Our Blog : Posts by Rick

Welcome to the Medomak Camp blog, a place for us to share with you, our campers, all sorts of goodies that you might be interested in.  From food and living off the land , to what Medomak looks like in the off-season and a behind the scenes look at our winter office, check back often for all new posts.

Up, Up and Away! Astronomy at Medomak

June 3, 2013
Summer camps have long been seen as an opportunity for children in urban areas to experience something entirely different; to learn a new set of skills, to live at a slower pace, and to gain a more complete appreciation of things not manmade.  Stargazing, which is often not possible in cities because of light pollution, tends to be a favorite nighttime activity of campers. And, when it comes to visibility, being at Medomak usually means having the “best seat in the house.”  If you have the chance to get out there and spend some time under the stars, consider a few of these mind-boggling facts.
  • ·      Even at a prime location in ideal weather conditions, an observer from Earth can only see about 3,000 stars. That might seem like a lot, but it is only a tiny portion of the estimated 100 billion stars in our galaxy alone.
  • ·      A small can full of the material that makes up a neutron star would have more mass than the entire Moon.
  • ·      If you’re looking at something that is a few light years away, what you are actually seeing is the image of that thing as it was that many years ago. The Andromeda galaxy, for instance, appears to us as it looked 2.3 million years ago. In this way, stargazing is like looking back in time.
  • ·      Shooting stars are not actually stars at all; they are relatively small particles of dust or other debris that burn up in our atmosphere, thus creating this phenomenon.
  • ·      Roughly one thousand years ago, a supernova exploded and led to the creation of the Crab Nebula. The explosion was so intense, astronomers on Earth recorded that it could be seen even during the daytime.
  • ·      Mount Everest might be the tallest mountain on Earth, but it’s not the tallest mountain in our solar system. At around 15 miles high, Olympus Mons on Mars is about 3 times the height of Everest!


These are only a few of the unbelievable astronomy facts out there. Try these sites for more!
Posted by: Rick
Topics: Nature

The Moxie Dilemma

June 3, 2013

Some of the most heated discussions that I took part in at Medomak were regarding the peculiar taste of Maine’s official soft drink, Moxie. I was introduced to the soda in my first few days at camp; Dave, our director, was going around documenting the looks on people’s faces when they took their first ever sip of it. Moxie, it seemed, had quite a reputation. What does it taste like? Honestly, that’s something you might have to find out for yourself. Many have tried to describe the flavor, but there’s no way to really understand it without experiencing it. As a strong supporter of the soda, I’ll give you my take. It bears resemblance to a cola or a root beer in the most basic ways. It’s dark and syrupy. The initial taste of it is sweet and earthy, but not fruity. The gentian root, I learned, gives it this unique flavor. Some describe it as medicinal, even, but I disagree. It’s….herbal…or something.

One young camper praised Moxie, saying “it’s like root beer, but 10% better.” This soda review had a slightly different opinion: “The taste of pennies, dirt, and unsweetened envelope glue now dance upon your tongue.”  It’s not uncommon to find people whose thoughts on the drink are similarly polarized. You either love it or hate it, it seems. Opinions aside, Moxie remains relevant to us at Medomak because, as I mentioned, it is our state’s official drink. In fact, its inventor, Dr. Augustin Thompson, was born in Union, Maine, only a short drive away from camp. If you’re coming to Medomak, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to try the infamous drink, and I, for one, highly recommend that you do so.


Did you know? First manufactured around 1885, Moxie, or “Moxie Nerve Food,” as it was then called, was one of the first ever bottled soft drinks in America. It was one of the chief competitors of Coca Cola and Pepsi, before its popularity dwindled. It remains regionally popular all over New England.



Source: http://www.drinkmoxie.com/history.php#

Posted by: Rick
Topics: Food

The 5 Coolest Birds You Might See in Maine

May 27, 2013

Common Loon: It’s pretty much a guarantee that you’ll see a loon while you’re at Medomak. And, if for some reason you don’t, you’ll certainly hear one. The wail of the loon echoes across the whole lake, and can sometimes be mistaken for that of a coyote or wolf.Loon

Photo Credit: keithcarver


Bald Eagle: Another one that resides on the lake; the sight of it swooping over the pontoon boat is one that you’ll never forget.

Photo Credit:KellBailey

Barred Owl: A little less likely to be seen (you’ll have to stay up late), the barred owl is one of about a dozen species of owls that can be found in Maine.
Photo Credit: TimothyJ

American Bittern: This stocky heron stays mostly hidden but it, too, can often be heard. Its call is recognizable and kind of… funny, like a low gulping sound.
Photo Credit: Michael Hodge

Great Blue Heron: As a kid, I would see these on the pond near my home in upstate NY and I would always be really impressed. There’s something triumphant about the sight of a great blue heron holding a fish in its beak. These can be found all over Maine too.
Photo Credit: Wildlifeshoots

Posted by: Rick
Topics: Nature, Wildlife

Another great spot…

April 23, 2013

One of the coolest things about being at Medomak is that it puts you in close proximately to a large number of really unique establishments. I’ve already talked about some of my favorite food places in the area, including Moody’s Diner and Morse’s Sauerkraut, but today I wanted to highlight a different kind of business.

Sweetgrass Farm Winery & Distillery was founded in 2005 by Keith and Constance Bodine. Located at 347 Carroll Road, in Union, Maine, Sweetgrass encompasses 70 acres of farmland which had been owned since the 1800s by Carroll family before the Bodines acquired it to open the winery. Since then, their many wines, whiskeys and other spirits have received praise in multiple publications. The Back River Gin, arguably their most popular product, was called “Maine’s best gin” by Down East Magazine.  It’s even got its own Facebook page.

If you’re planning on visiting the winery, you’ll have the option to sample 6 different spirits for around three bucks while you’re there. This season, their opening day will be Sunday, May 12th for a “Mother’s Day Maine wine and chocolate extravaganza.” According to their website, they also are open by appointment or “by chance” during the off-season. For contact information, try Sweetgrass’s website. For photos of the farm and updates about special events, you can “like” them on their official Facebook page.

Posted by: Rick
Topics: Activities, Food

Our state’s official treat…

April 15, 2013

If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ve probably noticed two things: I like to talk about Maine, and I like to talk about food. Occasionally, I like to talk about both of those things at the same time. That’s what is about to happen here.
Go to just about any country store or restaurant or even a gas station in Maine and you’ll probably find something called a whoopie pie. If you don’t know, a whoopie pie is a dessert usually made with a fluffy, vanilla filling put between two rather large slabs of chocolate cake. Many other variations exist including those with pumpkin, gingerbread or red velvet cake in place of chocolate. While they are a dessert phenomenon throughout the northeastern states, whoopie pies were actually named “official state treat” in Maine. It is not surprising, then, that it’s become quite a competition amongst food establishments in Maine to make the best whoopie pie out there. Here are a few resources in case you, too, are searching for the cream of the whoopie pie crop.


Labadie’s Bakery, in Lewiston, Maine claims to make “the original” whoopie pie, which they’ve been doing since 1925. They must be doing something right!


Wicked Whoopies, based in Gardiner, Maine, makes the packaged whoopie pies you will find in stores all over the state. Lots of flavors to choose from, and they’re pretty to look at, too.

Moody’s Diner makes a great one. As I’ve mentioned, their pumpkin whoopie pie is a personal favorite of mine, and Waldoboro is only about 20 minutes from Medomak!


Cranberry Island Kitchen, in Portland, Maine, has won a few of the whoopie pie competitions out there and they even make four-layer whoopie cakes.


If you want to try making your own, you can find a recipe here.


If you want to read about the insane, 1,062 lb. whoopie pie that was put together in Portland, you’ll find an article on that here.


And, if you find yourself really hooked on this dessert, you can find more information about attending the official Maine Whoopie Pie Festival here.

Posted by: Rick
Topics: Food

A Little More Love for the Labyrinth

April 9, 2013

On last week’s list of things I had yet to see in Maine, I included Carol Sloane’s Labyrinth, which is right inside the town of Washington. The truth is, I had been to it once before, but I didn’t have enough time to really look around and walk the entire thing. At that point, I wasn’t even aware that there was a purpose to a labyrinth; I just thought it was kind of a neat to look at. Well, it is, but now I know that there’s more to it.

What is that purpose? According to the Downtown Art Gallery’s website, labyrinths have been used as a meditation tool for thousands of years. Carol Sloane, an artist and partner at the gallery, decided to create one herself after years of using walking as a way to provoke helpful thought and relaxation. The idea is that you enter the labyrinth with a goal in mind; it can be a very specific problem you’re looking to sort out or just a loose objective (to feel more at peace, etc). When walking, you attempt to concentrate on the walk itself. You let go of your problems, take as much time as you need, and pause for reflection once you’ve reached the center. If you’re interested in trying this out and would a really in-depth guide to doing it, you can try this link right here. And if you’d rather just go take a look, it’s a beautiful little spot to check out. You can find more information about Carol, the labyrinth and the rest of her artwork by going here.

Posted by: Rick
Topics: Activities, Nature

Here’s the thing about Maine…

April 2, 2013

Despite living in the Northeast for all for my life, June of last year was the first time I had ever stepped foot inside the state of Maine. People told me I was missing out, and after spending the summer there, I would have to agree. Take a cliché like “a breath of fresh air” and forget that you ever heard it. Now, spend some time in Maine. What’s the first phrase that comes to mind? Exactly. It’s not grandiose; it’s just true.
Okay, I had a great experience, but I admit that I’m no expert. I was there for the first time and I let people know. And guess what? Every Mainer I met seemed like a walking encyclopedia entry on their state. Try as I might, I could not keep up with the suggestions I received for places to go and things to see. This year, I hope to check off a few more of those things that make it “uniquely Maine.” Here’s just a few.

The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardenshttp://www.mainegardens.org/

Acadia National Park, which spans over 35,000 acres: http://www.visitmaine.com/attractions/state_national_parks/acadia_national_park/

Lenny, the life-size chocolate moose: http://www.lenlibby.com/Lenny_ep_40.html

Eartha, the world’s largest rotating globe: http://www.delorme.com/about/eartha.aspx

Portland Museum of Art, which includes a space specifically for family-friendly activities: http://www.portlandmuseum.org/events/families.php

Carol Sloane’s Labyrinth, located right in the village of Washington, ME. http://www.downtownartgallery.com./labyrinth.html

Posted by: Rick
Topics: Activities, Family, Uncategorized

Part III: Making Technology Work for You

March 25, 2013

Last week, the articles that I mentioned pointed us towards a seemingly obvious conclusion; that an unadulterated outdoor experience can benefit us in ways that no other experience can.  I think there is a lot to be said about shutting down the devices and diving into your surroundings while you’re at camp, but the conversation shouldn’t just end here. There are other questions to ask. How do we convince a child – whose day-to-day routine is heavily supplemented by, if not reliant upon, the use of electronics -that something else is out there, and worth giving a chance? Are there ways to incorporate this technology into our lives so that our outdoor experience can actually be enhanced?

This article, appearing on a Girl Scouts of Ohio’s Heartland blog, offers us some insight.  “So, what’s more important?” it asks, “Having a PURE outdoor experience or having SOME outdoor experience at all?” It then goes on to explain some opportunities that campers have to enjoy a “melded outdoor/techno experience.” These “hybrid” sort of activities can mean the difference between a child who stays inside all day and a child who pleads to mom and dad to go on another hike or to sing another song at campfire. How? Geocaching, for example, is an app that allows users, with help from their smartphone or other GPS device, go on the kind of real-world, outdoor treasure hunt that I always wished for when I was kid. You can get a full explanation of how it works by watching this video.

Sky Map, the app I talked about in my first blog entry on this subject, allows the user to point his or her phone or tablet at the sky and see detailed maps of the constellations. And for anyone looking to prepare something special for the camp talent show, Garageband is a great, easy-to-use app for music making. Does your child want to show off how he or she just learned how to play “Chopsticks” on the piano? Can do! Want to accompany your guitar-playing friend with some bluesy organ playing? No problem! Remember – this technology is all about how you use it.

Posted by: Rick
Topics: Activities, Family

Food for Thought: Technology at Family Camp, Part II

March 18, 2013

When I set out to write something about how we use of technology while we’re at camp, I was hoping to encourage conversation about the subject. What I have come to realize since then was that I was actually joining an already ongoing conversation, and a pretty long one at that. So, today, I wanted to present a few of the voices in that conversation that I have found; some interesting points of view that I think will add to what I have already said. But, first: a little more of my own voice.

My initial thoughts about this subject were prompted by my experience as a campfire musician and the pretty extreme possibilities of technology to enhance this experience. There’s nothing like having a sing-along at campfire with just an acoustic guitar (or two) for accompaniment. Agreed. But have you tried any of the cool music-making apps out there? Okay, here I am talking about “cool apps” again, but really, there’s just so much out there. For example, there are countless virtual synthesizer apps available for little or no money that can turn your smartphone or tablet into a pretty capable musical instrument and/or fun noisemaking device. What does this mean for campfires? Well, all those Phil Collins and Talking Heads covers are going to sound a whole lot more authentic once you’ve got your smartphone-turned-synthesizer around. Is anyone else excited about this? Anyone? Okay, putting my obsession with 1980’s pop music aside, there are plenty of other perspectives out there on this topic.

This New York Times article follows a group of professors on an outdoor journey where they have little or no access to technology – no internet, no e-mail and no real cell phone service. It purposes, among other things, that our attention span, memory, and ability to learn are all affected, for the most part in a negative way, by our reliance on technology. Another article at Gettingkidsoutdoors.org, seems to agree, but focuses more on how this reliance on technology affects children, limiting the opportunities they have to think creatively and use their imaginations. It’s worth noting that both these articles seem to suggest that finding a healthy balance is the best solution, not simply confiscating technology. Next week: more (even cooler) apps for supplementing, but not distracting you from, your camp experience.

Posted by: Rick
Topics: Activities, Family

By Popular Demand: Prayer of the Camper

March 11, 2013

One of my fondest memories of Medomak is Holly’s reading of “Prayer of a Camper” after each Friday night talent show. I thought it would be nice to share the full text of it, for all those who share this opinion with me. My source attributes the original work to a woman named Irene Mott. Here you are!

“God of the hills, grant me strength to go back to the cities
without faltering:
Strength to do my daily tasks without tiring, and with enthusiasm;
Strength to help my neighbor who has no hills to remember.

God of the lake, grant me thy peace and thy restfulness:
Peace, to bring into a world of hurry and confusion;
Restfulness, to carry to the tired ones that I shall meet every day;
Contentment, to do small things, with a freedom from littleness;
Self-control, for the unexpected emergency;
Patience, for the wearisome task.

God of the Desert Canyons, warm my heart;
Bake courage into my bones:
Carve deep clefts within my soul;
To hear through crowded places, the hush of the nighttime;
To let in shafts of sunlight to brighten the cheerless corners
of a long winter.

God of the Stars and Moon, may I take back the gift of friendship,
of life for all:
Fill me with awe and compassion;
Fill me with a great tenderness for the needy person, at every turn.
Grant that in all my perplexities and everyday decisions,
I may keep an open mind, like the spacious night sky.

God of the Wilderness, with thy pure wind from the northland,
drive away my pettiness;
With harsh winds of the winter, drive away selfishness and hypocrisy;
Fill me with the breadth and depths and heights of the wilds,
When pine trees are dark against the skyline;
Help me recall the humbleness of the hills,
who in their mightiness know it not.

May I live the truth thou hast taught me,
in every thought, and word, and deed.”

Posted by: Rick
Topics: Family, Nature

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Learn more >> retreats@medomakcamp.com

Medomak Camp is the first full-season secular family camp to be accredited by the American Camping Association

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