And so ends the most remarkably long cold snap we've had in many years. As of this writing, at the tail end of January, the cold snap finally ended late last night with a freezing rain that turned into all rain, falling on top of 14 inches of dry powder. It ended just about a solid month of unusually cold weather. We had 18 below zero over here in East Blue Hill one night. And there were a couple of twelve below nights, and a few ten belows. But the shocker is that it never got above freezing for the whole month. No January thaw. And the snow! It was the softest, loveliest snow you could imagine and it was deep. And it stayed and stayed and stayed.
The skiers and snowshoers were out in force. There's a cadre of cross-country skiers in Blue Hill who have a network of trails from their backdoors out into the great Maine woods. There are some vast stretches of woods in this area crossed by no tarred roads, just logging trails and foot paths. There are places no one ever visits in the summertime save the beavers, but in winter, when the snow is just right, they become accessible. You almost always run into other skiers out on the trail. "Look, Maud! There are people gliding through the woods on skis. They must think they're in the Klondike!"
One of my favorite trails is an old cow path that goes from the village of East Blue Hill up to Alfred's Meadow, a twenty acre landlocked field about a mile up in the woods. Many years ago, when people kept cows in East Blue Hill, a young boy had the job of leading the cows up the trail to Alfred's Meadow every morning and leading them back down every night. Nowadays the grass goes ungrazed but the trail still remains.
The late John McGraw on the Jay Carter Road knew all the trails. He was an interesting cuss, a bona fide Maine original. He spoke his mind and didn't care who heard it. No one could tell him what to do. He did what he thought was right and never mind the red tape. I visited him a few years ago when he was in his eighties and he was telling me how to get to an area he called the Golden Sickle. It was a sickle shaped clearing about two miles up into the woods. He used to take a team of horses up there and pull logs out of the woods. He was describing a certain cross trail going east/west between two other trails and I thought I knew where he meant. "You mean where an old galvanized washtub marks the westerly end of the trail?" I asked.
"Christ!" he said. "Is that washtub still there? That was the trail marker when I was a boy of twenty!"
So the cold snap ended and the freezing rain fell and now there is a half an inch of icy crust over the whole countryside. The squirrels scamper about on the crust but it's not thick enough to support the weight of a man or a dog and when you break through, it's a long way down. Walking is almost impossible and even with snowshoes it's a hard go. The only thing that can fix it now, is more snow.
by Phil Norris