Tag Archives: The Loj

Visiting the Loj – a memoriam

Visiting the Loj – a memoriam

31-March-15 through 01-April-15


The Loj was my home.

I’ve lived in many places over my life…  My childhood home is important to me, but a lot of the others begin to blend together.  My first apartment, my first dorm, this city of that town… they were places to live.

My home was the Loj.

Why was it a home, when the others weren’t?  I’d put time and love into that building.  I’d spent five years earning the right to the set of keys that I carry on my keychain.  I always have them, right by my car fob and my apartment keys.  They remind me that no matter what happens, I have a place that I can escape to; a place that I can run away and hide.  A place where I’ve spent countless weekends, limitless adventures, and created more memories than I could ever remember.  I felt safe in the Loj; warm and welcome, no matter where life took me.


And then, it was gone.

On January 15th I got an email saying that, the night before, there had been a fire.  The entire building was lost, though thankfully none of the people staying there had been majorly injured.  The general thought was that the propane refrigerator had sparked and caught the main structure ablaze.  By the time the two guys staying there were awakened by the choking smoke and shattering glass, no amount of fire extinguishers could have helped.  The building was lost, razed to the ground.

I was useless for the entire rest of that day.

I didn’t believe it.  I couldn’t believe it.

My home, my refuge… was gone?  Just like that, without any fight or battle?  There hadn’t been a drawn out “how can we save it?  What can we do?”

This wasn’t a damaged roof, or a cracked wall; The email I got told a story of complete destruction, with fires still smoldering days after the fact.


I wanted to go up immediately.  I made plans, and then plans fell through.  Then I was laid off from Artisan, and my life was thrown into turmoil.  I had nowhere to run away to, so I buried myself in work – applying to jobs, revising resumes, and spending an inordinate amount of time in the climbing gym.

But finally I’d had enough – I would not put it off any longer.  I cleared a few days.  I ignored the recruiters who called me incessantly.

Ben, you have no time to go camping when looking for work” they said.

Thank you for the advice… but actually, I do.  I’m already doing it.” I replied.



The visit itself was… anti-climactic.  I expected it to be… more?  Just more, somehow.  I wanted a sense of closure, of emotion and epic crashing waves.  I wanted to hear thunder and lightening.

But instead, it just… was.

There was a skyline, where there should have been a roof.  There was a view of the mountains where I should have seen a wall, and a pile of burnt-out tin roof tiles where there was a strawberry patch.  In place of the tool shed, with its chaotic piles of rope and tool and gizmos, there was a pit with blackened metal; the remnants of axes and paint cans.

But over it all, there was quiet.

It was honestly a beautiful day – warm for this time of year, and almost cloudless.  The sun was bright and the wind wasn’t too loud.

I poked around for hours – taking pictures, looking for trinkets that I remembered, and hoped against hope had somehow survived.  None of them had.


As night fell, I finished setting up my camp down by the river.  I couldn’t stand the thought of camping in the rubble – it was too high and exposed to the wind, for one… and it just didn’t seem right, somehow.  It was a gravesite, and staking out a tent there wasn’t an option.

So I ate, slept, and the temperatures dropped.

They had dropped a lot, by the time I woke up.  When I checked the temperature a few hours after getting moving, it was still only 12 Deg.F… but I still dutifully woke up, ate a nice oatmeal breakfast, and got myself moving to take some more pictures and do some more poking.  I took a hike up the Ledges, trying to warm up my muscles, but they were having none of that.

I called it a little bit after noon, when the day was finally at its warmest.  I couldn’t stay over night again – it wasn’t getting warmer, and if I stayed I’d probably have to leave a few toes behind.  So I packed up my tent, stuffed the sleeping bag into its compression sack, walked back down to the car, and pulled onto the highway.


I didn’t go straight home, of course… but I left the lodge grounds.  There still wasn’t the crashing sense of closure that I had been looking for… but packing the car and pulling back onto Route 2 seemed almost normal.

I could tell, somehow, that I’d be coming back soon enough.  This trip was special, but it wasn’t anything too far out of the ordinary.

This wasn’t an ending.  It just was.





Pictures of the Loj itself



Pictures of the surroundings


25-Jan-13 – Snowboarding, BLTs, Hot tubs and partying at Sunday River.


Friday, 25-Jan


Packing the last few things up only took me a few minutes once I got home.

I’d gotten most of my gear ready the night before: layers, snowgear, and swimtrunks. And I was packed not a minute too soon, since Mike showed up about twenty minutes after I had gotten in, all his stuff packed into his car and ready to go.

So, we ate a quick dinner, packed my gear in on top of his, and headed up toward Sunday River.

We’d planned this weekend out a few weeks before – Mike and I would drive up in his car, and Marla would meet up with Mark and Deb in Jamaica Plain. From there, we’d drive up seperately and meet at Sunday River where we were staying, at the condo that Mike’s Dad and Stepmother own.

It was a fairly long drive, nearly four and a half hours, but it went by fast for Mike and I. We pulled in for Coffee fairly early and lit up a pair of cigars to keep us occupied, and then jumped right into one of our usual crazy dicsussions.

This one went even more wild than most – starting out at the bill of rights, we worked our way through each and every one of the first ten amendments to the constitution, discussing which ones were still in place, which ones were being impinged upon, and which had just been thrown out the window completely. From there we move onto our jobs, the Hells Angels, the economy at large, and even discussed a bit of economic psychology for good measure.

Basically, it was amazing, and the drive flew by.

Before we knew it we had missed our exit by nearly fifteen miles, so by the time we doubled back and got to the condo Deb and company had already been there for nearly twenty minutes. But all was forgiven once we got into the condo, cracked open a few beers, and relaxed before crashing for the night.


Saturday, 26-Jan-13


We were up before 9:00, for once, and dressed within minutes.

Why, you may ask? Well, the smell of waffles, bacon, and coffee definitely help motivate poeople in the morning. I’ll be the first to admit that they motivated the hell out of me.

From there, Mark L. (Mike’s dad, not Marla’s boy) picked me up a ticket at his discount, Mike and I grabbed my gear, and we all rolled out into the cold. Mike, Mark, and I all went to the main mountain, while Marla and Deb headed off into the woods for a day of cross-country skiing.

Our group only lasted as far as the first trail, at which point Mike and Mark realized just how bad I actually am at snowboading. I’m horrible. Bad enough that they ran off on their own, with my blessing, after that first run.

But I was good – gave me the freedom to take my time and roll down the easy routes, going slow and steadily down the mountain. And by “slow and steady” I mean “really fast, then crashing, then really slow, then crashing”.

I had fun anyways, getting three or four runs under my belt before noon. I even met up with the guy teaching my Capoeira class, as crazy as that sounds. It was a good start to the day, but I was ready for a bit of a break and a bite of lunch.

So, I stopped back in at the condo, to find Micki (Mike’s stepmom) making up a platter of BLTs. Now, I like me a BLT, and I like to think that I’ve had some pretty good ones. But Mickis? They were better than any. I couldn’t tell you if it was the sandwiches themselves, the fact that I’d spent the morning slamming my face into ice, or a combination of the two, but either way those sandwiches were amazing.

I chowed down on three, I think, before succumbing to the comfort of the couch for a short nap.

The second set of the day wasn’t nearly as fun as the first, if we’re being honest. The mountain was getting cold, my legs were getting sore, and some of the earlier falls were finally catching up to me.

Basically, I was a wreck.

I made it down two or three more runs before finally calling it a day around 4:00, after a particularly horrid run down what I thought would be an easy trail, but turned into a flat hellscape that I couldn’t get any momentum on. While snowboarding, loss of momentum is the killer, and I ended up just walking over half of the dang trail before I could get back on the board.

But dinner made all my anger and annoyance and frustration melt away. Because it wasn’t just dinner. It was a soak in the heated pool, followed by dinner, followed by partying.

Yep. The condo had an outdoor heated pool. We could see the snow falling all around us and felt the ice in the air. But the water was a nice 85F, more than sufficient to keep us all warm as we swam around and talked with the other people swimming in the pool.

A quick note about heated pools in the winter – they’re awesome, but don’t discount the temperature difference. My beard froze solid in the cool air above the water, and the steam cloud made it nearly impossible to see other people clearly.

But there were other people, other people who wanted to share their beer, and we made the most of it. We shoot the shit about everything, dared each other to jump out into the snow, and even found a way to use the snow to keep the beer cold but not frozen.

It. Was. Awesome.

But even a heated pool gets boring after a while, so we headed back inside to get in on the pizza action happening up at the apartment.

Dinner was excellent, as one would expect, but what was unexpected was the game that Mike’s folks got us all to play – Asshole Golf.

Asshole golf is a game where a cup is placed in the middle of a room, and each party member takes a turn trying to drop a quarter into the cup. The challenge lies in the rule that no bodypart can be used to hold or manipulate the quarter, save ones buttcheeks.

Hence, the name asshole golf.

We hung out late, laughed hard, and drank well into the night before finally giving up to our exhaustion and crashing.


Sunday, 27-Jan


We woke up slowly – Marla went for a run, the Marks got a few quick runs in, and the rest of us relaxed in the condo or in the heated pool.

The day was honestly a relax and recover, with basically nothing happening aside from packing everything and everyone up before heading back to Boston. Mike and I did stop in at Tilton Diner on the way home, but aside from that it was pretty calm. We worked our way through the few Rush albums that Mike keeps in his car, and lethargically worked our way back South to Boston.

NewComers Weekend 2012 Part 3: Ending on a Sunday


Sunday, 07 OCT 12


After a long night of tending the fire and keeping people from “expanding” the fire to other people, I wasn’t going to wake up early. At least I wasn’t planning on it.

But I did… sort of.

9:00 hit, and it hit with the cry of “Hey! LCs! We need drivers! WAKE UP!”

And so, I rolled out of my tent, packed up my gear and a quick lunch, and went about the process of figuring out where I was needed most. The upside of the chaos of NewComers is that it’s not at all difficult to find a trip that could use an extra driver, so within a few minutes I had linked up with a trip heading out to the summit of Mt. Willard.

Mt Willard, for those who don’t know, is one of those hikes that almost feels like you’re cheating – it’s short, not too strenuous, but has one of the best views in all of the white mountains. Seriously, You’ve been walking for barely over an hour, not really gaining any elevation, and then suddenly: Ideal view of the white mountains. A complete 200 degree view, with Mt Washington rising out from a cloud bank and anchoring the left flank.

Since the hike was such a short one, even with the amazing view and a long lunch at the summit, we found ourselves done with the hike and back at the cars quite early. With the rest of a perfect fall day in New England ahead of us, there was really only one thing for us to do.



So… we did. The upside of being near Maine is that there are tons of little family farms that do the whole “pick your own apples” deal, so we just picked one close to the Loj and wandered around pulling random apples off the gnarled trees lining the lane. Thing I hadn’t known about New England apples – there are dozens, if not hundreds or thousands, of different types of Apple Trees. And each one is just different enough that the orchard had a whole list of information about each different type of tree – how to tell the difference, what the apples were good for, and when in the season to pick them.

When we finally made it back to the Loj we arrived ladened with bags upon bags of apples – I left most of mine in the car, since I was going to head home later in the evening, but the rest of the folks on our trip made a beeline for the kitchen to start transforming the apples into apple crisp.

As they worked on finishing up dessert and starting in on dinner (yeah, we have our priorities straight. What of it?) I made my way around the Loj, saying my initial goodbyes to the people I probably wouldn’t be seeing again before I headed out for the evening.

The dangers of saying early goodbyes is that… they’re never just a goodbye. They turn into discussions and stories, long conversations and heart-to-heart talks. I ended up staying at the Loj until nearly nine at night, just chatting with people and talking about the trips we’d been on and where we wanted to go for our next adventures.

A good way to end a great weekend – discussing not only the fun times in the past, but how awesome the future is going to be.