In the summer of 2018 together with WFG we designed and produced this limited run of shoulder bags. The idea was to make a bag you could comfortably take out for the day after eating a handful of mushrooms. The bags sold out but the creation remains.
We hustle each behind the other in single file with bags in tow, our backs hunched against the weight, shoulders and knees aching. We follow a trail that stretches seven and a half miles from Roaring Brook to the Russell Pond site in Baxter. Winding and climbing, we march, fording streams, shoes off, pants rolled high, hopping from slippery rocks hoping a misstep won’t send us tumbling down into the icy water.
Planks have been laid out along certain parts of the trail. They stretch out long and thin above the mud, like balance beams from logs split in half, straight down the center and our feet move, also one behind the other, arms out, wavering.
The path is lined with wild blueberries at times. We stop to fill our hands, biting into the dark skin, sweet, simple. The air too is sweet, a natural perfume to clear the mind, to breathe, to slip inside. We fill our bottles with cold clear water that comes trickling down from Katahdin. It is clean enough to drink, the ranger told us that. We purify it anyway using a UV filter. 90 seconds and we are safe.
We are each in minds of our own as we move; sweating, breathing heavily, chests burning. We are out of shape, aging pitifully. The city has made us soft, in certain respects, hardening us in others. Out here we can confront this, challenge, initiate conflict, internally. We have the space, the air, the breathe, the sweat. And so we comb our brains as we walk, flitting from one thought to the next like the birds above, chirping, announcing our presence to the forest, to ourselves too.
We break frequently. Removing our packs, slapping at mosquitos. Like clouds they descend in spite of the spray, sinking their teeth into our soft flesh. We are soon covered in itchy welts. Time to move along.
Occasionally we notice frogs in the underbrush. Their backs speckled black and green, always leaving, hopping away into obscurity. A flash of yellow. The sun is bright, angled at this late afternoon hour cutting through the trees. It’s late July but the light has already begun to take on the look of autumn. It won’t be long now. We’ve been hiking for hours, the forecast calls for rain. We will take our chances.
That night we sleep hard, in periods, our bodies exhausted but senses heightened. A crash in the forest, we hold our breath, the nylon and aluminum no match for the fury of a bear or moose. We’d hung our food and trash from the bear line on the other side of camp, but now we’re afraid to look out, soothed by a sense of false security within our tents. Aware of our vulnerability, we lie still, tense, unmoving. As prey in the wild, hoping to be invisible to whatever beasts lay wait in the night. A different sort of danger; immediate, present. Resigned to defenselessness, we slowly drift off, deep slumber, bodies worn, to jolt again suddenly, a sniffing this time, a scratch, a crash.
We sleep late, waking to warm tents and morning sun. We assemble around the fire to make our respective breakfasts, instant oatmeal in a pot, pond water boiled, coffee bitter like dirt, sipped from aluminum cups.
A droning fills the air, the sound of birds, insects like white noise. Russell pond is dark blue in the morning light, the mountain rising tall behind it, its reflection green upon the surface. We head out along a trail the ranger described to us the day before. A 6-mile loop, up to the look out and back down around the river. He is certain, robust, reliable. He knows this terrain like the backs of his knotted hands.
We hasten up the incline, our bodies’ stiff, but quickly loosening. Crunch and rustle, dry underbrush against bare legs. Free from packs we feel light, spry. The day is warm and we sweat, sitting atop the rock slab that juts out over the valley. We look out to dense forest, a series of ponds below and up to the peak opposite us, tall, looming. A plane flies overhead, high, soft against the blue sky.
We march downward, following a trail to leads to the river. The water is cool, clear against our skin. It flows over brown boulders like glass, its surface distorted by the objects beneath. Our feet are refracted below, cut from our bodies, the light dancing off the ripples to cast shadow on the rocks, stripes swirling in time.
Large black river flies encroach upon us. We feel the sharp sting of their teeth sinking into skin, a theme. Slap, but it’s too late. The fly is gone and the pain is too but the memory remains, now accompanied by fear of future aggression.
Our skin stands on end, hair perpendicular to sun kissed flesh. Each inch is painful as we wade, balancing on tiptoes to keep out of the water as much as possible. It crawls higher with each step, our waists submerged and now our heads as we dive, breath sucked from lungs, entire bodies shuddering, resurfacing to the warmth of an afternoon sun and the cold melts away.
We climb atop rocks to sit with feet in the current, faces to the sun, eyes closed, enveloped by laughter. It feels good to live. There is no phone service, and so no other reality exists beyond the immediate in any tangible way. Memory is short and we forget things, anxieties as they slip into obscurity. Life is simple. It can be, we remember it then.
The forest then, finally begins to settle down just before dusk. It takes on a lavender green hue. A silence falls. The changing of shifts. Nocturnal creatures begin to awake, assuming their posts to relieve their diurnal counterparts. It is magical, eerie. There are mushrooms everywhere, strange and tumor-like. The white moss seems to glow, adorning the earthy ground, porus, living. Pine trees stand tall, spindly and sharp, as skeletons, the night descending, time passing.
The fire crackles and spits. We sit around warming our bodies, faces glowing orange. We talk, laugh, preparing our dinners. Ramen, beans and rice, chili. We unwind, slowly settling down as the forest comes back to life. We are grown. Conversation lapses into silence, lost in the fire, each with our own thoughts once again. Strange men we were, each of us in our own way. How long would we keep doing these trips? Why did we do them? What had drawn us together but chance? A series of unexpected circumstances over the course of a decade or more. We wait, anxieties gradually creeping back to be reexamined; put to test in the light of the fire. We stare, entranced, hypnotized by the dance and flicker, a peculiar thing, another we cannot understand.
Text - Reggie McCafferty
Drawings - Rich Vessey
Photos - Blair Kemp
On November 3rd, FSP Outdoors and Maine Project hosted a photo show at Oxbow Blending and Bottling in Portland, Maine. At this event we auctioned off donated items and prints of the photos below to benefit a local organization Cultivating Community.
This year we collected these double exposures by sending a roll of film out to one photgrapher to shoot. They shot the roll on their camera, then sent it back and we passed that same roll of film on to the second photographer. The second photographer then exposed over what the first photographer had already shot.
Check out the random beauty all these photgraphers created, and see you next year...
Amanda Manning & Cait Bourgault
Anne Taylor & Brian Goding
Blair Kemp & Corey McKenna
Joe Lacey & André Beriau
Lydia Marquis & Conrad Carpenter
Fan Si Pan and Turnover have teamed up to make a limited number of handmade bags and hats to the benefit of Waterkeeper Alliance.
The environment often takes a backseat to other issues pressing for our attention and the Earth suffers because of it. We all tax the planet by living our own lives and any small payment back we can make is important. Weather it's supporting environmentally-conscious organizations around the globe, cleaning up the beach, park, or street near your house, or even discussing the importance of environmental responsibility, you can help to repair the damage being done in the name of human advancement. By spreading this message and taking time out of our lives to stop and appreciate what we were gifted we hope that we can all become better educated and behave as stewards to the planet.
On October 2nd, Fan Si Pan and Maine Project hosted a photo show/ auction at Oxbow Blending & Bottling in Portland, Maine. The event was a fundraiser to benefit Cultivating Community. Please click the link to see more about what they do.
This year we loaded the same waterproof disposable cameras from last year with black and white film. Again we gave them to one photographer who shot the roll of film then returned the camera. The same film was then reloaded in the camera and sent to another photographer to shoot. We did this with 10 rolls of film creating double exposures by 20 photographers, 2 photographers collaborating on each roll.
We had flooded cameras stuck shutters and plenty of light leaks, but every roll had some great stuff. See you next year...
Anne Kohler & Rich Vessey
Corey Mckenna & Reid Allen
Joe Radano & Jimmy Collins
Reggie McCafferty, Jeremy Davenport & Laura Williams
Ryan Smith & Blair Kemp
Sam Shupe & Cait Bourgault
Yusuke Matsushima & Andrew Foster
Zak Quiram & Sam Mckenna
It's hard to know what's home and away when you've been wandering. I'm pretty sure my home is Maine, although I now live in Boston. In the context of the intense localism felt by native Mainers, I barely even make the cut of what it means to really be of Maine. I was born there, but my roots are shallow, not even a generation deep. My mother is from Wisconsin and my father, Colorado. Moreover, my own Maine history is skewed, geographically impartial. I grew up in Portland and made childhood memories with sand and marsh, not the granite and pine that makes up most of the state. If Maine was a record, I've only heard track one, side A, the song about waves crashing not fresh water flowing.
As such, I've been spending a great deal of time trying to figure out if I really am a Mainer, if it makes sense to call the state home. It seems to me that knowing Maine as home is an idea deeply rooted in one's relationship to the landscape. Rural, sparsely populated, and densely packed with more trees than buildings, Mother Nature is every Mainer's landlord, boss, and spiritual advisor. Natives describe the natural landscape as if it is a relative to them, an older sister or brother that both pushes them down in the mud and holds them up to grab a good branch to climb a tree. The place and the experiences of moving through that place matter when figuring out what's home.
So, as I add yet another year to my life as a thin-skinned Boston boy, I do what I can to move through Maine in all ways possible, looking for a self-defining way to exist in that place. Hiking trips to the northern and western corners of the state mixed with routine jumps in the ocean have become personal journeys to figure out who I am when I'm there. The trips completed, the photographs made, and the shared experiences with friends are all voiced in a language learned from the land. Maine speaks and I try to listen. Is it calling me home?
These forays in and across the state have left me with a realization that there are two dominant types of relationships to the Maine landscape: labor and leisure. People tend to see the natural features of the state as a place of work or a place of play. Or, both, as they often overlap: dirt roads frequently have both gravel pits and trail heads and beaches often have both washed up bait bags and soft sand bars. When I drive 95 North and cross that big green bridge in Portsmouth, I tend to feel both the labor and leisure of Maine. As a result I feel both home and away when I'm there. I used to labor to build a life there. Now I just visit to play. Going home has become a job. The work is figuring out if I am indeed going home or away.
I had not fully understood the importance of dwelling on what filled the space between my head and the land until recently. Last May my roommate and I completed a bicycle tour that threaded parts of southern, central, and midcoast Maine. We rode a few hundred miles over five days, camping each night and carrying everything we needed on our bikes. We set out from Camden, rode to Orono, slept, rode to Acadia National Park and spent two nights with a day trip of riding in between, rode to Bucksport, slept, and finally rode back to Camden. The riding ranged from as much as eighty miles a day to as low as thirty. It was enough to test my knees and avoid feeling like car-campers. No coolers of beer and burgers, no phone chargers or acoustic guitars. We earned our sleep and plastic bottle whiskey by climbing hill after hill of cracked and crumbling asphalt. Tired muscles on even more tired ground.
Our route meandered through a Maine found in a Google image search as well as the less Instagramed Maine of modular homes and rusting Buick frames. We saw the postcard landscapes that people from away come to see. We saw where each scene ended and began, connected by our bicycles on the landscape. Two Maines: leisure and labor.
It was on this bike tour I realized that, at least for now, I am hopelessly caught between these two Maines. It's not quite home, I don’t work there. It's not quite away, I am still from there. I have come to believe this wandering feeling is inevitable while I live in Boston. Forever homeward bound, away from where I live. My relationship to Maine is that of leisure. Even though we rode upwards of eighty miles some days, at times through rain, it was still a vacation. A vacation with work, but a vacation all the same. That's that. I am one of them, one of them from away, at least for now.
So, I don't really know what's homework and what's awaywork anymore. I'm caught in the riptide, sucked out to sea. I can see my home rising up from the water's horizon line but I can't quite swim to it. Until I can move back to Maine and put my labors back into that land it's going to feel like both home and away. While I'm stuck in Boston finishing graduate school, I'll make the pilgrimage when I can, shoot some photos, and exist on the land, pretending I won't have to leave for a different home.
On the last stretch of the last day we rode back through the tourist haven of Camden. It had been five days of pine and marsh, granite and sand. Five days of multiple Maines. Climbing a small hill, knees burning, ocean to our left, cottages to our right, a man tending a garden for the coming summer tourists at a bed and breakfast looked up from his trowel at my roommate and I. Seeing our fully loaded bikes and sunburned faces he shouted, "you're not supposed to be here yet!" I wanted to shout back, to tell him that it's okay, I'm from Maine, I'm not a tourist, I know it's May, I know it's not summer yet. But faced with the reality of needing my breath for the work of climbing the hill in front of me, all I could do was pull air, not words, in and out of my lungs. I was both home and away, working to find my place.
Text/Photo - Sam Shupe
On September 3rd, Fan Si Pan and Maine Project hosted a photo-show/auction at Oxbow Blending and Bottling in Portland, Maine. The event was to benefit the Surfrider Foundation Maine Chapter.
We acquired 8 waterproof disposable cameras that expired in 1999, and sent them out to friends to shoot. When the cameras were returned, we opened them up and rewound the film, then loaded it back into the same cameras. The disposable cameras were sent to different friends who shot the same roll of film over again, creating double exposures.
Double the exposure, double the fun...
Avery Buch (Whistler, BC) & Title Fight (Kingston, PA)
Chris Martin (Brooklyn, NY) & Calvin Cameron (ME)
Corey Mckenna (Brunswick, ME) & Ben Marcellino (Portland, ME)
Jimmy Collins (Portland, ME) & Joe Radano (Portland, ME)
John Brodie (CA) / Corey Smith (CA) & Blair Kemp (Portland, ME)
Ray Echevers (Boston, MA) & Sean Martin (Brooklyn, NY)
Reggie McCafferty (Brooklyn, NY) & Sam Shupe (Boston, MA)
Rich Vessey (Portland, ME) & Anne Köhler (Belgium) / Ryan Smith (Australia)
We have hiked and camped on this mountain many times, in all seasons of the year, but it has become somewhat of an annual springtime ritual for us; making the two hour drive up from Portland, hiking a trail and camping near the peak.
On the car ride we talked about the different passages to the top. There was the easy one most of us had done before, the steep one a few of us had done, and the long one we usually ignore. There was another way as well, overgrown and unmarked, we'd only heard accounts from others who had done this hike in the past.
The trail had been purposefully left off the maps at the trail head. Our directions were vague and none of the stories we heard were very promising. "He tried once but had to turn around...", "She always goes down that way...", or "That's where the big rock slide happened, it's not the same anymore."
This was the route we chose before we had even entered the car in the morning, no better way to start the summer. Halfway up the mountain we found where the now overgrown trail hid. There were some objections, they were ignored. We had the time to get lost and the time to turn around so there were no excuses worth listening to.
It was steep and the stones were loose beneath our feet. We pulled each other up through small holes in a cave wall, and raised our bags up a rock face with a long rope.
At the top the sun was still struggling to melt the ice out of the pond, and we walked through waist deep snow to find our camp site. We took off our boots and started a fire to dry them. We crept around barefoot to pitch our tents and gather more wood into the night. The fish we caught were too skinny from the long, harsh winter so we ate beans and slept like logs through the night.
Now we all had our own story to tell about the old way up Tumbledown.
All pictures shot on Kodak Tri-x pushed to 1000 and stand developed in Rodinal.
Photo - Blair Kemp
Text - Rich Vessey/Blair Kemp/Reggie McCafferty
Old Speck in October was warm at the bottom, cool on the way up, and frosted on top. Out of our camping cohort of three, one had been to the summit before. He convinced us the long way was worth it: a fair trade of a few extra miles for two lookout points overseeing mountains and valleys draped in the orange and yellow leaves of Fall in Maine. A fair trade indeed, we all agreed.
We set out for many miles of steep climbing over wet rocks and soggy leaves. Hiking through the late morning and afternoon we reached the old fire tower on the top of the mountain just at the onset of dusk. The tower silently rested on the summit like a crown of rusted steal and weathered wood, twenty-five feet tall and over 4,000 feet in the air. With wind whipping and fog on the horizon we climbed the tower with our aching legs to survey the massive kingdom of western New England below. Visible in all directions, innumerable valleys and peaks were awash with the beautiful colors of the season of death broken only by the resilient and undying dark greens of northern pine. Without a single person around us, those October colors were all ours for the all too brief passage of dusk to sunset.
We were kings on top of the fire tower but mere peasants of the mountain as the sky grew dark. We hobbled a camp together with a fire of birch bark and wet wood. The laughable little fire grew just enough to warm a couple cans of beans but proved inadequate in warming our shivering shoulders and aching hands. We turned in early as the western peaks swallowed the sun for a long night of short sleep. Temperatures dipped below freezing and gust after gust of wind kept our tired bodies in a rotating cycle of partial sleep and restlessness. Fall turns to winter much faster at 4,000 feet, we learned that night.
We awoke groggy, feeling dead but still alive. An icy cloud had rolled in overnight, hovering over the peak and stealing our views from yesterday. The ambiguous grey wall of moisture obscured the orange and yellow valleys. The fire tower was rendered useless, no longer a crown but a reminder that steel and engineering means nothing to Mother Nature. Packing our bags with cold and stinging hands, the frigid mood was lifted by a sudden and curious presence of rabbits and birds in our campsite. The tiny creatures hopped and flew around us as if we were one of their own. As the black, white, and grey birds ate cashews from our palms we briefly forgave ourselves for not bringing proper gloves.
After breakfast with the birds we began our decent. Sunday hikers both jealous and judgmental of our night at the top crowded our way down. "It was 30 degrees this morning when we parked at the bottom," one told us: "you must have been cold up there last night." It was, we proudly confirmed. Dropping altitude with every step, we descended from the foggy frost-covered pines into the humid yellows and oranges below the summit. The moss grew thicker and the hikers more numerous as we reached the car. Everyone on that mountain knew it was cold, but only we knew about the birds. While hiking in the season of death, I think we'd all trade numb hands just for a chance to feed the birds.
text- Sam Shupe
photo- Sam Shupe
A short day hike on a mild winter day in Maine.