“Summer has finally arrived. Better late than never!”

I probably uttered that phrase half a dozen times during the last week of August. During the middle week of the same month, I thought for sure that the warm weather was truly over. The nights were cool enough to no longer need my bedroom fan on, and I’d drive home from work with the car windows up more often than not.

But as sure as today ends in Y, I was wrong. This isn’t an uncommon occurrence, mind you. But there I was, expecting to be pulling my sweatshirts out of the closet again and mentally preparing myself for the snow that’s probably right around the corner, and yet it was somehow still in the mid-80s. Better late than never, right?

Speaking of which, I may have mentioned in this space over the last few months that if I have one truly bad habit, aside from not calling my mother more to tell her I’m still alive, it’s that I procrastinate.

You kind folk have been extremely helpful in emailing me your recommendations for outdoor activities I should get involved in this summer, and I’m embarrassed to say the list has grown more quickly than I can cross things off of it.

Ever since the ground started to thaw and the trees started to shake off winter’s thorny grasp and show a little green again, I’ve had the best of intentions to get out and hike. I’m not a professional outdoorsman by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve dabbled a little bit on trails back home in Australia, in Colorado and in Southern California.


But every time I see a weekend day on the horizon that’s devoid of plans and start to think, “That’s the day I’ve been looking for. That’s the day I’m going hiking,” something comes up. Something that almost inevitably involves beer and sunshine. Maine just won’t give me a chance, you know?

A couple of weeks ago I finally got out there, though, in a Saturday-Sunday trip that ended up ticking off a lot of your other suggestions as well.

A friend of a friend invited me to a 60th birthday party in Farmington and, since it was a part of our newspaper circulation area that I hadn’t yet explored, I was more than happy to oblige.

I still get a kick out of driving through the towns and villages that I see our reporters write about in the paper every day, and it’s always a little bit exciting to put an actual “face” to the town names.

After meeting my friends at their farmhouse just outside of New Sharon, we headed toward the family camp. The one in question was on the banks of Clearwater Pond in Industry, and suffice to say I was blown away.

Even though I recently wrote about committing beautiful sights to memory rather than just taking a photo, this is one of the times where I’d love to have taken a dozen snaps. Despite having known me for a grand total of 10 minutes, my hosts encouraged me to take my first dip in a Maine lake, and I had to oblige.


At the back of the house there was a stone-and-gravel pier of sorts jutting out into the lake, with a diving board at the end. The water was cold initially but perfect once the body became acclimatized. At the camp next door, there were half a dozen kids jumping off their own little landing, while a couple of adults paddled in kayaks.

There are at least a couple of Stephen King novels that describe scenes on Maine ponds, and now I finally understand the imagery. The water was mostly still, and the lake seemed to stretch on forever; and while beautiful, it was easy to see how the imagination could turn it into something ominous.

After a swim, we got back in the car and headed back toward the farmhouse to get ready for the birthday party. For me this only involved putting a clean shirt on, so while the ladies of the house got dolled up, I hung out in the farmyard with my new best friend, a 4-year-old kid who was mad about picking blueberries.

Readers have been telling me for months that I need to go blueberry picking. This sounds like backbreaking labor at best, but I didn’t think it would end up involving a 4-year-old sitting on my shoulders, directing me to bend down so he could reach the ripe fruit.

It was a tough slog (for me, at least) but the results spoke for themselves — blueberries right off the bush are delicious. Another first crossed off right there.

The party, in a beautifully renovated barn, was a wonderful time and I got to mingle with some more born-and-raised Mainers. Ones that offered me my very first taste of what I understand is the state’s unofficial cocktail, coffee brandy and milk. Tastes like trouble to me.


I managed to avoid overindulgence — for once — which put me in good stead for the following day, when I finally hit the trails and hiked Tumbledown Mountain, out past Weld. It was a warm day and the trail was tough in parts, but it was absolutely worth the trek when I saw the pond at the summit stretch out in front of us as we reached the peak.

Sitting on top of the rocky outcrop, looking around at the incredible 360-degree view, it wasn’t just amazement I felt, but a twinge of regret. After eight and a half months, and three months of glorious summer, I waited until the next-to-the-last weekend in August to take on my first Maine hike.

Better late than never, right?

Adrian Crawford is a Web editor at the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel. Email him at [email protected]. Maine Walkabout is published the first and third Sundays of each month. More of his adventures in Vacationland can be found at www.crawfinusa.com.

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