A View from Glen Hill: With Scooby-Doo as my guide...
Roxbury Pond is the nearest lake to our summer town of Andover, Maine — only 10 minutes from our house.
Notwithstanding its “pond” name, Roxbury is not some backyard dip but rather a large body of water more or less square and measuring over a mile in each dimension. It goes by several different names, perhaps to confuse invaders (from Massachusetts and New York). On many maps you will see it listed as “Ellis Pond” while the homeowners association for the lake goes by the name of the “Silver Lake Camp Owners Association.” Go figure — In the middle of the lake is an island of some size, and that is my almost daily swimming objective there.
Maybe it reminds me of the island way off shore from our cabin on very large Rangley Lake, the uppermost lake in the Rangley chain about an hour’s drive from Andover. My family vacationed in Rangley when I was a boy, and one of my principal unfulfilled objectives as an 11- to 13-year-old kid was to row by myself to that island. My last, dramatically unsuccessful, attempt to reach that island objective ended as a ferociously strong thunderstorm suddenly arose on the lake, as they do from time to time, when I was about half-way there.
I got buffeted about by the strong winds, wound up lying down in the bottom of my small rowboat, and eventually was blown to the other side of the lake where a resident with a long dock saw my plight and got me and my boat to shore. He had no phone, but when the storm died down several hours later, he loaded my boat into his pick-up truck and drove me over to our cabin. As I walked up to our cabin, my parents looked as though they were seeing a ghost, and stern admonishments soon gave way to tears of joy. Later I learned that my father, seeing the situation from afar on shore, had persuaded a camper to take him out in the camper’s motorboat to try to rescue me, but they had run aground in the vigor of the storm. Needless to say, from that point on, the island became a forbidden objective, and truth be told, I was relieved.
The island on Roxbury Pond at a half-mile out is a rather tame row, but swimming it has been an engaging challenge for me over many years. I began doing so 40 years ago. My father-in-law was at first concerned — seeing his prospects for grandchildren, I suppose, going down into the deep with me. But several scouting trips by motorboat to check on my progress convinced him that I probably wouldn’t die in the process. And, in fact, four decades later I’m still plugging along.
Night swims with a sky full of stars above have been especially fun. Once some years ago, swimming near the island in the dark, I heard two kayakers debating loudly how to find their way back among all the similar-looking lights that dot the shore at night. When I stopped to ask if I could help, they were so startled that they just about jumped out of their kayaks!
In the past few years as super-fast Jet Skis have come into vogue, the passage to the island has become fraught with significantly more peril, and several years ago, the Camp Owners Association specifically asked me to have a kayaker accompany me to assure that no one would inadvertently run me over. I had several family members volunteer for that task to start with, but the glacial pace of my progress over two round-trips out and back, combined with the peril of pesky mosquitoes who prey upon those who slowly cruise Maine waters, soon put an end to my kayaking cadre.
I have since resorted to towing a kayak behind me as I swim. This fulfilled the spirit of the association’s request, but it also occasioned a number of gracious offers of help by those who thought I’d fallen out of my boat. We finally came up with a plan that has been working well: a large inflatable Scooby-Doo dog now sits in the cockpit of the kayak I tow, with small red and white flashing lights strapped to his head. In some respects, though, he works too well in that he has become a magnet for curious kayakers, motorboaters, and yes even the dread Jet Skiers, who check him out.
But at least they slow down and haven’t run over me — yet.
Mr. Hudspeth lives on Glen Hill Road.