Sunday, June 9, 2013

A Day in June

I see skies of blue...clouds of white
Bright blessed days....dark sacred nights
And I think to myself....what a wonderful world.

June in northern New England. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Maine Maple Sunday 2012

Today is Maine Maple Sunday which means that many of the sugar houses in Maine are open to visitors.  We crossed the Androscoggin River to the Thurston Family Farm in Peru.  One of Charlie's colleagues married into the amazing family whose farm supplies our CSA vegetables, eggs, and maple syrup.   It makes me smile all over to be a consumer of food from my neighborhood--and it makes me smile all over to eat anything with maple butter...............

In the '60's when I was kid, we lived in Western Massachusetts.  As maple syrup season got into full swing, my family would load up our blue dodge station wagon and drive into southern Vermont where the plump, sweet faced wives of maple farmers would ladle hot syrup over cold snow to serve to us--I loved the way the syrup thickened when it hit the cold snow--so yummy.

Yesterday I had a conversation with a young woman knowledgeable with the marketing of American-made snack foods internationally and she said that different flavors are used to reflect the preferences of consumers in different countries.  That led me to wonder what are uniquely American tastes?  I wonder if maple is one we keep to ourselves?  

Well, whether or not it is popular elsewhere, it is popular here in Northern New England and the air was heavy with it as the steam rose into the rafters of the sugar house and flew out to scent the chill afternoon.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Days Like This Come My Way

With 60 degree temperatures predicted for the upcoming week proving that Puxatawney Phil was correct in February and there were only six weeks left of winter, Charlie and I decided to head to Rangeley for one last ski for him and a snowshoe romp for me.

We went into the trailhead yurt, bought our trail passes and looked at the map. The guy behind the desk  suggested that I go on a loop that went along the side of Saddleback Lake but cautioned me to stay off the lake ice. Charlie headed off to the groomed nordic ski trails while I headed off on my snowshoe trail.

For a while, it all was perfect--the sun was warm and deep breaths of cool, fresh air settled my heart and mind.   I took a picture of my pretty purple snowshoes and thought about how much fun I have had with them over the last seven years.  So many mountains climbed and trails broken as they kept me on top of the snow while still stylishly turned out.

Perhaps overcome by memories and not paying attention to the trail, I found myself on the lake or at least very close to it--it's very hard to tell where lake ends and shore begins when it is all covered in snow.

For a while, I kept along what I thought was the shore until I decided that I had indeed missed the trail.  I pulled the map out of my pocket and figured out if I headed away from the shore I should come upon it.  So I headed through the puckerbrush.  If I may be honest, a little bit of "I'm a superhiker" arrogance did come over me.  I thought "How hard can it be--the trail must be just through those bushes, trees and blowdowns."

It was much harder than I expected.  I climbed over trees, crouched low under branches, sank in deep snow--there was hardly room to maneuver and I didn't seem to be making any headway when suddenly I sank up to my knees, the snow collapsed around my legs and I couldn't pull my feet out.

All the reading I have done about winter hiking disasters did help me stay calm and assess the situation, although I allowed myself one plaintive cry for Charlie.  I sat down on the snow and noticed that my feet were starting to feel really wet.  I used my hands to dig the right snowshoe out because it seemed to be the one that I could move a little bit.  The left one was stuck fast.  Once I got my right foot free,  I took it out of the snowshoe and used that snowshoe to help dig.  The snow around my left foot seemed to be freezing solid and I had to hit it hard to get down to where I could see my foot.  Once I could see my foot I still couldn't lift it.  I decided that the snowshoe must be stuck under an underwater root or tree and my best hope was to get my boot out of the snowshoe.  Just as I freed my soaking wet boot, the snow that I was sitting in started to slide and I got up in a hurry and headed back the way I had come with only one of my pretty purple snowshoes tucked up under my arm.

When I got back to the lake or shore or whatever I had originally been on, I felt safe--I could walk back to the yurt in wet boots.  It would be uncomfortable but the day was warm and I am the mother of strong children and the daughter of strong parents so must be kind of strong myself.  Just as I was breathing a sigh of relief, I crashed through snow and ice and this time it wasn't a creek but the lake.  I think panic might have set in then because I don't remember much except knowing that I had to move fast and light.  Somehow--I lost the other purple snowshoe.  Once warm and safe and trying to remember what had happened I think that the purple snowshoe might have caught on the ice and kept me from going deeper into the lake--so maybe it saved me.

I made it back to the yurt and climbed up on a picnic table in the sun to get warm and wait for Charlie to return from his ski with the keys to the car and my dry clothes.  Just as I got my wet boots and socks off and was preparing to lie back on the picnic table, this woman appeared beside me.  She looked just like Megan McCain--all blonde hair, beautiful curves and designer clothes.  She said, "Hi, that looks like fun--I'd like to climb up right beside you?"  You know after all I'd been through this could have been an effect of hypothermia but I think it really did happen.  I laughed and apologized for looking like I had just fallen into a lake.  She asked me where I was from and I said "just over the mountain, where are you from?" She said "Cape Cod but I'm thinking of moving up here and I want to buy some land and build a yurt so I came to see what a yurt was like on the inside."  I said, "Would this be a vacation yurt or a full time yurt?" and yes I was definitely wondering why conversations like this so often come my way.  She said, "I'm just going to wait and see what God has in mind for me."  Then she said good bye and I laid back on the picnic table and hoped that God was in favor of it because we don't have enough crazy, rich blonde women living in yurts in Maine.  Amen.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Unexpected Delights

As Labor Day weekend approached, Charlie and I were two mountains short of our goal of hiking the 67 New England 4000 footers.

Katahdin in Baxter State Park is a monstrous massif whose summit stretches for miles and encompasses two distinct peaks that qualify as 4000 footers. We had conquered the well-known Baxter Peak on other hikes but still had the less-traveled Hamlin Peak ahead of us.  

We planned to drive to Millinockett and stay in a hotel the night before heading into Baxter State Park but the Big Bed Bug Scare of Summer 2010 caused me to fear staying in a hotel.  So on to Plan B.  We called the park and were able to get two bunks in the bunkhouse at the trailhead--I was certain that my sleeping bag was bed bug free and couldn't imagine any self-respecting bed bug living in the inhospitable environment of a plywood bunk in Baxter State Park.  So, off we went.  The change of plans meant bringing gear to cook breakfast so we brought along our little stove and some supplies.

There was another couple in the bunk house with us and we stayed up playing Scrabble with them by gas lantern--some time during the game and the getting-to-know-you, Charlie and the other man discovered that they had both been to an Eagles and Dan Fogelberg concert in 1974 in New York City.  Do you ever wonder if we are all in some big Venn diagram and everyone intersects at some point?

The next morning, we were off to the trail.  Katahdin is my nemesis--I love it and I hate it--mostly I love it when I'm finished climbing it or planning to climb it--when I'm on the trail, I think that it's really really hard and the Native Americans were probably right about it being a sacred mountain that shouldn't be climbed.  I decide that I'm too old for such nonesense and decide never to climb it again--but where would the story be in that.

Our planned route was long and the wind above the trees was crazy.  But the views were incredible. When I wasn't shaking my first at the mountain for being so difficult, I was  full of the belief that at that moment I was the most fortunate person on earth.

We made it to the top with a great deal of effort.  It was impossible to remain completely vertical in the strong wind and without a tie for my hair my vision was severely compromised. I was afraid of descending the rocky trail with hair flying into my eyes and we made a decision to struggle through the wind for a mile along the summit ridge in order to descend by the sheltered Saddle Trail to Chimney Pond. Chimney Pond is only 3.3 miles from the Roaring Brook campground and our car.  It was a gradual grade and all downhill for us at that point but exhaustion was setting in.

About 1/2 mile from the end of the trail, Charlie remembered something wonderful!  "We have instant coffee and milk and sugar left over from breakfast!  I will go ahead and make it for you!"  A more sincere and timely expression of love has never been spoken.

So, I limped to the car and changed into jeans and a flannel shirt--cotton is deadly while hiking but so comforting afterward.  I slid down to the ground against a tree because it was the only way. Charlie handed me a cup of the most delicious coffee and we toasted our astounding day.  And you know, I really do love Katahdin.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Climbing Cannon with the Frat Boys

In January of 2007, Ethan and a bunch of his fraternity brothers rented a condominium in Franconia Notch so that they could ski at Cannon Mountain.  This was their senior year and they were ready for a skiing vacation before heading back for their last semester.  Unfortunately, the weather gods did not cooperate and the snow conditions were abysmal for skiing so Ethan suggested calling his mom who could bring some winter hiking gear over and then we could all climb Cannon.  Yes, I think that I might be the only mother ever invited on a fraternity outing.

I brought along thermoses of hot tea and hot jello, crampons and snow shoes and microspikes and everything else that I could come up with and headed over to meet them at the trail head.

The weather most of the way up was misty and the ground conditions were snow and ice.  I climbed fearlessly knowing that there were a dozen strong young men to carry me down if I broke my leg.

I have thick hair and lots of it and hats just aren't that comfortable for me.  So, in the winter I usually hike with as little on my head as possible. That day, my hair was getting pretty damp from the mist but I didn't think too much about it on the way up while my body was warm from exertion.  I should add that I was much more of a novice winter hiker than I am now and in no way endorse my winter hiking methods of 2007--do not try this at home, kids.

So, we climbed through the mist and slipped and slid our way up the mountain.  Some of the boys hiked in jeans, some in sneakers, some in ski boots--we were a motley crew but having the best time.  As we reached the summit suddenly it wasn't warm any more and there was a frigid wind and things started to freeze fast--including my hair.

The way I remember it, someone snapped a picture in a hurry and we all ran as fast as we could into the trees and drank tea and hot jello and put on whatever clothes were still dry in our backpacks and laughed and slid our way down the mountain and into the part of my brain labeled favorite memories.

Thanks Ross, from whose facebook photo album I stole these pictures.  I'll treasure this forever.

Monday, October 11, 2010

I've been meaning to tell you this for over a year.......

There is actually a hostel at the airport in Stockholm that is built into a 747 Jumbo Jet.  I kid you not.

In 2009, after spending time together in northern Sweden, Sara was flying back to Macedonia and Charlie and I were heading back to Maine so we were looking for someplace to stay the night before our flights.  Stockholm hotels were out of our price range which is why we had been spending our time up north reindeer country.  But, Sara, being young and wise in the way of youth hostels, found us the Jumbo Hostel at the Arlanda Airport.

After returning our rental car, we walked across the street to what looked like a gigantic plane parked in a field.  It was, actually, a gigantic plane parked in a field.  A series of metal airport-like steps led up to the entrance where we were immediately told to take off our shoes.  I'm not sure why, but I am a rule-follower so the shoes came off.

The rooms were off a narrow corridor and were small but we fit.  There was a double size bunk on the bottom in our room and a little crow's nest upper bunk that little Sara could squeeze into.  Our suitcases went under the bottom bunk and there was room for one of us to stand up at a time--just not room enough for that one person to actually turn around.

It was great fun and cheap and very convenient to the airport.  A bus stopped right across the street to take us to the terminal.

The Jumbo Hostel is even listed as #1 on a website devoted to the World's Weirdest Hotels.

The Jumbo Jet was different and weird, but according to this website there is a hotel in Idaho inside a giant wooden dog.  I think that might be my next trip.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

So, where did we leave off.................

Oh, I have missed this little blog.  It's time to dust it off, spruce things up a bit and continue sharing what is in my heart.

Facebook is good for a quickie but doesn't allow the insight into the soul that is a blog post--so let's try this again, shall we?

Since we last visited, some things have happened but the essentials are the same....I live in obscurity in a forgotten corner of Maine surrounded by great natural beauty and possessed with an imagination, five cats, a loving husband, eccentric parents and globe-trotting children.  

Over the summer, I closed my little law practice in the carriage house and took a job with the State of Maine, Judicial Branch working with two grant programs devoted to assisting families in the child protection system.   While my efforts are devoted to the same topic as before, there are no more front-line skirmishes.  After eleven years of being in the trenches, it was time to let my battle scars heal and use the hard-won wisdom to try and improve things.

What else happened in the last seven months--oh yes, we went to Chile in April to see how Vila Alhue had survived the earthquake and found that the charming little town had lost all of its 200 year old adobe structures but the spirit of the people was intact.  The trapped Chilean miners are giving us all some insight into what that culture is made of--they have some strong internal stuff going on, for sure.  

In May, son Ethan busted his legs six ways from Sunday.  Rugby----what more can I say.  Sara will finish up with the Peace Corps in five weeks--it doesn't seem like it could be more than two years but it is.  

I've missed you all, my dear blogging friends, thank you for your patience and the facebook chats during my hiatus.


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Checking in with the bees

Well, one hive made it through the winter--one did not and here's the story of how it all happened.

Last April I started two hives with bees delivered to Maine from a bee farm in Georgia--being a transplanted southern girl myself, I had a great deal of sympathy for the 20,000 little honeybees and I committed to giving them the best life possible in this cold climate.

I named the two hives for the first two 4000 footers that I climbed. Washington and Madison. From the very beginning Washington seemed to be the stronger hive. They built their comb faster and seemed to be filling up their space with hive and honey. Madison was working hard but just never quite seemed to keep up with Washington. Then---tragedy struck in the form of the summer of 2009 with basically two months of rain, no sunshine or warmth. Veteran beekeepers said it was the worst summer ever for them and my two hives apparently had had enough and swarmed while I was away in Latvia and Sweden during August.

My dad and I consulted with the State Beekeeper--yes, indeed a sweet state job if ever I heard of one. He re-assured us and said that he had been fielding calls all summer about hives swarming. He told us to be patient and leave the hive alone for a couple of weeks.

Before a hive of bees decide to swarm--they plan--they are such smart little creatures. They begin their plan by building some queen cells. Queen cells are larger than the regular cells that the bees normally create for eggs and the nurse bees feed the larvae in the queen cell something called royal jelly. The royal jelly triggers her to grow larger and to develop sexually so that she can reproduce. Both my hives had created queen cells and when they swarmed they left behind nurse bees to take care of the developing queen.

So, during the time that the State beekeeper told us to leave the hive alone it was doing naturally exactly what it was supposed to--it was developing a new hive full of bees--no remnants of the Georgia bees any more except maybe a little bit of DNA telling them to seek out sweet tea and cornbread.

By early September, both hives were again producing and storing honey for the fall--despite our abysmal summer, the fall of 2009 was full of sunny warm days and the bees were busy. Washington completely filled its 3 "supers". Supers are the boxes that contain the frames on which the bees build their comb. The experts told us that we should have all 3 supers full before we could harvest any for ourselves--well under the circumstances we were just hoping that the bees filled the supers for themselves and we resigned to wait until next year for our honey.

Washington filled its 3 supers by mid-October when we were ready to cover the hives for the winter. Madison had filled 2 supers and the third was completely empty but we left the empty box on and hoped somehow that maybe they would be able to fill it. That was our mistake. We covered the hives with tar paper and watched the snow fall.

One day in between Christmas and New Year, we had a terrible storm full of fierce wind and the next morning when I looked across the field at the hives--I realized our error--the empty box on the top of Madison had blown off exposing the hive to the cold.

I threw on my snowshoes and ran to the hive--I could still see that some bees were alive--I brushed the snow off and covered it as quickly as I could but I knew that it was probably too late. So, I cried a little bit yet hoped for the best.

Last Sunday, the temperatures were in the 40's and the sun was shining so I went out to check. I was hoping to see little yellow spots on the snow around the hives--the bees will not urinate or defecate in the hive so they hold it until a sunny day then fly out to relieve themselves. I was encouraged when I got close and saw little yellow spots on the snow around Washington--and then as I got even closer some bees flew out to greet me. Washington Lived! I was so happy.

I opened Madison knowing what I would find and I did find a hive full of dead bees. But one hive had made it and while I am very sad about Madison, we fight on through adversity and so I came home and ordered another box of those Georgia bees--they'll be here in mid-April and they have a nice little hive to move into with beautiful comb and even a good bit of honey--all courtesy of Madison. The new hive will be called Lafayette in honor of that beautiful mountain in Franconia Notch--the third one I climbed on my personal journey to find new heights.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Mt. Chocorua--March 2010

From many of the summits that I reached while completing the list of New Hampshire 4000 footers, I would notice an interesting mountain to the south and say "What's that peak?" and Charlie would reply, "Chocorua". Hmmm, I would think--that mountain seems to look different from every angle but from every angle it looks intriguing. Eventually, I stopped asking what the funny looking peak was and just assumed that the one that caught my eye was Chocorua. Among the White Mountain hiking community, Chocorua is a name that comes up repeatedly as a favorite summit--people hike it over and over and over and now I know why.

This past Saturday, along with Sally and Elise, I headed up the Champney Brook Trail to the summit. The snow was perfect and the air temperature was cool enough to keep the snow solid and our body temperatures comfortable but high enough that we could retain feeling in our fingers and toes. The trail follows along and climbs above the Champney Brook with a side trail leading to the Champney Falls. We saw ice climbers heading to the falls and decided to take that detour on our descent.

We estimated that the snow was at least 5 feet deep based on the fact that the trail signs were right at our feet level. Sally climbed up on one of the signs for a photo shoot.

The trail took a turn to the west away from the brook and started a series of switchbacks which led us into an area just below the summit. The wind was pretty strong in the open but the views were spectacular.

We headed back into the trees to find a place to eat our lunch before heading down. Our descent went really fast and in some of the steepest parts I used the slide on your bottom and pretend you did it on purpose method. Tried and true.

We made it back to the s ide trail to the waterfall and tramped through some fresh snow in order to meet up with the ice climbers. It looked like an ice climbing class with lots of people climbing on the frozen waterfall. Good clean fun. Another great day in the mountains feeling like the luckiest person in the world

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Hello from Maine

Oh, it's been a long time since I have written here. What a lot of life there has been since then.

At Christmastime my brother and his family flew up from Chile. His family now includes an ADORABLE chubby cheeked baby. The little baby stole all of our hearts and you can imagine our fears when we woke last Saturday morning to the news that their world had just been shaken beyond imagination.

I saw the news on-line at 5 a.m. and after reading the newswires and watching CNN for 20 minutes decided that I should wake up my parents. The village of Alhue is located about 100 miles as the crow flies from the epicenter of that monster 8.8 earthquake. I wrote quite a bit about Alhue in 2008 when we traveled there for my brother's wedding. Charlie and I headed over to my parents' house to set up Chile Information Central. Between the internet and CNN we were able to gather quite a bit of information but not until our skype icon bounced were we able to learn anything about our family.

Brother had been working in Mexico and was flying back to Chile as the earthquake struck. He was re-routed and landed at the very northern part of the country--some 1500 kilometers from home. He was able to chat with us through skype from the airport and re-assure us. He had little information about his family except that his wife had cut her feet on glass getting out of the house but that everyone was safe. Over the next twenty four hours, he made his way home and we have heard from him sporadically since then. The family is safe but the village is very damaged. All of the adobe buildings crumbled and even the new construction has suffered. They are currently living and sleeping in the courtyard to avoid the risk of the aftershocks and eating their laying hens.

Life can be unexpected and so very frightening sometimes.