Tales. Packing Trail on the Old Bank
Township D, Range 2, Maine
Deep snow and heavy rain can be one destructive combination.
The East’s winter build up of snow and cold has extended to Northern Maine and beyond. This
week school was closed for ‘Tournament
Week,’ a particularly apt local expression for a Maine
obsession which signifies Mainers
universal fixation on high school basketball.
has always parted ways from the other 49 states’ celebration of long
son, Caleb, in a week
reprieve from Diesel-Hydraulic-centric classes at the local community
was snow shovel crew boss.
sisters Sarah and Amy and his able friend and Wood Prairie all-star
and college chum, Justin, to attack and disrobe the drifted roof
valleys. Every roof
had two-to three feet of built up heavy
snow. In places,
there were drifts
approaching five feet. The
been calling all week for the possibility of rain today. Piled snow which soaks up
rain like a sponge
can increase roof weight to unbearable and catastrophic extremes.
Our tired crew
finished their snow shedding roof work last evening.
Soon after, we learned of a tragic Massachusetts barnful of Jersey
cows trapped inside when the snow-laden roof sighed, buckled and
barn down upon them, killing some and injuring many of the survivors.
Notably, it is the
energy and drive of youth which is admirable and seemingly limitless. One night this week
between long days on roof
snow removal, Caleb and Justin traded shovels for a real sit down job. It was their turn to work
as volunteers and run
the local Mars Hill Snowmobile Club’s snow machine and groom snow sled
associated with the main trail known as ITS 83.
To avoid snow sled collision and congestion
this grooming work is done
at night. This
week, Jim started out with
Caleb at the Mars Hill shed around 630pm and filmed their grooming
procedure. You will
find the result in today’s Snow Grooming You Tube video (2:43).
a hardworking young man in his early
twenties and a Registered Maine Guide for years, ‘spelled’ Jim and they
places at the point where the old railroad bed crosses Bootfoot Road
three miles east of Wood
Prairie Farm. When
there are no mishaps
the boy’s work takes around seven or eight hours.
Traveling around 7 MPH they clock in over 40
miles a night. This
week after grooming
they got to bed at 330am. Four
later they were up and ready for another day of snow shoveling.
Due to logging in
the immediate area this winter, a four mile stretch of the former rail
‘roadway’ is closed to snow sleds and instead reserved for exclusive
logging trucks. This dilemma has required invention of an imaginative,
crude 17 mile snow sled detour which lies about three miles west of our
farm - halfway
towards Number Nine Mountain – utilizing logging roads and connecting
up the overgrown
old Bank Farm Road with the ‘new’ Hannington Road.
Look on Map 59 of your Maine Delorme Atlas
and this may begin to make sense.
The boy’s grooming
responsibility extends south from Mars Hill to the north side of the
railroad trestle on the Meduxnekaeg
in Monticello. Midway at Harvey Siding,
they must groom an
almost nine mile leg of the detour northwest up the old Bank Farm
Road as far as Three Mile Hill. From there, other snow
groomers from further
north take over responsibility for trail grooming and on up towards
Bump in the Night.
Now last week,
grooming didn’t go quite as smoothly.
was around midnight and Caleb was taking his turn to drive the snow
machine. Justin was
sitting in the padded “Buddy seat”
cleverly built into the left side door. Everything was going well as
headed northwest at 6 MPH going deeper into the North
Maine woods on the crude Bank Farm Road.
suddenly, the groomer snagged a hidden
and buried stump not far enough off the edge of the trail. Instantly, the groomer stopped.
However, the heavily-gripped tracked snow
machine wanted to keep
going. In the few
seconds it took Caleb
to react and push in the clutch the now chained powerful snow machine
and down like a rodeo bronco. In one of those seconds, Justin was
upwards towards near Earth orbit.
Unfortunately, at that same split second, the
snow machine was
descending under the force of gravity from its most recent lunge upward. It wasn’t clear exactly
what Justin’s wool capped
head had hit, but the blood that began flowing down his forehead was a
good indication it was something harder than Justin’s head. Once the boys took a deep
breath and regained
their bearings, being resourceful Mainers, they went into action. They got the groomer
unstuck from the stump and then set to
driving deeper into the woods to a spot where they could turn the huge
around and head back towards civilization and help.
In the meantime,
their cell phone allowed them to wake up Justin’s girlfriend, Chelsea,
longtime Wood Prairie co-worker. Chelsea
woke up her sister
Michelle, yet another Wood Prairie lifer, and following instruction, on
cold winter’s night they drove across town from their home by the
border to the appointed meet where the Bank Farm Road
takes off north from the
snow-plowed logging road near Harvey Siding.
wasn’t long before Justin was patched up with
five staples and a shaved head at the Houlton Hospital
emergency room. In the meantime, Caleb made his way smartly and solo
the shed in Mars Hill by ‘panning’ shallow and packing the trail. Both Justin and Caleb’s
nights had ended
around 230am. When
this week’s grooming
slot rolled around, there was no question from any quarter as to where
boys would be.