Enough of all this fancy French travel, non? Let’s head to one of my favorite spots, which is my friend Wendy’s camp in Raymond, Maine. Raymond sits close to Sebago Lake in the South Portland area, and has a long colonial history which you can read on wikipedia and probably a long Native American history which you can’t.
With my parents, the Brazilian exchange student and one kid (other one had a soccer tournament) plus a dog and a cat, we jumped in the car on the Friday afternoon of Labor Day weekend. Road trip up the coast! I have to say I feel a thrill every time I pass that sign on I-95 that reads “Welcome to Maine. Life as it should be.”
I fell in love with Maine a long time ago and one of my favorite things about living in Massachusetts is its proximity to my favorite state. And its residents–two of my besties from college live (one full-time, one half-year) in Maine and I bookend just about every summer with visits to each. So in case you all think my life is one of luxuriously traveling around to all these European froo-froo spots…nope, my froo is all about visiting my favorite people. Though I really like people better if they live in nice places. That’s a joke. Sort of.
Now let’s discuss this whole “camp” thing that Maine has. No, not the summer camp as in four hundred kids screaming down hills chased by yellow jackets and U of Maine college counselors. I mean house camp. Weekend and summer homes in Maine are “camps.” Camps run the gamut from a simple lean-to or cabin with no running water (welcome to the “environmental” toilet, a euphemism for a weird device that you do your business in, then rotate a blade with pine shavings to hide it. Like a human litter box.) to a huge summer house with six bedrooms and a subzero fridge, and everything in between. If someone tells you they are going to camp this weekend, you actually have no idea what they are talking about. Could be rough, could be cushy.
Now my friend Wendy has a wonderful family camp on Raymond Pond, which I would call a pretty hefty sized lake. I hardly want to open up the whole “pond” vs “lake” can of beans but here is how I understand the difference. Ponds have muddy bottoms, lakes have sandy bottoms. Right? Or are you Mainers just messing with me as usual? I personally think lake sounds nicer than pond but could be because I always think of Chevy Chase in Caddyshack suggesting ponds are better for Bill Murray. Never mind.
The camp sits out on a point between the two lobes of the pond. Loons come by with their lonely calls, early mornings bring sounds of the little splashes from fly-casting fishermen, and late afternoons ring with conversations from the passing pontoon boats. I love a pontoon boat. Floating hangouts for cocktail hour, tour boats of the small lakes, slow moving innertube-draggers. My dog Katie liked to rush from door to door to see what could be seen. Not much but Maine trees and rippled water. Or as Nathaniel Hawthorne put it (he spend a couple of years in Raymond): “Those were delightful days, for that part of the country was wild then, with only scattered clearings, and nine tenths of it primeval woods.” (credit: wikipedia). Okay, the primeval woods may be largely gone but the wildness can be glimpsed on the hillsides.
For whatever reason, this Labor Day weekend at Raymond Pond was quiet. This was the fourth year we have visited Wendy’s place and normally the place is alive, but not crazed, with water skiers, pontooners, kayakers. It was really quiet. Could be the forecast for a rainy Sunday but the Saturday was picture-perfect beautiful for hammock sittting, paddle boating, swimming (not me, I’m allergic to cold water) and hanging around with my parents, the kids (Wendy has two teens) and my friend and my dog and my cat.
You see, my friend Wendy is the type who says “sure, bring them along!” when I say I have a cat and a dog and parents and a Brazilian exchange student. “We can fit them.” And so we did, crammed into bunk beds and sofas (thanks, Chase!) and everywhere. When not messing around at the lake, we went to Maine Wildlife Park (will need a separate post, methinks) and to the badly-named but exceptional ice cream shack called The Mosquito in Gray. And there is never any other option for Saturday night dinner but LOBSTER. Love me some lobster.
This summer of travel, technically culminating with Labor Day weekend, will probably remain my favorite summer ever. Visiting friends in places from Maine to Michigan, family in Illinois and the Amazon…this is what travel is. Seeing it through the eyes of others. Eating native foods (lobster! did I mention lobster?). Visiting silly places (okay I promise Maine Wildlife Park tomorrow). Love.