Saturday, September 1, 2012

Dark Water, Dark Woods

In Maine, we stayed at the cabin (actually more of a rustic estate) of our friends who I will call David and Julia. It’s tucked away in a secluded, thickly forested rural area near the Kennebec River. The day after our arrival, we loaded up for the canoe trip.

Unfortunately, the state of Maine had installed a locked gate across the access road we have used in the past, so David had to drive the trailer about a mile down a narrow, rocky path that only got us about 50 feet from the water’s edge. Meanwhile, other members of the group walked from the cabin pulling a little cart loaded with coolers. It was a hard, sweaty job lugging the canoes and coolers the remaining distance over a tumbled deposit of slick, rounded river rocks. We had eleven people, so we had to move 5 canoes and a kayak.

David took the truck and trailer to the take-out point several miles downriver while the rest of us waited and applied thick coats of poisonous industrial chemicals to repel the ravenous mosquitoes and deer flies.

Once in the water, everything was simply perfect. The day was warm and cloudless. The current was steady and the water was cool and refreshing. Hard to believe that in four months the river will be covered in ice floes.

It looks like we’re working in these photos, but most of the day was spent like this, just drifting along:

We stopped for lunch and took a swim. I chose to rest in the shade.

Later, as we approached the take-out spot, we came upon an old bridge footing made of granite blocks. The bridge was long gone. Young kids were jumping into the water from the top. They got into their canoes and left as we drew close, and I suddenly had a really, really stupid idea.

I slipped over the side of the canoe into the swift current, and thrashed my way over to the bridge footing. I climbed up the slick, tumbled granite and looked down from what appeared to be a great height. The water was dark and roiling. There were no obvious protruding boulders, and it was impossible to see below the surface. I couldn't remember exactly where those kids had jumped in. All of my friends were watching. I couldn’t back out. I jumped.

I hit the water and plunged about 7 feet down until my big toe smacked painfully into a submerged rock. I wasn’t seriously injured; it was just a bloody cut. But it could have been much worse. Note to self: Don’t jump into dark, unknown water.

After we returned back to the cabin, David remembered that the cart used to haul the coolers was still sitting in the woods near the place where we put in the canoes. I volunteered to go get it, despite the fact that dusk was approaching, and huge squadrons of mosquitoes and deer flies were patrolling the area.

I walked down the long driveway, waving my arms spastically in a futile effort to keep the insects away, consumed with dread as I approached the deep woods.

The forest was humid and still, quiet except for the occasional mosquito who thought it would be a good idea to fly into my ear canal. Everything that wasn’t alive was being furiously consumed by fungus.

Eventually I came to a fire pit. This had once been the location of a ratty old trailer occupied by the hermit brother of one of the nearby landowners. The brother had mental problems, social problems and drug problems. He lived in that trailer winter and summer for years. Did I mention that we were in Maine? Winters are brutal, especially for people living in trailers without electricity.

Nearby was a burned pair of skis. I wondered how cold it must have been to make him burn his skis. I was glad he didn’t live there anymore.

Eventually, I found the cart and scampered back the mile or so to the cabin, paying several pints of blood in tribute to the Mosquito Mafia, worried that the scary drug-addicted hermit would spring out of the underbrush.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

At least you didn't meet up with the relatives of that banjo playing kid.