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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Way up there in "The Forks" of northern Maine, Yessa!

Returning home is a trip we make frequently enough, although this trip began pretty differently.  I'd gone down to Concord, NH to visit a friend, Emily, with another friend, Anna.  Anna had returned to Vermont, while my mom drove down to Concord, to bring me up to Solon, Maine.  I grew up in Maine, and am always surprised to learn of anew town, I haven't heard of, in our great state.  The region is in the deep orth of Maine.  Up Im 'the forks'where 2 great rivers meet.  We did our float on he ighty Kennebec.  My mom and I drove up in the rain, expecting similar conditions throughout the day.  We left around 5:30 am, to be there around 9.  We pulled into the campground, and a woman came out of the main house, after we'd been idling in the same place few moments, as we didn't know where to go,or which cabin we were looking for.  This is something I will always love about rural communities: she fetched an extra set of keys, and brought us to Ross's cabin.  Ross is a old friend of my moms, from when they worked together at !oss tent company, 30 years ago.  All I knew about him, was that he makes the best jam I've ever had, and he's lives in southern Vermont.  It didn't seem like Ross was anywhere to be found, so we decided to drive around, and look for him.  We headed into town, which consisted of a gas pump, and a store called Boats, Bait,  and Guns.  Solid.  Being that we had no luck in 'town' we abandoned the search, and headed back to the campsite.  Oddly, we were behind another car on the way back.  It was the first other driver we'd encountered.  Eventually, I looked at the plates on the car, and realized the car was from Vermont.  Unimaginably we'd found Ross on the road.  We brought our things in, had some coffee, and heard some stories about the man whose memorial we were crashing.  

Then it was time to drive over to The Forks. It's named for where the Kennebec, and the Allagash rivers meet. We were coming down a straight road, and from far off, I could see a large A-frame building, with the words, The Forks, painted on the front.  I sat with my mom in the car, though I abandoned my post when I realized she was sleeping.  I ventured forth into the sea of mourning strangers, celebrating love, and life lost.  I knew I appeared suspect, given my cane, my lack of extra weight, and my age.  I stopped to talk to Ross, who let me know where the nearest bathroom was.  As I made my way into the building, I met Steve's sister, Sue. She directly asked me how I knew Steve, and I had no choice but to look her in the eye, and admit I didn't, but who I did know there, and thank her for her hospitality, and grace.  She seemed to appreciate my honesty, so I offered my condolences, and finally found the bathroom.  Soon after, I attained my life vest, and pre boarded a school bus, so I wouldn't be making others wait for me.  Little did I know, that I'd be waiting there for over an hour.  My mom came, and kept me company, while people ever so slowly made their way to the bus.  By the time around half the people had boarded, some guy gets on announces the decision has been made, to wait for so and so, who are still enroute.  Eventually people arrive, and get their act together, and we depart.  On the bright side, the sun seemed to winning its battle with the rain clouds.

We finally arrived, and made our way to the rafts another company had donated, for the occasion,  family and friends had gathered to commemorate Stephen Longley's life in this way, because he had began the first white water rafting company on the Kennebec.  Appropriately, it was called 'Rolling Thunder'.  When he passed Steve had been longtime known as the ferryman for AT thruhikers, in the last stretch of their hike.  The AT crosses the Kennebec, near the base camp, we began the morning at.  The plan was to float down to where we'd begun.  About 10 minutes into the trip,  we pass, your classic drunk Mainer.  Ross has pulled out cheese, crackers, and of course his jam, when we pass by a fellow standing in his canoe, a cigarette in his mouth, a bottle of Yeagermeister in one hand, and smart talking another nearby raft.  This kd yells to I'm, "hey man, don't fall out"   He whips his head around, yells, and teeters over into the river.  I tarted sighing, to find myself choking on the cracker I'd been eating.  He immediately surfaced, screaming about the 2 pack of cigarettes in his pockets.  Some of the folks in our raft, pulled him aboard, and he introduced himself, as Rosco from Moscow, (a town in Maine.  It only got more entertainining for me, as he sat next to my mom, and hollered endlessly about his Yeager, and destroyed cigarettes.  Thankfully, she also found comedy in the situation, although, when she'd had enough,  she swtched seats to sit next to me.  There were 2 small rapids on the ride, so I was pleased about that.  Eventually, Roscoe from Moscow abandoned ship again, climbing into a nearby passing raft.  I was pretty thankful he'd been along for the ride, as he, without fail, brought humor, and memories on this rating trip.

Later, we returned to the campsite where we were staying.  Ross unloaded plentiful amounts of his Jamtastic jam for us, which is always a welcome treat.  We had grilled Alaskan Salmon for dinner, and heard many, back ithe day type stories.  Ross is a very vivid storyteller, so it was pretty enertaing.  Later, we all retired, well fed, and contended by a busy day.

The next morning we packed up, ate some local fare at a nearby diner, and headed home.