Down the Road a Piece

By MILT GROSS | Apr 27, 2014
Photo by: Milt Gross Getting there, to Farmington, Maine for the annual Maine Appalachian Trail Club’s annual meeting can be interesting in April, when you’ve been deprived all winter of the open road.

That once-a-year Maine Appalachian Trail Club meeting

I’ve been attending these Maine Appalachian Trail Club annual meetings with only two absences since 1988.

For me, this year’s meeting seemed more about getting there than being there. It’s not that there weren’t some interesting discussions, as there always are.

For example, one discussion focused on fire rings that rogue campers build along the AT. Camping is okay almost anywhere along the AT in Maine, but fire rings never are. That’s because fires are not permitted except at the MATC campsites provided for hikers’.

It’s also because campfires built on turf, the ground, can dig in, stay awhile, and then spread later. Dave Field, MATC’s Overseer of Lands, encouraged maintainers and others volunteering who come across old fire rings to tear them apart, throwing the stones as far as possible.

No one ever encouraged me to throw stones, must depend on which stones.

The MATC Windtower Committee reported that it is hanging in there, fighting for the view along the AT corridor in Maine against the constant barrage of new applications to build wind towers. MATC is not opposed to wind power, except where it hurts the view from the AT corridor.

I found and bought a couple of books by a couple of folk about hikes along the complete AT that I hadn’t seen before. Now, since at my ripe old youthfulness and with my arthritic hip needing repair, I’ll probably not do much long-distance hiking, I especially enjoy those books.

But I hate to admit that more of my enjoyment came from driving to and from the annual meeting. And I learned that, despite my wanting to find new routes from Ellsworth to Farmington, there don’t seem to be any. In that learning was that future plans should avoid driving Route 137, which is longer, with more complicated turns, and at this time of year still full of winter’s bumps.

I did notice -- as if I haven’t before -- that in most of the parts of Maine I drove through, about 120 miles each way, a lot of open space is still open. I saw a few old farmhouses with newer houses or mobile homes between them. But the space between the residences is pretty long, a quarter of a mile or a bit less. Maine ain’t overcrowded yet.

That’s good news.

Living on the wild side, I snapped a photo of the highway in front of me without crashing during the picture taking. Route 2 is long and empty in many places, providing good shots of nothing.

I also saw a red fox trotting across the road as well as a couple of deer, which had been in the center of the road until I happened along. Then one went to one side of the road and the other to the other -- and totally disappeared. I’ll never figure out how critters that big can totally vanish.

Didn’t see any wild turkeys. I think they’re all in our woods and come to feed in our yard each day.

I was alone yesterday and noticed that I kept missing having Dolores with me. Maine’s emptiness is best enjoyed with your spouse alongside you.

To my shame, instead of stopping at The Restaurant in Norridgewock* for breakfast, since I was a bit late and also because I went up Route 137 that doesn’t go through that town, I grabbed a couple of breakfast sandwiches at McDonald’s. I don’t eat there much and found myself thirsty from that restaurant’s overuse of salt.

Deepening that shame, I stopped at their Bucksport location on the way home to use the bathroom and grab a fish sandwich, which I noticed also to be salty.

As I walked through the restaurant, I spotted my barber with his wife, sitting at a table, eating lunch. I remarked that I should have stopped by his shop last week before heading out to the MATC meeting.

“I see you should have,” he commented.

You can’t fool your barber, even if you think your long hair won’t be noticed by that outdoor crowd, most of whom where wearing hiking boots to navigate the halls of the University of Maine at Farmington.

None of those outdoor types, even those with graying hair, commented that I needed a haircut.

But the barber knew.

The morale of this tale may be to either get your haircut when you’re supposed to, or to stay out of McDonald’s.

The other morale is keep on attending those MATC annual meetings no matter how long -- or gray -- your hair is at the moment

and don’t follow Route 137 next year.

*”Norridgewock” is named for the Norridgewock Indians, a branch of the Abenbakis, who once lived in that area. Most of them actually were where the town of Madison is now.

Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at lesstraveledway@roadrunner.com.

Milton M. Gross Copyright 2014

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