The loggers have gone home. There is mud, but there is also knee deep snow in the woods. There is the occasional burst of sunshine. Life in the North Maine Woods in the middle of April is for the most part a desolate affair.
I’m overeager. I see the photos that friends in other parts of the country post, and I see spring creeping north. Buds on the trees in Georgia are first on the list. Next it’s cherry blossoms in DC, and new growth in NYC. I do myself the disservice of traveling down to Connecticut, across to Illinois and back, and see forsythia and daffodils in bloom, green grass, a tick, a mosquito? And then it’s back to this place. I pay too much attention to the weather. But mine is a profession that is dependent on the weather, and we talk about it and over-analyze it every day of our lives, as if it is our chief interest. This is mud season, we have plenty of time to talk.
Mostly though, I’m overeager because I want to get out into the woods and explore. I’ve made it my mission to discover as many old logging camps as I can. On the land that I manage, there are dozens and dozens to be found. So far, I’ve found three camps, dating back to the 1920s and 1930s; I have at least five more that I’d like to visit and try to find this spring. A few old maps I’ve found are helpful in navigating to these camps, but are also just inaccurate enough to make the search eventful and uncertain.
But it’s going to be weeks still before there is a diminished enough snow pack to make this endeavor a profitable one. And so I wait, and grow grouchier by the day.
Last week was the perfect weather for ice skating. It was dreamy out on the ice, and things only got more magical when at dusk, I spotted an otter loping along and periodically sliding on its belly. There is no way that otters aren’t one of my spirit animals.
This week, there’s been a lot of rain and warmer temperatures. The ice is turning mealy. Channels are running across the lake, small rivulets and large swaths are bisecting each other, with gusts of wind whipping these periodic stretches of water into a frenzy. I’m guessing that ice out on the lake will happen in two weeks’ time. I’d like it to be sooner, but last year it was around the first of May. This is our sixth month of Ice Season. It’s all too much winter for me.
And so we’re leaving. It’s been over four years since we moved up to this beautiful strange place in the middle of nowhere, and we’re long overdue for a change. This June, we are packing up our bicycles, taking to the skies, and bikepacking across Europe for as long as our funds allow. And I will be here every step of the way, telling you about it in
excruciating thoughtful detail.
Up first will be what we plan to take with us, our bikes, and our gear. If you play your cards right, you may even get to hear from the man himself, bike aficionado and my stud of a husband, Eli Shank. That way I can focus on the important stuff (like baguettes and pierogi and weißbier, oh my!), and Eli can teach you everything I wish I could remember about gearing ratios and wheel bearing adjustments.