A friend once said, “If you live in Maine, you need to embrace winter.” She was right. After too many years of misspent youthful winters, I found the antidote for cabin fever. Identify the things you love to do and discipline yourself to get out and do them. Eventually, you’ll be a winter devotee addicted to short days and long cold winter nights. Alright, that’s goofy talk. However, you may find yourself looking forward to your favorite winter activities in the fall, enjoying an abundant winter agenda, and feeling a sense of loss when spring arrives.
There are lots of excuses to stay huddled on the couch addictively binge watching whitewater videos and reruns of old Patriot’s Super Bowl victories. Limited daylight, frigid weather, ice storms, lousy traveling, the flu, snow removal; the list seems endless. If you think things are tough now, they were worse when I was a kid. I know, you’ve heard that before. But really, back then there were no Patriot’s Super Bowl victories to watch over and over and whitewater videos didn’t exist. I can remember when my grandparents had the only television in the neighborhood and viewing hours on the three stations were from four to ten. Life was tough.
Some winter activities require a substantial commitment of time, money, and travel such as snowmobiling, downhill skiing, or one of my favorites, winter mountaineering. Not so with cross country skiing. A pair of skis and poles, boots that fit, the usual winter garments, and you’re ready to ski the winter blues away. And, the sport is old people friendly.
One of my favorite cabin fever treatment clinics is Harris Farm X-Country Ski Center in Dayton. There is much to like at Harris Farm. A fourth generation family business, it reminds me of several farms that flourished in Randolph when I was growing up. Howdy Doody and the Mouseketeers were hit TV shows then. When I arrive at the farm, it’s like stepping back in time… without Howdy.
If you don’t have ski equipment or lack skills, you’re in luck at Harris Farm. They rent skis, boots, and poles. Lessons are available by appointment. Snowshoeing, sliding, and fat tire biking are also options. A family friendly place, it’s common to see parents guiding their miniature progeny on the easy trails or pulling babies in sleds. Cabin fever is a virtual impossibility when playing at the farm.
A confessional is in order. Something I don’t like about many commercial Nordic ski areas is short trails crisscrossing one another, often going in circles. I feel like a rat in a maze experiment. If you like that sort of thing, it’s an option at Harris Farm. However, a big attraction for me is that I can ski the perimeter trails on both sides of the road for about two and a half hours without once repeating a section of trail. It’s easy, even for us doddering geriatrics, just keep making right turns. The satisfying result is the impression of a wilderness skiing expedition.
Recently, frequent outdoor companion, Eggman DeCoster, and I met at the farm for an afternoon ski. Both old people, the Eggster is still fully engaged in employment as a carpenter but not opposed to stealing a mental health day for cabin fever rehab.
A beautiful, breezy winter day, the trails were expertly groomed and in superb condition. Fortuitously, Eggie was game for my favorite perimeter ski.
Beginning across the road from the lodge, we turned right, of course, dropped into a dense forested area, and glided the rolling hills of the intermediate Cold Water Brook Trails. Following about a mile of exhilarating skiing we emerged onto a wide field connecting with the easy Joe Buzzell Trail network. Persisting to the more difficult Farm Forest Trails, the sector ended with a challenging descent on Express Way.
After climbing steeply on Deer Run Trail, we crossed Buzzell Road and joined the Out-to-Pasture Trails. Cruising down Maternity Loop in an open field and negotiating demanding Lucky Logger, the Bobcat Loop was next. Traveling to the far eastern terminus of the trail network, consequential Buck Bramble was successfully navigated before returning to the lodge on Sokokis Woods and Pole Barn Run Trails.
In frequent need of cabin fever therapy, this was one of my many regular visits to the Harris Farm clinic. I’ll keep returning until the snow is gone and the streams open for whitewater paddling. I’ll miss winter skiing when that happens.
Author of “The Great Mars Hill Bank Robbery” and “Mountains for Mortals – New England,” Ron Chase resides in Topsham. Visit his website at www.ronchaseoutdoors.com or he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.