A steady stream of fluffy white flakes are falling covering my tracks in the yard and the branches of my favorite birch tree. The new snow outlines the shape of each twisting bare branch and sticks to the dark needles of the fir trees by the woodshed. Winter has arrived in full force in Rangeley and we are in the swing of things at Red Quill Camp— shoveling the steps, feeding the Chickadee’s and tracking the deer.
deer in the yard
Yesterday I pulled into the driveway and saw about two dozen deer snap to attention in the yard—their eyes tracking me. Their healthy winter coats were dark against the snow and the breath from their nostrils steamed in the cold mid-day air. The alpha flicked his tail and instantly they all bolted into the woods.
Like the deer watching me in the yard, we had been watching the ski waiting for winter snow to arrive and it finally has. It was a slow start to the winter but now there is still plenty of snow for snowmobiling, skiing, building snowmen and tracking the wildlife. It’s either been unseasonable warm or glass-shattering cold this winter. Only the toughest of Mainers are bundled up today to go out on their ski’s or sleds and most are huddled by the fire listening to the wind howl outside. It’s predicted to be a low of -22° tonight and -40° with the wind chill, and just last week it was 45°!
We take what we can, playing in the snow when it’s here, taking advantage of the good winter days to skin up the mountain and ski down, or snowshoe through the woods and track the animals around camp.
skiing saddleback mt
winter in Rangeley
Gray Jay in the tree next to camp
The songbirds have migrated south for the winter leaving us with the chickadees, ravens, blue jays, and grouse. It has been a brilliant fall this year and the leaves around camp have been blazing orange, red and yellow. Many of them fell to the ground a few days ago in a windstorm leaving bare branches clicking in the wind and me with a rake in my hand.
I stood on the warm sun-filled porch looking out at the yard of leaves. A few more fell in a cluster by the birdfeeder looking like a small flock of birds flying from its branches. I held a quarter in my hands rubbing its’ raised surface and eyeing the rake and wheel-barrel by the fading garden flowers. I’d been putting off raking for a few days now. “Heads I rake the yard today, tails I canoe around the pond instead.” I flipped the coin, catching it as it glinted in the sun and slapped it meaningfully onto the back of my hand. I peeked under my fingers. Heads. Rats. I could flip again…but I didn’t. I walked down the steps and picked up the rake to begin, waving at the neighbors who were strolling down the road on this sunny fall day.
Ready to rake?
Raking up the yard
Bring it on winter!
With this year’s and next year’s wood stacked in the woodshed and the leaves raked up from the yard I called it a day and strolled down to the pond. Even with the frost we’ve been getting at night the days are still warm enough to take the canoe out and follow the great blue heron as it fishes along the shoreline. Winter is coming, but it’s not quiet here yet and it’s time to soak in as much of the remaining fall days as possible.
In other news, the roof at Red Quill is being torn off and replaced with a new dormer on the backside of the camp. Get ready for more headroom upstairs! Check out the facebook page for pictures of the progress!
Goodbye old roof!
Jack With a Trout
We got up at dawn and made our way to the river. I ducked through the woods pushing the dewy branches aside, stepped into the river and tied on a nymph. I cast into the swift water and let it drift. A Golden-Eye duck flew up the river and past me. I cast again, and this time a trout bit my fly and pulled my line out. I netted it, delighted by the thrill of catching a fish, and admired its bright red sides. We caught fish after fish in the early morning, working our way down the river laughing at our luck.
Summer days move like a trout in the river, slowly with the current, and then with occasional bursts of energetic activity.
At dusk we sat around the campfire listening to the loons’ haunting calls from the pond. My toes dug into the grass in front of the flickering flames. The lid of the BBQ grill was open and the smell of dinner wafted toward me. Lightening bugs flickered in the bushes along the yard. The warm summer air settled heavily on my bare arms. I closed my eyes and soaked in the summer evening.
Moose Behind Camp
Spring is slow to arrive in Rangeley, but the snow is in fact melting and the rivers are flowing again! A few fish are biting and the snowbanks that I have to climb over to stand in the rivers are quickly diminishing. Last week as I stood in the river, bundled up in layers beneath my waders, three osprey circled overhead fishing with me. None of us caught anything, but it was still good to be out on the water.
The birds are starting to come back and forage on the newly bare ground around camp. As I stood on the porch drinking my morning tea a flock of 150-200 dark eyed juncos flew into the yard and surrounded Red Quill on all sides! I stood on the porch amidst them as they flitted between the ground and tree branches feeding for about 7 minutes and then they all flew away. It was a whirlwind of feathers and chirping announcing the arrival of spring.