Posts Tagged ‘Evergreen Valley’

Close Call

Evergreen Valley, Stoneham Maine

Evergreen Valley, Stoneham Maine

Yesterday about 11 a.m. I walked down the road and noticed that there were beautiful wildflowers by the abandoned golf course in Evergreen Valley.  I didn’t have my camera with me and planned to come back later in the afternoon so I could take some pictures.  When I returned around 4 pm, the wildflowers petals had closed up completely and the light was all wrong.  So I made sure to return around the same time today and try yet again.

Monarch Butterfly, Stoneham Maine

What a beautiful day!  After suffering from the high heat and humidity of my home town in the month I was away, it is great to be back in Maine with day temperatures in the 70s, nights in the 50s, and low humidity.  The bugs are not too bad.  The conditions were perfect for taking pictures, so I snapped away for about 30 minutes.

As I was packing up my gear, I heard a noise in the distance approaching me.  It was the caretaker of Evergreen Valley on his riding mower!  Within minutes the entire field of wildflowers was gone, and sadly they will not appear again until Spring 2016.

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Digging Out

After several big snowfalls, and last night’s 8-incher, we decided that before tackling the digging out process, we would go on a short walk in the woods.  We live near several snowmobile trails that except for weekends are barely in use.  Because these trails are groomed and compacted regularly, it means we have many options for walking in the woods in remote areas, but don’t require snowshoes.

On Sundays we might see as many as 10  – 15 snowmobilers.

A snowmobiler crosses our path

A snowmobiler crosses our path

I have mixed feelings.  I am certainly appreciative both to the state of Maine and private snowmobile clubs for maintaining the snowmobile trails.  It’s a lot of work and expense to keep them groomed right after a snowfall, packing down the snow and making sure the trail is free from debris.  These trails go on for hundreds of miles, right to the Canadian border, and it enables people to enjoy the woods and go places they couldn’t reach otherwise.  Snowmobilers also bring in a huge amount of revenue for local businesses and the State of Maine, from rentals, sales, motels, restaurants, gift stores, gas stations, apparel stores, and even repair mechanics.

For people who don’t have snowmobiles, the trails provide a place to go hiking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing.  Caveat:  proceed with caution.  Snowmobiles are basically motorcycles on skis.  They go fast, and some trails are narrow.  It is the snowmobilers, not other outdoor adventurers, who have the right of way, so if you hear a snowmobile approaching, you had better step aside off the trail – – and do so quickly.  The downside to snowmobiles is that they are noisy and their exhaust is smelly.  It seems counter to enjoying a beautiful day in the woods to be creating so much noise, when one of the things I like best about our area is the pristine quiet.  But since there are easier, quicker places to reach, we really do get a minimum amount of trail use by snowmobilers in our area, so the benefits of trail use for hiking outweigh any negatives.

 The ethereal beauty of our woods

The ethereal beauty of our woods near our home.  If you look carefully, you will see a snowmobiler to the left of the shed.

 

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Walking along the groomed trail

Walking along the groomed trail

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When we returned from our 3-mile excursion, we decided to get to work digging out from the previous night’s storm.

First we tackled the mailbox. Two years ago I had a welder create the frame for our mailbox so that the mailbox could be hung from chains, thereby averting knocks and destruction by passing snowplows.  The top of the pole is 7′ tall, so based on these pictures you can see that we’ve gotten a lot of snow so far.  In fact, even though I try to keep the mailbox area clear so that our mail lady won’t have any difficulties delivering our mail, if we get much more snow in the coming weeks I won’t have any place left to shovel the snow away from the mailbox.

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Even though our Plow Guy snowplows the 500′ long driveway following a snowfall of at least 4″, there is always plenty snow clean-up that remains for us to address.

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First my husband cleared a path to our 1000-gallon buried propane tank.

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Next he removed the snow from our emergency back-up generator, ensuring the air vents and access to the doors were clear.

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He also made a path to and under the laundry lines, since even on freezing days, I hang freshly laundered clothes out to dry.

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He shoveled a way to the solar panels so I could brush off the snow from the glass with our corn broom.

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We have two kinds of snow shovels. One is actually a snow pusher, as seen here. It can move huge amounts of snow without killing one’s back. Our regular shovel, seen to the left of the picture, is good for tight spots, icy or heavy, wet snow that the snow pusher can’t handle.

This has been a cold and snowy winter.  We’ve used quite a bit of wood.  But no worries:  I have several more cords of wood sitting under tarps alongside the wood shed, which have been drying out for 2 to 5  years.  The wood was harvested from our property starting six years ago, when we cleared part of the land to make the driveway, the foundation for the house, and a sunny, open field in front of the solar panels.  This summer I will be lugging and stacking wood into the wood shed, getting ready for the Winter of 2016.  The 12′ x 16′ wood shed can hold 5 – 6 years’ worth of stacked wood.  Our super-efficient Hearthstone soapstone wood stove and excellent interior insulation means we’ll only use about 2 cords of wood this year (about 2 pickup truck loads).

The white bag in the shed contains kindling.  I got this huge bag for cheap from a furniture shop - inside are the discarded raw  wood ends that are perfect for fire-starting.  Otherwise, I gather kindling from broken branches right on our property.

The white bag in the shed contains kindling. I got this huge bag for cheap from a furniture shop – inside are the discarded raw wood ends that are perfect for fire-starting. Otherwise, I gather kindling from broken branches right on our property.

Of course, we are far from done with shoveling.  Another storm is headed our way Wednesday and a 1′ snowfall is predicted.  It would not be unusual to still be shoveling in April.

It may sound like we need to get our heads examined, but both of us truly enjoy our outside chores in the cold temperatures.  Not only does it beat going to the gym, it makes us appreciate how blessed we are that we are still up to the task.

Autumn vs. Winter

An old barn in Evergreen Valley, Stoneham, Maine.  Speckled Mountain is in the background.

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Lots. More. Snow.

Enjoying the beauty of winter in Maine!

This past snowfall was a very wet, heavy snow, of which you can see evidence by its weighing down this birch tree to form a perfect, beautiful arch.

This past snowfall was a very wet, heavy snow, of which you can see evidence by its weighing down this birch tree to form a perfect, beautiful arch.

Our street was plowed within one hour after the snow stopped falling

Our street was plowed within one hour after the snow stopped falling

The plow guy is in touch with street plow people so he knows when to come and do our driveway.  He usually follows right on the heels of the main road plow person.

Our driveway plow guy is in touch with street plow people so he knows when to come and do our driveway. He usually follows right on the heels of the main road plow person.  Beneath the house, on the bench, we’ve placed a 50 lb salt block, but so far no deer or moose have come to take a lick.

Little Pond

Little Pond

Little Pond

Little Pond

Little Pond

Little Pond

Wild turkeys foraging

Wild turkeys foraging

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Our dog, Spencer, is dwarfed by the presence of winter on our driveway

Over the Mountains and Through the Woods

Pine needles coated with ice

Pine needles coated with ice

Because of an ice storm that preceded Christmas, when my husband had two days off of work, our original plans for getting out and doing something nice were drastically altered.  Even though the roads had been sanded and salted, the previous day’s sunshine and then single-digit night temperatures assured the streets would not be safe for leisurely car rides due to a half-inch coating of ice.  Once again, the sun was shining, and the weather wasn’t too terrible – it was in the 20s which was sweater weather; we didn’t even need our down coats (this may sound cold if you are from the West Coast but believe me, you build up to the cold weather and sunny, windless 20 degrees practically feels like a Spring day during a Maine winter.  Which leads me to mention another amazing thing about Maine:  there is this sort of bravado culture amongst young people in winter, and it is not uncommon to see teenagers and twenty-somethings wearing SHORTS outside in the winter – – we saw someone last week doing this when it was 9 degrees F! – – just because they can.)

We live very close to the NH border, and the White Mountain National Forest abuts our property (most people do not realize that the White Mountains stretches beyond New Hampshire into Maine).  As such, wilderness is literally in our backyard.  In winter, there are many snowmobile trails within walking distance,  but because we are in a somewhat out-of-the-way location, they are rarely used.

We do not snowmobile.  Snowmobiles are quite expensive (about $10K – $12K new), and they are also pricey to rent ($165 for a couple of hours), so we haven’t even tried it.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t benefit from snowmobile trails!

A snowmobile trail is an official winter-only backcountry “road” that is maintained by snowmobile clubs or the State of Maine.  By “maintained” I mean that they have trail markers, plus signage telling riders how many miles it is to gas, food, lodging, or various locations along the way.  They are a narrow pathway (about 6′ – 8′ wide in our area) cleared of trees and obstacles.  These trails are found throughout the northeast and there are continuous trails that stretch hundreds of miles, all the way into Canada.  After a heavy snowfall, volunteers use expensive “snow groomers” to compact the snow and ensure that the trails are safe, removing debris such as fallen branches, and covering or moving protruding rocks if necessary.

Our dog Spencer watches the snowmobile trail grooming machine in Evergreen Valley

Our dog Spencer watches the snowmobile trail grooming machine in Evergreen Valley

They also place “caution” signs so snowmobilers will be made aware of stream crossings if there are no bridges (doable only if the water has frozen and is thick enough to hold the weight of the snowmobiles and riders).  But in my area, because these trails are so underused, they are perfect for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, since one rarely encounters snowmobilers.  (Skiing or snowshoeing would be downright dangerous on a heavily used snowmobile trail:  it would be like walking on a freeway between speeding cars).   They are rare in my area, but occasionally a Maine State Game Warden (that’s a back-country law enforcement officr) will patrol by snowmobile on the lookout for drunk snowmobile drivers (as well as snowmobile accidents and wildlife poachers).

Spencer on the snowmobile trail

Spencer on the snowmobile trail

Snowmobile trail sign in Evergreen Valley

Snowmobile trail sign in Evergreen Valley

The pre-Christmas ice storm spelled disaster for the snowmobilers.  The trails had just been groomed before the storm, and now they were too icy to use safely.  But for snowshoeing, these trails were a delight.  The snow was compacted so one didn’t sink down very far while walking, and the crampons of our Microspikes (sharp pointy metal blades that attach to the bottom of one’s shoe) gripped the ice tightly to make walking easy.  We decided to take a hike in our own backyard wilderness along these trails.  On Christmas Eve we went 3.5 miles; and on Christmas Day we ventured 4.7 miles.  I wore a long-sleeved hiking shirt with a light fleece jacket, leggings, hiking boots, crampons, a wool hat, sunglasses, and I carried trekking poles.  My husband (poor guy!) also carried a daypack in the event of an emergency:  water, flashlight/headlamp, topo GPS, toilet paper, Purell, a face mask, cellphone, chewing gum, first aid kit, fire starter kit, knife, hand-warmers and foil emergency blanket, multi-tool knife, ham radio and extra crampons and gloves.  We take winter preparedness seriously, even for short distances (we were only gone for two hours)!

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Crossing a frozen marshy pond

Crossing a frozen marshy pond

We had a wonderful time.  There was no one else out and about (this being Christmas, after all) and the woods were quiet, cold and beautiful.  The ice that coated the tree branches glistened in the sun, looking like a million sparkling diamonds.  We came home to hardy, homemade soup and freshly baked whole wheat rolls hot out of the oven, and later, a wonderful, hot bath.  We still can’t believe how blessed we are that we are surrounded by so much beauty.  There is so much to do literally outside our front door, without having to drive anywhere.

Frozen pond glistens with ice

Frozen pond glistens with ice

Afternoon shadows on the snowmobile trail

Afternoon shadows on the snowmobile trail

Even though I am still very overweight, in terms of stamina and strength I am in the best physical shape that I’ve been in since my youth.   Here in the Maine woods, life is good!

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Birch tree trunks along the trail look like patchwork quilts (click to enlarge)

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