William Warner (left) works to trim back the smaller branches of a maple tree that came down during a recent storm and struck the family camp at Sebago Lake. Credit: Pete Warner / BDN

There’s nothing better during the summer than heading out on the lake for some fishing or even playing 18 holes at the local golf course.

Admittedly, and unfortunately, I have done precious little of either during my time off this summer.

Fun invariably gets pushed aside in favor of the ever-present work that awaits those of us who are fortunate to own a camp. Oh, the projects.

Last year, in addition to wood that needed splitting, a leaky roof eventually stymied me and led to a total replacement. I informed my boys that the next time the roof needs an overhaul, they’ll be responsible (since the new one should outlast me).

This summer, I wound up practicing for an audition in “Timber Tina’s Great Maine Lumberjack Show.” The popular attraction in Trenton gives patrons the chance to see some serious chainsaw wizardry performed by professionals.

I’m kidding. My chainsaw skills are lacking — although not as much so as my chain-sharpening skills. I’m just proficient enough to get some work done.

Last week at camp was filled with tree cutting and wood splitting, rather than dredging Sebago Lake in search of spunky salmon and big togue. Word is the fishing has been lackluster this year anyway.

We dodged a bullet recently when a pop-up storm — it may even have been a microburst — swept ashore and knocked down a large section of an already damaged maple tree.

The first big trunk on the tree came down in fall 2020. Thankfully, it landed on the ground and didn’t do any damage.

The remnants of a fallen maple tree sit on and above the ground at Sebago Lake, where Bangor Daily News Outdoors Editor Pete Warner is likely to be spending some upcoming time off with chainsaw and splitting maul in hand. Credit: Pete Warner / BDN

This time, a section some 50 feet tall grazed a small birch tree, tore a shingle off the edge of the roof, nearly dislodged the railing from a set of steps, broke some pieces of siding and threatened to knock out the front windows.

The only other damage was to a couple of screens and to the chipmunk that either was clinging to the tree as it went down or was scampering across the grass at the exact moment the maple slammed to the earth.

It was killed instantly, although the local hawk population likely would have snatched it up eventually.

Having cut up the 2020 blowdown in June and July, there were still a handful of sections to split. Once the new piece was down, it was putting pressure on the windows and steps and blocking our path to the lake.

My son William used a battery powered recip saw to trim off most of the small branches and stacked them. That opened the door for me to resharpen the chains for my trusty Stihl saw and get busy.

After slicing up perhaps a third of the tree, I took a break to split those sections. That led to the first vacation injury.

I was splitting a piece on the ground, rather than atop a stump. It came straight back and hit me in the shin. Lesson learned.

The chunk hit square on the bone, judging from the sound, so the bruising was minimal. But more than a week later I still have to take care not to lean against anything, lest I receive a painful reminder of my miscue.

With the larger part of the fallen tree still waiting to be processed, I took on another challenge. The impetus to change tasks came from the arrival of a new chainsaw chain.

Two dead birches stood near the shore. One was poised to fall directly onto an unsuspecting sunbather on the beach, or possibly tear the porch off the small boathouse. The other leaned precariously in the direction of my wife Annia’s hammock and chairs.

The trees had posed a threat for a few years already, so I opted to take action. But not until I reviewed tree-felling techniques on the internet.

I targeted the smaller tree first and was surprised that I got it to fall quickly and cleanly out of harm’s way. Piece of cake.

The other trunk posed significantly more issues, but I was feeling confident. Timber Tina would have been proud. Just as planned, the tree came down on the rocks and in the water, sparing the beach and the porch.

It was during the process of cutting up those sections, to remove them from the water and from the walking path, that the second injury occurred.

I successfully negotiated using the chainsaw in thigh-deep water, wearing my bathing suit and no footwear, to the point where a 10-foot section remained on the rocks.

After cutting that piece in half, I attempted to move it toward the water. If only the big toe on my left foot had not been directly in its path.

I felt a sharp pain as the log bent back the toenail about halfway. I was able to extricate my foot, but the damage was done. I got the bleeding under control, wrapped it in gauze and spent the remaining few vacation days hobbling around.

Annia and I finally snuck out for an early morning bass excursion, which yielded five small fish — four for her and one for me. It was a gorgeous troll, before the power boats overtook the lake.

But the projects weren’t over. We replaced three damaged window screens and another tattered one on the back door.

With the work finally done, the injury report was finalized when I failed to get a potholder between a cast iron frying pan on the gas grill and the palm of my right hand.

I now have a feeling for what a steer feels like when it gets branded, only I’m pretty sure their skin is thicker. Fortunately, the pain was fleeting, although the blisters linger.

It was yet another lesson learned while receiving a reminder of how not to spend my vacation. Time to rest up for the next one. That maple tree is still there waiting to be cut up and split.

Pete Warner

Pete graduated from Bangor High School in 1980 and earned a B.S. in Journalism (Advertising) from the University of Maine in 1986. He grew up fishing at his family's camp on Sebago Lake but didn't take...