by Robert F. Bukaty
POWNAL, Maine — The fierce winds, 2 feet of snow and frigid temperatures that came with last week’s blizzard paralyzed much of the northeast – but it barely fazed one Mainer who is spending the winter living in a tent.
If anything, the brutal storm did little more than cause Ed Warden to lose some sleep.
“I was up like every hour at night getting the snow off my tent, keeping it off the awnings,” said Warden, 67. “But other than that it was fine.”
Warden is the volunteer camp host at Bradbury Mountain State Park. He doesn’t get paid to live in a tent. He does it because the camping lifestyle is something he’s been in love with for 45 years.
“When I got out of the military in 1970 I got the bug to just go camping and traveling. I had a Volkswagen minivan and drove up to Alaska. I’ve camped in Hawaii…”
“I just like the outdoor life. I think communing with nature is the key to health and serenity, so that’s what I do. I hang out with nature a lot,” he said.
Warden lives in a heavy-duty 12 x 20-foot outfitter’s tent with 8-foot vestibules attached at either end. At the peak the ceiling is 9-feet high. A small wood stove keeps it comfortably warm inside, consuming about one cord of wood per month.
His site is the only one at the campground that has electricity. He uses it to power a small refrigerator and an old TV someone recently brought him. Warden hasn’t been able to find a digital converter so only uses the television to watch DVDs.
“I try to keep a balance between the old and the new,” said Warden. “I like modern conveniences but I also like my wood stove.”
The camping lifestyle has taught him to simplify things and learn to make do with what he has and get by with what he doesn’t have – like running water.
“I try not to dirty a whole bunch of pots because it’s harder to clean that up,” said Warden, who gets his water across the street at the ranger’s house.
A hiking trail just a few feet from Warden’s tent sees plenty of day-users who come in the wintertime to snowshoe or walk dogs dog – but few people come to camp this time of year. The last camper at the park departed a few weeks ago. He told Warden that he decided to buy a small trailer and was heading for Arizona.
Warden’s duties as camp host are minimal during the winter. His primary job is to keep the paths the park’s outhouses shoveled out.
Warden once worked for 10 years as a certified nursing assistant. The experience helped convince him to get back to nature.
“I saw the elderly when they start to go downhill. It was just too depressing. I just thought [camping] is what I really wanted to do.”
This is his second winter in a tent at Bradbury.
“My whole goal in life is to be self-reliant on my own piece of land. I’d love to have a greenhouse, my own little garden, and [live in] this tent,” he said.
But winter weather is no big deal to Warden.
“Even if I had to pay I would do it just to camp here,” he said while looking around at the high snow banks.
“I call it my ‘Poor Man’s Paradise’.”