East Coast Vacation, Day 2
(Or Sue and Barb and Teresa meet the nice, but slightly scary woodswoman)
The next morning, it had been decided that we would all get back in the cars and drive back to Bangor so that Alicia could bring her four children (ages 9 years to three months) to a Children’s Museum there. There had been talk of white-water rafting, but since Alicia has health concerns that prevent her from driving, and Val didn’t want to drive on unfamiliar roads, Sue would have to drive the Expedition with Alicia, Val and the kids, it was apparent that we would not have time to drop them off AND go whitewater rafting. Barb was willing to drive, but she wanted to go with Sue and I and she was only added as a driver on my car anyway, and it wasn’t big enough to hold Alicia and her family (more on that later). Val agreed to drive the Expidition home, however, so Sue would be able to ride with Barb and I as we explored the park.
Barb drove to Bangor, and we chatted. I tried not to think about the fact that we were driving back about 1/5 of the distance we had traveled yesterday to get to the cabin.
In Bangor we stopped and looked at the statue of Paul Bunyan there. I’d like to know what Bangor thinks they’re all about. Everyone knows that Bemidji is the REAL home of Paul Bunyan (home is where the heart is and WE’VE got his best friend, Babe). And Akeley and Brainerd are right out (sorry, Dracut and Karen, but you know it’s true.)
We drove up to a mountain on the Appalachian Trail, called Mount Katadhin. For some reason, I was over-come with fatigue, and fell asleep in the back seat while Sue and Barb visited. Sue had read a book about a couple of travelers who had left the AT and had come out of the woods near the Katadhin Iron Works.
Lo and behold, we saw a brown sign pointing to them, about the time I woke up, so we decided to go see what was there. A long and scenic drive down a gravel road. We met a bright red mustang driving like a bat-out-of hell, and wondered what THAT was all about.
We finally got to the iron works, and there we met Fran.
Fran is the caretaker of a gate into the Kl-Jo Mary Multiple Use Management Forest. She makes sure everyone follows the rules, looks out for people, registers guests, and a variety of other things. We told her about the woman in the Mustang, and Fran said “Yeah, was SHE pissed off”. Apparently, the woman had dropped her car off at the Mary Lake Gate and had someone drive her to another gate, with the intention of walking the trail in between. Trouble was, that she was actually parked two gates away, so when she asked the other gate-keeper how far the hike was to the next gate, the gate-keeper said “six miles” when the hike the woman had to make to get back to her car was actually closer to 13. She was PISSED and took it out on Fran.
At the end of the story, Fran flashed a double-barreled Eagle (one of these, not one of these) and threw a cheery “have a nice day” in the direction the woman had gone.
We walked around the Katahdin Iron Works a little and then went back and visited with Fran.
Sue had a Bar Harbor sweatshirt on, and asked Fran what it said. Fran mugged a face like she was ready to chew rock and spit nails, but she complied.
“Bah Hahbah”, she said, bracing for our exclamations of delight at the Maine accent. I told her about being cornered by little old ladies in Winn Dixie and made to speak in my “Yankee accent”, and that seemed to level the field a little.
Fran had lots of stories for us. Some of them are depressing, but wait for the last one, its sort funny and sweet.
There was the story of the woman who left the AT during a season when the bugs were particularly bad. The mosquitoes and black flies are apparently always pretty bad in the Spring, but they were unusually bad that year. The woman came to Fran’s post in the middle of the night. She was traumatized and hysterical. Fran made her tea, and tried to talk her down. The woman kept saying “I slept in an outhouse, I slept in an outhouse.” Over and over again. She had taken refuge in an outhouse to get away from the bugs, and stayed there rather than brave the bugs long enough to pitch a tent. The woman was taken in by a group of people that take in hikers off the AT.
Fran said that a lot of hikers that leave the trail come back to finish it. That woman didn’t.
Fran showed us pictures of some of the beautiful waterfalls in the park, and how they freeze in the wintertime.
She told us a story about a professional ice-climber, who had a guide business in the area. He came to the park with his daughter. He was going to climb the frozen waterfalls, and his daughter was going to take pictures for his promotional literature. He fell from the waterfall and was killed. It took days to recover his body.
Fran told us about two boys who had come to the park every fall with their uncle from the time they were little. They would come and hike and jump off of small waterfalls in the park. One year, they came with their uncle in the spring, instead. Fran told them not to jump off the waterfall, because the water was a lot higher and more dangerous in the spring.
One of the boys waved to her as he turned and left, saying “Don’t worry mom, we’ll be fine!” The uncle came back later to report that one of the boys had dove off the waterfall and been sucked under. The second boy had jumped in to save him, and they both drowned.
Fran told us that she had quit her job for two years after that.
Another story was of a woman who had come to the park to camp for the first time on her honeymoon with her husband. They had skinny-dipped in one of the pools there. Every year, they came back on their anniversary to camp and skinny-dip in the pools. They grew old together and eventually the husband passed away. The woman continued to return on their anniversary, camp in the park and skinny-dip in the pools. One year, when she was in her seventies, she went into the pool to skinny dip and found it too difficult to climb out.
He calls for help were headed by a group of boys in their mid teens, who rescued her and helped her to safety.
As the old woman was being assisted, Fran noticed one of the boys looking disturbed and agitated, very upset.
“What’s the matter, hun?” asked Fran.
“I’m never having sex.” Said the boy
At this point in the story Fran stopped and looked at us. “Because our bodies DO change you know?”
Um, Sure. In theory.
We did some sight-seeing along the gravel road, hoping to see some moose, or other wildlife.
I noticed a little brown frog, and as we were all gathered around examining it, a pick-up truck came down the road. I was full of men. Probably seven or eight guys.
“What you lookin’ at, ladies?” they asked.
“A frog.” We answered.
“A frog? Is that all, how big is he?”
“Not eatin’size.” We answered.
“Any ya’ll seen a lost dog around here? We’re huntin’ and we lost our dog.”
“What’s his name?”
“What kind of dog is he?”
“Half black lab half coon-hound.”
Barb finally asked, because of their outrageous southern accents; “Where you boys from?”
“Jawa-ga” came the drawled reply.
“Oh no, you’re putting’ that on. That’s TOO perfect to be real.”
“No, ma’m, we’re not puttin’ it on. We’re from Jawa-ga.”
More chit-chatting, and then they drive off, content in the knowledge that we would be keeping an eye out for “Bucky”.
About an hour later, when we returned for our car, Fran said “Those boys in the red truck told me to apologize for them.”
“They said to tell you there isn’t any dog named Bucky.”
“Bastards!” Barb said, “Those evil, evil bastards! I was all worried about Bucky. And they FOOLED us! US! How did they manage to fool us? WE’RE the ones who pull that kind of schtick on other people. Nobody pulls that sort of thing on us. Ohhhh! They were good.”
So we told Fran to tell those boys when they got back that we were awful sorry about Bucky. We saw a dog just like they described, but he didn’t come when he was called, so we decided to try to stun him with a rock so we could catch him, and poor Bucky died.
Then we told her to tell him that we found “Bucky”, and liked him and decided to take him home.
And then we came up with all sorts of other things for her to tell them…and finally we just said “You’re good with stories, just tell ‘em something good.”
We took a picture of ourselves with Fran, and said “goodbye”, did some more sight-seeing and then headed for “home”, the cabin in N.E. Harbor and the secret dungeon trap for unwary travelers that lurked within it.