In addition to an ever growing assortment of aches and pains, aging comes with at least a few benefits. For me, one has been the time to experiment with writing professionally.
After retiring from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), I began exploring writing opportunities in earnest. To a large degree, it’s been a positive endeavor. Initially, I wrote an outdoor newspaper column for two years and contributed outdoor articles to several other newspapers and magazines. In 2008, I had the good fortune to obtain a contract to write the mountain guidebook, Mountains for Mortals – New England, published by Menasha Ridge Press.
Subsequently, I experienced my most significant success to date when Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group agreed to publish my book The Great Mars Hill Bank Robbery. The biography of Vietnam War hero and bank robber Bernard Patterson, researching, writing and promoting the book has been one of the most rewarding and stimulating episodes of my life.
Another old age goal has been to overindulge my love for outdoor adventures. So when Downeast Lakes Land Trust (DLLT) invited me to present a book talk on The Great Mars Hill Bank Robbery in the remote eastern Maine community of Grand Lake Stream, I readily accepted. Offering to pay my lodging and travel expenses, it seemed the ideal opportunity to combine book promotion with some outdoor recreation and my wife Nancy agreed to join me.
Candidly, I was skeptical about the potential turnout in the tiny, isolated village. The reality was just the opposite. We had a surprisingly large attendance nearly filling the Grand Lake Stream Community Center. DLLT regularly organizes events and the local community enthusiastically supports them. Longtime paddling buddy Jonathan Wheaton arrived threatening to assume the role of designated heckler. The story of Bernard Patterson’s reckless life filled with madcap escapades always stimulates audiences and we had a lively question and answer period after my presentation. Jonathan? He was a perfect gentleman. As my Dad was fond of saying, “He was all wind and no rain.”
Located in the heart of the eastern Maine lakes region, it made eminently good sense to take advantage of that environment and do some exploring with our new lake kayaks. Launching just above the outlet dam in Grand Lake Stream on a beautiful warm sunny day, we paddled north along the shore of Daugherty Ridge on West Grand Lake. After passing several camps, we traversed Little Mayberry Cove to scenic Kole Kill Island where we stopped for a leisurely lunch while soaking up some rays. The paddling gods smiled on us as we benefited from a gentle tailwind on the return trip.
Grand Lake Stream has almost everything including whitewater! From the outlet dam, there is a two mile stretch of almost continuous Class I through IV rapids. Although I’ve run the stream before, the difficulty level of Big Falls surprised me. Forgetfulness is just one of my many senior afflictions. Fortunately, I avoided a mishap on the steep twisting rapid despite some lackluster river reading. Nancy graciously agreed to pick me up just below the last rapid, hence avoiding the need to bike or walk the shuttle. Nobody would pick up an old hitchhiker wearing a neoprene skirt.
We stayed in a rustic cabin owned by Canal Side Cabins, one of several lodging choices in town. Across the street from the stream and just below the dam, the location was ideal for the whitewater launch and our lake trip. Relatively safe road cycling is an option on the quiet lightly traveled town roads and DLLT offers a network of interesting trail hikes. We made a point of sampling everything.
Since the only alternative to growing old isn’t a particularly appealing one, realizing old age goals seems a worthwhile undertaking. I couldn’t have found a better way to achieve two of mine than three days in Grand Lake Stream.
Finding a publisher for my mountain guidebook had been fairly straightforward and I naively thought it was an easy process. It’s not. The publishing world is very competitive and under normal circumstances it’s quite difficult to obtain a publisher. For several years, I’ve been trying to market a satirical book about life in the IRS tentatively entitled Up Your Tax Bracket. After some serious negotiations, I’ve completed and submitted a manuscript at the request of an interested publisher.
I’m not suffering any illusions. My latest book proposal is still a long shot. If this attempt fails, I’ll continue to persist. Regardless, I have a multitude of outdoor exploits remaining on my bucket list. There is much to do and too little time.