Skiing in February
February has brought big snowstorms and deep snow to Rangeley! It’s been one of those winter months when it’s hard to move around without snowshoes. The snowmobilers have been whizzing through the woods on the trails, cross-country skiers and snowshoers have been ducking through snow-laden evergreen bows and quietly moving along the fresh snow. At Saddleback the whoops and hollers of downhill skiers can be heard through Casablanca Glades as they carve through the snow leaving powder sprays in their wake. Every week I continue to dig out Red Quill Camp from a new storm and then click into my skis to go play myself!
After coming inside from a snowy excursion I happened to glance out the kitchen window and see a big healthy grouse strutting and foraging at the edge of the woods. I watched him carefully moving back and forth looking for seeds. Suddenly a red squirrel shot out from a nearby tree and darted straight at him! The grouse took off running with the squirrel hot on his heals! He attempted to fly away, and the squirrel darted back to where the seeds were, scampering back into his tree. Slowly the grouse came back for more seeds and the squirrel did it again! Who would have thought a grouse would be afraid of a squirrel!
backyard of snow!
The other day I stood on the edge of a field with my snowshoes and watched a flock of thirty Snow Buntings dip and swirl and flit around me before moving on. Their small white bodies looked like snow moving both up and down. They are the first migrant birds to make their way back to the arctic, where they claim a spot in the deep rock cavities and wait for the female buntings to come back and join them a month later. These little songbirds travel each winter from the coast of New England back to the High Arctic, and despite all the snow in Rangeley their migration means that there is only a month left of winter. Time to get out and play in it while we can.
Snow piled on the front steps
It’s been a busy month in Rangeley this January! The month started off cold and snowy with a beautiful sunny day for Maine Day Skiing at Saddleback. On the first Sunday of the month Saddleback has a “Maine day,” where all Maine residents can buy a ticket for just $29! What a deal! The glades didn’t open until later this month, but the snow was soft and easy to carve in.
Just last weekend was the annual Snodeo, which filled the woods, trails, and restaurants with snowmobilers. Every year they hold this weekend snowmobile event where people come for demo rides, raffles, competitions, parades, marshmallow roasting, a chili chowder cook-off, fireworks and a “blessing of the sleds!” It’s quite an event!
Despite the mid-January thaw the snow has been slowly and steadily accumulating. Each time I arrive at Red Quill there is a fresh layer of light fluffy snow to shovel off the steps and to play in.
The other day I walked out the back steps, my head down, hood pulled tight against the cold, heading to the woodshed to get more wood for the fire. My feet were silent in the fresh fallen snow, and I was lost in my own narrow world as I hurried to get wood and get back inside. A noise startled me and I snapped my head up, momentarily forgetting the cold, and stood staring into the face of a large healthy doe! She had been pawing the ground in the back yard for fallen birdseed. We both stood stock-still and shocked to see each other. Our eyes locked. Neither of us was sure what to do. Then I smiled at her and let out a slow breath. Her breath came out in a similar slow white puff of air. We stared, still amazed to see the other so close. And then I sneezed uncontrollably and she jumped, looked at me, and then trotted away into the woods. I chuckled as she disappeared and quietly reminded myself to look up next time I went to get wood.
It has been a very snowy and cold December in Rangeley this year! Last year in December there was only a touch of snow on the ground for most of the month but this year we have several feet of good settled snow around camp! It has been excellent for tracking animals around the camp, skiing, snowmobiling, ice skating and building snowmen.
Tracks around camp
Just after Christmas I pulled into camp in the dark, my headlight beams illuminating freshly plowed snowbanks around the driveway. I shut the engine off and opened my car door to a rush of cold air. My feet squeaked on the dry snow as I stepped out of the car. It was clear and quiet and my breath puffed from my mouth in a cloud as I exhaled. Nothing stirred in the cold snowy night. On quiet nights like these the dry snow seems to amplify any little sound. I stood for a while taking in the night and enjoying the stillness. Suddenly a little vole ran between my feet and off into the woods! There has been a constant crisscross of animal tracks all around camp: snowshoe hare, voles, mice, deer, and fox are the most common.
It had snowed at least a foot since I had last shoveled the steps and I dug my way into the porch and built a fire in the woodstove. With a warm fire heating the house I pulled the blankets snug around my chin and drifted into sleep eager to play in all the new snow in the coming days.
Skating on Quimby Pond
Women’s Wine & Crafting Weekend at Red Quill
Another Snowy Night
Red Quill Camp
With Thanksgiving around the corner Mother Nature is beginning to settle into winter mode. There has been plenty of snow this month to cover the ground but not quite enough to ski on. The pond has iced-over but might break under the weight of a skater. The temperatures dip well below freezing and then sometimes sporadically climb back up to 45°. Everyone and everything snaps and cracks with the new cold. I have had to adjust to putting on gloves before heading out because it is too frigid to dash to the car without them. Soon winter will settle into herself and we will settle into winter. Soon my fingers will get acclimated to the chill and the pond will freeze solid.
Fisher tracks almost as big as dog prints! She had snuck from the bird feeder over to the camp and along the back wall.)
In the meantime as I wait for the pond ice to be thick enough for skating, and the snow to be deep enough for skiing, I tie flies by the fire and watch big fat snowflakes fall to the ground. I watch the chickadees flit to and from the snow-covered bird feeder and I walk through a newly quiet woods covered in white. I peer at the tracks of the animals who walk next to camp while I am not looking— their prints in the snow giving them away in the winter. I marvel that winter has come again and I am thankful for the heat of the wood stove when I come in from tracking and catching snowflakes.
Meg and I portaging the canoe back to camp, it was a slippery portage but we made it! (We used golf bag carriers as wheels!!)