Posts Tagged ‘White Mountain National Forest’

Priorities and Inconveniences

Our closest major supermarket in Maine is 35 minutes away, although I prefer the one over the border in New Hampshire that is 45 minutes away.  It’s true, you can’t really afford to forget anything on your marketing list, because when you spend $10 in gas, and a total of 1.5 hours in travel time, you think twice about a double trip and realize there is very little stuff on your menu that can’t be substituted or eliminated.  Of course I have a large supply of stored non-perishables for just that situation as well as weather emergencies.  So being organized and making careful lists become habit, and it’s really not all that hard.  I also make sure to combine errands for better efficiency.  A trip to the supermarket might also include filling up with gas, picking up whatever I need at the hardware store, shopping at Wal-Mart, and a visit to Dunkin Donuts for a cold drink or hot chocolate, depending on the season.  It may even include a side trip to the vet or a pick-your-own field or orchard.  It also means that Market Day lasts at least 4 to 8 hours, but that is my choice and I don’t consider it an inconvenience.  Because food shopping I do once a week – – but things like fishing, kayaking, swimming in the lake, hiking, walking and camping amidst magnificent nature, ponds, streams, rivers, lakes, waterfalls, valleys, and mountaintops, I can do every single day!  And where and how else would life afford me this opportunity?

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Our closest lake is only 2 miles and 4 minutes away.  That means that my husband can take lunch hour swimming or kayaking and be back in plenty of time to finish his day.  Or he can finish work at 5 pm and still have time for a hike or kayak or swim.  Or even go on an overnight camping trip, since magnificent campsites provided at no charge by the Forest Service are only 3 miles and 5 minutes away.

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That is just what we did one week this past summer.  At noon I visited the campsite, flush against waterfalls, a natural pool, potholes and stream, and set up camp with our tent, hammock, and a couple of lawn chairs.  I brought wood and kindling from our house and laid it down next to the fire ring.  I wasn’t worried about leaving my stuff and it getting stolen – – the campsite is remote enough that few people other than locals would even know how to find it, though it’s easily accessible from a dirt road, and the overwhelming majority of Mainers are inherently honest folk.

 

Half an hour later I was back at home, impatiently waiting for my husband to finish work so we could begin our camping adventure.  We ate  dinner at home – – we didn’t want to encourage any bears at the campsite with the scent of leftover food – – and drove to the campsite with our dog, Spencer.  After getting the campfire going and applying some bug spray, my husband settled into the hammock and studied the works of Maimonides’ Mishna Torah, a Jewish sacred text; I sat in the lawn chair near the fire and read a biography of Ariel Sharon which to my surprise, I found under the freecycle canopy at our local dump.  As the sun went down, the air turned delightfully cool.  I had placed some exercise mats on the floor of our tent which provided ample padding for our tired, aging bodies.  It was a clear night and the proliferation of stars were remarkable.

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In the morning my husband arose with the dawn, made a fire, and relaxed further.  He returned home to start his workday while I remained at the campsite, enjoying the stream, taking lots of photos with my cellphone, and eventually napping in the hammock, falling asleep in the hammock.  When I broke camp, and put the tent and other paraphernalia back in the car, I called my dog, Spencer, to come to the car.  He wouldn’t budge.  As I approached him, he darted away.  He steadfastly refused to get in the car.  Every time I’d get close, he practically laughed at me, “Can’t catch me!” and running just out of my reach.  Like us, he had enjoyed our quickie camping night out, and hated to call it quits.

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Sadly, it was to be our dog’s last camping trip.  Spencer died in September at age 12 from cancer.  I am so glad we had this time with him, and such wonderful memories.

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GLLT

Just down the road from me is the Greater Lovell Land Trust (GLLT), a non-profit conservation organization.  Their aim is to buy large parcels of the raw land in the area from private owners to prevent further development; to conserve essential resources; protect plants, wildlife, and watershed; to open these areas of conservation for public enjoyment via hiking trails, guided or not; and to provide education in the form of lectures on a variety of topics including history of the area, geology and geography, and nature.  Much of the work is done by volunteers, who do everything from trail building to acting as naturalist docents and guides.

I came across an article written by one such docent in an older newsletter published by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardener’s Association which I think you might enjoy.  I have taken advantage of many of the GLLT’s programs which run throughout the year, most recently a presentation about Barred Owls.  It’s fun to be able to identify what you are seeing and hearing in the woods whether it’s the call of the owls, or knowing just how fresh that bear scat is on the trail!  When I convey the many factoids I’ve learned over the years to my grandchildren when they visit, they are fascinated, and as a result, they too have become lovers of nature to varying degrees, whether hiking or camping or kayaking or quietly observing wildlife.  There is an abundance of free educational opportunities provided by local non-profit wilderness organizations, as well as the Forest Service.  Ultimately, it transforms us from vicarious admirers of nature to stewards of the land.

 

Organizations that offer natural wilderness education, hikes, etc. in the White Mountains of Maine and New Hampshire:

 

 

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.

Middle and North Sugarloaf

This picture was a happy accident.  It was so bright and sunny at the top of Middle Sugarloaf, that I couldn't see the screen on my cellphone camera.  I must have clicked "black and white" by mistake when I took this shot, and this was the happy result.

This picture is the result of a happy accident. It was so bright and sunny at the top of Middle Sugarloaf, that I couldn’t see the screen on my cellphone camera. I must have clicked “black and white” by mistake when I took this shot, and this was the happy result. Downloading the photos may take a bit of time, but imho I think it’s worth it! (click to enlarge)

Our friend Peter, who is an avid hiker, insisted that the bugs weren’t bad when he went hiking in the White Mountains on the New Hampshire side.  Since deerflies and midges have been relentless here on the Maine side of the White Mountains, we were admittedly dubious.  But our lazy inactivity is killing us, so we decided to go for it anyhow.  We’re so horribly out of shape – – this would be our first hike of the summer, and it’s already the end of July! – – that we opted for an easier hike, Middle and North Sugarloaf off of  Zealand Road in Twin Mountain, New Hampshire.

We had done this hike a couple of times 10 or 15 years ago, and it was a favorite, so I don’t quite know why it’s taken us so long to do it again.  It’s about 90 minutes from our home, but now that the summer days are so long, even starting out late is not a problem.  There are two US Forest Service campgrounds nearby, and there are several other hiking trails and things to see in the vicinity, so camping out is not a bad idea for those who don’t live locally (there are also plenty of motels in Twin Mountain for those who don’t like camping).

The morning weather was not promising.  There was a steady drizzle and the skies looked ominous.  But we decided hiking in the rain was still preferable to sitting around on a Sunday getting fat and being lazy.  Fortunately by the time we arrived at our destination, the skies had cleared.

The beginning of the hike takes you across a bridge and alongside Zealand River.  Almost immediately the grade begins gently as one climbs upward through a hemlock forest that has some pretty impressive giant granite boulders scattered about.  Since the weather was now hot and humid, and there was no breeze in the woods under the thick canopy of trees, I was relieved that the hike was so easy.  Alas, my memory of doing the hike so many years ago was short, and my overconfidence that the hike was a piece of cake was premature.

I'm sure glad we weren't around when this boulder came tumbling down!

I’m sure glad we weren’t around when this boulder came tumbling down!  The force split it in two.

Shortly after the giant boulders, the climb got steeper.  And steeper.  We were huffing and puffing and cursing ourselves that we had let ourselves get so out of shape.  We stopped several times to rest and drink water, since by now we were dripping with perspiration.  Just as the terrain leveled off slightly, we saw a sign pointing in opposite directions:  Middle Sugarloaf to the left, and North Sugarloaf to the right.  In the past we had climbed only Middle Sugarloaf, since that is the mountaintop with the prettiest and most open views.  Once again, we opted for Middle Sugarloaf, and once again, we found ourselves huffing and puffing the final half a mile.  At one point there was a solid granite wall with no way up except a steep stair ladder.  My dog was flustered and refused to make the climb.  Instead, he found a place about 20′ away from the ladder where he was able to scoot uphill.  He looked very relieved!

On the way up, I was second guessing myself.  Would the view be as wonderful as I remembered to make this grand effort worthwhile?

It was!

When I am in the midst of nature, I am continually in awe of the magnificence of G-d’s world, and this time was no different.  There was a stiff breeze which cooled our overheated selves down immediately.  The views were vast of the Presidential Range , and the top of Mt. Washington was clear and gorgeous.

one of the views from Middle Sugarloaf

one of the views from Middle Sugarloaf (click to enlarge)

 

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Even though we were still in recovery mode from the climb, we decided that this time we were not going to miss North Sugarloaf!  So we began our descent of Middle Sugarloaf.  We came to the stair ladder and once again our dog was stymied.  He didn’t want to descend on the ladder, but he couldn’t find the alternate route he had taken on the way up.  As we began carefully making our way down the stair ladder, he looked pitiful, seemingly stuck.  “You mean you aren’t carrying me down?”  his eyes pleaded from the top.  When I saw he wasn’t going to budge, I climbed back up the ladder, and fastened his leash to his collar.  This time he had no choice but to follow me and make his way down the stair ladder’s 20 +/- steps.  Once he saw he could do it, his confidence was restored and he continued on his merry way.

Once again we reached the divide, where the sign pointed in opposite directions to the two mountains.  As we began our ascent of North Sugarloaf, we were still a bit out of breath and stopped for water, but the climb was not as steep as Middle Sugarloaf and we were both glad we had made the extra effort to hike to the summits of both Sugarloaves.  And our friend was correct:  there were no bothersome bugs.

Spencer did very well considering he's 11 (that's 77 in dog years!).    Here he surveys the view from the top of North Sugarloaf.

Spencer did very well considering he’s 11 (that’s 77 in dog years!). Here he surveys the view from the top of North Sugarloaf.

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My husband, a ham radio operator, always enjoys making contact with other "hams" whenever we reach a summit.

My husband, a ham radio operator, always enjoys making contact with other “hams” whenever we reach a summit.