Playing in the Woods

Holding my Swiss army knife in my right hand and pulling down with my left, I sliced through the topside of the bending maple branch. Making little headway, my arms tired and I let go, dropping six inches to the ground. "I can't believe mom dulled my knife, she never does that to yours," I yelled in frustration to my younger brother, Tim, stacking seven-foot tree sections in a tepee formation some fifty feet away. Tim had no scars on his hands, mine looked like a pair of RRL jeans.

"Let me see yours," I said motioning to the small red knife in his hand. Thumbing the blade open, I avoided the bandaids on my index finger and rubbed the blade. "Yah, yours is much sharper. I am almost nine and mom wont let me have a sharp knife," I chirped like a senior complaining to the coach when a sophomore gets the start at homecoming. Tim said nothing and kept pulling the bark off a freshly cut sapling.

Walking back to the tree, I jumped up and hung on like Stallone on the cover of Cliffhanger. With a downward yank of the pocket knife, the small branch cracked under my weight and I fell to the ground with an accomplished grin on my face. Holding the knife in one hand and the branch in the other, I jumped up and dragged my prize back towards our recently conceived tepee.

Popham, Maine.

Without the luxury of abundant neighbor kids and the infrastructure afforded by suburban playgrounds, my brother and I wandered aimlessly through the hundred acre woods that surrounded our house. Shooting slingshots, dirtying clothes, playing like cowboys and Indians, and making forts and dams, we passed our time in the forest.

Small Point, Maine.

A decade and half later, I still venture into the woods when restless and frustrated. Trading in my LA Lights for Danner Hiking boots and Vibram Fivefinger running shoes, I explore the woods at 22 with the same youthful exuberance I did at 8-1/2.

North Belgrade, Maine

Western Maine.

Kennebec Highlands, Maine.

Prindle Mountain, Washington.

Other than maybe a Bruce Springsteen Concert, few places could could jointly host Choco-wearing Trustafarians from New England and Cabela's-outfitted deer hunters from the rural Midwest like the woods do. Regardless of their political standpoints on the duration of the waiting period to own an assault rifle or eagerness to pack their bowel movements out in plastic bags, they are drawn to the woods in a similar way. The woods are special.

Here are some more links,
Trees (Picasa),
The Woods (ART).


A Walk in the Woods

I get restless and bored. I guess it's a product of some learning disorder diagnosed by a balding, silver Porsche Boxster (not the S of course) driving 52 year-old, or maybe it's just my personality. On Sunday I woke up to a beautiful, dry fall day and felt a yearning to go explore.

After five minutes of deliberation, my roommate and always eager partner in crime, Dan, and I set off for the Belgrade Lakes to hike the in the Kennebec Highlands Nature Reserve.

Two weeks ago, the autumn leaf canopy shielded the forest from the rain, wind and sunlight. Now it carpets the floor making trails impossible to follow, unless you're Billy from Predator. Early on, Dan and I scrapped the idea of following the well hidden trail and set out directly for the top of a hill through the thick Maine woods.

For an hour and a half, Dan and I trudged through the leaf covered woods listening to the crackling under our feet and the dry wind whistling through the stubborn leaves in the upper canopy.


I found this vintage Eddie Bauer down jacket on one of my weekly visits to my local Goodwill. Gotta represent the Northwest.

Hiking through the Maine woods put a smile on my face.

Here are some more links,
A Walk in the Woods (Picasa).

Chopping Fire Wood

The man is not an IRS tax collector or a faceless oil executive, but a fun squandering third grade teacher or an overbearing parent. As a little squirt, the pedantic teachers and volunteer parents at my local elementary school squandered my fun, telling me to wash my hands, wear safety goggles and not to wrestle with other boys during touch football. In their soulless eyes, scraped knees, bumped elbows and fat lips are gateways to barbarianism.

In order to provide wood for the perpetually burning fire on the shore Grand Pond, we walked to the nearby woods to participated in some "forest thinning" in the hopes protecting the great Maine woods against potential forest fires and under cooked marshmallows.

With Tucker's hatchet we attacked cherry saplings like Paul Bunyan, reclaiming our manhood one chip at a time.

Sometimes the hatchet got over zealous and bit off more than it could chew, latching onto a log like a burr into a wool sock. A jarring swing and a well placed hand liberated the hatchet, and Tucker was back in action.

By wearing a Barbour International motorcycle jacket, a Filson Mackinaw hunting jacket, a pair of Red Wings work boots, or other pieces of clothing associated with a potential dangerous, yet pure activity, you are sticking your nose up to the shoulder pad laden third-grade teacher that put you in time out for running down the hallways or jumping out of the swing at recess. Here's to you Mrs. Johnson, "We will use hand chopped wood to cook our wieners, not some safe burning, mongoloid hybrid of wood pulp and fossil fuels!"

Here are some more links,
Chopping wood (Picasa),
Paul Bunyan Disney,
Flamz Errol Morris (High Life).


Harry McCotty and His Rose Tattoo

Harry McCotty is the real deal. During the summer, he is a stone foremen. During the winter, he splits wood in his backyard outside of East Dorset Vermont. Regardless of the season, he wears wool.

Although born and raised in southern Vermont, Harry received formal training as a topiarist in London, England in his early twenties.

Harry got this Rose tattoo during a 5 year stint in traveling throughout Europe in his mid 20s.

Harry manning his hydraulic wood splitter.