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Weekend in New England

10/31/2007

Photo Galleries | Don Barone's version of the ghost hunt

Why did I say "Yes"?

Ever say yes to something and as soon as the word "yes" comes out of your mouth, you wish you could reach out, grab it, and stuff it back down your throat? This little adventure was one of those times. WTH was I thinking?

First I was tempted with chasing ghosts or ghouls or some nether worldly beings at this haunted fish camp thing with a side trip of fly-fishing for landlocked salmon. Then came the change-up: the flight into Boston instead of Portland, Maine, which resulted in a six-hour ride (instead of a two-hour ride) with a man formerly known in some circles as "Boner Dude."

Four extra hours with a man formerly known as "Boner Dude" can be a long time — a scary long time. The final straw was the guide named "Munster." A fishing guide named Munster and a haunted fishing camp. Not making that up. Even though I said "yes," there was a little voice in the back of my head screaming, "What are you thinking, goober?"

Where does this writer/producer guy, Barone, dig this stuff up (and just what does he produce)? Does he go out looking for spooks at fish camps in BFE Maine, or do they come looking for him?

How 'bout this Munster guy? Does he have an uncle named Herman? Aunt named Lily? Gotta find that out when I meet him … maybe. Looks like a pretty big guy on his website. Maybe not — I may just leave it alone.

So here I am, standing in line at the Little Rock National Airport while a TSA employee with an unreadable ID badge is trying to figure out if I am really who the 501 driver's license says I am.

Forget about the boarding pass. Don't you want to know what I have in this 30-inch-long tube I'm carrying under my arm?

Yeah, the one with the St. Croix label on the side of it. Hey, Ms. TSA: It might be something illegal instead of a fly pole. Don't you want to check it out?

Nope. Not even a sniff. What is it with me and security check points?

Let's see: Blonde hair, blue eyes, fair complexion, talks slow and Southern — yeah, that sounds like a terrorist-type profile to me. WTF? First it was Helga at the Canadian border, check that out here, then it was what's-her-name... Uh, Ruthie, at the California border searching for Quagga's, check that out here, and now it's security at the airport in my home town.

What exactly is on the boarding pass that she is so intently studying? All it has is my name, flight number, and where I'm going. Maybe she has some barcode scanner thing implanted in her left eye and she is reading "War and Peace" or my life history on that little barcode strip. Beats me.

I finally get past her and shuffle through the chute with the other cattle until Herb tells me which line I can go stand in to get all my stuff blasted with X, Y, Gamma, and Zeon rays to see how many types of contraband I am trying to haul into the wild blue yonder. Do you feel like you're being violated when you go through airport security? The shoe thing pushes it over the top for me.

Finally through security in my socks and onto the cattle car to Cincinnati, then Boston, where Barone is waiting with a minivan complete with hula dancer on the dash. Not making that up either. More on minivans next …

The Road Trip

Barone was waiting at the baggage claim area in Logan International, just like he said he would. Even knew which carousel would be rolling my bag around. Cool. Grabbed the bag and headed for the minivan. Now about this minivan — let's get something laid out here; I drive a Chevy 3500 HD Dually, 6.6L Duramax Diesel, with a 6-speed Allison tranny that pumps out 365 horsepower and 660 foot pounds of torque (whatever that is). I'm getting in a Toyota minivan with a man — who owns the van; it's not his wife's — complete with hula dancer on the dash. This is so wrong on so many levels.

Oh, I almost forgot about Jill. Jill is also in the minivan with us. She's telling us where to go. Nice. Why is it that people put names to their GPS/navigation units? My aunt and uncle have one they call "Wanda." Barone has named his Jill. Because … I don't know why and I'm not going to ask. Why not Jack? Ever notice that many of our inanimate objects are given female names? Why?

As we leave the airport parking deck, the rain begins.

Jill gets us through the maze of tunnels under and around the city of Boston (Exactly how does a GPS unit work in a tunnel? How does it know you're not on the street directly overhead? How does it know?) and on I-95 north toward Rockwood, Maine. If you check it out on the map, it doesn't look that far. Jill says we should be there by 6 p.m., which will make for a 5 1/2 hour drive. Yeah. What does Jill know?

Hey, this minivan has some cool stuff. Armrests that are infinitely adjustable, rear windows that can be opened with a button, and an MP3 jack. Whoa, you can plug your iPod right into the car and play your favorite … Neil Diamond? Exactly why are we listening to Neil Diamond? Hey Barone, got any Manilow on that thing? Minivan, hula dancer, Manilow on the iPod, beautiful fall foliage … are you getting this picture?

Massachusetts quickly turns to New Hampshire, which almost as quickly turns to Maine. Hey, this is going by pretty quick. We might get there before 6 p.m. Yeah, right. We stop in Freeport at Gritty McDuff's Pub for some fish and chips. And what exactly is a "Publican"? I never knew that Freeport was the home of L.L. Bean, but there it was, right down on the town square complete with a ton of people milling about in the pouring rain.

We rolled on up I-95 and sampled rainy views of the fall foliage. I always wanted to see New England in the fall, but I didn't think I would be seeing it from the passenger seat of a minivan with a hula dancer on the dash while listening to Barry Manilow — but you take what you can get.

By 5 p.m. it's dark and we're still nowhere near wherever it is that we are going. At some point we leave I-95, and wireless service. Oh, we can get it in spots, but they don't last long. The further north we go, the smaller the spots become.

We round a corner on the dark, rainy two-lane road and there it is — MOOSE!

Not really. Just a yellow and red sign the size of a barn complete with flashing lights beside the road that says:

WARNING

(Graphic of LARGE moose)

High rate of moose crashes next six miles

Exactly what happens when you hit a moose in a Toyota Sienna? We find that out later.

Barone and I look at each other with the Buckwheat eyes. (Don't know Buckwheat? Google him. Better yet, check him out on Wikipedia. Part of the Lil' Rascals). What happens when you hit a moose in the hula dancer mobile? You clip it at the knees and it rolls up the hood to the windshield, where it gets up close, personal, and very ugly for moose and occupants of the hula dancer mobile. Watch for moose.

At the sight of the flashing Moose Danger sign, Mario Baroni slows the hula dancer mobile. Holy crap. Last thing I want to do is hit a moose in BFE, Maine, on a cold, rainy night in a minivan complete with hula dancer while listening to Manilow or Neil Diamond or even Metallica. I wouldn't want to hit a moose even in the Chevy HD Dually with the Duramax diesel. That would be jacked up.

After what seems like a hundred miles of wide-eyed, white-knuckled moose patrol, we get to Greenville, Maine. It's a quaint little town with several pubs, restaurants, and some corner stores. Hey, this might not be so far out in the sticks after all. Jill informs us that we have to drive another 20 miles north on Maine 15 to get to Rockwood, our final destination.

Oh.

It's 7 p.m. and we're still not there yet — wherever "there" is. I thought we were pretty much nowhere. Think we're actually the other side of nowhere. Way past nowhere.

Another 20 miles of wide and white moose patrol and we see the "Entering Rockwood" sign. We drive for several miles and still see nothing but dark, rainy two-lane Maine 15. A Mobil station appears. Then nothing. More nothing. More dark, rainy Maine 15. Finally, the Moosehead Motel mystically appears out of the rain. Didn't think we would ever get here. Did enjoy the ride in the minivan, though. Minivans might be pretty cool.

"Catch Casper yet?"

Straight up — I didn't sign up for the haunted fish camp lodge thing part of this adventure. The haunted part is the reason I was kicking myself under the table, right after I said "Duh, yeah. I'll go on a ghost hunting fishing adventure halfway across the continent." Uh-huh, uh-huh. Yup, yup. That's me, Mr. Ghost Master.

When I throw the curtains open at the Moosehead Motel on Saturday a.m., I immediately see the reason I had come to Rockwood, Maine. Abso-freakin'-lutely gorgeous. I'm standing on the front porch of my room, overlooking the amazingly beautiful Moosehead Lake. The birch and maples are still in their full, fall colors. Stunning. Amazingly stunning. I had always heard about the autumn in New England and how beautiful it was. It's all true.

But alas, the fall foliage is not the reason we came to Rockwood. Off we go in the minivan to Mohegan Camps to search out some paranormal stuff. I can't believe that I just used the word "paranormal." What is "paranormal"? Above normal? Out of normal? Beyond normal? Damn sure beyond me.

I'm willing to tag along with Barone and the professional Ghostbusters he's invited up from the Cape Cod area, the guys and gals of CAIPRS. Check out their website here. (To be honest, I was afraid they might be a little "para-normal" in their own right, but Derek and crew turned out to be pretty well grounded people — thankfully.)

So, I'm not really up for this Ghostbusters stuff. Let's just say I'm a skeptical pragmatist. It's not that I don't believe in ghosts or spirits or whatever they are; hey, this from a guy who lived in a house for 15 years with … something else. Don't know if it was a ghost, spirit, apparition, or what it was. All I know is that, on several different occasions, at the end of a 30-foot-long hallway we would see … something, for lack of a better term, standing at the far end of the hall. Don't know what it was or why it was there. Wasn't spooky or scary, it just was. Every one of us who lived in the house saw this … something more than once while we lived there. Not that I don't believe, I just want to see for myself what's up.

While I wallow in my skeptical pragmatism, others believe we're surrounded by spirits, energy, "ghosts," or whatever they want to call them. Some people believe they can sense these "beings" and even converse with them. That's cool; I have no problem with that. Other than my encounter in the hallway of our home, I've never "sensed" or talked with any spirits. When the pros who deal with the spirits pull out the dousing rods, start talking about EVP's, and "third eyes" — sorry, guys, but I'm done.

Show me a sign or something tangible and I'm all there for you. Otherwise, peace out.
Despite my skeptical pragmatism, I spent 12 hours of Saturday at the Tomhegan Camp poking through the 100-year-old rustic cabins and the lodge looking for spooks.

Didn't see one. Met some very nice people. Larry and Bernice, the managers of the Tomhegan, and their granddaughter, Charity, were wonderful to spend the day with, and it was interesting to listen to their stories of what they have witnessed in some of the cabins. The guys and gals from CAIPRS spent the day, and night, with video equipment running, electro-magnetic sensors sensing, and their own eyes and ears to the ground, trying to find conclusive, scientific proof that … something is hanging out at the Tomhegan.

Didn't see anything they could show us the next morning.

Does that mean the haunted cabins at Tomhegan aren't haunted? Not at all. Some of them are old enough and creepy enough to have a gaggle of ghosts living in them. Just means that nothing blatantly obvious happened in any of the areas which we visited, while we were visiting. Nothing more, nothing less. It is what it is.

One thing I know is, it would be absolutely breathtaking. Not sure that I can even put down on the keyboard exactly how beautiful the entire Rockwood area is. Hopefully the photos will do it some justice. This is one of those places people visit year after year, and keep it to themselves because they don't want a bazillion people roaming there. I can't say I blame them.

After our 12-hour tour of the Tomhegan Camps, we called up our trusty Registered Master Maine Guide to arrange the next day's land-locked salmon fishing. First question out of his mouth: "Catch Casper yet?"
Oh, yeah. Tomorrow's gonna be the day.

The Montreal Whore

Imagine Arnold Schwarzenegger born in the backwoods of New England — an Ah-nuld with a Nor'easter accent. An Arnold who hunted and fished instead of pumped iron. An Arnold in camo.

Meet Joe Munster.

Born, raised, and proudly living in Rockwood, Maine. Joe is a fourth-generation Registered Master Maine Guide who supports his family in the outdoors. Not many people left who can say that. Joe said his grandfather and father were "woodsmen." When's the last time you heard anyone referred to as a "woodsman"? Very cool guy.
Joe Munster brought me a Montreal Whore.

About a size eight with some red and blue hair, a little silver tinsel wrapped over pink chenille … very nice. Tied her on and flailed her around the waters of the Kennebec River.

Didn't catch a fish with her.

Spent several hours on the East Outlet of the Kennebec River searching for land-locked steelhead. I fished some beautiful water and gazed at beautiful scenery.

Didn't catch a fish with any other fly I tied on.

But I had a great day.

That's the difference between fishing for a profession and fishing for recreation. In an Elite Series tournament and on the clock, if I spent a day on the pond and brought in a goose egg — I'm pissed. No, I'm beyond that. I'm a SOB to live with for a week. If I spend all day wading around in the Kennebec River with St. Croix fly rod in hand and draw a goose egg — no worries. Well, fishing is fishing, isn't it? Why is there such a difference between a zero in a Bassmaster Elite Series day and a day of fly fishing in Maine?

Aside from the entry fees, sponsor obligations, and the money aspect of an Elite Series day, the fishing is all together different. In a tournament, I'm looking to make the most efficient use of my time to capture five of the biggest bass per day I can catch. It's not about the chase as much as it is about the catch. No catch = bad day.

Fly fishing is all about the chase. Correct rod, correct line, correct fly drifted through the correct piece of water at the correct time will raise a fish. When all is correct, it's magic. When one piece of the puzzle is missing, you can still have a wonderful day, but it might not be one of those magical days.

This is fishing, regardless of what they are fishing to catch, for the vast majority of the 39 million freshwater anglers across the country. For them, it's all about the scenery, playing with the tackle, showing off the latest fishing gadget to the buddy. And the most important aspect for many: time spent with family and friends. I count Barone and Munster as friends.

About Rockwood

If you go to Rockwood, take what you need. While the Moose River Country Store has basic necessities, the closest grocery store is 20 miles south in Greenville. North of Rockwood there lies "miles and miles of miles and miles." To be as close as it is to some of the densest population in the country, the Rockwood region is remote. It's quiet during the day and dark at night. I'm talking dark as outer space — you can't see your hand in front of your face dark.

Moosehead Lake may be the prime attraction of the Rockwood area, but there is much more in the area. If you like hunting, hiking, cross country skiing, snowmobiling, or fishing for smallmouth bass, trout, land-locked salmon, togue, and a variety of other species, this is your place. Ice fishing is also very popular after the lake freezes.

What happens if you hit a moose in your minivan complete with hula dancer on the dash and Manilow on the MP3 player? Didn't get to experience that with Barone (thankfully). Joe told us that when you hit a moose "your head meets your a**." He's also an EMT and has responded to numerous "moose crashes" over the years, usually with a tragic ending.

When Arnold tells me to watch for moose, I listen.

For more info on Kevin Short or to contact Kevin, check out his website at www.kfshort.com.