Site Maintenance

Hey Everyone!

So, I’m doing some site maintenance, so the site may look a little different for the next day or two.  And just in case there are any mistakes, please check back in a couple of days!  You should be getting Cabin Life – #63 in the next day or two, so if you don’t please come back!

Again, sorry for the inconvenience!  Here’s a picture of Herbie just in case you’re mad!

Herbie

Herbie

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Cabin Life – #61

Psychologically, I am ready for winter to be over.  I like the snow and the Evening Entertainmentskiing and the trips to the gym that I just can’t justify when it’s nice out, but I would really like some nice warm days to come our way.  Maybe I’m not ready for winter to be completely done, but I could use a February or early March thaw.

I was sitting here reading the other night, when the radio suddenly turned off.  This is a common occurrence, due to the fact that my radio is a “solar” radio.  I put solar in quotes because this is what the radio was advertised as, but it is, in fact a crank/rechargeable radio that happens to have a small solar panel on it.

This past summer I spent a little bit of money getting solar lights and this radio.  Last winter I had used an old digital alarm clock for my radio.  That clock was the same one that’s been waking me up since I was a freshman in high school.  It was a good, old-fashioned plug in clock radio that had a battery backup so that if the power went out, your alarm would still go off.  I went through a lot of nine-volt batteries listening to NCPR last winter, so many that I had to repair the wire harness a few times.  I took that clock radio to the campground last spring and decided to leave it there when I got my new solar radio.

The reception that I get on the new radio is good, but tuning it is a hassle and if I don’t charge it in the car then I will inevitably spend a significant portion of my evening cranking the thing so that I’m not sitting here in an eerie, mind-numbing, depression-inducing silence.

All that being said though, I wonder how long I would last without it.  Now, admittedly, I live in a writer’s dream.  Solitude, peace, quiet, and lots of inspiration surround me.  I like the peace and quiet, with no neighbors’ dogs barking or loud vehicles driving by.  I like the lack of distraction when I’m writing and reading.  But riding out the winter with its long nights would most definitely be a lot more trying if not for the company of the radio.

I suppose that when you deprive yourself of a lot of distractions, it becomes a luxury to have a little something going on in the background.  I have friends that have come to visit the North Country and can’t sleep because there’s no sound of traffic or sirens to listen to as they drift off.  I don’t have that problem.  There’s no shortage of noise out here, it’s just not the type of noise created by planes, trains and automobiles.

Between the wood crackling in the stove and two rambunctious, mostly nocturnal cats, I have plenty of sound to drift off to.  Throw Pico’s gentle snoring into the mix and the sound of the ever-present wind blowing around the cabin and it’s basically a symphony of natural sounds all night long.  But there’s sometimes I just don’t feel like listening to the wind or to Ed and Herbie wrestling.  That’s when the radio becomes important.  The distraction of music or talk radio or whatever is on gives me a much needed respite from the regular sounds this cabin makes.

When the sun goes down at four-thirty in the afternoon, it’s the radio that keeps me awake until seven.  When I don’t know if I should bother shoveling in the morning, it’s the radio that lets me know.  And it’s not that I have the radio on all the time.  I can’t write with the radio on, but I can read and play Scrabble.  I don’t change the station that frequently because it’s a bother, so I often listen to talk radio or music for a week at a time.  Sure, the radio I got may be under-performing.  However, it’s my lifeline to the outside world and my one source of passive electronic entertainment.  And if that means that I have to spend ten minutes cranking it to listen to twenty minutes of music, I guess I’ll just have to be ok with that.

Be sure to like Middle of the Trail on Facebook for more pictures and daily updates and follow @JustinALevine for whatever it is I do on Twitter.

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Cabin Life – #60

Well, I survived Winter Carnival, along with another monster snowstorm.  So Hill out backfar this winter, I’d say that I’ve gotten between four and five feet of snow, most of it coming in two big storms.  Luckily, I had a friend with a plow help me out this time, so I’m not having to hike in to the cabin.  There’s no way I’m moving that much snow again.  I’d rather hike than shovel.

Last week I house-sat for some friends of mine who live in Saranac Lake.  It was glorious to have running hot water, fast internet and unlimited electricity.  Out of the three though, I would still take hot water over the other two.

While I was there, I looked at their bookshelf, and saw a few books on bees.  I remembered that they have bee hives, and I started to flip through the books they had.  And of course, I now have an idea in my head for this coming spring and summer.  Hopefully, this is one idea that will actually be beneficial in a number of ways.

I am definitely getting a bee hive.  Last summer I wrote about bees and how interesting I think they are.  And last spring I was going to make maple syrup, but didn’t get my act together in time to get a harvest of sap.  The bees are going to be a good mix of trying to produce more off the land, getting a natural sweetener to use, and maybe helping out nature a little bit.  Plus, my garden could use more than a little help.

I’m going to start off with one hive, but if it goes well this first year, I know I’ll get another one next spring.  It’s kind of weird to be thinking about bees in the middle of winter, when there’s a foot or two of snow on the ground, but I am actually really excited to get going on this.

In addition to the honey, I’m hoping the bees will be beneficial to my apple trees.  After last year’s lack of apples due to the odd weather back in March, I hope that this is the year I can spend some time on the trees and clean them up.  Add bees into the mix, and I think the apple trees are going to be looking good.

I’m excited about this stuff because this is the kind of thing that can help get me through the winter.  Thinking about the nice days when you can work outside in a t-shirt and shorts and the long hours of daylight definitely bring a ray of optimism into my view.  The days are noticeably longer, my stove isn’t burning as much wood to keep the cabin warm most days, and the little birds at the feeders are still pretty fat for this time of year.

I can’t wait to add bees into this mix.  They’ll be happy and well fed on apple blossoms and blueberry flowers.  And the plants should be thriving with the steady supply of pollinators.  And I will be basking in the sweetness of all their hard work.

Be sure to like Middle of the Trail on Facebook for more pictures and daily updates and follow @JustinALevine for whatever it is I do on Twitter.

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Cabin Life – #59

Like most people, I sometimes make decisions that I regret.  Last week I made Tools of the tradeone of those decisions, and I have been regretting it ever since.  The decision I made was to shave off my beard.  On the coldest day of the year.  It’s not that I’m worried about my ability to grow another beard, but it’s been, well, cold and for some reason I seemed to forget how much insulation I get on my face from the beard.  In hindsight, it was a horrible decision.

I made another decision recently which is turning out to be much better though.  I bought a double-bit axe for use around the property, and I could not be happier.

Amy doesn’t want me to cut down any live, healthy trees out here for fire wood, so I am relegated to cutting only trees that are already dead and/or down.  Luckily, we’ve had some pretty severe wind this winter and there has been no shortage of trees to buck up and drag out of the woods.  I use the chainsaw for almost all of this work.  But when I’m cutting what’s called a “widow-maker,” the chainsaw can get pinched in the tree if I misread how the tree will fall.  It doesn’t happen that often, but it’s good to know that I now have a nice axe to use to chop out the chainsaw.

I got a double-bit for two main reasons.  The first is that they have straight handles, so it’s a pretty accurate axe.  The other is that I can keep one blade sharp for chopping, and the other a little more dull for splitting.  After splitting several cords of wood by hand last year with an eight pound maul, swinging the three and a half pound axe is much, much easier.

I’ll still use the maul for knotty wood or the really big logs.  It’s heavy, unwieldy, and gets stuck a lot, but gets the job done.  I also have a ten pound mini-sledge to get the maul through the really nasty logs, but that’s a lot of weight to be swinging around all day.  The combination of the two pretty much guarantees that I can get any log split, but it might take a long time to get a few pieces of burnable fire wood.  Three and a half pounds versus eight is a pretty easy decision.

And speaking of decisions, there is an annual event that starts this week which always makes me happy that I’ve decided to make the northern Adirondacks home:  Winter Carnival.

Carnival is what makes a hard winter bearable.  Carnival is something that I think everyone who lives in the Saranac Lake region looks forward to.  It is like a winter break for everyone.  And as an adult, who doesn’t wish that they still got all the vacations that school kids get?

For those of you who don’t know, Winter Carnival is a weeklong celebration of surviving through the winter.  There is a Royal Court, concerts, contests, an Ice Palace, and the whole thing culminates in an unforgettable parade.  Outside.  In the middle of February.  Needless to say, there may be some alcohol involved in one or more of these events.

Back when I was in college, there was a standing rule that my parents were not allowed within fifty miles of Saranac Lake on parade weekend.  I’ve grown up a little bit since then, but they still honor the buffer.  The parade really brings the community together.  People travel from all over the country and world to attend Carnival, and I have yet to hear of anyone coming away disappointed.

It’s a boon to the town, as well as to everyone’s psyche.  You have to be pretty tough to survive the winters up here, and Carnival is a great reminder that we’re all in it together, no matter who you vote for or how much you make.  We’ve all decided to tough it out up here, and Winter Carnival is our reward.

Be sure to like Middle of the Trail on Facebook for more pictures and daily updates and follow @JustinALevine for whatever it is I do on Twitter.

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Cabin Life – #58

It’s twenty-four degrees below zero outside, and even though it’s warm in the Cherry logscabin, I’m still going to be wearing longjohns under my jeans all day.  I had a problem with the wood stove last night.  One of the metal grates that keeps the fire and coals up above the ash trap got knocked off kilter.  Not wanting what was sure to be a very hot fire sitting in the ash pit all night, I attempted to put the grate back into its proper place.  Even with a big metal poker and heavy leather welding gloves, I still managed to burn my thumb pretty bad.  The smell of burnt leather and flesh made for an aroma that was… unpleasant.

Last week, I wrote about my plans to build a new wood shed this summer.  I estimated that I will burn a little more than four cords of wood this year, and so I would like to cut, split and stack at least five cords of wood for next winter.  My supply this year is getting pathetically low.  I have a lot of extra soft wood that I can burn when the hardwood runs out, but on nights like the last couple, I want nice big hunks of cherry and maple roasting in the stove, not pine and poplar.

A lot of people commented that my estimate of five cords of wood seemed awfully high for a small, one-room, four-hundred square foot cabin.  They are correct in that I am over-estimating for next year.  I think it’s better to have too much than not enough.  Especially since I am facing the dilemma of not having enough this year and the fact that fire wood doesn’t really go bad if it’s stored properly.

There are a number of reasons that I think I need so much wood.  The first and foremost on my mind is that my stove is a piece of junk.  I may upgrade this summer in an effort to get more efficiency.  The stove I have now is actually a coal stove which gets horrible draft.  The one upside to this stove is that fire box is huge, allowing me to load up the stove and keep the fire going for as much as twelve hours.

But there are a few other reasons I’m going to need so much wood, and they can all be boiled down to one big statement:  My cabin was not built for someone to live in.  It was built to keep a few guys warm on weekends during hunting season.  From the half dozen single-paned windows to the complete lack of insulation in the walls, this place is more than a little drafty; it’s basically a tent made of wood.

From what I can tell, my cabin is the second or third structure to be built on this particular site.  There’s an old stone foundation that is larger than my place, and under my cabin is a big slab of concrete.  The cabin I live in was built sometime in the nineteen sixties or seventies, and it shows.  My bed is in the corner against the outside walls and there is a noticeable difference in temperature from one side of the bed to the other.  The walls are cold to the touch.

I keep one of the windows open a crack all the time to let in fresh air.  This is an inconvenient safety feature since I burn wood, candles, oil lamps and propane inside.  Without the fresh air feed, I’m not sure how long myself and the animals would have lasted.  But even if I didn’t crack that one window, I think there is enough of a draft coming in through the others that we would probably be ok.  The front door swells and shrinks dramatically with temperature changes.  When it is warm, the door barely closes.  When it’s cold, I have to latch it just to make sure a light breeze doesn’t blow it open.

And then on top of all of that, there is the floor.  I hate the floor in here.  The cabin is built up on cinder blocks placed on top of the old slab.  Then someone just piled field stones all around the base of the cabin to create a wind-break of sorts.  It is ineffective to say the least.  The floor is not insulated underneath, and even with the field stones, there is a steady breeze blowing only about an inch and a half directly under my feet.  This is the kind of place where you will be very unhappy without some good slippers.

The lack of insulation, the bad windows, the poor stove, and breezy floor are all factors in why I burn so much wood.  I’ve added weather stripping and a few other things, and I could do some remedy work like getting better windows or adding insulation, but that seems like a lot of expense.  And with the way the floor already slopes, I think it’s probably not a good idea to do too much work to this place.  It’s not worth the cost or the effort.  I guess I’d just rather build a big woodshed than a new cabin.

Be sure to like Middle of the Trail on Facebook for more pictures and daily updates and follow @JustinALevine for whatever it is I do on Twitter.

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Cabin Life – #57

Well, the January thaw made for a nice weekend, even though the skiing The Little Streamsuffered a little bit.  It was warm enough last Sunday that I actually was able to get the four wheeler going and plow the driveway.  I only had to hike in for a week or so, and can now once again drive all the way up to the cabin.  I really didn’t mind the hike and since the four-wheeler won’t start unless the temperature is about forty degrees, I’m sure I’ll be hiking in again before winter’s over.

It was also a nice break for the wood stove, and more importantly, my wood supply.  Or more specifically, my dry hardwood supply.  The stacks of wood were definitely in need of a break.

I have three wood piles.  One is out in front of the cabin, under the big window covered by a couple of blue tarps that are pretty tattered.  This wood pile rests on top of a bunch of old metal roofing and consists of mostly pine and poplar.  There’s some maple in there too, but not much.  This is my “junk wood” pile.

The second wood pile is stashed neatly in the shed that is attached to cabin. It is safely ensconced in the shelter of four walls and a cheap but solid roof.  There is a heavy wooden door with a massive iron latch to keep the elements out, and other than soft snow that gets blown in through some cracks, the wood is well protected.  This pile is all cherry, maple, oak and ash.  The third wood pile is in front of the shed, split and drying, waiting to be added to as I cut more trees for next year’s wood supply.

This fall, I actually had to buy some wood from a guy I work with.  The supply I cut last year was pathetically small, and once summer rolled around, I figured it was too late to have dry wood for the winter.  I stacked about a cord and half of the stuff I had done in the shed, and then had two cords delivered.  This all went in the shed as well.  I left the junk wood out in front and figured I could mix a little in here and there.  But I also figured I wouldn’t have to do that until some time in February.  It’s now the middle of January and I’ve been mixing in junk wood for almost a month.

I figured wrong on how much wood I would need this year.  But now that I’ve been paying attention, I know how much to do for next year.  My little four-hundred square foot cabin will need five cords of wood to heat.  This seems like a lot to me, and it seems like a lot of work.  I have also vowed to myself that I will not be paying for firewood next year, because, you know, I live in the woods.

But the amount of wood I’ll need to lay in for next winter is far more than can fit in the shed.  I’ll have to build a new wood shed, but one that is not attached to the cabin.  I’m going to build big so that I have some room for extra wood plus a little storage.  This is one project I can do for free from building materials that are just lying around here.  It’s not going to be pretty or square or level, but it’ll be tough enough to hold up.  There’s a good spot with southern exposure where I’m going to build, and the new shed will hold a prominent place in my yard.  This way, everyone will be able to bask in its functionality.

The plan is to take a bunch of small pines and spruces for the upright supports and use old metal roofing.  There are huge old planks of wood scattered around that will make perfect sides.  No piece of lumber out here is the same width and thickness, so I can safely say that this wood shed will have some character to it.  The very short lean-to is like that, as is the front porch with the unintentionally swooping roof.  Yup, that misshapen wood shed is going to fit right in.

Be sure to like Middle of the Trail on Facebook for more pictures and daily updates and follow @JustinALevine for whatever it is I do on Twitter.

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Cabin Life – #56

The sun is slowly creeping up over Whiteface, turning the sky into a mixture of Red Breasted Nut Hatchpastel blue, deep purple and burnt orange.  The icicles hanging down in front of the big window reflect the colors as the first chickadees of the morning start to come to the bird feeders.  Herbie and Ed are both on the couch, heads darting back and forth.  The view out the window looks like a Bob Ross painting.  Soft lines and happy little trees everywhere.

The January thaw is upon us here in the Adirondacks.  It’s a nice little break to have temperatures above freezing, but the rain that’s coming surely is not welcome.  Over the last couple of days, I’ve lost almost a foot of snow to the warm, humid air, but I’m not complaining about that.  There’s still plenty of the white stuff on the ground.

So much snow, in fact, that my driveway is no longer drivable.  I’ve been parking at the bottom for over a week now.  There’s obviously a pretty big downside to this, but also a few perks.  I’ve gotten good at not forgetting anything when I leave, and shoveling a hundred yards of driveway is definitely preferable to shoveling a quarter mile of driveway.  Also, the driveway is steep enough and snowy enough for me to ride the sled down to the car.  So even when I have to haul groceries or water up, I at least get a sled ride in exchange.  It’s really not a bad trade.

I called the plow guy back in October, and he said he couldn’t do my driveway this year because he got stuck several times last winter.  I naively thought that I would be able to keep up with the shoveling for the season, and even after the big storm the day after Christmas, I was able to keep the driveway open.  Sure, it was just wide enough for my car to get through, but that’s all I needed.  Then it snowed more.  Everyday day, in fact, and it got to the point where my car just wouldn’t make it up the driveway anymore.

The road I live on is about two miles long.  The first mile is paved, then it turns to dirt all the way out to my place.  The school bus turns around at the end of the pavement, so the town doesn’t bother plowing my end of the road every time it snows.  They only plow it every couple of weeks, regardless of how much snow there is.  This is an annoyance to be sure, but so far I haven’t been stranded out at my cabin.

I noticed last winter that the town plow would catch the end of my driveway and never leave me a snow bank.   This year, however, the first couple of times they plowed they left didn’t go to the end of my driveway, and instead left about fifty or sixty feet of road unplowed that I had to drive through or shovel.  It’s not that much to shovel, but it took me more than six hours to shovel after the Christmas storm and having to clear out that extra fifty feet was a task I really didn’t feel like completing.

This last time they plowed though, the driver must have seen my car parked just off the road in the driveway.  He backed the plow truck into my driveway and cleared that fifty feet of snow.  It was a relief to sled down there yesterday and know that my car was in the clear.  I don’t know if they did it to help me out.  But either way, it’s that little helping hand that locals give each other that makes me love the Adirondacks.

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Cabin Life – # 55

I woke up this morning, as usual, buried by animals.  Ed was lying on my chest, Black-capped chickadee through a dirty windowHerbie was at my shoulder flicking me in the face with his tail, and Pico was on my left, resting his head on my open hand.  It was nice and warm in the cabin even though I hadn’t gotten up all night to feed the stove, and I would have been content to lay there for a while before getting out of bed.

I thought about how my car was buried in a snow bank halfway up the driveway and how it’s going to take an hour or so to get it free.  I thought about how I’m still not done shoveling more than a week after our first big snowstorm.  I thought about how nice the bed felt.  Then Ed stretched and farted, and I jumped out of bed more quickly than I would have liked.  Pico and Herbie didn’t wait around in the danger zone either.

I fed the animals looked out the big window.  It seems like it is getting light a little bit later, but the reflection of the snow definitely helps the pre-dawn light to shine a bit brighter.  I checked the seed levels in the two bird feeders and decided that they don’t need to be filled today, but that I probably will fill them, just to put off shoveling my car out for another few minutes.

The feeders have been active this winter.  Last year, I had mostly black-capped chickadees, with an occasional visitor such as a house finch or blue jay.  But this year, there is an almost constant presence of chickadees, and white- and red-breasted nuthatches.  And from what I have observed, the red-breasted nuthatches are, well,  jerks.

All three species are pretty small birds, able to fit in the palm of your hand.  But the red-breasted nuthatches are the smallest, with the chickadees in the middle and the white-breasted nuthatches being about the same size as the largest of the chickadees.

There are two feeders, each with two sides to feed on.  At any given time there may be a couple of chickadees on one of the feeders, but then a red-breasted nuthatch will fly in and take over one of their spots.  Even when the other feeder has no birds on it, the reds will chase off a chickadee.  The white-breasted nuthatches don’t seem to be involved in this and generally take off before the reds have a chance to run them off.  The chickadees always share the feeders.

Even though I’m fairly short, I’ve never suffered from “little man syndrome,” that particular attitude short guys can get where they feel the need to overcompensate for their lack of height.  They like to start bar fights for no reason and generally see everyone as a threat.  I think this is what’s happening with the red-breasted nuthatches.  They’re small, so they’re just kind of overcompensating.  They’re not violent, but they’re not passive either.  The other birds seem to have figured out that this is just the way it is and they don’t bother fighting back.  They just get out of the way.

I know that if these birds thought that the seed in the feeders was a limited resource, they would guard and protect the feeders.  But because they know that there is ample food for all, there shouldn’t be that much competition.  I like having the variety of birds that come to the feeder.  It’s interesting to me and it’s the perfect reality TV for the cats.  I like watching them sift through the seed for their favorites.  I like watching them take an impossibly small seed and grip it in their feet to peck it open.   But I like it even more when all the birds can linger in peace eight inches from my window.

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Cabin Life – #54

The snow is still falling, but not as fast and furious as it was earlier.  I heard on Nick's Placethe solar radio that this is now called Winter Storm Euclid, but I think most people will remember it as the Blizzard of 2012.  I’ve got about twelve to fourteen inches on the ground, and it is still coming down.

I woke up early this morning to a text message from a friend letting me know that she had made it to Colorado alright.  The sun wasn’t up, but it was starting to get light out, so I got up and fed the pets and the woodstove.  The stove was cranking and it was pretty warm in the cabin.  I hadn’t done anything different in terms of what or how much I burned, but it was noticeably hotter in here.  When Pico and I went out for our morning relief, I figured out why it was so warm inside.  There was eight inches of snow on the roof providing a lot of extra insulation.

The next thing I did was to wax up my skis and get dressed for some outdoor activities.  After getting about a quarter mile from the cabin, I was glad I had set out early.  The snow was getting deep and it was hard to glide when I was breaking trail.  I could have followed Pico’s path, but that quarter mile would have turned into a half mile the way he runs all over the place.

Pico didn’t mind the new boots I had put on his feet, and the two of us made our way down to the little lean-to, named for the kid that built it, Nick’s Place.  It’s only about five feet high, eight feet wide and six feet deep, just enough for a couple of people to sleep in, though I doubt anyone has stayed there in quite a few years.  I’m always a little worried though, that when I round the corner of the trail and Nick’s Place comes into sight that some hermit or drifter will be staring out of the doorway at me.  It hasn’t happened yet, and since not even my landlord has seen the thing, I doubt if anyone will wander out here and find it.  But I always get just a little tense when I get close.  The more logical fear when it comes to the lean-to is that Pico will run in there and be face to face with a porcupine or raccoon.  He’s marked the area well, and hopefully my fears don’t come true.

Last weekend, I took Pico, a folding saw and some loppers to clean up the trail to the lean-to.  I’d like to make this place a little more accessible, and the first step in clearing out the existing trails.

From my cabin, I take the road that leads to Upper Camp.  About half way to Upper Camp there is a junction trail that goes off to the right.  It passes one of the old hand-dug wells and follows a stone wall to a large ash tree.  From there, the trail continues straight to a little clearing where all the pine trees were cut to build Upper Camp.  But the trail to Nick’s Place goes right, through a break in the large stone wall and meanders off into the woods.  I clipped some branches and small balsams that had started to grow, and pulled a few dead trees out of the way that fallen across the trail.  The trail then empties into an open glade, which in summer is beautiful.  Moss lines the ground and the thick clumps of balsam and spruce give off a classic Adirondack aroma.

There are thick evergreens that surround Nick’s Place, masking it in the woods.  Nick was the son of the previous owner’s and he did a nice job building this place.  The front is about half closed in but there is a doorway and a window, and the roof provides a little overhang so that snow doesn’t make its way inside.  After cutting out a few trees, you can see the lean-to from the where the trail enters the glade.  At least I don’t have to get too close now to see if anyone is living in there.

But this morning was not a work morning.  Pico and I just skied out to Nick’s Place and then bushwhacked up into the woods, heading towards the clearing up above.  I’d like to mark and cut a trail from the lean-to to the clearing, and found a pretty good route up there.  Of course, the route I took this morning is now covered in snow, and I’ll have to mark it another time, hopefully when there is not a blizzard going on.  It’s just one of the perks of doing this type of thing out here.  I get to ski it once, then ski again to mark it, and then ski it again to cut it out.  I could have done all that today, but I’m looking forward to having to do the route a few more times.  You know, as long as I don’t run into anyone along the way.

 

Be sure to like Middle of the Trail on Facebook for more pictures and daily updates and follow @JustinALevine for whatever it is I do on Twitter.

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Cabin Life – #53

Well, the world didn’t end, so we got that going for us, which is nice.  In fact, on Wood Shed Latchthe official first day of winter, we finally started getting some snow.  It rained all day, then switched to the very fine snow that blows around and looks like it’s snowing like crazy.  I woke up hoping to go skiing, but there’s still only an inch or so of snow on the ground.  I really want to go skiing.

The fine snow somehow makes it through the screens on my porch, coating everything out there.  I always try to sweep the porch before walking on it too many times, but Pico doesn’t care if the porch is clean.  He loves the snow.  When I let him out, he usually stares at the screen door like it’s the biggest barrier he’s ever seen.  But when we get snow, he noses open the door and takes off to prance around in the fresh white stuff.

Coming home last night, I drove through the white tunnel that is my road.  The balsams and pines that line either side of the road were coated in white, the branches just starting to droop a little bit under the weight of the snow.  I didn’t see any tracks across the road or going up the driveway.  Maybe it was too windy last night for the animals to be moving around much.

But on my way out this morning, I had a big fat bobcat run across about twenty feet in front of the car.  The first time I saw a bobcat was on the way up St. Regis Mountain.  When I was in college, I worked for a couple of summers as a Watershed Steward, which included a few days per week hiking to the very top of our little watershed, which was the summit of St. Regis.  I started walking up there one morning, my car the only one at the trailhead parking lot.

The first half or so of the trail is rolling, open woods.  Just before I started heading up the steeper, rockier part of the trail, I took off my baseball cap to wipe my forehead.  When I took off the hat, I caught a glimpse of some movement a few hundred yards ahead of me.  I looked more closely and saw the bobcat just staring at me.  The cat looked pretty small and leisurely walked off.  He was on the rock, so I didn’t see any tracks, but it was nice to see the cat.  The Paul Smith’s mascot is the bobcat, and it was nice to see one so close to campus.

The bobcat I saw this morning was at least twice the size of that other one.  The short little tail was sticking up as it took three leaps across the road.  I stopped to look at the tracks in the snow, and it’s paws were bigger than Pico’s.  I could still see him walking off into the woods, over a dead birch tree that was on the ground.  He didn’t even look back at me, totally unconcerned that I was only a dozen or so yards away.  I hope he stays in this neck of the woods and makes an appearance once in a while.  As long as I don’t see those big tracks on the porch, we’ll get along just fine.

Be sure to like Middle of the Trail on Facebook for more pictures and follow @JustinALevine for whatever it is I do on Twitter.

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