Q & A - Living Off Grid (Part I)
Copyright 2012 by Lori-Ann Willey
Copyright 2012 by Lori-Ann Willey
We get alot of questions about our lifestyle, so a few weeks ago, I decided to publically ask our "Followers" on our Willey's Dam Camp Facebook Page to "ask away", and I would answer their questions in a series of blog entries. If I did not cover your question, please read the list of previous blog entries at the bottom. If you have more questions, feel free to ask, and I will answer them in another blog entry under that topic or below your question here or at the Facebook link above. Thank you.
In April of 2004, we purchased our camp in which we quickly named, Willey’s Dam Camp due to its location between an old now submerged dam and a hydro dam below us. We are a privately owned camp on leased land in unorganized territory in the northern Maine wilderness. That means, our camp is located by coordinates and land plot references only, and that we do not actually own the land, but lease the rights to use three lots, while owning all structures upon those plots of land.
Our land plot name is T1R8, which stands for Township 1, Range 8. Our camp sits on a clear, beautiful, and cold Millinocket Lake, and our view is of picturesque Mount Katahdin, Maine’s tallest peak. The beginnings of it rest in the depths of the lake, and the summit is approximately 13 miles from our camp (as the crow flies). There are other camps, but the lake averages about one camp for each mile of shoreline.
Because our camp is “off the grid”, we have no power lines, LAN lines, or mail delivery services of any type, so we greatly rely on natural resources for our “electrical” needs. I will get into our alternative power sources in another blog.
We chose to purchase this camp due to its seclusion. Initially, we had no intentions of going to camp during the winter months simply because we did not own snowmobiles to get in that far. Paul and I both grew up hunting and fishing, so we knew we wanted to be as secluded as possible, in the woods, yet able to fish. This camp would provide both lake and stream fishing, and lots of wilderness. We still are not as secluded as we would like to be, but with our aging bodies, Paul is disabled, and I am nothing short of a klutz, so we figure we are in far enough when all factors figured into the equation. However, in our minds and hearts we would love nothing better than be deeply embedded in “no man’s land”.
Because there are no mail services, we have a Post Office Box in the nearest Town of Millinocket. We go there for our gas, groceries, supplies, etc. Due to our location, needed supplies can be hard to come by. Often, when we venture to town, we try to get everything we can in one trip, but that means visiting several different stores, and often not being able to find a needed item, so it is easier for Paul to order it online and have it shipped to our friends in town, or to our daughters house two hours south. We usually chose to send shipments to our daughters, but sometimes necessities cannot wait and that is when we rely on our friends in Millinocket and Medway. These friends are very good to us, and we are always thankful.
We do get covered by emergency services, if they can find our location, but it often takes a minimum of two hours for them to reach us, and sometimes several calls along the way for further instructions or clarification that they are on the right “path”, they finally arrive at camp. Sometimes, however, we simply get a callback over 21 hours later. Therefore, any real emergency and we are pretty much “shit out of luck”. I have been hurt a few times where I needed medical assistance, but I am too stubborn and prideful to call that 911 number due to an injury that is not life threatening. I do not consider a broken leg or ribs a 911 call despite being the only driver. Stubborn, maybe, but I feel that if I do not call 911, then I also do not need to seek medical assistance for those breaks on my own either. I am pridefully stubborn, I know. I have been told that all my life. At some point, one would think I would learn a lesson or two along the way, but I do not. Some of my injuries were covered in previous blogs.
Due to our off grid location, we were “forced” to live a somewhat “green” lifestyle. As mentioned above, we do not have electrical lines coming into camp from the nearest town, thus we have to provide ourselves with our own means of electricity. We do have 10 large solar panels dispersed in groups of twos or fours to gather as much solar power as we can throughout the four seasons. We also have a generator, and a windmill, but I will get more into that stuff in another blog later. I will need hubby’s help in explaining it so it makes sense. I know the basics, but not the intricates by far.
The roads to camp from the nearest town are owned by logging companies from which we lease our land. Our leaseholder is Katahdin Paper so they not only manage our lease; they maintain the roads, somewhat, so the logging trucks can travel more efficiently and safely for the logging crew. This is a huge area of woods up in these parts, so they only work on the roads that they use at the time. When I say, “maintain”, I simply mean they may grade the road with a machine 1-2 times a year in the area they are working in. Otherwise, they go unattended and the driving is often slow and tedious. I cannot blame them any. We live in the woods; what more can we ask for other than access into our camps? We are off grid so I for one do not expect the landowners to spend large amounts of money on road maintenance. We are the ones that purchased a camp way in here. If I wanted a well l maintained road into it, I would have purchased a camp elsewhere.
With that being said, our camp is “only” about eight miles in from “pavement”. To me, that is a short distance. Our winter travel is rather unique. Because the logging company works in different areas, the roads into camp are not plowed during the winter months. This means that our only mode of transportation during those long winter months is via snowmobile. Because our winter travel is reduced to snowmobiles, we cannot drive our truck in and out from camp, thus we have to park it eight miles away and then snowmobile in from that location making for a 16 mile round trip via snowmobile just to get from camp to our truck. From there, we have to clean snow off the truck and shovel away the snow so we can drive to town from there. The process is not bad, but we make sure our trips to town are worth it so they are not frequent. I would be very happy if I went to town once a month, but it does not work out that way. We also have a Polaris Ranger with tracks. I will talk more about winter and winter travel in another blog.
We are often asked if we have a house elsewhere, and we do. It is two hours south of camp, and in the Town of Palmyra. For the most part, our families live in that area, and we have businesses there as well, but I personally feel as if camp is my “home”. It is where I truly love to be and I literally do not like leaving it even for a day. They say, “Home is where the heart is.” And I believe that. Camp is my home.
Later in this blog series, I will talk about living “green”, the advantages and disadvantages of living off grid in the Maine wilderness, and last and certainly not least, what it is like living here during the long, cold winter months.
If you have any questions, please feel free to ask here or on our Willey’s Dam Camp Facebook page. Below are some previously written blogs that may help you understand the above a little better. Some are a bit compare-contrast type blogs with my odd humor thrown around a bit.