By Lenny Ackerman
It was winter break so to speak. Patti thought I was crazy. I was headed to camp from the airport in Bangor and the February sky was bright blue, wisps of clouds here and there the only reminders of the recent snowstorm. Exiting on I-93, I travelled north. The snowbanks along the side of the road grew steeper as I neared Danforth. I was feeling adventurous, and decided that when I got to camp, I would take down the old thrift store snowshoes that have been hanging over the doorway for years as camp décor and give them a go outside for the first time. The trail up to Sucker Lake would be perfect as it was one I had hiked numerous times in the summer.
When I arrived at the turn off to Boulder Road, site of my fishing camp, I saw that the snowplows had only cleared the way in to Cowger’s Lake Front Cabins, a good mile down the road from my cabin. The snow looked five feet deep against the trees along the road as far as I could see. My snowshoeing plans were now set back until I could actually get to my camp. I figured walking was impossible. I would need to hitch a ride on a snowmobile and required Greg’s help to do it. It was past noon.
Greg was 45 minutes away at his winter camp in Drew Plantation and when I finally reached him he was ruminating about fixing something or other on one of his rigs. Yes, Jimmy had a snowmobile he said, but we needed to get to River Road to find him since Jimmy’s cell wasn’t working in the cold. I waited the hour or so in my car for Greg to arrive and despite the lost time my enthusiasm for a snowshoe hike was still there. Looking around at the winter wonderland was all it took.
Greg finally pulled up in his truck and I hopped in. His truck was as cold as Hattie, which for Greg, a Maine native, was like room temperature. Jimmy, Greg’s buddy, was a good source for a snowmobile ride as he collected everyone’s discards in Danforth and was sure to have a powerful enough vehicle to traverse the five-foot snowdrifts. Driving back south now to Jimmy’s took some time as he lived several miles outside of town.
Jimmy came out of his house in a t-shirt like it was August. Mainers sure are different. We loaded the snowmobile onto Greg’s truck and sped back north along Route 1. Not a soul was in sight on the road or off. We made the left on Greenwood Lake Road, onto snow packed down from both snowmobilers and ice fishing traffic. We followed the camp road as far as we could to where the plowing had ended and where my car was parked alongside an embankment of cleared snow. I would have to leave it there for the time being.
We got out and dropped the snowmobile onto the road. I seated myself behind Greg for the trip down to camp, my first ever ride on a snowmobile. I pulled my beanie cap over my ears and was ready to go. Along the way the snow ahead of us was undisturbed except for a few animal tracks –heavier ones from deer, but mostly the light footprints of smaller creatures. Behind us, our tracks left no doubt about what created them. The reverberation from the loud engine caused the fir trees to shake their branches at us, dropping large clumps of snow as we passed by, sometimes hitting their intended target. We shook it off. Greg was child-like in his enthusiasm. He grew up snowmobiling in these woods. It was his winter sport. The ride was exhilarating—the rush of cold air against my face as we flew across the bright, white landscape somehow energized me and exhausted me at the same time.
Soon we reached camp. Snow had drifted off the lake against the front cabin door. It had been closed for the winter so we opened the door slowly, expectantly, letting in the first fresh air in months. We decided to make a fire to ward off the cold before preparing for the snowshoe expedition. Greg opened the damper and as to be expected a few mice scampered out. I poked around to see if there was anything in the cabinets I might take as provisions on the outing but came up empty handed. Greg had a fire going in no time. The heat from the growing flames combined with the hint of smoke in the air was like a warm embrace. I settled into the deep, down sofa cushions, happy to be at my camp, memories of last season on my mind as I closed my eyes. Greg laddered up to get the snowshoes down for me, but as he likes to tell the story, by the time he got down with them, I was already snoring on the couch.