Hiking Up Douglas Mountain

Getting to the mountain

Days off together are a precious commodity for Nick and I, since he works retail and I have a 9-5:30 job during the week. We never know when we might get a day together, so we try to take advantage when it happens. Yesterday was just such a Sunday. We slept in together, and headed up to Douglas Mountain in Sebago after we stopped off at DD so I could get my coffee.

The drive up to Sebago
The drive up to Sebago

The drive up was cloudy at the outset. Nick said that even if it didn’t get brighter or warmer, the view would still be worth it. He has already hiked to the top of Douglas Mountain a few times. The sun came out as we ventured further north and wound around the lake. We took Route 114 North up through Sebago to Douglas Mountain Road, past picturesque farms and bright green hills. The Maine countryside looked fresh from numerous April rainstorms. We saw no more signs of winter.

Peaceful green Maine countryside
Peaceful green Maine countryside

We arrived at the parking lot around 12pm, and prepared our backpacks with water and some snacks. This time of year the forest is busy composting millions of leaves, and recent rainwater helps to turn everything into a useful mulch. So we started out carefully, stepping around the thick mud and ankle-deep puddles at the bottom of the hill.

Nicholas climbs Douglas Mountain
Nicholas climbs Douglas Mountain

The hike out to the peak and back, using the Eagle Scout Nature Trail (map here), is about 3 miles. Both of us had brought our Apple Watches, but we forgot to “start” the hike digitally at first, so we both ended up tracking 2.65 miles there and back. Though muddy and full of many puddles that looked like mass mosquito nurseries, the trail up the mountain was gradual and provided many rocks and roots to step on during the climb. It was steep enough that I had to catch my breath a couple times on the way up.

 

At the summit

The 16-foot stone tower at the summit was originally named for Dr. William Blackman, a surgeon who had purchased the area in 1892 and built the structure himself. Later it was purchased by a nature conservancy organization, and given to the town of Sebago for all to enjoy. Thanks to Dr. Blackman and the kind hikers who passed before us, we made it to the summit.

A bridge over the Eagle Scout trail
A bridge over the Eagle Scout trail

By the time we reached the Blackman Tower, the sun had come out and the sky was a rich blue. It was gorgeous. We spent some time atop the tower, hanging out together under wide skies. We looked out at Maine, and west to New Hampshire. There was a sign which showed the different distances to at least 20 different hills, ponds, and mountains all around. It said the tower looked out over several hundred square miles. Nick said the sign was new to him, though he’d been here a few times last summer.

We were there for an hour, snacking on jerky, saying hello to other hikers, and reading aloud the playing cards we have that show edible wild plants on them. The wind was wild but not cold, and the sun shone warm for a long time. The mosquitoes were decidedly fewer at the top of the tower. Nicholas kindly offered me his warm sweater, because he’s a gentleman like that.

At the top of Dr. Blackman's 16-ft stone tower
At the top of Dr. Blackman’s 16-ft stone tower

Soon enough we decided to go back, and ventured down the Eagle Scout trail the way we had come, to the parking lot. It took us a little less time to get down than it had to go up, but that is only natural considering the 480-ft elevation gain we had climbed. It wasn’t a long ride home, where we both promptly relaxed after consuming a delicious home cooked meal (thanks Nicholas) and I took a nap. Here’s to more hikes, and seeing more of the Northeast this summer.

Blue skies over the Blackman Tower
Blue skies over the Blackman Tower

 

Ridiculous, curious, most likely delirious.

I love a great story, whether it comes in the form of words or visual stimuli. I believe everyone has a story to tell, and I love to share mine.

Please feel free to read along, comment, share your own stories, or send me a message via the contact page. Thanks for your time reading my words.

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House Hunting

By Corissa Haury

Yesterday morning my husband and I got out of bed at 7:15am. We were going to hunt for a house, a difficult task for any person. When it is cold, it is hard to rise from your warm cocoon of blankets. Those who live in the North have a formidable drive before them the day after a heavy snow. The roads are not all plowed. Yet as true Mainers have taught us, we kept going. You haul your ass out of bed early and you take what you need to take.

This was the fourth time we looked at houses. Four more houses today, we said to each other as we got ready to dig the car out of the snow. My husband was skeptical about this search. We had already seen other houses, and my heart was tied to one. That one house you’re not supposed to want. The house you’re not supposed to put all your emotional needs into. But it is a magnificent house, with practical answers to some of our current needs. Best of all it has the feel of an old house. There is an old kindness in the walls, some invitation to return in the framework. We weren’t sure if that was the house we should try to get, though. So we got in the car, turned up the heat, and cranked the Beastie Boys while we watched the snowy landscape whip by.

We drove along the highway up through the foothills wedged below the Central Maine mountains and above the White Mountains. We arrived 45 minutes early in the suburban town where the first house resided. Our rumbling bellies told us this would be a good time to find a diner and have some affordable, homemade breakfast. Our every wish was granted at $9 a plate. We ate our blueberry pancakes under Maine maple syrup and sipped our coffee under Elvis Presley’s blessed boulevard. His face was everywhere, the phrase The King of Rock & Roll emblazoned upon the walls of this beckoning shrine.

Breakfast

We finished breakfast and paid for the check and used the quaint bathrooms before we were on our way again. We went to the wrong address first, but found our way soon after we realized we should add another 100 to the number. We arrived to meet our agent a few minutes late. It was not long before we were examining the innards of a new house, a cute house with warm radiators and updated paint. It was nice, but small. There were possibilities here, we agreed, but fewer of them.

The second house we looked at was kept by an old man who lives in Florida. The whole place felt like an old man’s residence. There were pictures of Jean-Paul the Pope, along the walls. His blessing overshadowed a dark kitchen. The microwave had been ripped from the wall. The carpets felt old and thin. The backyard was expansive and flat, beautiful in the snow. It sloped down through the neighbor’s yard to a slow river, where we could see ice floating south in the sluggish current. The snow covered banks on either side looked picturesque. It was pretty, but impractical. We moved on.
Driving

The next place was 40 minutes southwest of our location, so we turned on the heat and headed down a series of Maine highways. One of them is a logging truck highway. We saw many trucks rocket by on the slick roads, their heavy cargo pushing them forward. During our ride the quiet snow fell and our voices were muted in the small space while we contemplated different ideas for each house. Every house has potential, but we understand each other by now. Sometimes we can tell when we walk into a house that the other person will say, “No, thank you.”

The third house was interesting. It had been a halfway house, owned by the state. It had the feel of a parsonage, with various rooms shaped like offices and a welcoming kitchen with a large hearth. The fireplace had been bricked off. The exposed wooden beams gave the ceiling a cabin-like feel. There were multiple doors into the home. It had two bathrooms, each with its own tub, and a washer and dryer. Leftover board games, furniture, and lockboxes were littered about. There was a foosball table in the dining room. The basement was dry, showing no sign of precipitation inside despite the recent intense weather. The house emanated a spirit of friendliness and hope.

It was a good house, but as my husband stopped our agent and I on the porch to talk to us, I knew what he would say. He still wanted the house I wanted more than anything we had seen so far. The house that makes the most sense, even if it isn’t 100% the kind of house we wanted at the outset. He began sharing with our agent what his thought process had been. We did not make it to the fourth house, but we did not need to. While I listened, I realized that this day was for reassuring ourselves that we knew what we wanted. There is work to do, there are chances to be taken. Nothing is certain in the house purchase process.

When you are house shopping, you are life shopping.

We did not go into the home buying process believing that we would do a lot of frustrating planning, and paperwork. We did not realize what it meant to  think practically, about what we will do in the next 10 years, and what our real long term goals are. We did not see, somehow, that it would mean a lot of compromise on both our parts. We did not know one another as well then as we do now, simply through house shopping. When you are house shopping, you are life shopping. You are setting yourself up for something different than a mere apartment or rental. You must grow, you must grapple with what you truly want for yourself.

We made some more plans for moving forward to have the place inspected and putting an offer in a few weeks down the road. Then we scrambled for the cars, which were still warm inside with residual heat.

Ridiculous, curious, most likely delirious.

I love a great story, whether it comes in the form of words or visual stimuli. I believe everyone has a story to tell, and I love to share mine.

Please feel free to read along, comment, share your own stories, or send me a message via the contact page. Thanks for your time reading my words.

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A quiet morning [ short story ]

By Corissa Haury

Winter was on its way, but it was not yet present. It still felt like it could have been late autumn, when the cold doesn’t fall below 40 degrees and there is a damp stillness to the foggy air. One still put the seat warmer on when one got in the car, but it wouldn’t be the case if it weren’t for the fact that we are all spoiled by convenience. The atmosphere hung low, engulfing most of the road before any driver’s eyes. All of the sharp silhouettes of the evergreens looked pointy and mystic in the fog. Darkness had fallen on the North.

In a few weeks the snow would come. She could feel it in the colder mornings, when the temperature that had dropped twenty-five degrees the night before began to warm. She rose during the frostier parts of the early morning, leaving her partner’s warm slumbering body. He was a fulfillment of warmth underneath the bedcovers. It was hard to get up and leave him sleeping there. She envied his ability to do it so peacefully. Her own mind was an array of anxieties, images from technology, and uncertain dreams that turned out to be deja vu later.

She crept from the warm bed to the cold air, wondering if the promise of winter that had kissed her rosy cheeks aflame would stay, or whether they would have a mild cold season. The oceanside climate was unpredictable in the North. No one ever knew these days, with the way of the Earth and its turning tides and unhappy hurricanes, what the winters would be like. They could be full of snow, and ice, more than twenty feet of it. They could be mild as a spring day on the coast, 50 degrees and sunny. She looked in the mirror, thinking of how winter made people hardier. It made them skinnier, it made them have to try more. It made them have to survive.

Everyone has to survive. A little piece of her mind told her. Even these days. Another piece of her knew this was bullshit, and that she loved the knowledge that those in the city didn’t really survive so much as they sustained the life they already had. A winter in the city didn’t mean shit. She had learned that. It was a winter in the mountains that mattered. Perhaps the definition of true “survival” was well beyond her knowledge. She let the thought go at that. She had been working lately on her lifelong tendency towards arrogance.

After she went to bathroom and made herself fresh enough to stare at, she found her way into the kitchen and washed the dishes. She played a documentary on a small tablet video screen, resting precariously upon containers of lemonade powder and beans. It was not a long one, and very possibly inaccurate, but a fascinating exploration of the potential archaeological evidence of a mythological object. Of course most of the “documentary” was conjecture, so she did not enjoy it as much as she would have liked. She learned enough during the time she washed the dishes to satisfy the surface of her curiosity.

The kettle whistled, and she flicked off the stove’s flame and grabbed the handle of the kettle with a cloth. It was not long before she was pouring the boiling water into the french press. The rich, earthy aroma of her favorite coffee rose to the top of the press with the water. The coffee and water mixed, and she put the lid on it to let it sit. The kettle was returned to the top of the stove, and the cream brought out of the fridge for its sole purpose in this household.

The dishes were done soon, and with a warm mug in hand, cream and coffee swirling into a tide pool of creamy liquid, she sat on the couch and looked around the tiny living room. Having the time to herself in the morning was a routine she often appreciated. Grateful for her day and hoping the rest of it turned out as well as her coffee, she sipped on the dark, rich liquid with closed eyes.

Ridiculous, curious, most likely delirious.

I love a great story, whether it comes in the form of words or visual stimuli. I believe everyone has a story to tell, and I love to share mine.

Please feel free to read along, comment, share your own stories, or send me a message via the contact page. Thanks for your time reading my words.

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