The unofficial kick off to summer, Memorial Day, is right around the corner and you know what that means, it’s camping season! Some folks may have even got a jump start to the season thanks to the scorching, mid-summer temperatures we’ve seen recently. No worries if you didn’t though. You have plenty of opportunities over the next few months to pack up your tent and cooler and head to your favorite camping spot, or maybe try a new one.
In a way, my entire summer feels like one big, extended camping excursion. Back in the summer of 2014, I found myself taking photographs for a couple of rafting companies on the West Branch of the Penobscot River. The following summer, I accepted a position at Chewonki’s Big Eddy Campground, and eight summers later, you can still find me here! I work and live at the campground for nearly six months of the year.
This year I arrived at Big Eddy the last week of April, two weeks before opening day, and those fourteen days were jammed packed with chores. The 60-acre campground is made up of 50 sites and 7 cabins. That’s a whole lot of raking and leaf blowing. As much as it makes my body ache, it fills me with great joy to watch the carpet of leaves get peeled back, revealing a road once again. It’s one of the most gratifying before and after mental images.
Even though the recent temperatures have it feeling like we’re on the fast track to summer, I have been trying to soak up the little hints and signs of spring the past few weeks. The trees were still bare when I first arrived at the campground, and it’s lovely to be witness to the budding trees and growing grass. Trillium and lady slippers are sprinkled in the least expected places on the forest floor and, if you keep your eyes out for them, there’s even a few patches of fiddleheads. Earlier in May I was pulling out of the main entrance to head over to the other side of the river, and I heard what sounded like quacking ducks. I stopped and got out of the truck and walked over to the marsh across the road, and was welcomed by a chorus of wood frogs! All true signs of spring in northern Maine.
You can’t talk about Big Eddy without mentioning fishing. I won’t fib, the fishing season is off to a slower than usual start, but that all is about to change. As the temperatures continue to warm, the river will follow suit and that only means one thing is coming down the pike. Bugs. And bugs mean feeding fish. The first hatch on the river is Hendrickson’s and soon thereafter a sea of caddis will emerge. And boy, do the landlocked salmon go nutty for those. There will be nights in June where the eddy is boiling with rising fish. It’s truly a sight to see.
So whether your camping season kicks off this Memorial Day weekend or in a few weeks, I hope the time in nature offers you adventure and disconnect. One of the things I, and most guests, enjoy about Big Eddy so much is that the campground is miles away from cell phone reception. There’s a lot going on in our world right now, and the time away from technology has the opportunity to offer moments of quiet and a different kind of thinking and reflecting.
If you are open to a change of scenery this summer and interested in trying a new spot, I encourage you to become a member of the Natural Resources Council of Maine. One of the perks to being a member is you receive discounts at a handful of Maine sporting camps, in addition to a few guide services. Along with Chewonki’s Big Eddy Campground, you can visit Bradford Camps, which is nestled even further into the North Maine Woods, or Spencer Pond Camps which is surrounded by Maine public lands and an ecological reserve.
Maine offers endless exploration, so get out and explore our beautiful state! I hope you have an enjoyable summer, and maybe I’ll even see you at the eddy.
—by Sarah Sindo, NRCM Rising Leadership Team member