Cold Days on a Snowmobile and the Will to Survive
Sometimes when I look outside on a cold winter day like today, when the temperature is hovering somewhere around 2 or 3 degrees above zero, I miss being out in the middle of the northern Maine woods, bundled up and cruising along the countryside enjoying the beauty of nature. Seeing nature from the inside, rather than observing from the perimeter, is something I really enjoyed about being on a sled. I was in the middle of a place I’d never be without motorized transport.
A Nasty Little Trip
Before I got to the point where I was able to enjoy scenic vistas and appreciate nature, I rode just to ride without due concern for the elements. I remember well one trip with a local guy, Ray McCutcheon, who owned Troy Wood Products in Sidney at the time. We trailed up to Mt. Blue and headed out toward Rangeley. It’s a long ride by sled and even longer when the temp is in the single digits and you aren’t dressed for it. By “you” I mean “me.” I had L.L. Bean wannabe boots and no wool socks and my feet were freezing. Add to that no face mask on my helmet and just a t-shirt under my coat, and you have a recipe for disaster. It almost became that!
25 or so miles in, I was hurting. My face was numb…my torso was cold and I couldn’t feel my feet. Oh, and my wool mittens were stiff with ice. Yeah, a real outdoors guy, that’s me.
Luckily, in the middle of the journey, there is a place known as Four Ponds where four ponds nearly come together. Clever name, huh? Anyway, Ray’s in-laws have a remote camp there which we finally get to as the sun begins to fade. Unfortunately, nobody’s there and the camp is locked up. At this point I’m thinking I need some warmth and Ray is frantic because he thinks I’m going to die. Between you and me, that woulda sucked.
Eventually, with no other options, Ray breaks into the camp. I’m delighted to have some shelter because, in addition to being cold, I recall it was quite windy, too. Because there is no electricity, there is no heat. So, the camp is frigid. However, a fire in the wood stove soon puts an end to that.
As the cold gives way to heat, I can suddenly feel my face and feet again. Ray’s in-laws and friends show up on snowmobiles and are thankful to be walking into a warm camp. The next couple of hours is spent having a couple of beverages and playing cards.
We never made it to Rangeley and I don’t remember the trip back to Mt. Blue but I’m here talking about it, so that’s a good sign, right?
There were many rides after that and there was a great story to go with most of them, like my trips with Renee and listeners to The Birches in Rockwood or Sterling Inn in The Forks. The rides to Pittston Farm near Seboomook Lake were great but, after all you could eat at the farm’s bountiful buffet, the ride back was never a treat. It was on such a trip many years ago that we found a bull moose antler shed in the middle of nowhere. The antler sill hangs on the wall in my office.
All in all, it’s just another brick in the wall. Wow, did I just channel Pink Floyd? What I meant to say is, these memories are, for the most part, good. They have all been with friends and have always culminated with some kind of magnificent food dish, which is what the whole point of riding is, right?
From a view of Baxter State Park from the edge of a remote ridge to Saddleback Mountain from a remote hilltop, I’ve seen some beautiful sights. Once you get to the perfect viewing spot and turn the engine off, there’s nothing but a whole lot of silence and plenty of surrounding beauty. Top that off with a cold soda and some beef jerky, and you have a moment that will bring tears to a grown man’s eyes.
So, as I look outside today at the bright but frigid weather, I long just a bit for the days of owning a snowmobile. Then, with the flick of a switch, my space heater comes on and I’d rather be nowhere other than where I am. If I want to go riding, there’s this new thing called the Internet that will take me where I want to go and I can stay warm while I visit!