I positioned my chair next to the window to catch the sunlight on my book. I had borrowed the book from the main lodge library. “A Gypsy Life” — it told of daring adventures on a constantly sinking sailboat. We were resting in our cabin after a day of skiing. This would become our daily routine. Every afternoon we returned from skiing around 2pm or 3pm. One of the adults took a nap with Isaac while the rest sat around the table to drink a bottle of wine and eat chocolate while reading. When we first arrived, my Mom started leafing through the one bit of literature in the cabin — a history of LL. Bean. My Dad and I didn’t pick up our books until later at the main lodge. My Dad chose a park ranger’s research on the melting glaciers in Glacier National Park in the mid 2000’s.
The cabin was a one room log cabin. The front porch looked west over Long Pond. On sunny days, we left our boots on the porch to dry to keep some of the dirt out of the cabin. Inside, the one room was open up to the gable roof. The walls were built with stacked 10″ diameter logs. New rustic-styled master bed and bunk bed filled half the room. Their thick red flannel comforters lent an authentic Maine air. The rest of the room had older furniture from previous owners — two bureaus, a writing desk turned table, and a collection of old wooden chairs with legs wired together so they wouldn’t fall apart. The only heat came from a giant old wood stove. Depending on how we filled the stove, it seemed to have two states — roasting the small cabin, or smoldering and smoking pathetically out the chimney. The cabin had no electricity or plumbing. Lighting came from three propane lamps which we used sparingly and the windows. The high windows on both gable ends lit the whole cabin well, but for reading I always huddled near a side window.
Around 5:30 the cabin got too dark for reading so we all wandered up to the main lodge for dinner. The main lodge was also off the grid, but fully modern. 27 solar panels and a propane backup generator powered LED lights, running water, and a full kitchen. Dinner at Gorman Lodge is a communal affair. It starts with one of the staff members or an enthusiastic kid ringing the bell outside to alert everyone. We all sat down at long wooden tables. The staff delivered heaping platters of fresh bread, salad, soup, entree, cooked vegetable, and finally desert. Some days we got lucky and sat with chatty people. Other days, the 5 of us were too big a lump to mix in with larger groups. Almost everyone was skiing lodge to lodge, so we would see people for a dinner, a breakfast, and then they would disappear. Two couples stayed the whole time we did.
After dinner the first night, a visiting astronomy professor led an evening of stargazing on the lake. He knew all his constellations, stars, and fuzzy galaxies. As he described each, he set up the telescope so we could see in more detail. People of all backgrounds, scientific and not, came out to look and ask questions. The professor pointed out features in the sky with a high power laser pointer. It drew a crisp green line up to the sky. For once, I identified the slight color differences between the hot and cold star he pointed at rather than being bewildered by a cacophony of white speckles. Venus set as we were heading to bed.
In the morning, after the communal breakfast, we headed off on the trails to the south of the pond. Chairback Mountain Rd and Long Pond Trail parallel each other with many cross over options. “We can get from the trail to the pond from here or here and take the shortcut across the pond back” Tyson pointed on the map, still thinking of flying his kite. We skied up the upper road first so the return trip would be mostly downhill. Isaac plodded along. He skied slower and slower the flatter the road got. I couldn’t even entertain him by finding yellow birch and paper birch, or unknown feline tracks. Tyson, up ahead, skied off on all the side trails to add them to his map. When Isaac caught up, he looked longingly down the hill, “Can we go this way?” Tyson shook his head when he climbed back up. “Too steep and fast, and we would have to climb right back up the hill.” The snow was still icy, so even slight downhills were zippy. I looked at the map. The next crossover was shorter, and led to a series of downhills on the Long Pond trail. “Isaac,” I said, “come look at the map. We are here, and we are going to ski ahead to this next cross over and then ski down the hill. Ok?” He grumbled, but started moving forward again.
Isaac skied a little, and twiddled his thumbs, and sang songs, and poked at the snow on the side, and dragged his feet, and stood on one ski, and finally made it the 0.3 miles to the next cross over. He grinned brilliantly when he saw it. “Hey Mom, let’s go down this hill!” I looked at him and asked, “which way did we say we would go?” His whole body slumped over, the twinkle gone from his face. “Straight ahead” he said sadly. “No,” I replied, hoping I could prod some memory of our conversation at the previous stop, “that’s not what we said.” Isaac looked up again, shoulders still hunched ready for defeat. “Then where?” He asked confused. “Down this cross over trail,” I replied. “Oh”, he straightened his shoulders pondering. His face was still puzzled as he turned down the hill.
Isaac led the way on Long Pond trail. He hurried up each hill searching for the next downhill glide. Then we skied west to the next intersection with the Chairback Rd. We skied back the upper road to the same cross over. We descended the cross over again and skied back east on Long Pond trail back, making a figure eight. We arrived at the cabin by 2pm in time for nap and reading.
To be continued…
AMC winter trails map.
Official AMC Gorman-Chairback lodge page.