Seasonal changes are one of the most rewarding aspects of my job as a forester. There is always change of some sort, even in the dead of winter when ice is cracking and forming on the lakes and ponds nearby. I spent a lot of time on the ice this winter, pulling in way too many smelt to be beneficial (to my fiancé who had the pleasure of cleaning them all), various other cuties, and even a few slobby lake trout.
But much more than fishing on water, I like to watch it. At least twice per week, I get to enjoy the spectacular view of Umsaskis Lake, part of the chain of lakes in the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, which runs through the property I manage, wending its way north to the border of Maine and Canada. There is so much history along the Allagash, most of which has all but become erased with the passage of time.
I’ve been capturing this same image with regularity for over a year and a half. It’s on my weekly drive to and from work. It seems funny to be taking the same picture over and over in order to document change; where’s the change in that? But I see the change every time I take a new photo. The first hint of green in the hardwoods along the banks. The fog obstructing the view of Priestly Mountain in the distance. The first snow, the first ice on the river, the rare times when the thoroughfare is nearly iced over. The ice flowing downstream in the spring. And repeat.
Currently, I’m reading a book written by a woman who lived along Umsaskis in the 1930s, My Life in the Maine Woods by Annette Jackson. She was the wife of a game warden, and together with their growing family they spent several years living along the Allagash. Back then, the inhabitants along the shore had telephone lines, and could call their neighbors easily. Nowadays, most of those structures are long gone, and the shoreline has been designated a wilderness area, working hand in hand with Time to obliterate the traces of history that linger on every bank and shore. More ironic, my office just a few miles down the road now uses satellite phones that I have come to believe are much less reliable, and much more of a hassle, than the wired lines of the past.
Managers of the AWW – State of Maine employees – emphasize the supposed wildness of the Allagash:
There are no permanent human residents in this area, and visitors show respect and care by leaving the fewest possible signs of their presence.
I think it’s crucial to remember who came before us. People made their lives along this river. Their time has passed, and their traces are all but gone. But memories of them live on.
There used to be a schoolhouse on this lake. A ferry. A bunkhouse “large enough to accommodate a couple of hundred men.” Mail delivery. Annette Jackson’s cabin on Umsaskis was originally built in 1913 as a 15′ x 17′ children’s playhouse, though they renovated and added on, and had a snug home filled with the same comforts I enjoy in my cabin today, albeit minus any internet (a mixed blessing, let’s be honest). They had a radio, and salt pork, and all the fish they could catch for dinner steps outside their door. They had warmth and love, friendship, and when they wanted it (this is my favorite part), “such up-to-the-minute tunes as ‘Oh! Them Golden Slippers.'”
How bout dem slippers?
And three more recent shots, with the most recent (April 6th) being the image at the top of the page.