Cross Country Skiing – North Country Style

Looking out over the lake in summer

1995 was a year of change for me.  My marriage of nine years ended suddenly during the fall of 1994.  My two daughters, age seven and nine, began to spend every other weekend with their dad.

After years of their company, I found myself alone.  I spent a few weekends sitting at home before I realized that I needed to get out and do things.

Errol, New Hampshire

My brother owned a camp overlooking a small lake outside Errol, New Hampshire.  The camp had been in the family since 1960.  The camp sat well-positioned at the shallow end of the lake, next to the beach.  Mountains surrounded the lake.

1994-95 was a year of change at the lake as well.  A paper company owned miles of the wilderness area surrounding the lake.  For the first time in nearly three decades, the paper company focused on the lake and started a major tree harvesting operation.  Logging trucks went in and out during the weekdays, and areas of wilderness were opened up.  The paper company maintained the three mile road leading in to the lake that winter.  For the first time ever, campers could use their lakeside camps for winter activities.

Ride to Camp

My brother invited me up to camp to snowmobile and ski.  There was a good snow pack and a three day weekend coming up.

Camp was a three hour ride from home.  I left after work on Friday afternoon.  The weather was clear.  It had been dark for hours when my brother met me at the start of the three mile road in to the lake.  He followed me to camp.

I had a little Ford Tempo painted Sandalwood (an exotic name for gold).  The Tempo was all wheel drive.  Ford only made them for a year or two.  It had a button by the rear view mirror that you pushed to engage the all wheel drive.  It was a great little feature when it worked, and it did help to get me up to camp that weekend!

Camp

We were a quarter mile from camp when I turned down the camp road.  My brother flashed his lights at me and honked his truck horn.  I stopped about thirty-five yards down the camp road.  I got out of the car and sank in snow.

My brother came running up to me and told me I was on a trail and not the road.  The camp road was just a little further away.  This trail had been added by the logging company since I had last been to camp.

He couldn’t believe that my car still sat on top of the snow.  I got back in the car, pushed the magic button by the rear view mirror, and backed the car until I was on plowed road again.  We finished the ride to camp without further incident.

Get out the Cross Country Skis

The next day dawned sunny and warm for a January day in the north country.   My brother went outside to work on his snow machine.  About ten o’clock, I strapped on my cross country skis.  With all the new logging roads and trails circling the lake, I had lots of ski choices.  My brother suggested I ski around the right side of the lake, cross the outlet, and come back across the middle of the lake.

The lake in winter

He had a snowmobile trail across the lake that I could follow coming back.  I had never been on the back side of the lake past the outlet because the area had been heavily forested with no access road.

The thought of exploring was exciting!

It was only a couple miles.  I would be back for lunch.  One mile into the ski, I crossed the outlet, and started up the backside of the lake into new territory.  I reached an intersection.

The day was warming up nicely into the fifties.  I thought I would ski a little further.  Instead of taking the trail to the left around the lake, I decided to go up the hill.  I figured the trail would loop to the left above the lower trail.  It should give me a great view of the lake.

I sure was wrong!

Looking up where I got lost and found lots of snow

LOST

The trail I chose kept taking me further away from the lake.  I thought about turning around, but I kept thinking the trail would circle back.

It got to noon time and I couldn’t even see the lake.  I had not brought anything to eat or drink since it was supposed to be a short ski.  Two hours of skiing had made me thirsty.  Eating snow did not help much.

Pay my Dollar

I suddenly came up on a logging yard and the trail widened into a large road.  Several pieces of heavy equipment were parked for the weekend.  I had to take my skis off and carry them over my shoulder because of the ruts and shredded wood in the road.  As I was walking by one logging rig, I spotted a bottle of iced tea on the dash.  I wanted that drink!

The vehicle was not locked.  I looked around.  I kept waiting for someone to yell at me, but all the equipment was abandoned for the weekend.  I couldn’t just take the drink!  I dug into my pants pocket and came up with a dollar bill.  I reached in to the rig and took the unopened drink, leaving a dollar on the dash.  Oh I would love to be here on Tuesday when the guy got to his rig and found a dollar, but no drink.

That tea was nectar!

Miles to Go

Now, I was still miles from camp.  The road finally seemed to be circling back the way I wanted, but I still could not see the lake.  When I could put my skis back on, I skied down the road, thinking about my options.  I had an idea.  At the next clear cut on my left, I would ski down the mountainside.  If I went down the mountain, surely I would meet up with the lower road?

I shortly found just such a clear cut.  As far as I could see, the snow was untouched.  Instead of packed snow, it meant skiing through a top layer of loose snow almost a foot deep.  I figured that I couldn’t use the edges of my skis because of the deep snow.   I would have to go straight down.  Off I went.  This was great.

Snow Everywhere

I picked up speed and the air rushing past my face felt so good.  What was that?  Oh no, a moose had crossed the mountain below.  Too late, I hit the moose tracks.  One ski stopped dead while the other ski kept going.  When I stopped tumbling, I sat up.  Good news, nothing broken.

I had snow in my coat pockets, snow packed down my pants, snow inside my gloves, my hat was gone – and I even had snow in my bra!  How did I manage that?  I laughed.

What a day!

My idea had worked out.  After cutting across several more trails, ten miles later, I made it back to camp.  My brother was still working on his machine.  He hadn’t even noticed I was still gone.

That was plenty of adventure for one day.

Snowmobiling

The next morning, much as I prefer skiing, I tamely sat on the back of my brother’s snowmobile as we toured the surrounding area from the convenience of a motorized machine.  We went miles from the camp – but a lot quicker!

Very Lucky

I realized how fortunate I had been the day before.  I had an adventure and I did not get lost or hurt.