Matt Dickerson: Coming home
My older brother Ted just visited me from Alaska.
All three of my brothers enjoy outdoor activities. They have all done some camping, hiking and fishing. But Ted is my brother who enjoys outdoor recreation the most. Perhaps even more than I do. Like me he grew up in small town New England and was raised on fishing and camping trips with our father in northern Maine.
During our youth and young adult years, we had a lot of outdoor adventures together tromping and splashing around the woods and rivers of Maine. Getting lost and breaking paddles on canoe trips. Camping and fishing through day after day of torrential rain. Being eaten alive by mosquitoes and black flies. All those sorts of memorable and enjoyable and nostalgic adventures that two teenage brothers have together. And, as it turned out, brothers in their mid-20s also have together.
But at some point Ted went off to college in Boulder, Colo., and fell in love with big majestic mountains. He also fell in love with, and eventually married, Susie, another university student whose family was from Colorado. Although Ted and Susie came for a time to live in rural Massachusetts and Maine with their two young sons, they eventually ended up back in Colorado on the edge of the Rockies for several years. I made a point of visiting them as often as I could, and caught a few Colorado trout.
After Ted attended graduate school for architecture, he and his family moved to the mountains of western North Carolina, not far from the Smoky Mountains, the Cherokee and Nantahala National Forests, and the two highest peaks east of the Mississippi. He lived there long enough for his two sons to go to high school — and long enough for me to visit him a half-dozen times and catch several North Carolina trout.
Most recently his career took him and his family to Alaska for eight years. Ted made the most of his time in Alaska. He took advantage of the abundant opportunities for fly-fishing, dip-netting, camping, wilderness berry-picking, sea-kayaking, cross-country skiing and hiking, to name just a few of his favorite outdoor activities.
I also made the most of his time in Alaska — and of the opportunities for free lodging and local knowledge — and got in six visits and a lot of days fishing and camping during his stay there.
Now, in his mid-50s, my brother is moving back to New England. Although he still loves Alaska and will miss it, family is calling him home. His own sons — both of whom went to Middlebury College — are grown and no longer dependent on him. It is now our parents, who recently turned 80, who will be increasingly looking to us for care and support.
The reason for Ted’s visit was a bunch of job interviews around Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. While he was here for the interviews, his wife was packing their belongings into a 16-foot trailer in preparation for a long drive across the country.
I admit some mixed feelings about their return. I will miss visiting Ted and Susie and my two nephews in Alaska. I will miss the excuse to get up there, as well as the free lodging and the good home-cooked meals of salmon and halibut. And if and when I do still get up there, I’ll miss exploring the Chugach Mountains and the Kenai Peninsula with my favorite fishing friend. On the other hand, I’m really excited by the prospect of spending a lot more time with Ted back in New England.
As we sat at my living room table in Middlebury, we had maps out and were remembering various places we had fished and camped and gotten eaten by black flies together in Maine back in the ’70s and ’80s and early ’90s. We started talking about some return trips to our favorite old haunts, like the Allagash River in northern Maine. And we started looking at new waters we might explore together depending on which job he eventually takes — places I have heard or read about but never had a chance to visit.
Eventually my eyes were drawn to the map of Vermont, and to the area around Addison County. I started pointing out my favorite stretches of river, and some of the mountain lakes I like to hike into. I got excited about sharing some of these spots with my brother, and realized how much I like the area where I live — how many wonderful opportunities there are around here not just for fishing, but for hiking and camping and cross-country skiing.
Suddenly the idea of having my brother no longer in Alaska, but close enough to see him on a regular basis, seemed very appealing. I’m looking forward to a whole new set of adventures together. Except the ones with the black flies and endless days of rain.
Mark A. Nelson of Bristol
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