Chapter Thirty-Six: Odd Tales from the Files

NOTE: "Semi-Rough: A North Country Journal," is now available as a complete book, that includes these on-line essays and more. If you'd like a free pdf to download to your computer, send me a note at symbios@condortales.com and I'll email you a copy.

This is a potpourri of stories from Camp, about events that I remember for various reasons. Some involve people [sometimes us] behaving strangely.


MIDNIGHT VISITOR

We were having more than our usual share of bear activity around camp, due to some other folks feeding the bears nearby, and thereby teaching them bad habits. After a few encounters a little closer than we wanted them, we were getting a bit edgy. Added to that, a raccoon had been "friendlier" than we like them to be, especially since there was quite a bit of rabies in the New England population at that time.

Saturday 15 July 1995- Funny (after the fact!) incident last night. I got up just after midnight, and went outside to relieve myself. When I walked back inside a minute or two later, Sally began screaming at me to 'get out, get out!'. I didn't know if she was even awake, but I was really concerned she would hurl something at me, so I yelled back at her. It seemed to take forever before she heard and understood me. By the time we quit yelling at one another, we were both really shaken. She hadn't heard me go out, or had just heard the screen door close. When she looked over at the door, she thought the raccoon was climbing the screen. Suddenly, the door opened, and all she could think of was scaring off the raccoon/bear,or else getting us up the ladder to the loft, to relative safety. If she heard me calling at all, she must have thought I was talking from the bed next to her. A real heart-pounder and stomach-upsetter!

THE CREATURE IN THE WOODS

We can go for a month or more without a visitor to our camp, but we often hear "noises" in the distance. We don't always find out what they are. Sometimes when we do find out, the results are definitely unexpected.

Thursday 21 September 1995- We were sitting in the house about 1230 when we heard a hammering noise in the woods. I had heard it earlier, and had assumed it had to do with the logging operation, but Sally felt sure this sound was coming from below us in the woods. We walked down toward the outhouse to get a closer hear/look. It was repetitions, almost like hammering, but not continuous. Finally, we saw low trees moving and a dark shape, and concluded that a bear or moose was hitting trees for some reason. It seemed most likely that it was a moose banging his antlers on trees. I ran back to the house to get my camera. When I got back to Sally, she said that she had concluded that it wasn't a wild animal at all, but a man doing "something." We watched a little longer until we were sure, then called out to him. When he answered and we walked over, we found it was a forester on contract to Oxford Paper Co. brushing out and painting their boundary lines. He had started down at our southeast corner post and was working his way up the line. He knew where he was, in the sense that he had a compass and knew what line he was supposed to brush and paint, but had no understanding of the layout of the hill. We compared our survey map and his, and got him oriented. We also showed him a much, much easier route back to his car.

Re-painting our Boundary Line


CULTURE SHOCK

This was a little bit of silliness, made sillier when one remembers that the principal ethnic groups in the North Country are French-Canadian and Norwegian.

Friday 5 May 1995- We heard on the radio that the "Taste of China Restaurant" in Gorham is having a Cinco de Mayo night - Mexican drinks, Corona beer, and attendees invited to wear Mexican clothes to win prizes. Only in the North Country!

A TALE OF TWO RIVERS

In August 1996, Shawn and I had a great walk, and discovered something quite interesting.

Friday 9 August 1996 - Low 67F, a humid and unpleasant night. Rain began about 0500, lasted an hour or so, then generally overcast until late evening, when a little blue broke through. High only 73F. In the house most of the day reading, cooking, etc. 1430-1730 Shawn and I set out to find the headwaters of the creek that flows beside the logging road spur that goes toward Pontook. Pretty easy, fairly dry going uphill, intersected the south line between Potter and Boise-Cascade (the extension of our south line), and then twisted and turned pretty much parallel to the line until we reached a flat swampy area where the channels went underground and came out of pools. It was difficult to know exactly where we were; it couldn't have been too far from our southeast corner, although we hadn't come to the water flowing into Cedar Brook yet. Conclusion: water flows both to Cedar Brook and to Pontook from pretty much the same spot in the cedar swamp. There is either a very low ridge, or it just arbitrarily goes south or east depending on water level, substrate, etc. The stream is really lovely with nice little rills and cascades, and there are fantastic cedars.

After we got back out to the logging road, we took the snowmobile trail down to the Dummer Ponds road to see where the creek empties out. It crosses the road about 50-75 feet north of the snowmobile trail junction [which is also right near the osprey nest, which had one or two young - at least two birds on nest, one adult in a nearby snag]. The muddy areas on the snowmobile trail have fantastic animal tracks - many bear, deer, moose, and coyote.

Sunday 18 August 1996 - Light fog in the morning, low 53F. Burned off quickly to mostly blue skies through noon, then clouds increasing. Looked like rain midmorning, but none came, and clear again by 1800. High 73F.

0625-0800 I walked out the logging road to the powerline and back, the first morning bird walk I've taken in quite a few years. There were little pockets of bird activity all along the way, and I was able to identify most of what was around - most of the local expected warblers, vireos, and chickadees, etc. Nice trip, in and out of the fog.

Shawn went down our south boundary line until he got to the swamp area where we had turned around last week. He crossed one creek flowing south (the main Cedar Brook) and then two larger channels intersecting and flowing east (the ones we came up from the Pontook fork). It sounds like we weren't more than 10 minutes walk from our corner when we came in from the other direction. Shawn went on down (east on) the boundary line, crossed the creek, and found the corner of Potter's lot not far beyond the crossing on the north bank.

Sunday 15 June 1997 - Low 42F - very nice sleeping night. Day mostly sunny, passing clouds increasing toward evening. High 69F. Bugs not a problem unless you scuffed around in the brush. Very pleasant day.

The significance of something Shawn and I discovered last year just came to me: The waters that go to Pontook from the cedar swamp flow down the Androscoggin through Maine, and empty into the Atlantic Ocean beyond Brunswick, Maine. Those that flow into Cedar Brook empty into the Upper Ammonoosuc River and then into the Connecticut River. They eventually reach the Atlantic near Saybrook, Connecticut. So, waters from our property reach the ocean at two points, separated from each other by over three hundred miles!

The Androscoggin River near Camp


IN DANGER OF ELECTROCUTION?

Weather is always good for stories in the North Country, but this one was a little different.

Thursday June 12 1997- One episode of the morning rain was exceptional. We were standing outside. There had been a lot of electrical activity, but none had been anywhere near us (off to the south and east, mainly). Suddenly, there were loud 'pings' going off on all sides of us; I said at the time that it reminded me of someone setting off a whole string of lady-finger firecrackers. Neither of us knew what was going on, but we both immediately though 'electricity', and got quite excited and ready to bolt for somewhere. It was only then that we noticed grape-sized hail falling all around us, bouncing off metal roof, pails, etc. It only lasted half a minute, but the beginning was quite exciting.

THREE NORTH COUNTRY MYSTERIES

Tuesday 16 August 1994 - Low 48F. Last evening's rain totaled 0.05". Morning clear, calm. Lots of cumulus clouds through the day, but also lots of sun. High 71F.

We heard Pan in the night! Starting about 2100, and recurring every minute or so, we kept hearing a flute or piccolo succession of notes - very regular, very un-birdlike, or other animal-like. Hard to tell where it was coming from. Eerie.

Saturday 7 June 1997 - Low 43F, high 73F. More clouds than the last couple days, so more humid, but still lots of blue and no threat of rain.

The past several nights we have seen a large, star-like object in the northern sky. It very clearly has red and green lights, so the first night we thought it was a plane headed directly toward us. After an hour or so, we decided it wasn’t. It eventually goes out of sight to the east, contrary to the stars, planets, and I think most satellites which orbit east to west. Do-do-do-do-do.

Saturday 3 October 1998 - The miscellaneous showers yesterday yielded 0.05” ppt. Today, lots of fair weather clouds but lots of blue. Still a little breezy, but the strong winds are over. Low 37F, high 49.6F.

After having a fashionably late “brunch”, we decided to walk out the logging road to investigate a mysterious light we had seen last night. From the house looking very low through the trees and almost due east, we had seen a bright yellow light. The only thing we could figure was that somebody was camped out on (or having a party on) the Logging Road, and had a big bonfire. We checked several times until midnight or so, and it was still visible, but not when I looked some time late in the night. Our walk proved futile as far as solving the mystery of the yellow light because we couldn’t see any sign of a campfire anywhere along the road.

Later, with topo maps and compass, we determined that the bright yellow light was farther north than any place we could have seen from Camp, if it was on the Logging Road. Also, we discovered that the light was “back” every night. Further investigation showed that, due to thinning of the woods from logging and the Ice Storm, we were looking all the way across Pontook Dam, and were seeing the lights of East Dummer.

So, one North Country mystery solved. But, as far as we know, Pan is still playing, and the large object in the sky is still circling past.

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