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.