance wherein they tightly circle each other in a clockwise direction for about ten minutes.  Jack and Lily are nowhere to be found when these three are around.

I guess that's enough duckling and loon news for now! I'll put all these photos up on Red River's Flickr page, along with a few others we've taken recently. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Hiking News

The State has been pretty busy up in our neck of the woods with two hiking-related projects.  The first, which I only learned about last week and saw for the first time tonight, is a new parking lot adjacent to the existing lot at the end of Deboullie (the one that I, in all seriousness, refer to as "the crater").  So far, the new lot lives up to its predecessor's name; it's not dug into the hill nearly as deep, but I have very little hope that the slopes will be planted with anything.  (The slopes of the original crater are finally starting to get some sparse moss and grasses on them after nearly a decade.  As much as I want to, I have neither the time nor the money right now to plant them myself.)

Ostensibly, the new lot is for hikers, which leaves the original lot for fishermen.  I'm skeptical, but we'll see how it all pans out and how they finish the road.  As it stands, no one in their right mind would take anything less than a pickup over that shale, no matter how well the excavator smooths it out.    

All told, though, the new parking lot is better than I feared when I first heard about it, especially if they bring in some dirt and finish the road.  (In my mind, I'd originally placed the road several hundred yards down the existing trail, which I couldn't get over as being a Very Bad Idea.)  The Conservation Corps also built a nice new trail from the parking lot to the Deboullie Mountain/Black Overlook trail split.  The new trail doesn't have the same mud issue that the current trail (which follows the old road) has, but if mudpies are your thing, it looks like they're also leaving the current trail open.

The second project, for which I don't yet have pictures, is a new trail that starts near Denny Pond and winds up on top of Whitman Ridge/Mountain.  I may try to pop over there tomorrow to see how they're progressing, and you know I'll post pictures once I have a chance to hike it.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Surprise! Even More Ducklings!

Apparently, Mama Goldeneye isn't the only busy duck on the pond.  One of the black ducks must have been jealous that they made it onto the blog yesterday, because she paraded her nine-duckling brood in front of the lodge this afternoon:

I don't know where these ones came from- there haven't been any black ducks hanging around the pond this year.  These ones must have walked up from Pushineer.  (Hard to believe, but they do it.)  I still think both broods are young for this time of year, though.  This picture was from June a few years ago:

And this was from the first week of July a few years ago:

I don't know if the black duck will raise her ducklings here on Island Pond, or if they're just passing through. With no loon chick this year, though, it's nice to have some ducklings to ooh and aah over, even if it's just for a while.

Monday, July 11, 2011


Here they are- Mama Goldeneye and her brood:

We're wondering if she lost her first clutch, since these ducklings look awfully small for the second week of July.  The mallards, at least, are usually twice this size by now.  She has had them diving already, though, so I assume she knows what she's doing.

Otherwise, it was a quiet day up here in the woods.  It was so quiet, in fact, that my alter ego actually got a couple of hours of overtime, which takes some of the pressure off the rest of the week.  I rarely get to say that on a Monday- it feels good!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

First Tower Trip of the Year

Since today was a beautiful sunny day (and a weekend, to boot), I decided to play hookey from my Camp duties and take a little run/walk/hike up to the Black Mountain overlook, across to the tower, and back down across the rock slide.  I apologize that all of these photos are from last year; since this was my first time doing the hike with my Vibrams (those funny toe shoes) and I wanted to run a little, I didn't take my camera.

The Conservation Corps has done a great job with creating the trail (two or three years ago now) and putting up signage (which I believe went in late last fall or this summer).  The first part of the trail, three-quarters of a mile or so, utilizes the old road up to the cluster of Black Ponds.  After that, it crosses over a feeder stream and starts going up.  And it goes up really well.  It's not as steep as the old Deboullie trail was, but it's pretty darn close.  It's worth it, though.  At the top, you're treated to this:

(This is where I wish I'd carried my camera today.  The sky was crystal clear and oh-so-blue.)  From the overlook, you can also see Island Pond (right in the center of the next photo) and a trio of mountains that I think include Katahdin and Traveler in Baxter State Park.  This is one of those things that I Should KnowTM, but I'll admit that I had to make my best guess based on where they lie in relation to Island Pond and the overlook, and then where they were from the Four Ponds overlook a little farther down the trail.

The next two (or so) miles over to the tower feel like ten.  (One of our guests carried a GPS when he made the loop yesterday, though, and he said the signage was pretty close to spot-on.  Who am I to argue?)  The trail is nice and stops at some pretty views, but for some reason, the Conservation Corps cut all of the small trees off about three inches above the ground, rather than flush.  I assume there's a reason for that, but a section of the trail on the back side of the ridge felt like running through a minefield, and I found myself walking good portions of it. 

The tower, of course, is always a fun destination.  It's still solid, and the cab is in pretty good shape, but the keeper's cabin beneath it is in need of some serious care.  (Possibly more news to come on that later in the summer...  Stay tuned.)

My Vibrams were great the entire day.  I actually found myself coming down the mountain on the balls of my feet, rather than my heels, and I think it did wonders for my knees.  (Before I get asked, no, I didn't run down the mountain.  I'm foolish but not crazy.)  I capped off the day with a quick jump into Deboullie Pond, and I'm happy to report that it's still cold.  Island Pond, at least the top few feet, is warmer this year than normal, probably because of all the rain and runoff we've had.

My mom once told me that she does regret not getting out more during her time at Camp.  I don't want to have that same regret later in my life, so as long as Gloria doesn't mind me disappearing for a couple of hours at a time, I'm going to make the most of as many nice days as I can.  Hopefully, unlike today, I'll come back with lots of pictures to share.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Ever Onward

With the Island in a good place (and in use for the next couple of weeks), we've turned our sights to Togue.  Due to some scheduling conflicts, we won't be able to get the whole project done as quickly as we'd hoped, but we'll start making progress and see where we end up.

If you've ever been in Togue, you'll remember the distinct 70's vibe it gave off, with its white tiled ceilings, wood paneling, and couch upholstered with partridge.  (Ahem- fabric with images of partridge on it.  I feel I should clear that up right now.) 

We're starting with that tile ceiling.  It came down today:

There was a lot of strapping to deal with. We're going to make the ceiling more of a cathedral ceiling, so that had to go as well. (We'll recycle into new strapping when we put up the pine.)

As with the rest of the cabins, we'll put pine up between the rafters. (Unlike the rest of the cabins, we have actual rafters, rather than logs, to deal with here.) It'll take a few days to get everything looking how it needs to, but I'm definitely intrigued with the new barn-style feel this gives the living room. It's much more camp-y than the tile.

We left the dropped ceiling in the bedrooms to continue affording them some privacy, but we did replace the tile with pine. (My camera lens isn't wide enough to get a good picture.)

As always, more to come as the project goes on.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Culture Clash!

Last night, the History Channel aired "How the States got Their Shapes: Culture Clash," featuring Maine and Northern Massachusetts.  Take a look; the Maine section starts right at the 12:00 minute mark. Congratulations to my mom on her nationwide television debut!

(The embedded video seems to be having an issue. Until I get that sorted out, you can access the original on Hulu here.)

Monday, July 4, 2011

It's the Fourth of July!

Happy Independence Day, everyone!

I'm back from my trip down south.  My meeting in Virginia went well, and my cousin's wedding in Camden was absolutely beautiful.  If we ever start hosting weddings here at Camp, I hope we can create something similar.  (Luckily, I got lots of great decorating ideas yesterday.)

We also fixed our satellite problem this afternoon, and we didn't even have to deal with a visit from a technician.  (Whew!)  I think our problem was a combination of water in the feedhorn and a mis-alined dish.  I guess that's what you have to expect with a wet, windy spring and summer.  Everything seems to be working great now, and we're keeping our fingers crossed it stays that way.

In other news, it looks like we have some baby goldeneyes!  The crazy duck dance we saw a few weeks ago must have indeed been due to chicks jumping from one of the pine trees on the far side of the pond, even though we didn't see them do it.  I've only seen one chick so far, but some of the guests have seen the mother with a pretty large brood.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

More on the LURC Debate

I haven't posted about anything political in a while, so I guess it's time to wade back into the fray.  (I say that mostly because I'm sitting at the airport in Detroit on my way back to Maine, so I don't have any actual Camp news to post.)

This legislative session, a bill was introduced to abolish the Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC).  Ultimately, the bill lacked legislative support, and lawmakers retreated from it.  However, the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee passed (7-5 along party lines) one of two proposed amendments to instead form a study group intended to make recommendations to the legislature next January. 

Debate on the subject included a majority report proposed by Republicans and a minority report proposed by Democrats.  Both reports include thirteen (13) members, but the breakdown is different.  (I'll italicize the differences.)  The minority report includes three members of the Senate (two Republican and one Democratic), four members of the House of Representatives (two from each party), two county commissioners, one major landowner, one statewide conservation organization, one regional planner, and one member representing the outdoor recreation/tourism business.  The majority report includes the Department of Conservation, two residents, one major landowner, one minor landowner, two county commissioners, one sportsmen's representative, one statewide conservation organization, one regional conservation organization, one member representing the outdoor recreation/tourism business, one economic development representative, and one regional planner.

While I think the breakdown of the majority report study group is fine (although I reserve judgement on the actual members until we see who they are), I do have some concerns with the fact that the only mention the amendment makes of LURC is in one passage that "ensure[s] that any recommendation which entails the elimination of LURC provides an effective transition process, including a plan for LURC to complete any pending work or transfer it to relevant agencies."  The remainder of the amendment focuses on reforming governance and "increased self-determination" in the Unorganized Territories.  (Self-determination usually requires some manner of governing one's self, so I'm not sure what they're going for there.)  The minority report amendment seems much more balanced in its focus on reforming and improving land-use planning in the Unorganized Territories, including a focus on improving the relationship between LURC and landowners.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I don't believe the counties, especially Aroostook, can take on the burden of effectively governing the Unorganized Territories.  The Unorganized Territories are a land mass (and a huge one at that) belonging to the entire state, and they should not be governed piecemeal along county lines.  They need an overseeing body, and that overseeing body must be able to pull resources from across the state.  Yes, LURC needs to be updated to be more effective, streamlined, and efficient, just like any other organization created 40 years ago.  No, it does not need to be abolished.

I apologize for ranting about this.  When Governor LePage's LD1 proposal came out in January with the provision to open no less than 30% of the state's Unorganized Territory to unspecified development, it raised my hackles.  That being what it is, I do hope the Commission picks me to be one of the study group's two resident members.

Hey, anything can happen. 

As a side note, did you know that Maine's Unorganized Territories comprise over half the state and yet have only 9,000 year-round residents?  (There are, of course, many additional seasonal residents, including yours truly.) 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Red River's Online Presence

I have a shameless request for folks reading this blog.

We've been trying to increase Red River's online presence through the blog, Facebook, Flickr, Google, etc, and the effort has been paying off little by little.  (For instance, both Google and Yahoo now list internal sitelinks under search results for Red River, although you guys probably don't find that as exciting as I do.)  We still have quite a bit more to do, of course- we have a few videos from guests that need to be posted, our Flickr account needs to really be organized, and we need to add maps and other references to the website.

At this point, though, we could use also use your help.

So here's my request.  If you've enjoyed a stay with us in the past and you have a few minutes to spare online, please pop over to Google Maps, Superpages, or Yellow Pages and post a rating and/or review.  We'd really appreciate you all sharing your opinion with both us and potential future guests.  It helps us learn what we're doing well and what we can improve on, and it helps future guests decide that Red River really is where they'd like to spend their next vacation.

And as always, if you have photos or videos that you wouldn't mind us sharing across the 'net, please feel free to send them our way.  Many thanks in advance!