Come this time of year, a few things are (typically) very predictable. August in Maine is hot. Really, really hot. And dry. Dry enough to make our lawns turn brown, and for our brooks and streams to turn into meandering puddles filled with rocks.
Come August in Maine, many of us try to escape to the nearest lake, or use up a year’s worth of vacation time. Some of us even consider (again) ponying up the cash to buy an air conditioner that we know we’ll only need for about eight days a year.
August equals heat. Period. Or, at least that’s what I used to think.
Coming from a guy who lives in a state like Maine, which claims “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute, it’ll change” as one of its unofficial mottos, that’s saying something. The truth is, when you get to August in the Pine Tree State, we all know it’s gonna be hot. It’s gonna be humid. And more than a few of us are going to be complaining about it.
Not me, though. Nope. Not me. Never. Not even when I’m puffing and panting and nearly passing out while mowing the grass on a 90-degree day. I, for the record, am one of those apparently rare Mainers who simply love the hot weather. That’s why my vacations of choice (when I can afford them) involve palm trees, sand beaches, soft tropical breezes and colorful drinks that are delivered by friendly folks who speak in that cool island accent. (Pick an island … I really don’t care which one. I like ’em all).
Fact is, you can usually say the same things about July. Those two months are the ones people are talking about when they say that Maine consists of two months of warm weather and 10 months of rough sledding.
And then, just when you think you’ve got this state figured out, we have a year like this one.
June was hotter than hot, or at least that’s the way I remember it after spending much of the month sweating my face off while coaching track and field at a local high school. And according to our local weather guessers, this July was one of the wettest on record. (Note to Todd Simcox: I’m not talking about you. You, as we all know, do not ever guess about the weather. And if you send me a few jars of that tasty salsa that you make, I might even keep telling people that).
But here’s the thing about Maine: This is an odd little state. And what might apply to, say, Jonesport or Bangor, might not come close to describing the realities of living in Rangeley or (chuckle) Portland. And while July was plenty rainy in many of the places I spend time, it wasn’t nearly rainy enough in other parts of the state.
Think I’m lying? Check out this handy-dandy drought-tracking map and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. It turns out that 67.8 percent of the state is abnormally dry, and 43.8 percent of Maine is in a moderate drought. That, after many of us spent July Googling the best and most efficient way to build an ark (after, of course, first figuring out how big a cubit is).
In fact, the weather has been so rainy in the thriving metropolis of Otis (population 672, as of 2010), the driveway at our family’s camp has remained at a constant mid-May quagmire state for most of the summer. More alarming, the lake level is so high, the shoal of glacial erratics that sit just offshore from our neighbor’s camp — a great way to tell which of the reckless boaters is a local, and which are “from away” — weren’t visible above the surface until earlier this week. That’s about a month later than normal, according to my unscientific guess.
So, where does that hot-cold, wet-dry conundrum leave us? Should we continue our regular outdoor activities? Should we alter what we’re doing? Are our wells going to go dry? Or are we going to get stuck in the mud?
Your guess is as good as mine (or, I’ll suggest, with a grin on my face) as good as all of our local weather guessers (except YOU, Todd Simcox! P.S.: Send me some salsa! And remember, I like my salsa like I like my weather: The hotter, the better!)
Of course, as a (semi-retired) journalist, I can’t accept such gratuities. I’m only kidding about the salsa.
John Holyoke is the former outdoors editor of the BDN, an aspiring novelist and a future high school English teacher. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org