Monday, March 31, 2008

Snowmobiling The Day After A Blizzard Hit

That was the best snow of my life.

Three days before that photo was taken, there was two and a half feet of hard packed snow out there in the front yard, whoops, I mean doorya'd of Katahdin Lodge and Camps in Moro, Maine. Then about three feet of super soft and fluffy white powder fell all over the snow belt up there that includes the Township of Moro Plantation. It was a two day blizzard all over those Great North Woods.

Two days before that photo up there was taken, when the snow began to come down, we knew that a huge storm was just beginning. And with about two feet of snow already on those roofs of our small cabins back there we knew that the upcoming snow would add more than enough weight to cave the roofs in. If you look at the piles of snow around the cabins you will see how the snow that I had shoveled off those roofs is piled up around there with fresh powder on top of it. But there isn't a full three feet of fresh snow on the roofs because I had shoveled some off and then the harsh, blizzard winds had blown a lot of snow from that open area into huge drifts against the snowbanks that were alongside the road out front. The snowbanks and snowdrifts were all ten to fifteen feet deep all along both sides of the road out in front of the Lodge. It was a couple of weeks before we could look out the Lodge's first floor windows and see any cars driving by.

Before the new snow coverered it, I already had a well worn snowmobile track worked into the snow there in the front yard of the Lodge. The track went in a large, tromped on looking oval shape all around the outsides of the cleared property there. It had one trail going off into the ninety-mile deep forest behind the Lodge's yard, but that trail only went about a mile back in to Hale Pond. That section of snowmobile trail went over an old, minimally cleared and cared for woods road, which was on Lodge property. There was another snowmobile trail that lead from the Lodge across Rural Route 11 out front and on into the woods across the road. Then it traveled through a tightly cut and cleared section of woods trail until it lead out into some old farm fields.

My Uncle Finley Kenneth Clarke owned Katahdin lodge and about six hundred and fifty acres of woodland back there behind the Lodge. That woodland stretched all the way into Canada before it reached a tar road; and there's only a few woods roads in between. Some are well maintained and others are in various stages of overgrowth.

Somehow, supposedly, one corner of Finley's property angled out into the backwoods waters of Hale Pond. The pond was a mile and a quarter long, maybe a half mile or so across. A mile and a quarter long stretch of fresh, cold water seems too large to be called a pond, but in Maine, a pond is spring fed and has an outlet, a lake has an inlet and an outlet.

Due to the natural fact that Hale Pond was spring fed, no one was ever allowed to walk out on the ice there. I can't remember exactly, but I think that the spring water is a small number of degrees warmer than the pond water and the spring water flows up to the surface where it can seriously weaken a small area of solid ice that is surrounded by long distances of ice that is thick enough to walk or snowmobile on. No matter what the exact science behind it is, it isn't safe to walk or snowmobile on ice that is on a spring fed pond.

One impetuous time, my Aunt Marty--Finley's wife--and either her sister or a female friend snowshoed back to Hale Pond. They thought that it looked pretty safe to walk out onto the pond a short ways. After all, there was about two feet of snow all across the pond and up into the deep woods all around. And there were small, wind swept bare spots along the shoreline where they could see that the ice underneath the snow there was also about two feet thick. They then took photos of each other standing out about forty yards or so from the edge of the land.

When Finley saw those photos, he flipped his lid at Marty and the other woman.

Any sensible man would have.

Up there in that photograph, with the red snowmobile in it, while that beautiful, nicely settled in, powdery snow in the photo was falling, I was using a farm tractor with a wide, hydraulic bucket on the front of it to plow the Lodge's horseshoe shaped front driveway. The snow was coming down so quick, steadily and heavily that we knew that if I didn't do that plowing all night long then the driveway would become too snowed in for the farm tractor to handle. That meant paying for a bulldozer driver to come up and dig us out.

During that blizzard, Marty only allowed me to come into the Lodge to warm up for ten or fifteen minutes after every two or three hours of plowing fast falling snow. Fin had been out of state on National Guard duty when Northern Maine was struck by one of the biggest blizzards ever known of up there. So I had the whole blizzard to myself. Or more realistically, and without any "tongue in cheek" humor, I had to do all of the plowing and shoveling work myself. I enjoy being outdoors in snowstorms, immensely so, but one man on his own in that situation doing that snow clearing job really could have used a little friggin help.

Again, that was three feet of powdery snow that fell on top of two and a half feet of hard packed snow in two days. After I had shoveled and plowed snow all day, most of the night, and through the next day during that blizzard, my aunt had pointed out the healthy red complexion on my cheeks that the wind driven snow had given me. Then she said to me, with a squint on her face, "Now doesn't that feel good? Do you know how much it would have cost me to hire a bulldozer and its operator to come up here and clear all of that snow off of the driveway after the blizzard ended if you hadn't kept it plowed? A hundred dollars."

Conquering that sizable storm felt great to me.

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