We’re moving…come along for the ride

This post will be short and sweet. As the publication of Upwards gets closer (really it is), it’s time for me to have an author’s website, with an easily remembered address and expanded content. My blog, Laurie’s Adventures, will soon be moving over to become part of the new website, at laurieachandler.com.

(If you go take a peek now, you’ll discover that it’s still a work in progress).

All of the existing blog posts and followers of Laurie’s Adventures will migrate to the new site at some point during the next week or two. At least that’s the plan. If by chance we miss moving you, the home page of the new website makes it simple to subscribe again.

In other book news, the interior design is virtually complete and only a Library of Congress number stands between us and the long-awaited press proof. After that, the order goes out to the printer and we wait for that glorious moment when the boxes arrive. It can’t come soon enough for this anxious, exhilarated first-time author.

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A waterfront look at The Birches, the latest business to order advance copies of Upwards
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Moosehead in all its moods

School’s begun, but the long weekend gave us the chance to head north to the NFCT once more before summer ends. It was the usual cast of characters for a stay at The Birches in Rockwood: my parents, aunt, uncle, and me, plus one canoe, two kayaks, and Dad’s motorized skiff. Name the weather and we had it. From bathing suits to the woodstove, it all felt good at some point.

Dad’s hand, which he broke back in July on Little Spencer Stream, is almost healed. At the tiller, he motored us up Tomhegan Creek a couple of mornings in search of wildlife. Moose, really, but they must have missed the memo. In place of moose, we got herons, kingfishers, and a bald eagle.

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Dad, Aunt Sue, and Uncle George on the lookout for wildlife
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Sue braved the chilly waters for a long swim

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Sunday was the day of wildest weather, winds, and whitecaps, but at dawn the lake still slept. Some confusion of dream woke me, ready for adventure even as my eyes opened. Two cups of quick-brewed coffee, some of Sue’s banana bread, a whisper of my plans to Mom, and I was gone. Mist still clung to the rocky shores as my canoe began the 8-mile journey around Farm Island.

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Rounding the north end of the island, I turned toward home and breakfast, warmth and bacon. The risen sun threw a path of wave-tossed sunlight straight to me. As I paddled south, it followed, for miles. I paused a moment and the canoe turned to face the sun. In the distance, a loon cruised through the shimmering light, and then moved on.

The morning solitude allowed my thoughts to flow freer than they had in many days.

Nature, I thought, embraces us. It’s unpredictable at times, perhaps, but never judging. Nature listens more than talks. Nature simply is, a continuity fading backward into the mists of time, and carrying the promise of a future long after we are gone.

What meaning there is in nature is for us to find, and maybe, each one of us finds what it is we need just then. That morning, I needed rest and found it. 

Glamping, Northwoods style, on spectacular Fish Pond in Jackman

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Fellow adventurers Bill and Mary Bausch were among the group who camped together last week up near Jackman, Maine. Bill’s panoramic photo above captures the spirit of aptly-named Fish Pond, where we had a small campground all to ourselves, for five days and nights of campfires, swimming, berry picking, and more.

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The crew (from left) were Phil Blomquist, Mary Berger, Bill and Mary Bausch, Dad, Linda Blomquist, Kathy Buhl, plus me and Mom, who was staying in a cabin on Big Wood Pond

“40 degrees in the ME woods yesterday as we woke!” Mary Bausch wrote after arriving safely home. “The crackling fire Phil started @5 got us up out of our sleeping bags and into the hot coffee, chocolate and oatmeal (with fixins). Three hours from here to there doesn’t take into account the 30+ minutes it takes to get out from the campsite on 13 miles of a dusty dirt – dodging the huge trucks hauling – logging road! But well worth the hazardous road to get to this lovely campsite on Fish Pond, connected to Spencer Lake. We did two long paddles to fab lunch sites on the local lakes, enjoyed an actual fish fry one evening thanks to the avid fisher people with us! Our fare was clearly gourmet – “glampingly” so, since we had our cars near our tents, plenty of coolers. Finally ran out of ice and paper towels this morning. Not much of a hardship. And we saw TWO whole moose(s) across our Fish Pond. Altogether a successful adventure.”

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Up early to welcome the sun on our first morning
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Mary Berger wets a fly in the cove by our campsite
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This chair was one of many perks that would never come along on a river trip
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Almost ready to paddle island-studded, mountain-ringed Attean Pond
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Yoga? – No, Kathy trying to entice a gray jay closer to camp
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One morning, Phil discovered a stowaway in his kayak, peeking out from behind the foam in the bow. After being evicted, the tiny gray shrew swam valiantly (and safely) to shore.
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The “before” photo: Dad starting out on a solo adventure, a two-night trip down 14 miles of the NFCT, starting in this tiny inlet to Fish Pond and ending on Spencer Stream near Grand Falls

Continuing his quest to section-paddle the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, Dad brought along portage wheels and a pole and set off to tackle both lakes, plus the rapids and rock gardens of Little Spencer and Spencer Streams. On his first morning, camped below Spencer Lake,  a party of fisherman came by just after dawn and included Dad in their stream-side bacon and egg breakfast. That may have been the high point of what turned out to be a challenging day of climbing endlessly in and out of the boat on slippery rocks. Dad made it, though, and was waiting as planned when I arrived to pick him up.

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The “after” photo: A broken bone in Dad’s right hand and a new story to tell around the campfire

How quickly life can change! Instead of an August trip down the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, Dad and I will be finding lots to keep us entertained at home. Right now we are in the midst of a grand family reunion, with cousins, aunts and uncle, kids, and dogs. There’s nothing as sweet as gathering with loved ones in the glorious Maine summer!

Fonts, blurbs, and dingbats: Putting the finishing touches on Upwards

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Like this porcupine, I’m scrambling to finish by the publisher’s deadline for the fall trade catalog

After returning home from Virginia (and waiting for the laptop that I left in my bedroom there to arrive by Fed Ex), it was time to accept or reject Dan’s edits. Dan Karker, my editor from Maine Authors Publishing, not only found mistakes, but added consistency to the style and formatting of the manuscript. And boy did I have a lot of commas to move around! I added scene breaks, cleaned up my bibliography, and even paid $90 for permission to use two opening quotes from Sigurd Olson that were dear to my heart.

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The owner of Ecopelagicon in Rangeley ordered 4 autographed copies, my first commercial sale

With the edits finished, photos chosen and captioned, and graphics in hand, it was time to go up to Maine Authors Publishing for the design meeting. From here on out, the book will be in the designer’s artistic hands. Decision by decision, the interior layout is coming together, as Wendy Higgins translates my ideas into PDF drafts. Next week I hope to receive the first full-length layout, and September 1 is the finish line, when the press proof must be done.

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What a delightful surprise and honor to have Gil Gilpatrick feature Upwards in his August column in the Northwoods Sporting Journal. Gil, the author of Allagash: A Journey Through Time on Maine’s Legendary Wilderness Waterway, has inspired both my paddling and writing journeys over the years.

Look for a trip report from our Jackman area NFCT trip in my next blog post!

Going back…to some of the NFCT’s treasured corners of Maine

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Paul Heintz (third from right) was on the thru-paddlers panel at NFCT’s 2015 Freshet Fest.

Last summer, I kayaked in Honduras, Norway, and the Netherlands, but not anywhere on the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. Surprising indeed, since every other summer since moving to Maine in 2003, I have. I think I first heard about the trail in 2008, at the Lobster Stream boat launch, where Mom, Dad, and I met thru-paddler Paul Heintz. Paul was a cheerful guy, tall and bearded, with a canoe full of an impressive amount of gear.

In those early years, I paddled the NFCT many times, without knowing it. For sure, I was on Mooselookmeguntic, the Richardsons, the Allagash, Flagstaff, the West Branch of the Penobscot, Moosehead, and Chesuncook, all without benefit of NFCT’s great maps. This year, I promise to do better. In fact, I already have one NFCT sojourn in the books.

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Paul and Janie Hartman welcomed me to their Mooselookmeguntic cabin, Cup o’ Tea, for a couple of days of kayaking, restful reading, chilly swimming, and, of course, their amazing and warm outdoor shower. Janie has the perfect apron for the hostess of Cup o’ Tea.

The Hartmans’ cabin was my home for one night during Paddle for Hope in 2011 and two during my 2015 thru-paddle. A week or two ago, I returned for a more relaxing visit. Paul and Janie have owned their place for almost fifty years and have a lifetime of natural discoveries to share with visitors. This year we hiked to Angel Falls, off nearby Bemis Road, not far from where the AT crosses the road.

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Paul and Janie rock hopping at one of several stream crossings on the way to Angel Falls
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Angel Falls, with a 90-foot drop, is among the top three highest waterfalls in Maine. Janie says that it used to be called Angel Wing Falls, until a stone “wing” cracked off decades ago. Some online sources say that the shape of an angel’s wing can still be seen in the moving cascade.
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Most of the crew for the next planned NFCT adventure, up in the Jackman area. Phil, Dad, Mary, Bill, Linda, and I (taking the photo) warmed up with a paddle on the Pemaquid River last week. Don’t you love the color palette?

 

No need to be perfect…a lesson from blueberry pie


There’s plenty of time for reflection when you’re making a wild Maine blueberry pie from scratch. Up on the hill behind our house, at least this summer, there’s a good patch of berries, at the peak of ripeness. Dad’s been wishing for a pie, so I pulled out the cookbook to see how many berries it would take – five cups – then started picking.

Big berries, tiny berries, blue ones and black, they slowly began to fill my bucket. My hands fell into a rhythm, getting less fussy about stripping off a cluster at a time, including a few that were less than perfect. After all, they were soon going to be bubbling in a piecrust. My mind drifted. Long ago, people had harvested the summer’s bounty just as I was. Not concerned about perfection, but about feeding their families.

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Later, I washed the berries, then picked them over, a handful at a time, pulling out the leaves, finding stubborn stems still clinging here and there. I felt proud to be baking my first blueberry pie from my own berries. The sun and heat had gotten me tired, so I sat for a few minutes rereading the recipe. Sugar, flour, lemon juice, and cinnamon would all go in with the berries, then I’d make the same homemade crust as for my apple pie.

As I measured out the sugar, I happened to glance into the bowl.

“Oh, I missed a couple of stems!’ was my first thought. Then those stems, thin and reddish-green, began to wiggle and crawl across the glistening blue berries. Two tiny worms, hunching their way across my pretty bowl of blueberries! After close examination, I think I found seven, enough to make me hesitate before blithely dumping in the sugar. Mom and Dad didn’t seem concerned, though, so I plunged ahead.

I cut the shortening into the flour, still thinking about long-ago pies. My great-grandmother, Grandma Searls, had lived in the Jersey Pine Barrens, with blueberries in her yard. I remember picking them there. For her pie crusts, way back when, she’d collected fat from cooking, her favorite being chicken fat. It wouldn’t have looked anything like the pure white uniformity of my can of Crisco, but her pies were delicious.

Then it was time to roll out the piecrust, and I knew from experience not to even hope for perfection there. The bottom crust cooperated and was soon filled with berries dotted with pats of butter. The top crust bore a much closer resemblance to a patchwork quilt. Tomorrow, though, when we have it for breakfast, that pie will be perfect!

Sleuthing in the littoral zone, the fight against invasive aquatic plants

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Roberta Hill, from the Maine Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program, helped us sort and identify the aquatic plants we collected from Pemaquid Pond during our Invasive Plant Patrol workshop.

Back in 2009, a man named Dick Butterfield did what I did yesterday. He attended his first workshop with the Maine Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program (VLMP), to start learning to identify dangerous invasive aquatic plants. His thirst for knowledge, combined with concise, effective training, soon saved one of our local lakes.

No doubt armed with his mini waterproof identification key to the 11 most-unwanted suspects, he ventured out on his very first patrol, on nearby Damariscotta Lake. And found hydrilla, which the Maine DEP calls “the most problematic invasive plant in North America.” The lake is huge, with 45 miles of shoreline, but volunteers and experts sprang into action to contain the hydrilla in the tiny cove where Dick had found it. Dick caught it early, which is critically important in the fight against invasives.

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Paired up with buddies, we went out into our assigned sectors to collect plant specimens in the littoral zone, the zone of richest diversity along the lake’s shoreline.

Our workshop was information-packed, but my message for you is simple. In Roberta’s words, “The work of citizen scientists [volunteers] on the the front line is the most important piece in this fight.” Training focuses on just those 11 likely culprits, which fall into three main structural categories. That means that some types of plants (like hairy, grass-like stuff) you see can just be ignored. To demonstrate how easy screening samples can be, VLMP recently set up a table at L.L. Bean and taught willing shoppers how to use the key. Their average time to key out a sample was just two minutes.

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The sorting pan for one of the three broad categories that the eleven-most-unwanted invasive plants fall into. Although we were just learning, and made some mistakes, visible in the photo are some innocuous native milfoils and bladderworts that we collected on our plant patrol.

I was invited to yesterday’s workshop by the Pemaquid Watershed Association, which I’ve belonged to for many years. One of my resolutions for 2017 was to become a more active PWA volunteer. I’ve been writing some press releases and plan to volunteer for plant patrols on McCurdy Pond, where I often keep my canoe. If you’re interested in learning more, visit the Maine Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program or take a peek at the Key to the Eleven Most Unwanted Invasive Aquatic Plants.

The warmth of family, and the hot Virginia summer

The days when we did everything together don’t seem that long ago. And yet, they are, and somehow it has been six months since I’ve seen my children. They’ve nested and started careers and then they haven’t changed at all. It’s been so good to be here, staying in Megan and Jacob’s log cabin, sampling a bit of their everyday lives.

On Belle Isle, in the James River, at the site of a factory that recycled scrap iron into nails, wire, and horseshoes in the 1800’s

Megan and I visited Belle Isle, site of a former Civil War POW camp, where she told me the story of “Crazy Bet,” the Union spy who hid beneath the cloak of mental illness to pass along crucial information. After freeing her family’s own slaves, she used her inheritance to buy and free their relatives.
  

The falls on the James River that now draw swimmers and rafters, once attracted native tribes, who agreed to short-term peace when the fish were running in the spring. A sign on Belle Isle described the bravado of the teenage boys, who rode the backs of pregnant 8-foot sturgeon here, to impress the girls.

Mom wanted all the details of Taylor’s firefighter’s life at his new station in Goochland County.

   
 

Taylor treated me to an hour-long walk at Charlottesville’s Riverview Park along the Rivanna River. Another day, we all went swimmimg and had a picnic along the same river.
    

  
Jacob’s family included me in their July 4th celebrations, including plenty of great southern home cooking and lots of little girls and bubbles. We also went with Jacob’s mom, Janet, to see fireflies with an entomologist in one of Richmond’s wetland parks. Who knew there were many species, each with its distinctive color, flight, and blinking pattern? Seeing the pitch-black meadow alight with a myriad of twinkling insects was well worth staying up late.  And saying farewell was not too hard, as Megan, Jacob, and Taylor will all be coming to Maine in August.

  

Upwards: Two months to go!

 

Megan at Humpback Rocks above the Blue Ridge Parkway, where we hiked on Saturday

Last Thanksgiving, my daughter Megan and I chose some photos as candidates for the book’s cover. She’s a graphic designer and had been working her magic on them, but hadn’t given me even a peek. So I was beyond excited to see the two versions she liked the best.

 

View of the log cabin from Jacob’s garden. Visiting for a week has given us lots of design time together.

Friday was the evening, and we sat in the darkening living room as the first cover appeared on the computer. My heart jumped. There was Upwards and my name and it looked like a book, a beautiful book. It was absolutely an amazing moment, and then I liked the second version, Megan’s favorite, even more. Yesterday, the afternoon drifted away while Megan fine-tuned the cover and I worked on photo layout for the inside.

Who would have dreamed that publishing a book would have so many steps? I’m frazzled. There’s still so much to finish up. My editor at Maine Authors Publishing has given me his corrections, and each has to be accepted or rejected. I’m digging out childhood photos, getting the last few stubborn permissions, and searching for quotes in the public domain, to replace a few from Dr. Suess and Winnie-the-Pooh that I’m scared to use.

Inspiration comes from every attractive book I see and there sure are a lot of pretty books out there!

 

Katina and Sam treated Megan and me to breakfast at the Iris Inn, where we congratulated her on finishing her AT thru-hike and talked map details.

 

On Wednesday, I’ll head back to Maine and the upcoming design meeting, where we’ll finalize the rest of the interior look. Until then, we have plans to celebrate July 4th with lots of fun family togetherness and wish the same for all of you!

Through it all, her way

Without a doubt, there is a mystique about the Appalachian Trail, a romance that calls disciples from all walks of life. It whispers a song of misty valleys, delicate wildflowers, rushing streams, and coal-black bear – and a narrow, winding footpath across 14 states.

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My son, Taylor, on a short AT hike near Bethel, Maine years ago

 

About the thru-hiker, too, there is a mystique. Why would a person pare life down to the essentials of bare bed, utilitarian calories, unchanging garments, and set out to walk-like-a-job for many months? Thru-journeys, be they on land or water, thrill the soul – during the planning months. Later, they test the depths of commitment, tenacity, self-content, and resourcefulness. Not everyone is cut out to finish.

McAfee Knob, the most photographed spot on the AT, is still special when your friend stands there, so close to the finish

Most of you know Katina Daanen well from the integral role that she played in my Northern Forest Canoe Trail thru-paddle. Caring friend, author of The Northern Forest Canoe Trail Through-Paddler’s Companion, and insightful reader of Upwards from the start, Katina has always been there for me.

Last summer, Katina gave me a taste of thru-hiker life for a few days near the Vermont-New Hanpshire border.

 

Today my good friend will become one of a handful of people who have completed both the Northern Forest Canoe Trail and the Appalachian Trail. Hers has been a flip-flop hike, completed over two years. Avoiding the crowds, tempering the weather extremes, more and more thru-hikers are choosing to start in the middle of the trail, as she did in Shenandoah National Park.

Very special to me is the fact that I happened to be visiting Virginia when “Arachne” (her trail name) started in April 2016 and I’m here now, too! Tomorrow, Megan and I will breakfast with Katina and her husband Sam at their inn, and celebrate her accomplishment. We’ll also get to talk book details, as Katina is designing the book’s trail map. Tomorrow is sure to be a highlight of my week here in Virginia!