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How I Used To Spend My Summer Vacation

BEVERLY HILLS (MI) -- Every family has its own summertime vacation tradition. Or, more precisely given these crazy COVID times, we used to have a go-to warm weather getaway. Long before my wife and I and the Swampettes made the Joisey Shore our annual destination, back when I was just a wee Swampthing, my Mom, Dad, me and my three sibs would all load up into the family car and spend a late summer week in the wilds of eastern Maine bass fishing.

The place we stayed at was Tripp’s Lodge, located in Princeton, about 50 miles from the Canadian border, run by Lois and Walter Tripp. Lois did the cooking; Walter was our grizzled, DownEaster bass fishing guide. To say the lodge was ‘rustic’ was being extremely kind; ‘spartan’ is more like it. Heck, I can show you exactly what I’m talking about because the place is up for sale:

The first time we stayed at Tripp’s we got stuck in the lodge, while on subsequent visits we were able to snag one of the 5 cabins. There was not a helluva lot to do in Princeton, so once you had walked to the general store and got a Coke or an ice cream and read every back issue of Outdoor Life, Field & Stream and Fur, Fish & Game that Walter had on hand, you were on your own. That’s probably why my Dad later bought a 15’ power boat and trailer which we towed up from Massachusetts and used to water ski. One of my enduring memories was of my 200+ pound Dad attempting to get up on skis behind the boat’s weak-ass 18 HP outboard motor. Never happened.

Tripp’s Lodge was located on Lewy Lake and right around the bend was the St. Croix River. One of the scariest experiences of my life happened on the St. Croix. My Mom, Dad, little sister and I went downriver in our ‘power’ boat to fish one day and a storm came up all of a sudden. It got so nasty that the waves were coming over the freakin’ windshield! My Dad asked if we should pull over and wait it out or press on regardless and we all voted to keep going. My sister and I were in the back seat shaking like puppies pooping razor blades, but we made it back to the lodge safely.

The world class bass fishing my Dad was after wasn’t to be found on Lewy Lake, but rather on remote Clifford Lake, which entailed a 15 mile trip on mostly dirt roads in Walter’s Rambler station wagon, with his canoes towed behind it. The lake was totally undeveloped and was home to ducks, loons, the occasional moose and the elusive five pound plus smallmouth bass we sought.

Smallies love frogs and at that time they sold for $1 a dozen, which wasn’t cheap. My Dad, brother and I would go out “frogging” at night on the Maine backroads after it rained in order to fill our bait basket. Quite frankly, if the bass weren’t biting, “frogging” could be more fun than the actual fishing expeditions. The other preferred live bait were helgrammites, which unlike frogs were nearly impossible to find in the wild and also incredibly ugly:

Walter would exhort me (and my younger sister!) “Don’t horse ‘em, boy!” or “Don’t do that, boy!” when we were attempting to reel in a big one, which he referred to as “Old Snatchcems.” I was famous for casting my frog so vigorously that it would inevitably end up floating face down on the Clifford Lake surface. My method actually paid off big time, as in 1964 I caught a 5 lb. 4 oz. bass that was mounted and is still on display in my garage. The fact that it was an ounce or two heavier than the fish my Mom and Dad caught on earlier trips and had mounted was a source of bewilderment for them.

Lois Tripp always packed us sandwiches for lunch and the only beverage available was hot coffee, so at a very early age I drank it, with a ton of sugar and Coffeemate dumped in. Let’s face it, bass fishing in East Boofoo, Maine is probably not every woman’s dream vacation, but my Mom was cool with it and got all excited when she hooked a big one.

The last time we stayed at Tripp’s was late in the summer and just my younger sister, me and my folks made the sojourn, as the older two were off at college. I can recall my dad wanting to keep fishing until it was almost dark, trying to snag one last monster smallmouth. He hooked a lunker and cranked it in, only to discover it was a two foot long pickerel. Boy was he POed.

It’s hard to see one of your fondest childhood memories up for sale, especially for the bargain price of $449K. My brother and I have often talked about going back to Clifford Lake in search of Walter Tripp’s old hot spots, but we’ve never made it. As for buying the place?


My wife, the Swampettes and their families are trying to establish a new annual vacation destination, as we’ve rented a place for a week in August on Lake Michigan that is centrally located for all concerned. We’ve all been masking and social distancing, so hopefully it will work out well.

What’s your family vacation tradition?

That’s it “From the Swamp.”
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