Exploring My Backyard

Late September iPhone 705

Nahmakanta Lake from the south looking north–the campsite is on the point far left

The airplane settled onto the water as the floats slowed and came off the step, now the weight of the Super Cub was completely supported by the floats and the wings were lifeless at these speeds.  With no wind the plane idled along slowly towards the shoreline as if drawn there by some unseen force, a force that said “Steady as she goes…come see what secrets lie hidden in the darkness of my spruce lined shore.”

The water was flat calm.  There didn’t appear to be a single ripple on the entire lake making it appear as though the mountains surrounding the large body of water were reflected perfectly on its surface only upside down.  Even during times like this with absolutely no wind it is prudent to lower the water rudders, this would allow me to steer the plane much more effectively should I see a rock, sandbar or other obstacle in my path.

Reaching over with my right hand and lowering the water rudders I instinctively reached back and to right, opening the door on the side of the Cub.  I can’t help but notice the cool, sweet-smelling dampness of the air as the propeller blows it back through the cockpit.  Even when the prop is turning at a leisurely six hundred rpm or so the breeze is very noticeable.  Had there been anyone in the back they would have been pretty cold with that breeze blowing in on them.  However, sitting up front like I am, I’m pretty well protected by the majority of the prop blast; only feeling the remnants of the air as it moves throughout the interior of the craft.

As I near the beach on this remote lake I shut down the engine and slow my forward progress over the water by pulling the mixture control and watch as the prop quickly comes to a stop.  The only sounds I hear are the steady ticking from the cooling engine and the water passing slowly by the floats–even that water sound stops and is replaced by the sound of the aluminum floats as they gently meet the coarse gravel of the beach.

Not needing to rush with no wind or current affecting my plane, I prepare to disembark and explore the shoreline.  I’ve already unbuckled my seat-belt so I climb out onto the float and step off onto the deserted beach to see if this location is suitable for pitching a tent and spending a night or two.  Prior to any further exploration I must at least pull the plane further up onto the beach; lest it floats away.  With my weight out of the plane it rides higher on the floats and the immediate increase in buoyancy threatens to take my plane “out to sea.”  Finally, with the plane secure on the shoreline it is time to see what the beckoning spruce shore has to offer.

At first glance it appears I found the perfect place for a campsite with all the favorable amenities once could ask for in a remote location such as this.  Truth be known this is one of hundreds of potential camp sites in this part of Maine, and I’m just trying to narrow down a few spots for my next outing with my friends or family.

As I stand on the beach looking around assessing the sites potential, I hear the soothing call of two loons communicating–one close and one quite far away.  Right then and there my mind is made up…this location has made the cut and is on my short-list of half a dozen sites.  Sometimes I feel that exploration of these woods and forests for any reason is oftentimes more fun and rewarding than the final mission itself–this is one of those days.

Night Sounds of the Forest

Night Camping Passamagamet Lake
A sandy beach campsite on the shores of Passamagamet Lake, Maine

“I think I hear a noise.” she said as she climbed deeper into the sleeping bag.  I also heard the noise but didn’t think much of it—it’s the far reaches of northern Maine and “noises” are common in the forest after dark so I elected to stay warmly in my bag hoping she’d fall back asleep.  Well that wasn’t going to happen.  “Aren’t you going to check it out?” she asks from underneath the mighty sleeping bag in her best defensive position.  Well to be truthful I hadn’t intended to, but feeling her nervous grip on my hand tighten even more, I figured I’d better do something or it might not be the best camping trip of the season.  “Sure.” I said in my deepest, most manly voice I could conjure up at this early hour, “I will see what all the commotion is about.”

I grudgingly slipped out of the warmth of the sleeping bag into the cool night air and quietly unzipped the front of our tent in search of the origin of the odd sounds.  The strange part is I wasn’t hearing the somewhat familiar sounds most campers are used to hearing.  You know, the sounds of a nosy, hungry bear looking for a free meal or the chattering of raccoons as they destroy a campsite…I was hearing things I’d never heard in the woods before.  Not scary sounds mind you, just intriguing and unsettling sounds because of their unfamiliarity.  I was totally perplexed by what exactly could be making all the strange sounds I was hearing, the sounds were certainly increasing in their frequency and intensity.

As I peered intently out into the semi-light I tried to get my eyes to adjust to the scene before me in the slowly oncoming dawn.  The shadows that were present were playing tricks on my eyes, but through the gloom I could make out the shape of my airplane parked safely on the beach merely a hundred feet away.  As much as I tried I could not see anything unusual in the direction I’d been hearing the noises—or could I?  As I looked more intently and my eyes adjusted to the faint light, I could see shapes moving quite adeptly on the floats of the Super Cub.  Not just one or two shapes mind you, there appeared to be three and possibly even a fourth!

After hearing my nervous tent-mate ask for the umpteenth time what it was that was making those noises, it finally dawned on me—I was watching a family of otters having a blast playing on the floats of the plane and chattering up a storm while splashing around in the water in the still of the early morning twilight.  I knew I’d go out to that airplane after they’d left and find evidence of many fresh water clams on and around the floats of the Cub, those little critters were having a feast and my floats were their dining room table!  Now that was the easy part, my next task was to try and explain to my anxious female companion that river otters are not man-eating monsters intent on catching us unaware in the tent…