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Time at camp lets visitors luxuriate in peace of low-tech era

For entertainment, there are books, jigsaw puzzles, board games – or coffee and pastries at Day's Store.


Last week, I wrote of the appeal of Colorado for both young and old friends of ours. While Colorado's attractions are many, however, Sally and I have both remarked in the past week that we were reluctant to leave our camp on Long Pond for even those four days we were in Colorado.

August is a special time in Maine. It is a time of reliably good weather, a particular delight this year as June and July were so wet. It is a time when many of us Mainers take some vacation and when many from away join us. The sun is warm, daily rhythms slow, we pause to take in more of real life.

Some enjoy these little pleasures at home. Others go to the shore. We go to camp. In our case, one "Camp Campy Camp" – so named by one of our daughters – on Long Pond in the Belgrade Lakes.

Camp has its own set of rules, which begin when we turn down the dirt road just before Castle Island. The car radio goes off. We open the windows and let good Maine air bring us the scent of pines and water.

A central idea of camp is simplicity – linoleum floors that are easy to sweep out, a pine needle lawn that needs no mowing, an L.L. Bean hammock always ready for a reflective moment.

No TV, of course, but an old radio that allows us to listen to Joe Castiglione and Dave O'Brien bring the Red Sox to life most every evening.

Funny thing about camp. There always seems to be time for the things we never have time for at home – reading, doing jigsaw puzzles and playing board games. Part of this is the absence of TV and the absence of a Wi-Fi connection.

If we want to connect, we take a trip to the Belgrade Community Center or, if we need to fax also, to the Lazy Lab Caf. Every few days we make such a trip. Although only a couple of miles, it seems longer and not quite in the rhythm of things – same for shaving.

On the other hand, a regular part of the daily rhythm is the trip to Day's Store. Day's is an institution in town. Last year the store celebrated 50 years in business on Route 27, just where Long Pond and Great Pond are connected by a small dam.

Owned by the Day family since the beginning, it is now run by Diane Day Oliver and her husband, Kerry. In the summer they employ a staff of 25, a large, enthusiastic and helpful crew.

Day's may be the last country store of this scale and community impact left in Maine. Most everything is available there in terms of food and household essentials – just as one would expect in a country store. Except at Day's, there is a separate section as large as the main store where fishing tackle, clothing and gift items of all kinds are available.

In the back, on the water (many people come by boat), there is an ice cream stand. Day's even has its own song – written by a local songwriter to honor its 50th anniversary. The song's last line says it all: "If they don't have it, you don't need it, down at Day's Store."

Did I mention that Day's meats and chicken are among the best Sally and I have found anywhere? The store also freshly bakes all its doughnuts and pastries. An enterprising teacher on summer vacation supplies fresh corn daily. Someone down there at Day's is smart and entrepreneurial – and should be giving lessons to the Maine Department of Economic Development.

It is no small feat to pull this off in the busy months of summer, but I suspect it requires even more ingenuity in those long winter months when the camp people like us head home. Then it is just Diane, Kerry, two longtime staffers and Diane's sister doing the baking part time.

By the time you read this column, it will be September. Already the sun is setting way too early. School is starting. Another summer in Maine is slipping by.

We may not have the Rockies, nor 300 days a year of sun, but we have something special here in Maine. If you don't believe it, stop by Day's for coffee and a doughnut.