Down the Road a Piece

By MILT GROSS | Jun 29, 2014

Camping in the old Swanville camp

One of my bus passengers, whose name is not Lucy except in this column, lives in Bar Harbor and has a camp in Swanville.

Lucy built her camp on borrowed property about 20 years ago, and though living in Bar Harbor, finds her way several times a year to her camp. Where she stays and relaxes, although the camp has no electricity, running water, or septic system.

I’ve camped under similar circumstances, and by the time I had finished all the physical labor that was required from not having utilities, I was tired, pooped, exhausted, weary, and oh so glad to get home again where the utilities awaited me -- especially that hot shower.

But not only does her camp lack the amenities with which most of us are happy, but her part of Swanville is about 65 miles from her Bar Harbor apartment. That matters, because Lucy doesn’t drive. She either takes a bus, which is hard to do in Maine as there are very few where you need them, or hitchhikes.

She knows the best places along Route 1 to stand safely with her thumb out. She does it so often that the area police know her and kind of watch out for her while she waits with her thumb out.

The owner of the property on which the camp sits doesn’t charge her anything and has never complained about her camp or her presence when she’s there. But recently the owner signed a conservation easement for that 40 or so acres, guaranteeing that the land will always be wild with no building or other development taking place.

He didn’t tell Lucy when he entered into the conservation easement, and Lucy only hopes her camp will be acceptable to remain as it is.

Hope so. Twenty years is a long time from which to have to pull up stakes to move and camp elsewhere.

I think she originally hailed from Florida, where I’m pretty sure no one allows one to build a camp on their land and visit it for 20 years.

She also borrows a bit of land on Mount Desert Island, outside of Acadia National Park, and camps out there several times during warmer weather when black flies and mosquitoes can keep her company. She rides a bus to a spot alongside the road, gets off, and walks into the camp site.

I’ve camped myself once in a great while in spots that weren’t campsites, once on a deer trail where somehow my camping buddy and I didn’t get hooved, and a few other places where camping was not a designated use. I’ve shared those spots with deer, skunks, fox, and a fair number of the little buggy critters.

I was always glad to get home.

When I was a kid -- a number of years ago the number of which I can’t remember and wouldn’t share with you if I could -- a couple of us camped in a tent in our back yard, where it connected with a small woods. We had Shep with us, our old buddy and, as it turned out, guard dog. Some other kids decided to have some fun irritating us, but unfortunately for them they got irritated instead by old Shep. Old Shep was gentle around girls and women, but he saved his growl and his teeth for boys and men. Yes, he discriminated, but it was nice for us that night.

The marauding neighbors’ kids came, were growled at, and promptly left the scene. We laughed while they ran. Running for their lives through the woods must have been interesting. To us, it was just funny.

I once built a lean-to a bit farther out in that same back yard. I never got to camp in it, because my mean little sister destroyed it. But I got even with her.

I moved to Maine, where she swore to me once on the phone she would never come.

Didn’t and don’t need her anyhow.

After all, she wasn’t something like a mosquito that I could tolerate.

She was my mean little sister.

Lucy, as far as I know, doesn’t have a mean little sister.

She enjoys being in her camp -- without utilities.

Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at lesstraveledway@roadrunner.com.

Milton M. Gross Copyright 2014

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