It’s the first week of April, which means the weasels’ and rabbits’ fur has started to change back to brown from its winter white. It’s still light at 7PM and fishing season has started. Soon Mink and Woodchuck will have their young. But it is still very much winter in Rangeley. Perhaps next week will bring a few patches of bare ground, where the weasels and rabbit will be able to blend in, but for now anything that isn’t white sticks out like a glowing cabin window at night. It’s going to take another week or more of warm sunny spring days to melt the snow.
But spring does come after winter and the days have started warming up. Sap is flowing from the maple trees and steam rolls out of sugar shack roofs and windows as it’s boiled into maple syrup. The smell of sweet sap steam, wet snow, and dirt waiting to be exposed fills the air. It’s April in Rangeley.
frozen guy lines
The weather report was calling for snow— ridiculous amounts of it, two feet in two days— and knowing it was going to be one of the last big storms of the season, I took a vacation day and headed north to Rangeley with my skis and a good ski buddy. When we arrived the front door of Red Quill was buried in snow and I had to dig my way into camp! We built a fire and settled in with the skis already in the truck waiting for morning.
skiing the glades
In the morning we bee-lined straight for Casablanca Glades at Saddleback Mountain. I dropped into #1 and my knee sank into bottomless powder as I carved turn after turn through the trees. The snow sprayed from our skis as we whooped and hollered, grins stretching endlessly across our faces. I swooshed back and forth through the trees, my skis carving through the snow like a knife in frosting.
End of the day
We lapped the glades, staying in #1 and #2 until our legs were shaking and I could hardly stand up straight, let alone make a tele-turn. We collapse on the slope, laying in the sun and reveling at the March weather and perfect snow conditions. There are only so many days like this in a winter and you’ve got to get out, leave work, and head to the hills to take advantage of them while you can.
Look at all the animal tracks around camp after the storm!
How many animal tracks around camp can you identify?
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.