Seventeen years ago I retired from a 33-year career with the Internal Revenue Service. My immediate plan was to travel and experience as many outdoor adventures as possible while I was still young and fit enough to enjoy them. My wife, Nancy, enthusiastically joined me.
In addition to traveling while embracing the outdoors, I had the nebulous idea that I’d like to try writing professionally. Combining my love of the outdoors with the literary endeavor seemed a logical formula. How I would actually accomplish the goal was a mystery.
Shortly after retiring, we loaded a truck camper with bikes, whitewater kayaks and hiking gear and departed for the southern and western United States for the winter. I decided to keep a journal of our exploits and write a travelog book when I returned. Had I known the difficulties usually encountered trying to find a publisher, I would have dismissed the idea as quixotic.
When we returned five months later, I had assembled a chronicle filled with detailed descriptions of our many exploits. Unfortunately, my numerous attempts to find a publisher proved futile. By chance, I stumbled onto an opportunity to write an outdoor column for a Maine newspaper and also began contributing articles to regional magazines.
Years of failed efforts to find a publisher for my travelog book ended when I contacted the managing editor for Menasha Ridge Press. He was also unimpressed with the idea. However, since I was an avid hiker, he asked if I’d consider researching and writing a New England mountain guidebook. My first book, “Mountains for Mortals – New England,” was born.
Encouraged by the guidebook success, I began marketing a satire about life in the IRS. Scores of rejections later, I met a fellow while winter hiking who had known legendary Vietnam War hero, bank robber and Maine native Bernard Patterson. The result was a biography about Bernard entitled “The Great Mars Hill Bank Robbery,” published by Downeast Books. The three-year journey researching and writing the book was a very rewarding undertaking.
Disappointment continued in my efforts to find a publisher for the IRS satire. When I researched the website for North Country Press in Unity as a potential publisher, their submissions schedule was full with the exception of a possible book about Maine outdoors. That stimulated a proposal regarding a concept I’d considered for several years; a collection of short stories about real life exploits in Maine’s most challenging and scenic environments with a guidebook style addendum at the end of each chapter. Owner/Publisher Pat Newell was interested and procedural discussions followed.
We agreed on a book about the 50 finest outdoor adventures in Maine. Included would be mountain hikes, bike trails, island bike rides, sea kayaking, whitewater kayaking and canoeing, Nordic skiing, lake paddling, canoe trips, backpack trips, and downriver canoe and kayak races. Topics I’d been writing about since the beginning of my retirement, authoring the book was the fulfillment of my initial writing aspirations.
What constituted the 50 finest outdoor adventures in Maine was clearly subjective. Some, such as climbing Katahdin, sea kayaking the Bold Coast, exploring Acadia National Park, navigating Moosehead Lake, canoeing the Allagash, racing on Kenduskeag Stream, and paddling the Kennebec and Penobscot Rivers were obvious. The cumulative experiences of my friends and I dictated the remaining choices. A labor of love ensued.
Serendipitously, I’d been preparing to write the book since my outdoor adventures began more than 45 years ago. Other than the actual exploits, the most important ingredient was the accumulation of a large group of exceptionally capable outdoor friends who are an integral part of each episode. The end result is a collection of escapades we’ve shared over the decades. The publisher and I believe we have created a very unique book that will inspire while simultaneously providing guidance on how to safely participate in the activities.
Upon reflection, “Maine Al Fresco: The Fifty Finest Outdoor Adventures in Maine” is the culmination of my original retirement goal. I was a youthful senior then. Now, at 74, I’m an old man and time is short. However, my senior experiences have left me optimistic. I’ve finished writing the IRS satire tentatively entitled “Up Your Tax Bracket” and continue to pursue a publisher. Pat Newell and I have discussed the possibility of future outdoor guidebooks. I have additional book themes in mind.
This senior not acting his age will plod ahead as long as the fates allow.