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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.
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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.
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22 thoughts on “april

  1. Still lake ice in April. I don’t know if I could hack that, and I grew up in Minnesota. I wish you warm weather.

    PS: nice photos.

    1. growing up in minnesota, winters always seemed so long to me. they now seem like nothing compared to northern maine. borderline zone 3 is toooooo muuuuuch!

  2. Lovely ode to Clayton Lake:-)
    Just dreamy…as always, photos are superb(say it in french!)
    Who built the little shelter?

    1. i think it was the caretaker and his grandchildren who built the shelter. it’s hidden not too far off the road, about as far off as the old wagon in the above photo. lots of neat hidden things just a few feet from my doorstep!

  3. It would be rad to see some of those old logging camps! Maine’s forest harvesting history is so fascinating. At the conference I went to last weekend, one of the speakers was the president of the Maine Sporting Camp Association and she talked about life at camp and running a camp and it all sounded so lovely. Then I thought about the roads and all the snow and I was like…meh. I’d enjoy about a week at one of those places, then I’d be out, fo sho. I can’t believe you two have been up to that for the last four years! I’m so excited for your new adventure and can’t wait for all the deets.

    1. i was just looking at the ice out history for clayton lake, and the latest the ice ever went out was may 15th. MAY 15TH! that is just wrong. i can’t wait to get out there and find some more forgotten history — it’s all so close, but so lost to time and balsam fir regeneration!

  4. What an exciting change! I would lose my mind if I lived that far north–I like warmth and light and I feel like both would be in short supply up there, despite how beautiful it is.

    1. You have described how I feel half of the time up here, like I have lost my mind. It’s a beautiful remote place but my gosh is winter long. It’s hard to bear the burden of winter year after year.

    1. Yeah it feels like forever some days, other times it feels like we just moved up. I dunno, time is so weird. Looking forward to reporting more!

  5. YOUR PHOTOS! Last winter was brutal here, and though I generally love the season, by the end of April I was shaking my fists in the air screaming, “EEEEEEENOUGH!” (Have you ever tried that? Sometimes it works.) I admire anyone who can survive ice for months on end, year after year.

    I’m very much looking forward to hearing about your new adventure…

    1. I do that like every day. Maybe I should be saving it for special moments but I can’t help myself. Like how are all the lakes still so frozen??? ENUFFF!!!

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