At the risk of sounding like an old-timer exaggerating the severity of winters gone by, I must say that the Rangeley winters of the early- to mid-1970’s were a whole lot tougher than those of recent years.

In 1972, I owned a primitive cabin on Mooselookmeguntic, complete with no running water, a woodstove and a one-seater outhouse. I had purchased a Ski-Doo from Ronnie Sargent, and I was eager to use it.

Not having a clue as to what winters could be like up there, I decided to go up for a long weekend in January. So what if a bad storm was forecast for inland Maine.

It was snowing pretty good by the time I got into Maine, stopping at the Kittery Trading Post to buy a pair of snowshoes. I had never used them, but thought they might be good things to have. I actually bought two pair, one long and narrow for firmer show and a big fat pair of bear paws for powder.

They were hand made of ash, laced with rawhide, and I still have them today. I know the newer aluminum ones are lighter and stronger, but tell a person who owns a vintage wooden Old Town Canoe that the plastic ones are more practical, and see what you get for a response.

By the time I got back on the turnpike, it was really coming down. Of course, I had the perfect vehicle for these conditions: a 1966 Chevy station wagon with precious little tread on its summer tires.


I heard on the radio that the speed limit had been lowered to 40. As I passed Portland, they announced that the Maine Turnpike had been closed. Continuing my unbroken string of bad decisions regarding this trip, I ignored the warnings and continued toward Auburn.

It was a blizzard.

Fortunately, I got behind a tow truck, following it to the Auburn exit, where I gratefully stopped at the Holiday Inn. I figured the storm would be over in the morning, and I would be on my way.

At 7 a.m., it was still snowing and blowing. After spending almost an hour shoveling out the car, I headed north on Route 4. The conditions were awful, but Mainers knew how to deal with blizzards a lot better than southern New Englanders, so the roads were slow, but passable. Sort of.

In yet another burst of poor judgment, I decided it would be shorter to go through Rumford and take Route 17 to the Herbie Welch Trail, then down to my cabin on Stephens Road. Route 17 was bad enough on a nice day, let alone in a blizzard with whiteout conditions. I averaged 10-15 mph.

They say that God often protects fools and little children, so I made it to my driveway by 8 p.m.,  about 12 hours since Auburn.


How I even found that driveway is a wonder since the snow on the ground was over three feet deep, and the plowed up banks on either side of Stephens Road were twice that.

It was about 10 degrees out, and still snowing hard. A perfect time to try using snowshoes!

After somehow getting them strapped on, I started down the long driveway, promptly falling over in the fluffy powder. I felt like a turtle on its back must feel, as I couldn’t get up.

After what seemed like an eternity, I removed the snowshoes, then got up and re-strapped them. It probably took me close to an hour to get to the cabin. I got in — cold, sweaty and exhausted — and got a fire going.

I made two more snowshoe trips to get my stuff, then just about passed out for the night.

By next morning, the storm was over, the sun was coming up and it was spectacular. The amount of snow was outrageous in this startling white, crystalline landscape. The thermometer read 20 degrees as I headed for the one-seater. Yes, on snowshoes, about 75 feet from the cabin.


The skin on my face immediately tightened up, my eyelids weren’t working well, and you can only imagine what that seat felt like. Back at the porch I saw that, while the thermometer did indeed read 20, it was on the south side of zero, at 20 below.

Huck Haley came down and plowed my driveway with a bulldozer. I got a set of chains put on at Morton’s garage, stocked up on food, and headed back to the cabin to live simply for a few days, and read a book or two.

I do not recommend introducing yourselves to snowshoeing in such an idiotic manner; however, I sure came to enjoy them that weekend.

One morning, I got up before dawn and snowshoed due west to the middle of the lake to turn around and watch the sunrise. It was bitter cold, and breathtaking in more ways than one.

Unlike cross-country skis, snowshoes give you superb support in deep powder, and the ability to maneuver more easily through the forest.

I always smiled to see the small flocks of Chickadees flying through the trees, singing and scolding as if it were a warm summer day, in below zero temperatures.


There were no people anywhere near my cabin, maybe for miles, and it was a bit eerie — especially at night.

I brought two books that a friend had recommended: “Tales” by H.P. Lovecraft, and “Night’s Black Agents”  by Fritz Leiber. Both these guys wrote hard core science fiction horror. With the exception of Poe, you can’t equal Lovecraft, and Leiber was no slouch, either.

I sat by the fire and read “Diary in The Snow,”  a story about a writer who sequestered himself in a remote Colorado mountain cabin, only to be stalked by sinister alien beings. Then I read Lovecraft’s “The Whisperer in Darkness,”  which takes place at a remote Vermont farm, also besieged by other pesky extraterrestrial monsters.

One may take such stories as being far-fetched and harmless while reading them at the library. The effect is far different when you are reading alone, at the edge of hundreds of square miles of uninhabited forest, on a bitter cold moonlit night.

Don’t believe me?  Try it!

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