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Chapter 003 Camp

After a four hour drive, we arrived at the place where I would keep my soul for the next half century – our camp.

The last 150 yards of the journey was along a steep dirt road leading down to the lake through the Maine woods. I found myself driving through a giant, bright green, sunlit dappled tree tunnel canopied by 100-foot tall trees, which opened onto a two story grey cabin, a mere 40 feet from the expansive, clear, blue waters of Great Pond. The camp was old and rustic and totally enchanting – love at first site.

The cabin had a large screened porch which faced the lake and was populated with old wicker rocking chairs. The porch exited through a screen door onto a flight of broad rough-hewn wooden steps that ended at ground level. A short walk from there to the shore, led to a set of granite steps which entered the lake. There was also a granite boat slip cut into the shore, as well as a granite wall, several feet above the surface of the lake, which defined the shore line. A couple of steep roofed out buildings for tools and storage and an old wooden outhouse with a crescent moon carved into the door rounded out the man-made features. The overall effect was of a place that had evolved into its current form by morphing from the woods and rocks and lake, rather than having been created by the actions of humans.

We met our realtor at the camp, and he let us in through the door on the back porch. The downstairs consisted of a kitchen, dining room and long living room, set behind the porch on the lakeside. These rooms were in an open design around the central staircase and stone fireplace. The walls were composed of attractive light brown, interlocking knotty pine, tongue and groove boards of various widths, and the floors, except for the linoleum in the kitchen, were made of beautiful oak planks.

That back porch door opened into the camp’s kitchen which featured a handsome old black ornate Clarion wood cook stove, with a large stovepipe going from it to the chimney it shared with the fireplace. There was a small gas stove with an oven next to the wood stove for indoor cooking on warmer days. A large wooden hutch occupied the north wall. It had drawers for silverware and cabinets for canned goods. On the opposite wall, there were two other large cabinets built above the kitchen counter as well as two more below the counter. Next to them was a large, old, iron sink set under the south facing window, so it was possible to see the woods and lake while washing the dishes, in this automatic dishwasher-free zone.

The huge stone fireplace, constructed from large rounded rocks left behind by the melting of the same glacier which had scoured and defined the borders of the lake, dominated the living room. It exhaled into the brick chimney that went straight up the center of the cabin, terminating three feet above the highest point of the steeply pitched roof. The fireplace had a large many-pronged deer head mounted on either side of it, adding to the rustic feel of the place. The room ran the entire length of the cabin, north to south, the same as the porch. Four windows and a door which opened onto the porch gave stunning views of the lake, a mere 50 feet away. Windows on the north and south walls confirmed that this place was nestled in the woods. An old player piano occupied one wall, and several old rocking chairs, a twin bed, a couch, and a couple of corner desks filled up the rest of the room. No TV spoiled the correct impression that this place was of a different, simpler time.

A large, substantial, dark brown oak table which could easily seat 10 people occupied the center of the dining room. A dozen chairs of similar construction and color surrounded it or stood patiently against the walls. The camp refrigerator also lived in the dining room, right next to a large wooden cabinet with sliding glass doors which housed plates, cups, and glasses. And in the far northeast part of the room was a corner cabinet which was perfect for liquor and wine, or even, the dreaded when dusting… knick-knacks.

A set of wooden steps between the kitchen and the dining room, led to the second floor. The upstairs had the same knotty pine board walls and oak plank floors as downstairs. At the head of the stairs was the master bedroom, which contained a double bed with an old brown, metal headboard and footboard, and two windows that provided a commanding and impressive view of the lake below. Three other bedrooms, one with a similar metal framed double bed, one with two twin beds of ornately carved oak, and one with three single cot-like beds, completed the upstairs sleeping arrangements. That meant the upstairs could sleep nine people, and the camp’s dormitory capacity could increase to 11 if the twin bed and the couch in the living room were also used. A small bathroom, with sink and toilet which provided a seriously contemplative view of the Maine woods, completed the upstairs. There was no shower or tub, so apparently bathing was to be done in the lake… Fine with me…

It was perfect, and my Uncles thought so too, and, with my dad’s proxy, they bought it.

But it had one more noteworthy feature: a boat with a steering wheel. At 14 feet long, aluminum, with an 18-horsepower Evinrude outboard motor, it was small, ugly, and underpowered, but it was mine, and I was thrilled to have it.

Because I lived in Winthrop, a seaside town just north of Boston, many of my friends had boats with steering wheels, and I often drove their boats while they were water skiing. So I was even more accomplished as a boat driver than I was as a car driver. Consequently I was tasked with driving the boat from the landing at Crystal Springs across Great Pond to our camp, a distance of roughly three miles by lake – 10 miles by road.

We drove to Crystal Springs and launched our boat. The realtor gave me directions on how to find our camp from the lake: “Head straight south, until you get to a break in the shoreline on your left, between the land and an island. Turn left through that channel and your camp will be less than a mile due east from there, straight across the bay. Look for the granite wall. It’ll appear slightly yellow in the afternoon light.” I found it quickly and without incident and drove the boat into a perfect no-contact landing in the granite boat slip a good 20 minutes before my uncles and the realtor returned to camp by car.

Between the cabin, the woods, the boat, and the lake, I was ecstatic, and my ecstasy hasn’t waned much over the ensuing 50 years.

***

My name is Wasserman – WASSER-man – WATER-man, and I am definitely of the water. I love being near, in, on, and under water, and to have a home, on the water, was beyond amazing for me. Being in the lake, in the middle of summer when the water temperature has warmed to the low 80’s from the long sunny days, is an absolutely transcendent experience for me. I float weightless, suspended by this insanely wonderful medium. It’s paradise to me – really, it is.

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