Winter in Rangeley is here! The snow began falling around Halloween and it has been gently falling ever since. I sit snuggled on the couch with the fire going and watch big fat flakes collecting on the tree branches outside the window. Soon we will put on the x-country ski’s and head out the back door and onto the myriad of trails through the woods and glide quietly through the forest. This time of year is quiet in the woods. The chickadees flit through the snow-covered branches causing little snow-showers as they brush snow off the branches where they land. The resident woodpecker drums in the background, taking the place of the loon call as the seasons change. Deer move along their winter trails and paw at the ground for bird-seed under the bird-feeder in the backyard. Whether sitting by the fire, on the porch, or playing outside, it’s a great time of year to be in Rangeley and enjoying camp.
The ice on Quimby Pond was cracking and popping all day. When I walked outside the camp I could hear it calling to me in a low cracking tone and like a sailor drawn by the sounds of a siren I walked down to the edge of the pond. I stood on the safety of the solid ground listening and watching as the pond quivered and sang through the night until the cold seeped into my bones. Shivering and tempted to test the ice I stayed still, watching the pond roll and rumble at my feet. At last, when I was shivering as much as the ice was shaking, I walked back to camp ducking through the pine bows and weaving through the woods under the light of the moon.
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.
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.
For the second time this winter as I pulled into the driveway of Red Quill I could hardly see the windows because the snow banks were so high! It was a clear and bitter cold night; the stars twinkled behind the frozen brittle branches of the birch trees in the back yard. A few deer stood beneath the thicket of evergreen trees and stared at my headlights, their nostrils steaming with breath, their thick healthy coats making them look like miniature elk. I shut my headlights off and strained to see them in the dark. When I got out of the car they had already disappeared into the night.
Around camp I could see the tracks of rabbits and weasels crisscrossing the yard and I added my own footprints to the mix. I was eager to track them in the morning.
Adventure called this winter and it has kept me from writing about what a fantastic winter it has been! I was away in January exploring the jagged peaks and glaciers of Patagonia Chile and Argentina–a truly wild landscape! And although I was happy to be away during the bitter cold start to this season, it was also nice to come home to the cozy fire of Red Quill and fresh snow.