I’d like to welcome readers to my new blog, Seniors Not Acting Their Age. While I think that people of all ages will find my blogs interesting and informative, the primary focus will be sharing outdoor adventures that my friends and I participate in from a senior perspective. Contrary to common stereotypes, we oldsters can and do lead active, exciting lives. Look out Maine we’re coming out of the shadows.
What are my qualifications you ask? The answer is simple, I’m old. Age 70 is just a few feeble gasps away. I’m all too familiar with the aging process having had a knee replacement, blood pressure issues and now hip problems. Perhaps the best indicator of aging is how old your children look. I have two adult sons. The oldest has graying sidewalls and there are signs of thinning hair on the youngest. They both stopped growing a couple of decades ago but now they’re getting taller. Do I qualify as a senior? I rest my case. Make no mistake I’m not giving up yet. I’ve got places to go and adventures to be had.
In what turned out to be one of the smartest decisions I’ve ever made, I quit smoking in 1973. Full of new found energy (I was climbing walls!), I renewed my love of the outdoors. I’ve been playing in the wild with enthusiasm ever since. I was a Recreational Registered Maine Guide for about a decade followed by another dozen years of involvement with the Appalachian Mountain Club as a Director, Canoe/Kayak Chair, and a frequent Trip Leader. For the past 20 years, I’ve been active in what I consider to be the best outdoor club in the northeast, the Penobscot Paddle and Chowder Society (PPCS). Don’t let the name mislead you, we play a lot while food is merely fuel for our escapades. Indulging in savory chowders is very much a secondary activity.
After retiring from a 33-year career with the IRS, I decided to take a blind turn in life and try something completely new and different, freelance writing. I was very fortunate to obtain an assignment writing an outdoor column for the Lewiston Sun Journal for a couple of years and I’ve also contributed outdoor articles to several other newspapers and magazines. In 2008, I authored the mountain guidebook, Mountains for Mortals – New England. Published by Menasha Ridge Press, it is a collection of the 30 best, most scenic mountain hikes in New England. After submitting numerous book ideas to publishers (the publishing world is not for sissies, begging the question, “What am I doing in it?”), I landed a contract with Down East Books to write a biography about one of Maine’s most colorful, controversial figures, Vietnam War hero and bank robber Bernard Patterson. Researching, writing and promoting The Great Mars Hill Bank Robbery has been one of the most stimulating, challenging and enjoyable adventures of my life. Seniors Not Acting Their Age is the latest chapter in my new life as a freelance writer. I hope you’ll join me for the ride. Inquiring minds can learn more about me by visiting my website: www.ronchaseoutdoors.com .
A couple of days ago, I organized and led a PPCS sea kayak trip out of Ocean Point near Boothbay. Four Chowderheads joined me for the excursion. Typically, I was the oldest in the group. However, with an average age of about 60, there were no tadpoles in this knot. While retirement and health issues were frequent topics of conversation, future adventures were the primary discussion.
My first choice had been a paddle to distant and historic Damariscove Island. However, strong offshore winds rendered that less than appealing. Winds are the bane of sea kayakers. A few years ago, offshore winds turned my Muscle Ridge archipelago trip in western Penobscot Bay into a memorable ordeal. At a cookout after the ocean chaos, one participant announced, “This was the worst day of my life.” Being a sensitive old geezer, that seemed a bit harsh but I had to concede that paddling into a 30-knot headwind in order to return to shore was not uneventful.
Determined to avoid another Muscle Ridge massacre, I successfully lobbied for a more protected itinerary that would take advantage of the many peninsulas and islands in the area. Traveling east from Ocean Point, we encountered three and four-foot swells and breezy northwest winds crossing the mouth of the Damariscotta River to the lee of Inner Heron Island. Running northeast in moderate chop, Team Sexagenarian passed through Thread of Life Ledges to the relative calm of eastern Johns Bay along the shore of Shipley Point.
Hugging the coastline for protection from the wind, we enjoyed easy paddling north past Christmas Cove and Rutherford Island with splendid views of Johns Bay and Pemaquid Neck to the east. Finding a sheltered gravel beach on Witch Island, we had a leisurely lunch while sharing stories from adventures past. One advantage of being old is that you have lots of adventures past to share and there was no shortage on this day.
Leaving tall tales behind, we navigated west through The Gut in South Bristol and out into a gusty headwind on the Damariscotta River. If we were to return home before bedtime, there was no choice except to put our heads down and drive hard into the wind for about a mile to refuge on the east shore of Linekin Neck. From there, the paddling was almost effortless journeying south along the neck. After passing Reeds Island, we experienced gentle swells crossing picturesque Ocean Harbor on our return to Ocean Point. About a ten mile trip, everyone agreed that we’d made the right choice. Damariscove Island could wait for another day. If it was the worst day of anyone’s life, I was spared the angst of being told.
In a few days, I’m leaving for the rugged, scenic New Brunswick island of Grand Manan in the Bay of Fundy. An outdoor island paradise where hiking, biking, and sea kayaking abound, I’ll join a large group of Chowderheads for more outdoor adventures. Fresh accounts of Seniors Not Acting Their Age can be expected on the flip side.