Posts Tagged ‘Kezar Lake’

More Than Meets The Eye

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The narrow channel opened up into the huge third bay of Kezar Lake

Even though I’ve lived in Maine for several years now, I had never kayaked the bottom section of Kezar Lake, known as Lower Bay.  Unlike the Upper Bay, which is spectacular, the section of Lower Bay visible from the road doesn’t look like much.  But much to my surprise there is more than meets the eye. Starting from the put-out I passed the marina at The Narrows, went under a low, narrow bridge, and continued down an unexciting and rather narrow channel until its end…only to have it open up to the HUGE hidden section of Kezar Lake that I ignorantly didn’t even realize was there (it’s clearly visible on maps so I don’t know why I never bothered to notice this before).  Kezar Lake is 9 miles long but there’s a total of 33.9 miles of shoreline.  I ended up kayaking about 6 miles of it and had a blast. Talk about a good upper body workout!

(This was a great lesson for me metaphorically speaking:  we do not always see the entire picture; we often lack complete information about situations that impede our judgment.  Just sayin’…)

One of the neat things I noticed was a platform built for a loon’s nest. Loons are territorial ducks with haunting cries and beautiful black and white feathers. Their heads are black and they have beady red eyes.  They are famous for their haunting cries and diving skills; they can stay completely submerged under the water for minutes at a time.  Both parents raise 1 or 2 chicks, teaching them how to dive and fish.  They don’t walk well and live mostly on the water.  The problem is that they build their nests at water’s edge on the shoreline.  If heavy rains make the water levels rise too much, then that year’s nest is wiped out. So some conservation groups have been experimenting with different styles of man-made platforms at some of the lakes with great success, and this has helped stabilize or increase the local loon population.  I took this picture in telephoto mode; getting too close to a nest stresses the loons and could make them abandon the nest completely.

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A platform for nesting loons, topped by a spiffy roof

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Loving the Lakes

Kezar Lake

Kezar Lake

This past week while people in my home town sweltered with high heat and humidity and rain of biblical proportions, here in Maine the weather was in the 70s F during the daytime, 50s F during the night, and dry.  Other than those pesky deerflies and midges, it was just about perfect.  So I decided to make the most of my day and do some serious kayaking and fishing on 3 nearby lakes:  Kezar Lake, Kewaydin Lake, and Virginia Lake, located 2 – 6 miles from my home.

I didn’t last very long on Kewaydin Lake.  The wind picked up and the water became very choppy.  I love adventure, but when I’m out on the lake by myself with no people around, I don’t take chances. I always wear a life vest, even when it’s very hot and the water is calm and it would be more comfortable to not wear it.  In the colder months especially,  I keep my kayak close to the shore.  If the sky turns ominous and looks like there might be a thunderstorm, I head back to the car.  And if the wind produces lots of chop, I also call it quits.  Being safe is a lot more sensible than death by drowning, hypothermia or electrocution.  (I’m not being melodramatic here.)  Fortunately for me, there are always other opportunities to go kayaking on more favorable days.

I decided to try Kezar Lake by the Upper Bay.  Much of it is protected by coves and islands, although there is often chop in the middle of the lake or sometimes a lot of turbulence caused by speedboats taking joyrides.  But I was lucky.  Other than a father and son fishing by the dock, there were no one else around and no boats on the lake, and the water was smooth like glass. It was fun to watch the little boy – about 8 years old –  catch and release fish after fish (perch, hornpout (the local name for catfish), sunfish, trout, and bass!), with his dad puffed up with pride at his son’s successes.

I was so mesmerized by the silence, the beauty, the fresh air, and the rhythm of my paddle, I completely lost track of time until the sky turned pink and orange as the sun fell behind the mountains, and the water glowed with the sky’s reflection.   I remember thinking how I wished I could have taken my blood pressure at that point because it had to be at a record low; I was so completely relaxed and at peace.   It was dark when I loaded the kayak into the car and headed home.

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The next morning I headed to Virginia Lake.

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Friday morning on Virginia Lake

 

This is a bit more off the beaten path and again, I was the only one on the lake.  After a few hours of blissful paddling, thick puffy clouds in white and steel grey started forming, and I realized that I’d soon have to leave lest I get caught in a downpour.  So I paddled back to the put-out and fished for two 20″ trout who teasingly swam around my boat.  The water was so clear I felt like I could have reached down and grabbed them.  They did manage to nibble and steal my worms but I failed to hook them.  As I packed up, I could not help but think that the past two days had been a huge gift, fish or no fish.  I felt a profound sense of inner peace and purity of spirit.  At the risk of sounding corny, dumb and naive, it made me wonder why anyone anywhere in the world would seek to wage war or choose conflict, if they could choose this.

Virginia Lake panorama, Stoneham Maine (click to enlarge)

Virginia Lake panorama, Stoneham Maine (click to enlarge)

 

A Lot Can Happen in a Month

Immediately upon completion of the 30-day mourning period for my brother-in-law (shloshim), we returned to Maine from our home town, driving 10.5 hours through the night.  We arrived at 7 a.m. on July 4th.

The first thing I noticed was the holes in the driveway.  In June, a snapping turtle had been busy sloooowly coming up the driveway each day at dusk for about a week to dig a hole, lay some eggs which resemble ping-pong balls, cover up the hole, and sloooowly make her way back to the bog at the bottom of the driveway.  Now, in July, the eggs must have hatched in the past 2 days, for the shells were still leathery.  The baby turtles had torn their eggs open under the ground, and literally clawed their way to freedom digging through the packed gravel on the driveway, making their instinctual pilgrimage to the bog below.  It’s quite a miraculous journey, as many local creatures such as raccoons, fishers, herons, hawks, crows and snakes prey upon the babies, or manage to dig their way underground to steal and eat the eggs from the nest before they hatch.  Once grown, though, the snapping turtle has only man for a predator (you’ve probably heard of Turtle Soup, a real delicacy in China).  When threatened the snapping turtle’s bite is powerful and could amputate someone’s fingers.

Leathery remnants of hatched snapping turtle eggs.

Leathery remnants of hatched snapping turtle eggs.

Another weird thing was the bees:  I saw that the Bee Man had added some new hives, a sign that the numbers of bees are increasing and honey production is in full swing.  Indeed, the scent of honey was heavy in the air (and smelled heavenly).  The morning of our arrival all looked well, but by the end of the afternoon, shortly before dusk, the bees  appeared to be resting in a swarm on the outside of the hive – – tens of thousands of them!  I looked up this phenomenon on the Internet, and found that this is called “bearding.”

Bearding is a form of hive air-conditioning; the bees depart the immediate brood nest area in order to help keep it at the desired temperature (too many busy bee bodies = too many BTUs). When you see all the bees outside the hive an hour before sundown, you’ll also notice the following morning (early a.m.), most if not all, have gone back inside the hive because the outside air temperature (and thus the hive temp) has dropped – again, just a way they regulate the brood nest temperature.

"Bearding:"  When the temperature inside the hive gets too hot to handle, bees cool of by hanging out around the outside of the hive at the end of a long day.

“Bearding:” When the temperature inside the hive gets too hot to handle, bees cool of by hanging out around the outside of the hive at the end of a long day. (Click to enlarge to see tens of thousands of resting bees “bearding.”)

While we were away, it had rained 10 of the last 15 days, and the first two weeks of June were scarcely drier.  Our house was practically unrecognizable upon our return, due to the heavy foliage.  The lilac bushes and blueberry shrubs I had planted with such care, along with 80 sunflower plants, had been swallowed up and overwhelmed by weeds, brush, grass, thorny raspberry and poison oak.  The trunks of the apple trees were similarly covered.  In the Maine woods, in the battle of Man vs. Nature, nature ultimately always wins.  (Or as a Mainuh once bemoaned the state’s poor economy, “The only thing Maine knows how to do right is grow trees and lobstah.”)  Weed-whacking was the order of the day (not the most ideal way to spend a holiday day off), and it was made worse by a searing heat wave that included lots of humidity.

Once the orchard was trimmed, I could see that the garlic had really grown tall.  The type of garlic I planted is not like the kind you get at the supermarket.  In order to survive the Maine winter (garlic is usually planted in the Fall), a special type of garlic, called hard-necked garlic, is used.  Although its strands cannot be braided due to the stiffness of the greens, it is very potent and delicious.  Towards the end of the growing season, each planted clove forms a curly “scape” with its own little seed bulb.  It is recommended that one cut the scapes off so the garlic bulb under the ground will not divert its nutrients towards the scape, and the bulbs will reach their maximum potential in size.  But the scape cuttings can be used to garnish a salad or sautéed or steamed, and are quite delicious in their own right.

The curly, bulbed end of a hard-necked garlic plant is called a "scape."

The curly, bulbed end of a hard-necked garlic plant is called a “scape.”

My husband was completely exhausted after doing the weed-whacking, and had lost probably 5 lbs. in sweat (eeyew).  We jumped in the car and drove to the lake, which was completely devoid of other people, and dove in the cool, clean, refreshing water.  We had a great swim!  From there we returned home, had a light dinner, and decided to go see fireworks.

Fourth of July celebrations are taken very seriously and enthusiastically in rural Maine.  In especially small towns, two or three towns will combine their celebrations and have  several events during the day, including a parade (which most of the residents participate in, so there are few spectators), a 5k charity race, a pot-luck picnic lunch or dinner, with proceeds also going to charity, and of course, fireworks.

Ebenezers Pub in Lovell, Maine is world-famous, which is something of a surprise since it’s basically in the middle of nowhere about 6 miles down the road from our house.  Ebenezer’s is  known for their impressive inventory of beers, with 1000+ beers available at any one time and at least 35 varieties on tap.  Once we took some guests there, and the claim that they are world-famous was met with rolling eyes and guffaws.  But sure enough, a couple of patrons sitting at the bar had motorcycled there all the way from Virginia on a beer pilgrimage, and another couple had come especially from Belgium!  It’s low-key and friendly and despite the many boutique beer offerings, there is not a trace of snobbery or sleaze.  Ebenezers adjoins Kezar Lake Country Club, whose golf course is open to the public, and it’s a perfect venue for watching the fireworks provided by the Lovell Volunteer Fire Department on a hot night, sitting on the grass, glass of (exotic) beer in hand.  (Check out the pub’s website, they have a great list of things to do in the area should you ever decide to come visit us!)

What made it really special, however, was the crowd of 150 people of all ages.  When the fireworks began, the entire audience spontaneously started singing a whole medley of patriotic songs, including the Star Spangled Banner, God Bless America, and This Land is Your Land.  It was really quite touching, not to mention patriotic.  I guess the patriotism is not that surprising, since most of the residents here are direct descendants of the original patriots, colonists, and founding fathers who created the United States of America.   This is their heritage at the source and by golly, they certainly do embrace and celebrate it.

Today, Sunday, is the last day before the 9 days leading to the Tisha B’Av fast day and prayers, which commemorate the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.  During these upcoming nine days there are several restrictions.  No swimming or boating.  No laundering.  No eating meat.  So naturally, in between scrambling to get all my laundry done, I made kayaking, fishing and swimming a priority, since I cannot partake of these activities after today.  I did manage to catch several fish:  2 small yellow perch (not known as good eating fish so I threw them back), a brown  trout which was too small to keep and also was returned to the water, and finally, a nice-sized white perch, which, when sauteed with the garlic scapes mentioned above and some freshly-snipped parsley that is also from my garden, made a tasty and healthy lunch.

2 o'clock:  just-caught white perch sauteed with freshly picked parsley and garlic scapes from my garden.

2 o’clock: just-caught white perch sauteed with freshly picked parsley and garlic scapes from my garden.

By being away from Maine during the crucial month of June, I missed the prime planting time for a summer or fall garden.  So my packets of many varieties of kale seeds and beets and cucumbers will sadly have to wait until next year to be planted.  Because frost appears as early as September in Maine, the growing season is very short, and if you do not seize the day to plant in a timely manner, you simply lose out until next year.

It is good to be back!  And this will be a busy summer:  awaiting the birth of a new grandchild in Chicago, and entertaining eleven of my grandchildren at the same time in mid-August here at our house in Maine.  Stay tuned!