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Camp Road Winter

by Chris Brennan

This is our seventh winter living on a camp road year-round on Keoka Lake. The road has sixteen houses on it and is about a quarter mile long. Most of the houses are summer camps but there are six homes equipped for year-round living. For the first five years we were the only twelve-month residents, but many of the other owners came up during the winter for ski weekends, snowmobile outings or just to get away and enjoy the beauty of Maine winters. As you might imagine it's pretty quiet during the winter. In our first years, days might go by without another car or person venturing down the road, and the only excitement might be dealing with the all too frequent power outages.

Keeping the road open all winter requires a reliable person to do the plowing. We have

been very fortunate to have just such a person. While my wife was still working, he made it a point to plow by 7:00 a.m. so she would be able to drive to work. Now that she is retired the need is not as urgent. He also plows the driveways of the year-round homes and occasionally sands when the road becomes too icy. Of course, the road must be kept clear of obstacles for him to do his work and, after most storms, this requires someone to pick up and remove any large tree limbs that may have fallen. Usually this task is as simple as taking a stroll down the road and throwing any dead limbs into the surrounding woods but occasionally something larger will block the road completely.

When I’ve looked at turn of the twentieth century pictures of Keoka Lake and its

surroundings my impression is of open pasture and gentle hills. Now those hills are covered with trees, predominantly white pine. These can be huge trees, well over a hundred feet tall and dominating the comparatively miniscule hardwood trees. Watching these trees sway in the wind as if mere blades of grass is both awe inspiring and somewhat intimidating. When the power of the wind is amplified by the weight of snow a limb or entire tree will yield to the relentless power of gravity. Fortunately such events are relatively rare in Maine. It was my fourth winter in Maine when the storied “Ice Storm of 1998” hit. We were living elsewhere and when I walked outside, I was hit with the cacophony of multiple trees and limbs falling all around me. We were without power for fifteen days and the cleanup was epic.

Having experienced that storm helped give me a perspective on the storms that we experienced this January on the lake. Our first real storm of the winter brought a heavy wet snow that took two trees out across the road. Our plow guy removed one and a neighbor and myself removed another. We were without power for around thirty-six hours. The second storm the following weekend produced much more damage. It was primarily rain, but with high winds. Safely ensconced in our house, which is virtually soundproof, we hardly noticed the storm, but two of our neighbors reported what could only have been a microburst of wind that they described as something straight out of The Wizard of Oz. The next morning there were branches of varying sizes all over our front yard, but no evident major damage. Of course, we were without power. Walking up the road toward our outlet all of the road was clear of fallen trees or large limbs. A large pine had come down in the yard of the house near the start of our road but had not blocked it. Walking toward the terminus of our road was a different story. The

first blockage was a small pine that had fallen over the wires and decapitated itself onto the road. This took about a half hour to clear with a chainsaw, although the tree base remained leaning on the wires. Further down the road a large white pine had fallen across the road and had taken some collateral damage with it. After an hour or so of limbing and sawing, and with the help of neighbors, this too was cleared. Further inspection of the camps off the road revealed large limbs on roofs and decks but nothing appeared to be major. It wasn’t until a day later it was found that a pine had broken off about thirty feet from its base and fallen in such a way that it pierced the roof of a camp and penetrated into the upstairs bathroom. Two other huge white pines had partially fallen and were suspended over power lines and there was another large “widow maker” dangling over the lines nearby. A tree company came and cleared the tree piercing the roof and Central Maine Power removed the two tilting pines and the “widow maker.” Power was restored after seventy-two hours and the quiet life resumed.

We love winter on our camp road and are fortunate to have both our solitude and a community of neighbors who pitch in for the common good.

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