Unplugging for another camping season at Big Eddy takes me back in time

By Sarah Sindo

The truck tires leave the smooth pavement of Route 11 and, upon turning onto the Golden Road, a front tire immediately sinks into an unavoidable pothole. I turn on the radio and smile to myself as “the Mountain, 94.9” comes through the truck speakers.

It’s quite fitting because soon thereafter a still snow-covered Mt. Katahdin emerges and takes up the truck windshield, as if it came out of nowhere. I look over at my dog, Drake, in the passenger seat and I can see in his eyes he knows exactly where we’re going. Only 28.5 miles later, our rattled selves arrive at the parking lot for Big Eddy Campground.

“We’re here,” I tell my four-legged kid. 

I help him out of the truck, we both stretch our arms and legs and elongate our next inhale. The air is crisp, a decent-sized snowback sits in front of the lodge, and the plant by the porch that I was too lazy to bring inside at the end of last season is withered and beyond dry as a bone. 

It’s my eighth season working at the campground. How the heck did that happen, I hear myself asking often. It’s a campground where I reside for almost six months, one that is a 45-minute drive to the nearest grocery store. And where I have to drive 10 dirt road miles to the “phone booth” where I can get reception to make a phone call. These are just a few of the reasons I love it here.

I take a stroll around and feel cradled in a tiny nook of what I feel heaven might be like. On the other side of the front lawn, the river pools and circulates, creating a big eddy. The trees are still bare and the grass is brown, but I can already picture the apple trees by the cabin blooming and the immense sea of green that will soon take over the landscape here. 

Drake is impatiently waiting for me to unlock the front door. We go in and take a quick walk around the lodge, and he excitedly grabs his stuffed cow that wintered over. Dead flies cover the floor and mouse turds are scattered across the countertops, nothing unusual. Things look good, I say to myself.

(Later, after opening the lid to the toilet, I thought, “Now that doesn’t look so good.” But you’ll have that after being closed up for the winter.

I unload the truck, but the numerous boxes and bags will have to wait to be put away. First things first. 

I get the power turned on. Next is the water system. This year, I’m doing it on my own, so I meticulously go through the steps in my notebook. After completing several rounds of checking water valves, I was confident I had closed them all. Time for the moment of truth. 

I switch on the water pump breaker. I go around again and check the water valves. Of course the last one I checked should have been the first one. I come within sight of the shower house and see water pooling out from the cracks around the perimeter. An explicative escapes my mouth and I go inside to mop the flooded floor.

I turn on the propane to the lodge and light the fridge and oven and I start the wood stove. After a few other miscellaneous tasks, I take a seat and let out a sigh of relief. Overall, things went fairly well for arrival day. 

The two weeks that follow are full of raking, leaf blowing, cleaning cabins, stocking privies, organizing the office, scheduling inspections and taking town trips for out-of-the-blue projects — like a water line break. I settle into the groove quickly, and it feels good to be back for another season. 

As the camping season across the state quickly approaches, my wish for fellow campground workers is to take some time to appreciate what it is they do and where it is they do it. There’s nothing like peeling back the carpet of leaves and revealing the camp road once again, one that will soon be busy with vehicles of guests. 

And while the full days may make us yearn for the quieter days, I hope we can find pride in the work we do and what it offers to so many others. 

For those packing up your camper or camping gear, I hope your days at your favorite campground this summer are relaxing. One of the reasons people love hitting the Golden Road is the absence of phone reception, the disconnect. It almost feels like you’re going back in time.

Where else can you go where, for miles and miles, there is no cell phone service? My point, even if you’re connected where you’re camping, is to experiment and turn your cell phone off. See how it changes your mind, your experience, your overall well-being. I think you may like it.

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