Our Maine Camp
About 40 years ago Barbara (my better half) and I were living in a small
apartment in New Haven, Conn., where I was a junior faculty member at Yale
University and she was working as a technician at the
Bingham Oceanographic Collection. Urban claustrophobia set in
and we resolved to seek some open space in the form of some undeveloped
land in northern New England. After a lot of research, contacting
realtors, and travel, we purchased a parcel of about
105 acres of woodland in central Maine, about midway on a line
drawn between Bangor and Moosehead Lake. At that time we paid
about $18.00 an acre for the land. This seems ridiculously cheap
today, but it represented nearly our entire net worth then.
For a few years we visited the property once or twice a summer,
pitching a tent and camping with our first two children as they
appeared. In time a new colleague of mine, who was an outdoorsman, urged
me to take up hunting deer, grouse and woodcock up there. This added another dimension to the property since it required
visits in the fall, when the weather and scenery are the best. The State of Maine
eventually bought up more than 5,000 acres
of land adjacent to our property and established a wildlife management
area, effectively increasing the amount of acreage we could
enjoy by 50-fold!
In 1991, with rearing the children (now three of them) well underway,
and some time available, we decided to build a cabin. A neighboring farmer
was contracted to cut a dozen mature white pines on the west side of the
property and haul
them to a nearby saw mill. In January of 1992 Jeff (my eldest son) and
I visited the site we had chosen for
the cabin and felled trees to clear a space for it. This was in a grove of
paper birch and American beech on a modest bluff, overlooking a small stream. In June of
that year we returned and, living in a tent, set concrete posts
for the foundation, and began hauling pickup loads of sawn lumber
from the mill. Outside of some pressure treated 2 x 12s that formed
the sills and central beam of the cabin, all the wood came from
those pine trees. With no electricity near the site, the cabin
was constructed with hand tools and a chain saw.
By July (working only on 3-day weekends) the cabin was pretty well framed;
The dimensions are 16' wide (with an additional 4' porch)
by 20' long. It was built with three rooms (two 8 x 8 bunk rooms)
and a 12 x 16 kitchen/living room). A loft over the bunk rooms
can be used for storage or additional sleeping space). The siding
is board and batten, hence the horizontal framing members in the
photo above. The roof rafters are supported by gussets under the
ridge pole, and cross ties 4 ' down the rafters from the peak.
The first winter saw 7' of snow on the roof, with no movement,
even while commercial buildings in the nearest town were collapsing.
My engineering was sufficient!
By Fall, the cabin was sheathed
and the roof was at least covered with felt, although the battens
had not yet been nailed on.
The following summer (1993) some of the final touches
(to some extent it is a continuing project) were added: battens,
roofing shingles, and a protective covering of waterseal
The inside of the cabin was finished and heated in spring, fall and winter with an old
stove scrounged from a derelict building at home.
Bathroom? You say? Well....there's a path out back that leads
to a fairly elegant hand crafted one-holer
We shortly added a four-burner apartment size gas range that runs from a
camper propane tank in the back. With an oven and broiler some pretty nice
cooking has gone on in the cabin. It beats cooking over an open wood fire
or Coleman gas stove in a tent!
Now, it's time to just enjoy the place,
inside and out (that's a pile of basswood and hemlock starting to
air dry on the porch)
and play my trombone.
Ten years after initially writing this, the camp is pretty much the same
(the hemlock is still drying on the porch), My friend in the pictures
above has passed away, and the trombone is a memory. But Barbara and I,
and our friends, still spend twenty or so nights a week in the camp, enjoying
the bird watching, local auctions, grouse hunting, fishing the local rivers, and
taking long hikes in the woods. Our (now grown) children, with their
children, enjoy the camp immensely. It is easily the best project I ever
Here are some more pictures, taken 20 years later (2011 - 2013) after
starting the camp, which, by the way we've named "Camp Can'tAgree." (we
couldn't agree on a name)
View from porch
The Cook is Jack Musick -- a Great One.
Looking up the Creek
Mina with Woodcock & Snowshoe Hare
Looking North Toward Greenville
Son, Father and Mina.
Flash forward to 2017
The camp was started in 1991/92, so the
building is just about 25 years old now. It has held up pretty well.
The steps to the porch have been replaccd, and the the roof is ready for
installing a new sheet steel one (this summer/fall). Barbara and I have
transferred ownership to son Jeff and his wife Polly who now bear most of the
maintenance chores. Jeff has added an open woodshed behind the cabin, and
recently put in a new woodstove. Here are some pictures of the camp today
(June 21, 2017).
This is grandson Birch providing the
scale for the stove.
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