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Lodge Reading

Deadlines being what they are, I am writing this from a cabin near Andover, Maine, and the Rangeley Lake region on Oct. 1, 2023, a glorious Sunday. From my perch on the porch overlooking Lower Richardson Lake, I’m taking in the blazing colors on the far shore and the hues of orange and yellow reflecting off of the lake’s mirror-like surface. The reds of high bush cranberries and a couple of heritage apple trees still holding fruit highlight the near shore. Yesterday afternoon, this vantage offered me a view of ruffed grouse feeding on these wild fruits as I enjoyed a beer after closing the brook trout season on the Rapid River. The fish were colored vividly, like the autumn foliage.

Maine does not allow Sunday hunting, and trout season closed yesterday, so today is an off day and I have stretched my legs, exploring Middle Dam, Pond-inthe River, Lower Dam and Forest Lodge. Forest Lodge was the year-round home of bestselling author Louise Dickinson Rich from 1933 to 1944 and her summer residence until 1955. It was the epicenter of her first book, 1942’s We Took to the Woods, published by J.B. Lippincott Company. The book became a bestseller and is still in print today in paperback form from Down East Books.

I began reading this volume on my arrival last Thursday and finished after my woods walk and visit to Forest Lodge this morning. While this work has little upland bird hunting content as we know it, it demonstrates thoroughly the love for the big woods and the joys and trialsand tribulations offered throughout all four seasons. Rich writes with both clarity and insight. One excerpt I read and reread to grasp:

“There is nothing that I so greatly admire as purposefulness. I have an enormous respect for people who know exactly what they are doing and where they are going. Such people are compact and integrated. They have clear edges. They give an impression of invulnerability and balance, and I wish I was one of them.”

Another example of her purposefulness regards the hurricane of 1938. Forest Lodge is located at the end of the Carry Road below Middle Dam.

Rich writes, “Fred and Ralph worked all day with axes and a two-man cross-cut, cutting a way through the mess to the road, the woodshed, and other frequently used points. Late in the afternoon, one of the dam crew staying at the Millers (their closest neighbor) managed to get through from the above with the news that instead of two dozen trees across the road, there were over two hundred. We needn’t let it worry us, he concluded comfortingly. There was no reason for us to go up to Middle anyway. The lake road to the arm from Andover was plugged, too, and the mail wouldn’t be coming through until God knew when.”

Even through this hardship she finds levity, as she continues:

“I thought then, and still think, that it was a terrible waste that no one was murdered on the night of the hurricane. The writers of whodunits work dreadfully hard thinking up and presenting plausibly the very strict frameworks of their stories. Here wevery limited group; we were cut off from the police, and from all outside help. The night and the stormserved not only as suitable atmosphere for crime but created the confusion necessary for the successful perpetration of that crime. And nobody even got hit by a flying branch.”

The author writes and reflects on a myriad of topics from butchering and canning deer for winter meat to picking berries enjoyed as summer produce and jams, tying flies for the summer evenings’ rises and fall’s spawning runs, winter water issues, lumberman and mail-order shopping along the way. It is a love story of family and friends but mostly of the woods surrounding Forest Lodge and the Rapid River.

Pondering her passages from the front porch, I reflected on my situation as just a short-term guest. A guest that came for the pleasure of a dry fly rise and a staunch point on ruffed grouse and woodcock. Louise Dickinson Rich lived and wrote for a much deeper passion. A passion that allowed her to be in the woods year-round, not just on holiday.

Glen Blackwood

About author
Glen Blackwood has been active in the classic sporting books world for over 30 years, as a buyer, seller and collector. He is now enjoying a second career as a Regional Director of Development for the Ruffed Grouse Society. He lives in Rockford, Michigan, with his family and Bosco, his English cocker spaniel.