Posts Tagged ‘Stoneham Maine’

The Summer of Lasts

So we’re moving away.  In the near future, I hope to  discuss where we are going and why.  Our wonderful  homestead in Maine is up for sale.

Consequently, this has been a summer of lasts.  The last time my children and grandchildren will experience Maine’s magic with their grandparents.  Believe me, we made the most of it, and everyone had a wonderful time hiking, kayaking, fishing, swimming, cliff jumping, camping, and toasting hot dogs and marshmallows over the campfire.  I will always treasure the special bond we developed over the years thanks to Maine.  Even if the youngest ones don’t remember precise details, they will always remember that they shared good times with us, and even if they can’t quite remember why, they will always know that they carry a special place in their heart for Maine summers.

Since the weather has been so warm, we’ve tried to make the most of hiking to our favorite spots, as well as trying new ones.  Because of the warmth, Fall is late getting started with almost no leaves turning color.  Our hummingbirds finally migrated away this past Sunday and I cleaned out the feeder and put it away.  This weekend it is supposed to rain – – a welcome relief to the most serious drought we’ve experienced in the seven years we’ve been here.  Forty-degree nights will accompany the rain.

That’s when I realized today was my last chance, perhaps forever, to swim in Kewaydin Lake, my favorite of the many lakes surrounding my house, and I was determined to make the most of it.  At the edge of Kewaydin Lake is a small dam, and the water spills out into a rushing stream below, eventually flowing to the Atlantic Ocean.  With my dog, Truman, we swam and swam in the lake for 45 minutes, basking in the sun-warmed top layer and me enjoying the sharp coolness of the deeper areas on my lower extremities.  It’s unlikely that we’ll enjoy another week of daytime temperatures in the 80s with nights in the 50s anytime soon, so I really cherished every moment.

To swim in Kewaydin is an almost holy experience, similar to immersing in a mikva, a Jewish ritual pool.  The purity of the clear cleansing waters, the beautiful surroundings of mountains rimming the lake, the blue sky, the quiet, and the solitude (for rarely are other swimmers there) make it truly special.

Just as I left the water, a woman approached the edge of the dam.

“You don’t remember me, do you?” she asked.

I confessed I didn’t.

“We met last year at the transfer station.  We started talking, and exchanged phone numbers.  We were going to go walking together to get some exercise.”

From the moment she reminded me where we had met, I remembered the circumstances very well.  She was a lifelong resident of our town.  Her husband had recently died, leaving her feeling completely helpless, lonely and bereft.  I had suggested that we make time to walk on a weekly basis, knowing that she needed to unburden herself and that I could be a sympathetic ear, and we could both benefit from the exercise.  She was a genuinely nice and gentle person.  But after multiple attempts and conflicting schedules, we could never seem to make walking together happen; and we simply fell out of touch.  And now, here she was.

“I come here often,” she said.  “I’ve been walking regularly, but I always end up here.  It gives me comfort to visit Dennis,” she said.  “You see, this is where I put him a few months ago:  over the dam,” she said.  She excused herself “to go be with Dennis” and walked about 20 feet ahead, sat at the edge, and immersed herself in deep thought.

It took a moment for the meaning of her words to sink in.

Her husband’s cremated remains were in Lake Kewaydin, spread exactly where I loved most to swim!

This was my last swim at Kewaydin, and like so many things about Maine, it was certainly momentous.  Talk about Final Closure!

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Swimming Lessons

Although Standard Poodles are usually natural water dogs and love swimming, my previous Standard Poodle only liked it if his feet could touch the bottom – – I guess you’d call it wading.  Since we’ve had some very hot days this past week, the lake finally warmed up enough for us to go swimming, so on Friday afternoon we decided to take our first dip of the year and of course we brought Truman.

He loved the water and caught on to swimming immediately.  Soon he was swimming out to deeper water with great joy, retrieving sticks that we’d thrown.  Only a few days ago I gave him a very short haircut – – it made me sad to say goodbye to his fluffy, luxuriant puppy hair – – but I was getting tired of bathing him and brushing out the tangles on a daily basis after he went exploring in muddy areas around our property.  The shorter cut makes what I hope will be daily swims in the lake all pleasure for him and low maintenance for me.




Priorities and Inconveniences

Our closest major supermarket in Maine is 35 minutes away, although I prefer the one over the border in New Hampshire that is 45 minutes away.  It’s true, you can’t really afford to forget anything on your marketing list, because when you spend $10 in gas, and a total of 1.5 hours in travel time, you think twice about a double trip and realize there is very little stuff on your menu that can’t be substituted or eliminated.  Of course I have a large supply of stored non-perishables for just that situation as well as weather emergencies.  So being organized and making careful lists become habit, and it’s really not all that hard.  I also make sure to combine errands for better efficiency.  A trip to the supermarket might also include filling up with gas, picking up whatever I need at the hardware store, shopping at Wal-Mart, and a visit to Dunkin Donuts for a cold drink or hot chocolate, depending on the season.  It may even include a side trip to the vet or a pick-your-own field or orchard.  It also means that Market Day lasts at least 4 to 8 hours, but that is my choice and I don’t consider it an inconvenience.  Because food shopping I do once a week – – but things like fishing, kayaking, swimming in the lake, hiking, walking and camping amidst magnificent nature, ponds, streams, rivers, lakes, waterfalls, valleys, and mountaintops, I can do every single day!  And where and how else would life afford me this opportunity?



Our closest lake is only 2 miles and 4 minutes away.  That means that my husband can take lunch hour swimming or kayaking and be back in plenty of time to finish his day.  Or he can finish work at 5 pm and still have time for a hike or kayak or swim.  Or even go on an overnight camping trip, since magnificent campsites provided at no charge by the Forest Service are only 3 miles and 5 minutes away.


That is just what we did one week this past summer.  At noon I visited the campsite, flush against waterfalls, a natural pool, potholes and stream, and set up camp with our tent, hammock, and a couple of lawn chairs.  I brought wood and kindling from our house and laid it down next to the fire ring.  I wasn’t worried about leaving my stuff and it getting stolen – – the campsite is remote enough that few people other than locals would even know how to find it, though it’s easily accessible from a dirt road, and the overwhelming majority of Mainers are inherently honest folk.


Half an hour later I was back at home, impatiently waiting for my husband to finish work so we could begin our camping adventure.  We ate  dinner at home – – we didn’t want to encourage any bears at the campsite with the scent of leftover food – – and drove to the campsite with our dog, Spencer.  After getting the campfire going and applying some bug spray, my husband settled into the hammock and studied the works of Maimonides’ Mishna Torah, a Jewish sacred text; I sat in the lawn chair near the fire and read a biography of Ariel Sharon which to my surprise, I found under the freecycle canopy at our local dump.  As the sun went down, the air turned delightfully cool.  I had placed some exercise mats on the floor of our tent which provided ample padding for our tired, aging bodies.  It was a clear night and the proliferation of stars were remarkable.



In the morning my husband arose with the dawn, made a fire, and relaxed further.  He returned home to start his workday while I remained at the campsite, enjoying the stream, taking lots of photos with my cellphone, and eventually napping in the hammock, falling asleep in the hammock.  When I broke camp, and put the tent and other paraphernalia back in the car, I called my dog, Spencer, to come to the car.  He wouldn’t budge.  As I approached him, he darted away.  He steadfastly refused to get in the car.  Every time I’d get close, he practically laughed at me, “Can’t catch me!” and running just out of my reach.  Like us, he had enjoyed our quickie camping night out, and hated to call it quits.


Sadly, it was to be our dog’s last camping trip.  Spencer died in September at age 12 from cancer.  I am so glad we had this time with him, and such wonderful memories.

Moose Party

Around 7:20 pm this evening my husband and I decided to take a stroll. Any thoughts of a walk were quickly dashed when I noticed a bull moose in the water at the pond, dining on weeds. This would be the only show in town tonight and moose-watching would take precedence over any kind of walk.  As we stood quietly observing the bull moose we were joined by our second-closest neighbors who live a mile up the road, who were meandering by on their bikes. They are a bit jaded by moose sightings since they retired to Maine last year from  Anchorage Alaska and moose sightings are both common and frequent there. As we were shmoozing, a multigenerational carload of folks who live 2.5 miles down the road also stopped to gawk and talk. By now we were having a moose party at the bottom of our driveway, while Bullwinkle eyed us unconcernedly as he munched away.

How I love this life in Maine!

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.



The next morning I headed to Virginia Lake.


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)


Close Call

Evergreen Valley, Stoneham Maine

Evergreen Valley, Stoneham Maine

Yesterday about 11 a.m. I walked down the road and noticed that there were beautiful wildflowers by the abandoned golf course in Evergreen Valley.  I didn’t have my camera with me and planned to come back later in the afternoon so I could take some pictures.  When I returned around 4 pm, the wildflowers petals had closed up completely and the light was all wrong.  So I made sure to return around the same time today and try yet again.

Monarch Butterfly, Stoneham Maine

What a beautiful day!  After suffering from the high heat and humidity of my home town in the month I was away, it is great to be back in Maine with day temperatures in the 70s, nights in the 50s, and low humidity.  The bugs are not too bad.  The conditions were perfect for taking pictures, so I snapped away for about 30 minutes.

As I was packing up my gear, I heard a noise in the distance approaching me.  It was the caretaker of Evergreen Valley on his riding mower!  Within minutes the entire field of wildflowers was gone, and sadly they will not appear again until Spring 2016.

Camp Savta 2014: Days 5 – 7: Hiking Black Cap Mountain

The 4 year old had no trouble reaching the top of Black Cap.

The 4 year old had no trouble reaching the top of Black Cap.

Although we had taken several long walks, my 12-year-old grandson suggested that we take a “real” hike, saying, “how can we say we’ve been to Maine and that we didn’t go on a hike?”  He remembered last year’s hike to Black Cap Mountain and wanted to repeat it.  It was easy to see why.  Black Cap Mountain is a great introduction to hiking for children.  It’s not long – only 1.3 miles each way – and the ascent is steadily upward enough to make kids put forth a bit of effort, but not so steep that it’s a killer.  Really, a two-year-old can do this hike (but be prepared to carry your kid part of the way if they tire easily).  It’s also suitable for older people – – I was privileged one day to witness a 94-year-old woman make the ascent.

They all made it to the top!

They all made it to the top!


Besides the beautiful view, you are looking at a very special 8 year old.  She experienced some serious orthopedic problems in her legs, which resulted in her legs being casted for several months, as well as physical therapy 3x a week.  She had only gotten these casts off a couple of weeks before the trip to Maine, and the fact that she made it to the top of the mountain when her legs were weaker than normal only shows the incredible determination and strength of character of this kid!  She never complained throughout her ordeal, either.

Besides the beautiful view, you are looking at a very special 8 year old. She experienced some serious orthopedic problems in her legs, which resulted in her legs being casted for several months, as well as physical therapy 3x a week. She had only gotten these casts off a couple of weeks before the trip to Maine, and the fact that she made it to the top of the mountain when her legs were weaker than normal only shows the incredible determination and strength of character of this kid! She never complained throughout her ordeal, either.  Thank G-d she is fine now and back to normal.

It's always more fun to go down the trail than up!

It’s always more fun to go down the trail than up!  The little kid in the center is only 2.

To get to Black Cap Mountain, one goes through the town of North Conway in New Hampshire, then heads over to Kearsage Rd to Hurricane Mountain Road.  Hurricane Mountain Road is what they call a “seasonal” road, meaning it is not maintained (plowed) in winter and as such it is gated closed after the summer season.  It’s extremely steep but the paved asphalt road is very well maintained for the heavy tourist traffic it receives in the summertime.  Don’t even think of trying the road if you have a monster RV, but cars and motorcycles aren’t a problem.

The dirt parking lot for Black Cap Mountain is at the highest point on Hurricane Mountain Road.  (You can continue further on Hurricane Mountain Road all the way to the bottom on the other side, if you want to do a pretty country drive).  The ascent is steep in places but gradual.  Once you get to the top, the views are stupendous of the White Mountains, plus the town of North Conway in New Hampshire.  You can also see Maine and the many lakes of the Western District to the east and south.  It’s also a great place to visit during leaf-peeping season.

After we finished the hike, we made our way to Lovell Library where the kids checked out plenty of books to keep them busy over Shabbat.  We also managed to have another kayaking expedition and swim in Kewaydin Lake.  This would be our last day of activities in Maine, since Shabbat was coming and on Saturday night after havdala (the short prayer ceremony that bodes farewell to the Sabbath and ushers in the new week), everyone would be packing up and my daughter would make the long drive back to Baltimore.  My husband and I spent Saturday taking a long walk of 2 miles with the kids (now that they were seasoned hikers) near our house so our daughter could have an hours-long uninterrupted nap, in preparation for the coming drive.  She would be the sole driver with 9 kids in the car (seven of hers plus 2 nieces).  The plan was to leave by 9:30 p.m. and arrive at her home early the next morning (it’s a 10.5 hour drive on average, but that’s without kids).   A babysitter had already been arranged in her hometown so that my daughter could sleep and recover from the journey upon her arrival.  The hope was that the kids would sleep through the night in the car, and fortunately, they did.  Fewer bathroom stops meant much better time – – she was able to complete the trip in only 9 hours and 45 minutes, which is practically a record.

Havdala ceremony says goodbye to the Sabbath and ushers in a new week.

Havdala ceremony says goodbye to the Sabbath and ushers in a new week.

9:30 pm and the 12-passenger van is packed to the hilt as we say our goodbyes.

9:30 pm and the 12-passenger van is packed to the hilt as we say our goodbyes.

Oh – remember that rash that my daughter had (see previous posts)?  Well, it continued to get worse, but our days were so ridiculously busy that by nightfall, when the walk-in clinic was open, my daughter was too tired to go.   By Saturday night it was huge (12.5″ x 5.5″), hot to the touch, and she was feeling achy and popping Motrin like candy.  So instead of the much-desired nap upon her arrival once back at her home, she took advantage of having a babysitter to go to the Emergency Room, where she was diagnosed with Lyme disease!  No, she was not aware of being bitten by a tick nor did she ever see one.  There is a good chance that she was bitten by a tick in her home state, shortly before she came to Maine, since the rash began only on Day 3.  The other amazing thing is that the rash appeared on her upper abdomen, an area that is covered by clothing, and she had not been in tall grass.  The moral of the story:  you can never be too careful when it comes to Lyme disease prevention.  If you have been outdoors in areas where ticks are known to be prevalent, then do a very careful body check before you go to bed each night, and don’t assume that long sleeves, pants, socks, shoes, and repellent are enough to prevent a tick bite!  And don’t be stupid like we were – – at the first sign of trouble, get to a doctor for diagnosis so you can start treatment sooner than later, before real damage is done.

First Fish 2014

Brook trout from Kewaydin Lake, Stoneham, Maine

Brook trout from Kewaydin Lake, Stoneham, Maine

I’ve tried fishing for the past 3 days without success.  There has been wind with whitecaps on the water, and the  water temperature is still VERY cold despite the unseasonably warm days of the past week (in the 70’s and 80’s).  As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been reluctant for safety’s sake to go out in my kayak, because I’d be alone and there are no other people around.  With the water this cold, capsizing would result in hypothermia and it’s just not worth the risk.  I thought some Maine-uhs would think I am wimpy for my over-cautious attitude but I was quite surprised by their responses.  They agreed that it would be foolish to take a chance.  There is no room for “machismo” because people in my area of Maine have too often seen the tragic results of reckless behavior  from ill-prepared and irresponsible hikers, boaters, snowmobilers, and mountain climbers.  Many local folks volunteer on Search & Rescue teams and nearly every time they are called for a rescue operation, the rescuers’ lives are put in danger to assist someone whose foolish  behavior got them into trouble.

So for now, instead of using my kayak, I’ve been fishing from land, on the water’s edge – – not my favorite style because when you’re standing still you might as well wear a sign for the blackflies that says “Bite Me!”

Tomorrow we’re leaving for 2 weeks on a trip to Israel!  But how could I not catch at least one Maine fish before we go?  So today I decided to try one last time.  The wind had abated, the day was really warm, and as bad as the blackflies were (they stick around from Mother’s Day to Father’s Day), when the blackflies are biting, the fish are usually biting, too.

As I stood at the edge of pristine Kewaydin Lake in Stoneham Maine, the water was so clear that I could peer at least 10′ down into the water.   I got lucky – – a school of brook trout were swimming back and forth in front of me, even jumping occasionally up out of the water and back in again, so I knew where to aim my rod and reel.  I find that trout are much harder to catch than perch or bass, because they are very finicky about bait, and they are very sneaky – they are great at nibbling the worms right off the hook without getting caught.  Indeed, today was no different – I lost several worms without getting a fish – – but finally I caught two brook trout just in time for dinner.  I was thrilled – it was the first time I had ever successfully fished for trout!

Trout are much easier to handle  than perch or bass because their scales are not hard and sharp, and they are much easier to clean.  After gutting them and cutting off the head and tail, I dipped them in egg, dusted them in seasoned flour, and pan-fried them in a cast iron pan.  Only 30 minutes had passed since they had been caught – – talk about fresh!  They were delicious!  We made a small campfire  in our fire pit and ate alongside it.

After dinner I checked the Maine Fish Stocking Report.  They noted that the Dept. of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife had stocked Kewaydin with 90 brook trout on April 30 – – two weeks ago.  I guess my timing couldn’t have been better, although it almost felt like I was “cheating”  because it was as if the trout were swimming around waiting for me.

It was a great last day to be in Maine before our big trip.

Stay tuned to hear about our adventures in Israel!

Autumn vs. Winter

An old barn in Evergreen Valley, Stoneham, Maine.  Speckled Mountain is in the background.


Lots. More. Snow.

Enjoying the beauty of winter in Maine!

This past snowfall was a very wet, heavy snow, of which you can see evidence by its weighing down this birch tree to form a perfect, beautiful arch.

This past snowfall was a very wet, heavy snow, of which you can see evidence by its weighing down this birch tree to form a perfect, beautiful arch.

Our street was plowed within one hour after the snow stopped falling

Our street was plowed within one hour after the snow stopped falling

The plow guy is in touch with street plow people so he knows when to come and do our driveway.  He usually follows right on the heels of the main road plow person.

Our driveway plow guy is in touch with street plow people so he knows when to come and do our driveway. He usually follows right on the heels of the main road plow person.  Beneath the house, on the bench, we’ve placed a 50 lb salt block, but so far no deer or moose have come to take a lick.

Little Pond

Little Pond

Little Pond

Little Pond

Little Pond

Little Pond

Wild turkeys foraging

Wild turkeys foraging


Our dog, Spencer, is dwarfed by the presence of winter on our driveway