After almost a year of mental debate I recently decided to sell my camp in the Maine north woods. When I bought the place I thought I would have it forever. It was all I had dreamed of. My wife and I put a serious dent in our meager savings to buy it, and after my first deer season there, where I tracked and killed a wide nine-point buck, I knew I had found my piece of heaven.
Things change. I became a guide. The camp is on a lease and the lease holder does not allow commercial operations on their land. Their land, their rules. I tried to keep the camp for family, and look for another place to guide from. Unfortunately, money has yet to grow on trees. I was at a crossroads. I wanted to grow and expand my guide service, but the times I spend at my camp are the greatest times of my life.
The third week of November every year is “camp week.” It brings my father, my uncle, my brothers, and some great friends under one roof. For a week we chase whitetails, play cards, eat like kings, and even drink a beer, or 200. They’re all special people to me, people who have stuck with me through thick and thin. I saw the camp as my gift to them. The all have keys. It was as much theirs as mine.
The weekend following Father’s Day is always the weekend we all gather to climb Katahdin. Eager anticipation on Friday night turns into a day long climb on Saturday. People struggle, swear they are going to get in shape before next year, and encourage each other. Saturday night after the climb if you’re not the first one to sleep the sound of exhausted, successful mountaineers will keep you awake, the snoring almost sounds choreographed.
Thanksgiving is for family. We all gather there and play cribbage, rummy, and lately this ridiculous game where you put a dental torture tool in your mouth and try to get your partner to understand the clue you are reading from a card. The laughter and the amount of drool is epic. If you were to stand outside the door and listen you’d think we’d all gone mad.
Summer brings lazy days floating on the river, lounging at the sand bar at the bottom of Abol Rapids, and fires on the deck as the sun sets in the west and the moon illuminates Katahdin. We walk to our favorite fishing spots, catch trout and salmon, and enjoy each other without the distractions of the modern world.
Winter brings the challenge of getting in by snowmobile, warming the place and then mid-night snowmobile rides through a remote forest that few people ever get to see. We may icefish a remote lake, and then go to our camp neighbors place to feed the deer we just chased a few months before from our hands as they try to make it through the harsh winter.
This deer season I was coming back from a day of tracking, it was already dark. I was thinking about selling the place for a long time. As I walked up the steep driveway the camp was illuminated beautifully. Inside I could see my wife, my brother, his wife, my nephews and daughter. It was a perfect picture. It was then I realized that it’s not the camp it’s the people.
So the camp is under contract. I will buy another place and we will make more memories because a camp is a wooden structure with stuff in it. It’s the people that matter, and I am surrounded by some great ones.