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Camp Faraway: A.K.A. known as home of “Camp Feet”

By Donni Hughes

Created as a part of the Aging Resource Center memoir-writing class.

In between work assignments in England and Germany, my father requested that the family be able to take a trip home to the States. During that visit, he and his father took a fall hunting trip to an area in downeast Maine. With their Micmac Indian guide, Les Otto, they had several adventures and tales to tell, but those will wait for another time as this story is about a happenstance that touched five generations.

During the hunting trip, Dad learned that International Paper was selling lakefront lots in the beautiful, wild, and pristine area that they had been hunting. Days before we left for Germany, he purchased two lots for $100 each. As our family continued to be assigned overseas my father gave the property to his father, my grandfather, a south Jersey farmer and plasterer, who loved to hunt.

Over the years, Grandad and his buddies built a hunting camp, 14 feet off the edge of the lake. The camp was at the end of a two-mile rough dirt road into the Maine woods. Eighteen miles from “town,” we had no electricity, we did have an outhouse, and water was drawn from the lake by a hand pump. A six burner, wood-fueled cookstove took command of the central room and was the source of heat and food. In the summer and every hunting season, my grandparents traveled faithfully to camp from southern New Jersey and dubbed it “Camp Faraway.”

Our family had only two visits to Camp Faraway before I left for college and they were visits filled with moonlight swims, family board games, and bare, dirty feet, loving every minute. Literally, the day that I graduated high school, my family moved from Colorado to Sweden and I went to camp with my grandmother for the summer, waiting for college to start. It was a summer of blissful hours spent reading on the homemade raft that I daily paddled out into the lake. Scrabble was my grandmother’s choice of games for the evenings and she skunked me all the time. Every other weekend Granddad would get on a bus Friday night in Philadelphia and we would pick him up Saturday morning in Bangor. He traveled in his tan work Dickies, bringing us a suitcase full of garden tomatoes. Sunday morning he would go fishing and breakfast was often pan-fired trout and tomatoes. Camp had become my touchstone and tether to the question “Where are you from?”

Many years later, one of my sisters and I began a tradition of taking our combined five daughters, ages then two thru nine, to camp every summer for two weeks. For many years, we seldom saw another soul during those weeks. Water still came from the lake via a hand pump, the path to the outhouse had become well worn and after an evening of games, we all crawled into bed with “camp feet” (dirt and pine needled), and flashlights to read by. Days were spent whooping with joy as kids and dogs launched off the granite boulder on our shore and into the lake. We lived out of coolers, cooked on the Glenwood, and ate a lot of mac and cheese. There were a few rules, such as you could walk up onto the 15-foot granite ledge that hung over the lake only if you had an “A-dult” with you. Rainy days were filled with crafts projects and squabbles, yet a trip to town was not allowed. We were there for better or worse!

The five girls now range in age from 33 to 40 and although they have scattered, they are lifetime fast friends and often gather with their five collective sons at Camp Faraway. One evening as they were sitting around the campfire telling stories, one of the now adult women mentioned the time that they were finally allowed to take the canoe out into the lake without an “A-dult”.

“Yep,” she said, “Our mom tied one end of a 300-foot rope to the canoe and the other to a tree onshore. In case we tipped over mom just wanted to be sure to get the canoe back and we would have to swim for it.”

This became a great family joke whenever the girls wanted to poke fun at our parenting skills. Just this July, our oldest daughter let her son take a kayak out by himself but guess what she did? Indeed, she tied one end of the same 300-foot rope to the kayak and the other to a tree on shore. The hunting guide, Les Otto, died a few years ago, but his son, Danny, always visits and has started talking about taking the boys hunting. It is a comfortable circle.

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