A Week by the Lake (Addendum added 7/19----page 43...........)
I fell in love with a lake when I was 11.
We had moved to Maine from the Jersey shore where I had spent my life being tumbled by the sea, feeling the burn of the hot sand on my feet as I ran across it to get to the water’s edge, having my bathing suit weighted down by the grit that had accumulated there, feeling the particles in my hair, my eyes, my mouth. It followed us home. Sand everywhere. It was the price of going to the beach. I did love the ocean and the boardwalk; the smells, the rides, the games, the birch beer, the pizza and the saltwater taffy. My best friend’s family owned the old carousel in Asbury Park. I loved riding the horses around and around trying to reach the golden ring. My favorite horse was a white gilded beauty, with pastel saddle and markings and I could ride it as many times as I wanted, for free. I loved going under the boardwalk in the shade and spying on the big kids, who were under there necking, usually.
I thought the entire universe lived by the sea. I knew of no other existence until my parents decided to ‘get away from it all’. They saw an ad in the Times for a farm in Maine; 200 acres, stone walls, a farm pond, a quaint farmhouse, and outbuildings that sat on top of Foss Hill. They bought it. $27,000. With that, the ocean, our private school, my dad’s antique MG, and our suburban lifestyle were gone.
We became Maniacs, as Mainers are called, and lived on Foss Hill for a year or so, until my parents fell in love with THE HOUSE. A huge sprawling farmhouse with a back lawn that stretched down to a picturesque lake. Once they set their eyes on it, they had to have it, and thus, we moved one more time. From age 12 to just last week, I have loved my parents’ home on the lake. They are up on a hill, and down by the lake there is a boathouse. They have steps leading to a dock, And the lake is a clean, clear giant basin for fisherman, wildlife and weekenders, and a few of us lucky enough to live, or know someone who lives, right on it.
Seems silly that we would want to spend our vacation at a lake then, given that we have access to my folks lake spot any time we want. But we do, because there is nothing like going away. Few responsibilities, nothing to fix, no projects looming in your conscience. You know what I mean, right? Hard to relax at home, as there is always something you should do…..
Several years ago, I convinced the in-laws, whom we vacation with several times a year, to give up the Long Island Beach house on Fire Island, where the mosquitos swarmed so ferociously, that we had to cover the kids with towels and run pulling them in wagons, across the planks to the beach. The ocean waves were so big and cold, that even the adults had a hard time popping in for a swim. It was a hard sell, as they only knew the beach. Everyone is enrooted in tradition, and what is familiar. Change is so hard, isn’t it? But I set forth the bennies of a lakeside vacation. No sand or salt, no big waves. I sold them the image of our ski boat zipping around to get ice cream, or stopping at the lakeside park, or the many coves, and of tubing and water skiing and of no sand, and no clean up, and of children of all ages frolicking in the pure, clear lakewater. I worked for several months to try to get them to just break their tradition for this one time. I was quite certain if they tried it once, we would get to go back.
Me writing this travel tale on the porch of the main lodge
They were good sports, and appreciated the fact that the beach was hard with our three little ones, and allowed me to research a new spot to try. I found the quintessential Maine lake compound in Rangeley, a wild, but trendy, summer lake retreat. Rustic. Pure. Devastatingly beautiful. The New York Times wrote about this region in the Escape section on Friday, July 7, 2006, just yesterday. Lakes Cupsuptic, Mooselookmeguntic, Aziscohos. These are a few of the many fantastic lakes that surround Rangeley. Quick, get up here before the rest of the world now finds it….
The compound I found has a main lodge with two woodstoves and a huge porch, surrounded by three bunkhouses all with their own stoves and bathrooms. The place can sleep 16. We are only 10. There are cedar and pines surrounding the spread. It sits hugging the northern shore, looking south and west and somewhat east. Bald Mountain looms across the lake. There are no other cabins within eye or earshot. It is serene. It is peaceful. It is the closest thing to utter perfection as rustic lakeside living can offer. We would own it if we had the million or more bucks it would take to buy it, and if it were for sale. But we don’t have that kind of money, and the compound has been in the same family since the 20’s.
This year was our third season here. Everyone was looking forward to it, even Grammy J who doesn’t particularly love the rustic lifestyle. We bring our ski boat up, and it sits at the dock along with the 3 kayaks, sailing dingy, 2 canoes, and aluminum skiff that come with the weeklong rental. Every boat gets used during the week. Our kids, all three of them are astonishingly adept at maneuvering the kayaks. I usually bring a dog along with me. We have 3, and they all love to get out on the water.
On this particular night, my daughter and I were out at sunset.
Last year, we kayaked at midnight under the full moon, all the way to Oquossoc, a special little town at the west end of the lake. This year the moon only gave us half its light, but that was still plenty. The wind blew briskly most days. It was perfect sailing weather, and I went out alone, teetering perilously close to capsizing in the gusts. It was exhilarating and stunningly spectacular and peaceful all at once.
This lake is entirely surrounded by mountains. It is reminiscent of the lake region of northern Italy and southern Switzerland. But the architecture is very different. Some people do speak a different language here. French. So it does have a slightly different feel than other lake regions of Maine. It is very close to the Canadian border. But it is not as chic as its European counterparts.
Tubing behind the Stingray.
We arrived at noon on July 1st in the pouring rain. It was raw, windy and thundering. We lit the fire to dry out the cabins, and played board games and the kids sat staring at the flames for hours. Our in-laws arrived in the evening bearing lobsters for dinner. DJ made me my cocktail of choice, a Tangeray and Tonic, lots of ice, extra lime. Sky learned to like lobster this year. Only little Jack is a hold out at this point. I drank a few too many G & T’s and there was a little spinnage in the cabin at the end of the night. As I previously reported, no frickyzzubbage occurred, thankfully. If you do not understand this reference, please use your imagination as to what might occur when one partakes of too many cocktails.
We awoke the next day to thunder and lightening at 7 am . My head hurt. The kids were raring to go, only it was pouring. My MIL was distressed by the weather. Can’t say I blamed her, but we have been enduring rain for the past three months, so my expectation was that it would continue through our vacation. We were prepared for it. It was damp and cold. But mercifully, the clouds broke and the sun shone by the afternoon, and the water sports began. This was the first vacation where the kids required minimal adult entertainment and supervision. They leapt off the dock and swam in the chilly lake. They caught minnows and tadpoles, and searched for the elusive crawfish. They marveled at the merganser with her 16 chicks paddling past and the loons. We all were mesmerized by the sound of the loons. Have you ever heard one? It is haunting and nearly intoxicating, that sound…..
We took the ski boat out cruising and tubing.
Jackson and Carson seated in the bow of the skiboat, a Stingray. Fast and Furious!
One morning we set out with three cocker spaniels and three kids in a canoe to the beaver dam to return a borrowed lobster pot from a neighbor around the point. Someone kayaked daily to Oquossoc for ice and the New York Times. Sure one could drive, but kayaking for the morning paper is just more in keeping with how it is for us up here. The crew also hiked up Bald Mountain. This 2 ½ hour hike afforded a 360 degree view of the lakes and mountains which spans for miles. It was spectacular. Each night, the kids would play some games with the adults, and watch a flick. The adults would sit on the porch, drinking cocktails, reading, batting the breeze and listening to the loons. Occasionally a big splash could be heard in the distance. This was the sound of the beavers leaping into the water, with freshly cut limbs in their mouths. They would then paddle east with their sticks to add to the giant dam, one mile down the lake.
There were several events that put a tiny damper in the week. The first being that the seasonal black flies were still out. These little biting gnats dined on the kiddies and Grammy J. Unfortunately Grammy J had an allergic reaction and awoke on day two looking like a boxer in the losing corner. Her eyes were practically swelled shut, her cheeks were puffy, and her arms and legs had ballooned too. Little Jack would see her, stop in his tracks, turn around and run away. He was terrified of her and poor Grammy was stuck inside for most of the stay.
Little Jack, known affectionately as Stitch 626
The second event occurred on day two, just as the sun came out. I went on the dock to help catch the lines for the incoming ski boat, and as I reached for the line, our digital camera fell out of my pocket and sunk to the bottom of the lake. Kaput! Flash! Gone….well, not completely. My nephew heroically retrieved it from the bottom, but it has not worked since. Thus we are limited in our pictures this trip. Capturing our weeklong vacation was further derailed by the fact that our camcorder was left behind at home as well. So we did more living than photographing this trip…..which is not necessarily a bad thing.
This pint sized 6 year old just lost her two front teeth and Sky can beat anyone in a kayak race, including the adults. She is strong and competetive. Mama is proud...
We happened to be here for the July 4th celebration, which in Maine is almost always celebrated on the 3rd of July :confused3 . Like many communities, this included fireworks. We had a traditional cookout and set off near dusk in our ski boat; all ten of us. It was a calm, crisp night. The skeeters were buzzing at the dock, and I wondered if we would make it through the fireworks…..As we pulled away from the dock, there were boats coming from all directions. This is a very large lake, and it is unusual to ever see more than just a few boats at a time. So this was quite a spectacle to see so many boats all piloting to the head of the lake. The children were all excited to be going out at dark, and peered from beneath their hooded sweatshirts and behind their blankets, smiling broadly at their luck of escaping bedtime and getting an extra boat ride in at sunset.
As we approached the downtown at the east end of the lake, a huge flotilla of vessels was already anchored. There were pontoons with barbeques fired up, rubber zodiacs flitting around, bass fishing boats, clunkers that looked like they might sink any moment, lots of ski boats, and many boats were decked out in Hawaiian themes, coming from the Oquossoc parade. Music blared from speakers, sparklers ignited, kids were jumping off the sides into the chilly lake, ducks meandered past. Every now and then, a burst of someone’s private stash of fireworks would be sent soaring up into the sky, making everyone think this was the official start. Several boats rafted up together, and that crew broke into a hearty but terribly off tuned rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. They mixed up the lyrics, but got through it. Our kids joined in. When the loud clan completed their performance, everyone around honked their horns with enthusiasm; a jubulient, collective thumbs up. The anticipation of the kids grew, as the redness of the sunset got dimmer. They shifted spots on the boat, vying for the best spot to view the eagerly anticipated spectacle. Everyone guessed at the official start time. 9:02. 9:07, 9:11…..the final guess was 9:31. The actual first burst of light shot off at 9:27. The thunderous booms of the fireworks were magnified by the echoes of the sounds hitting the panoramic mountains surrounding the lake. It was magnificent. The temperature was perfect. Those skeeters at the dock never found us. And for about 40 minutes we all sat with our eyes to the sky taking in the brilliant colors and hearing the giant booms that were both awesome and exhilarating. The grand finale did not disappoint and nearly every boat, and there were hundreds and hundreds of them, sounded their horns with approval for several minutes at the end.
And soon, we were pulling up the anchor and heading back to our cabins. It was nothing short of a fantastic unofficial parade. Red, green and white lights were everywhere, all up and down the lake. In the black of night, our boat was zooming amongst and sometimes past the many other vessels heading home, following the dark shoreline. It was a bumpy ride due to the wakes made by all of the boats on the lake that night. On our boat, there were huge smiles on everyone’s faces. It felt like something rare and special that we had been a part of. We all felt terribly happy and alive that night, the big night on the lake, in the middle of the mountains in the north woods on the 4th of July, which was actually the 3rd of July, but no matter.
Looking west towards Oquossoc at sunset on our last night
It sounds and looks amazing. You are very lucky.
Horsey, what a perfect vacation...and the kids are C-U-T-E cute!
The pic of you with the laptop is classic, CLASSIC I say!!!
The kidlets, as always are ADORABLE!!!!
How very nice. Great trip, great story, great pictures. Thanks for sharing.
PS: You should be a writer!! :thumbsup2
As always, you have the ability to place me on the lake, in the boat, watching the fireworks and listening to a rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. Only I wasn't really there. The written word paints the most beautiful pictures. Thanks for the glimpse :artist:
I was out and about all day with the kids, this was the first thing I ran into when I finally made it to the DIS. What a happy surprise to find such a lovely report, with such beautiful pictures.
Well done, my friend. Thank you! And welcome home.
:thumbsup2 Your vacation looks and sounded heavenly :cloud9: Sounds like you had a fantastic time and very relaxing. I really enjoyed your report.
A special thanks to Dan Murphy, whom I know was frustrated a few days ago with the threads here. Dan, we share something. My kids are adopted too.
Thank you again, for the kind words folks. Sometimes the best vacations are the ones that are the simplest. I love Disney. I am going thrice in one year this year. But, the calm, quiet simplicity of nature is restorative and very very special. I highly recommend it. And, there are lakeside cabins all over that are actually very reasonable by the week, sometimes starting at under $500 weekly.
Love your trip report and pictures! Thank you for transporting me to Maine (haven't been there physically since I was 2 years old :sunny: ).
Beautiful report. I felt like I was right there with you, enjoying the sights. The only thing missing for me were the smells. You're so lucky to be able to experience such a vacation, and with family members.
We're going to our own mountains next month, and your report just whets my anticipation a bit more. :)
Thanks for sharing your trip with us.
Now this is the ultimate of a trip report. very very good.........We too were lucky enough to go to the upper boundries of Maine and enjoy the views and the moose and deer and loons........I love maine
thanks again for your fantastic trip report
What a beautiful report. A beautiful vacation. Beautiful family, beautiful you!
I actually have tears in my eyes. You've brought me back in time.
Different lake, very similar memories.
From the summer before I turned 1 until the summer I was 11, my parents, brothers and I, along with my aunt, uncle and cousins on my Dad's side, my Mom's cousin and her family and always at least 3 other families that were friends of one or all of the above families, we all drove from NJ and Long Island to the Adirondack Mountains in upstate NY for a week at the lake.
Rustic cabins, canoe races, campfires, the camp store with the squeaky door slamming, softball games every night-kids at 6, adults at 8- sailing, long afternoons swimming in the lake, taking the power boat down the Schroon River to the pizza place The Narrows, a car stopping in front of the cabin with someone yelling for us kids to "get in, we're going to Dairy Queen!" going to sleep to the sound of all our parents staying up late playing cards.
Now my aunt is gone, my mom's cousin Ruthie is gone, my Mom is gone(cancer all of them), I no longer talk to my cousins or my father, but for a long time we all had one week of bliss ever year. I had a very happy childhood and our one week of vacation at Wakonda every year is always the first thing I think of when I think of my very best childhood memories.
Thanks for bringing it all back for me. :goodvibes
You're a wonderful writer and the picture of you and your daughter at sunset is just beautiful!
Ahhh, HORSEY...from my fav state of MAINE :) ...what a fabulous new Thread you have started. I love reading your "journals"...!!! :goodvibes Your writing is amazing and one of these days sooner than later all of us here on the DIS will see your name on that BEST SELLER list...and can I just say (I have said this before about YOU)!!!!!! :sunny:
The pictures are awesome and the babes, :angel: beautiful!!! You are blessed in so many ways! :sunny:
Now Rangeley, ME...my hairdresser goes there ALL THE TIME but she goes all winter...yup, her family goes snowmobiling! They LOVE Rangeley! They call it their "hidden gem"!!! And seeing your pics..I can see why it is a GEM!!! And from South Central MA..that is a drive for them BUT they do it almost every weekend they can!!!
Once again, HORSEY, thanks for sharing and giving us a little glimpse into your WORLD!!! :love:
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