There has to come a day when you can no longer do it—travel into wilderness camps some 20 plus miles in on unplowed roads via snowmobile.  I had doubts this year and prayed that the snow depths would be benign for roofs. I did not get my wish, and it was time to go in or simply give up, and giving up is no longer so abhorrent.  My father gave up going fishing when he was in his early fifties and for no reason. But not me—not yet. And before I go on, I categorically state that this has been the most miserable winter I have ever seen, and there is nothing close.  It started in late October and is pounding hard as I write this, perhaps not coincidentally April Fool Date. Look, I have seen tons of early snow, and November is early but it always melted and it was not winter. This year was different—the first snow was the real deal and there is no end in sight.  The likelihood of serious floods increases every day and flood prone areas had better be prepared.

Rangeley is immune from floods—or is it?  The road to Farmington floods, as does the road to Rumford and the road to Stratton.  I could see Rangeley cut off from anything for a long while if serious flooding occurred.  I reffed basketball one December evening and we had had a lot of snow and it had turned to major rain.  I was the last one to come back from Rumford for several days, as the road had a lake on it. And if it does happen here (look at Iowa and Nebraska—they have never seen such flooding), it won’t be a quick fix.  Even when the waters recede the roads need fixing and helicopters won’t be coming here soon. We are a long way down that food chain.

Back to age caused infirmity.  It was about ten years ago, so that puts me in my 60’s.  I was going fishing in Rangeley Lake, as I had done so many times before.  I was on the dock and it was time to jump into my boat. My God, it is a two-foot drop and the boat has a wooden floor in it.  I had done it a thousand times! I hesitated—it was the beginning of the end. Now I get a running start and jump to show myself I can do it—but it has never been the same.  Confidence, not to be confused with cockiness, is a wonderful thing. Into the wilderness at my age.

There were four of us and we each had snowmobiles.  We unloaded and hooked up. We had two toboggans and lots of gear.  It takes an hour to do that, and it is not easy. I have a one-cylinder Tundra which I love but it is not the best machine to ride fifty miles on.  Still it is the only machine that I can get unstuck myself. And I am always saddled with hauling the heaviest toboggan. It usually is of no consequence, but this trip would be different.

A mile out there was a large moose on the trail.  There was five feet of soft snow and the moose liked the hard-packed trail.  We stopped and pondered the situation. I had seen this before and we had a problem.

“Unless the moose have a beaten trail across our trail, this moose is not getting off our trail.” They didn’t believe me, but I know a thing or two.  True to form, despite snow machines being close to it, it refused to get off the trail. And it was not going to, no matter what. We had sixteen miles to go, and the moose was going about two miles per hour.  This was not going to work. The other three machines could go from slow to fast in short order. I instructed them to go one at a time. The first sled approached the moose and went for it. He blew by it but the moose was now in a rage.  He put his ears back and that is trouble. The next two made it and now it was my turn. My machine would not go from slow to fast—no way.

By now my buddies had created a barrier of snow machine in front of the moose—not anything I suggested.  The moose took a stand and dealt directly with me. The snowmobile trail was at least three machines wide but going off it, either a machine or a moose, was not an option.  I tried to get by three times and the moose cut me off. I tried a different approach. I approached slowly and talked to the moose. I am not sure it had anything to do with it but the moose did not move.  I passed it on the right within two feet of it and I could smell it as I went by. The moose event had taken nearly an hour. A few miles from Skinner there were two more moose but they got off the road. For my money these moose were in terrible shape and this winter will kill everything off.

A mile from camp there was a partridge waiting to cross the road.  Hardly unusual, but it was not moving. I reached down and it was frozen solid.  I have no idea what had killed it but there was no sign of anything. No disturbance on the snow of any kind and it was sitting up lifelike.  One of my guys suggested it had flown into a snowmobile, and if that is true, it was the unluckiest partridge I have ever seen. In retrospect I think the bird froze to death.    Still, a partridge that hits a truck, or a snow machine or flies into camp windows is pretty banged up. It does not sit up as this one was. And why did not some predator eat it—it sat there ghostlike and I have no idea!

Two hours late, but still surviving, we reached the last barrier—the footbridge.  It is a cable bridge that spans the Moose River, the last test of getting to camp.  Still, it is a test! It is 120 feet long, with no structural supports. It is all cable and it is a challenge to cross it with a snowmobile.  But it is the last of barriers and it is dangerous. Get across that and you are in Skinner. The guys waited for me. I looked down at what I had done so many times.  It is often said that a man has nine lives (or is that a cat). Whatever had been allocated to me, I knew full well that I had spent three on that bridge! I had great trepidation as I got on it with a snowmobile. It pitches down as you start, and down is scary.  You can not coast, no matter what. Keep the machine going and use the motor to hold it! Now you are in the valley and the river is eight feet below—as I have said, I have been in that river three times before. Now, you get to the upslope! Throttle on, but not so much that you slip, and as you get to the other side, there is four feet of snow waiting—now throttle on!  It is not for the faint of heart!

We got there, several hours late—but got there nonetheless.  The snow conditions were horrible. We could walk on the crust for just a second and then broke through to our crotches.  There is nothing more exhausting. Once when I was in my teens I headed by foot to my favorite pond. There was four feet of snow that held nothing and I walked two miles only to find the pond had ten inches of ice on it.  Undaunted, I went to camp and found some salt pork. Do trout hit slat pork? They hit it like crazy! Many years later I headed to that pond knowing the ice was in. I had night crawlers. If salt pork had worked, they would go berserk for crawlers.  Never got a hit!

We collectively endured everything, but at the end of the day, I asked myself “Why?”  And I do. We shoveled roofs but those camps have been there for 100 years. If you study the construction of these old camps, you would swear they could not stand any snow load.  The support comes from two-inch trees that run inside the camp and up against the roof—they are four feet apart. They run from the peak to the wall—at least ten feet. I don’t understand it today.

I was lame for five days—but I did it!

MARKET REPORT

Approaching all time highs.  The president got furious at the Fed chairman and called him out on interest rate hikes. This is a real no-no for America! The Fed is supposed to be autonomous. Still the Fed blinked and stopped raising and even announced no more hikes this year.  Does the Fed see doom approaching? Time will tell, and no matter what happens. Recession or not—it is not caused by the president, nor can he prevent it.