We're headed to Fort Kent tomorrow for a cross country skiing adventure on the 10th Mountain Division trails at the Maine Winter Sports Center in Fort Kent.
We've never been to the area so in anticipation of the 5 1/2 hour drive north we invested in a Yakima roof rack for our cross country skis so we could take the smaller, more fuel efficient car. Our minivan gets about 10 miles to the gallon less than our compact wagon and we think over the course of the winter, having a rack on the smaller car will make a big difference on our overall travel costs this year.
We've also been getting our gear organized, which includes the new headlamps I bought everyone for Christmas so we can have a nighttime cross country ski adventure.
My friend Carl - a wealth of helpful information lately - suggested we also consider packing hot water in our water bottles before hitting the trails up north. Of course I should have realized that there was the strong possibility our water would freeze after even a short time out on the trails up there.
Carl uses an insulated container for his water bottle but after checking them out at a couple of stores, I decided they were too pricey for everyone in the family to get one (they run about $10-12/each and don't include the bottle).
I opted to make something I thought would help keep the water from freezing in our packs on the trip.
I used fleece left over from a previous project and cut to fit each of our water bottles (all different shapes and sizes) and sewed the side and bottom seams. I added a small pocket for an elastic closure at the top.
The groomed trails at Portland's Riverside Golf Course were ideal on Saturday. We had never been cross country skiing here but after so many recommendations to check it out, my family decided it was high time to go.
We loved it.
There were plenty of small hills that were manageable to climb and offered a thrill to ski down.
The groomed trails meandered around the course with twists and turns that kept the trail interesting.
And skiing 3-4 people across was a great feature we haven't had other places (well, without having to worry about passing snowmobiles).
Fun on the hill
My family has plans to explore more cross country ski trails this winter so I'm starting a 'Review' feature with basic information about each trail. If there's anything you'd like to know that is not included here, post a comment and I'll get back to you about it.
Trail: Riverside Golf Course, Portland
Length: 8 kilometers of groomed trails
Grooming: Yes, two Classic tracks and a 20-foot wide "freestyle" lane
Parking: Parking at both the North and South course parking lots
Fee: $2.00/per skiier, deposit in box at trailhead
Equipment Rentals: none
Bathroom: North Course Clubhouse is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. for use of the restaurant and restrooms.
Ski Level: Advanced Beginner; young beginners can easily walk to a flat area of the course (don't walk on groomed trail though!) to practice skills without hills
Dog-friendly: yes, on a leash
Kid-friendly factor: GREAT
With bathrooms closeby (if you park next to the clubhouse; see map below) and small hills that are manageable for the advanced beginner, it's a great trail to explore with kids. Skiers can also easily work out short cuts back to the parking lot to shorten the return trip. Bring sleds for younger children in tow for a side trip to some of the great sledding hills on the course.
Other: Tubing/sledding is open to public for $1/person
Kid Rating: Both girls gave this trail 5 stars (on a scale of 1-the worst to 5-the best).
G: The hills are fun to go down and not very hard to climb.
L.: The 2 ski track is fun to double-pole and skiing next to each other in a row is fun. Next time we need to bring a sled too!
Mica the cat is diabetic and his caregivers needed someone with experience in caring for his special needs to take care him over the holiday. Fino checked with me first (which I very much appreciated) before he and the girls offered to bring Mica to our house for a couple of days. (I've been assured Mica will return home on Wednesday.)
Mica needs to be monitored closely and receives insulin shots twice a day, which is going to be an interesting education for the girls.
But, Fino also shared with me yesterday that Mica is apparently always on the prowl for food (his special diet kind as well as anything else) and has a little bladder problem. Fino, being the wonderful husband who knows I'm almost at my limit with cats in the house, decided Mica needed to be contained during his visit with us.
So he and the girls have devised a plan for Mica's Christmas holiday with us....
Dulce was checking things out once Mica arrived.
.. his own personal tent in the girls' playroom.
Of course our other cats are curious about this new visitor but Fino has decided against any face-to-face introductions, the better to keep the holiday injury-free for all our feline friends.
So after Mica arrived last night and ate his special diet dinner and had his insulin shot, G. snuggled down in the tent with him for the night.
Before bed last night though, the girls shot off a quick email to Rudolph at the North Pole to make sure it was clear that Mica was in need of a gift at our house Christmas morning.
We'll see what Santa and Rudolph can work out for tomorrow...
I had a case of mild frostbite last year after sledding in sub-zero temperatures with only a thin pair of gloves. I had a couple of blisters and darkened spots on my hands once I started thawing out, which was a painful experience that lasted days. I have found since that incident, my fingers are cold more often than they ever used to be.
Last week L.'s feet got wet inside her boots and she decided to continue playing outside instead of changing her socks (and boots - she has a couple of pair for just this reason). She never complained about her feet being cold so I had no idea. The next day her swollen toes were red and hot to the touch with a couple of small bruise-like patches on them. She complained about how much her feet hurt for a couple of days afterwards and said she learned her lesson about changing her socks and boots when they get wet inside now.
Yesterday I was chatting with my friend Carl, an avid hiker who takes lots of cold weather hiking trips, about my family's frostbite experiences and he shared his thoughts about Merino wool. I decided it was a necessary investment and he offered a couple of suggestions on discount locations to buy it.
I'm sure those knowledgeable outdoor enthusiasts are asking why we do not have these kind of wool socks and gloves.
The cost. They're about $15-20 for a pair of socks.
Not to mention my kids have never been able to keep a matching pair of socks together. They throw them around and make a fashion statement out of mismatched pairs and I've accepted the fact that losing socks in our house is inevitable.
So spending a lot of money on a single pair of socks has not been something I've been eager to do.
But yesterday I found out the LL Bean outlet in Portland has a GREAT sale going on for Smartwool socks. They range from $7.95-12.95 on sale right now.
I bought a pair for each member of my family (shhhh, they're Christmas presents so don't tell them!) and have hopes that each of us can keep track of a single pair of socks this winter.
Everything gets canceled and it turns in to a quiet day at home doing things you usually don't have time for.
L. took advantage of her time today by starting a new sewing project - a Raggedy Ann doll. She received the pattern and all the material supplies from grandma yesterday for Christmas and she couldn't wait to get started.
She had a productive morning cutting out all her fabric pieces and embroidering the doll's face and heart.
We also played outside for a while. The girls opted to sled while I decided to ski a loop around my neighborhood to check out the road conditions.
No plows had been by all day so the road was a nice surface to ski on this afternoon.
But the plows finally did make it around to us a few minutes ago and now we have a large snow wall blocking our driveway entrance. I guess I'm going to have to do some shoveling before Fino gets home. He's going to have his hands full snow blowing our long driveway, cutting a path to the chicken coop and digging the trash barrels out of the snow.
But it's great for our cross country skiing adventures. We're planning on exploring some new trails this weekend.
Where do you like to cross country ski in the Portland area?
... and thoroughly enjoyed our first trek on the MDT this season.
With more snow inland today, it looks to be another week of great skiing conditions in southern Maine.
Trail: Mountain Division Trail, Standish
Length: approx. 5 miles one way
Grooming: No, but snowmobiles pack down snow so it has a groomed feel to it
Parking: Parking at Johnson Field on Route 35 in Standish
Equipment Rentals: none
Bathroom: Porta-potty at Johnson Field
Ski Level: Beginner
Dog-friendly: yes, on a leash
Kid-friendly factor: GOOD
The Porta-potty is a nice feature at the trailhead. Snowmobiles are permitted on these trails so families skiing with kids should stay to one side and keep an ear out for approaching snowmobiles. My family has found snowmobilers on this trail to be curteous and slow down around skiers.
Kid Rating: Both girls gave this trail 4 stars (on a scale of 1-the worst to 5-the best).
G: It's fun. I like the hills on the trails but I don't like the snowmobiles so much. Their gas really smells when they pass us.
L: I like going down the hills. Some are big and some are just little. They are mostly easy to ski up but there is one big hill that is kind of hard.
Other: The warming hut at Johnson Field is a nice place for a snack break on a cold day.
There is a reason why we have yet to decorate our Christmas tree.
Here is reason number 1 and 2.
We do however have our Santa's village up and running and the cats are not the least interested in that. And after 11 years of collecting pieces for the now very large - and illuminated - village display, it is the only reason the kids aren't really upset about the Christmas tree trimming delay.
Of course the girls could help get the tree decorated sooner if they didn't encourage the kittens' antics and they actually tried to get them out of the tree.
On Saturday L. and I took a trip to Pineland Farm to pick up our ski club's rental order from the Maine Winter Sports Center and decided to take advantage of the trip to do some skiing there as well.
The clouds were so low in the ski it felt like we could almost touch them.
There were only a couple of bare spots on the trail even after four days since the last storm.
L. stopped to decide which way we should go.
We opted for the easy downward slope and into the open field.
But eventually we had to make our way up the big hill.
And this hill may not look very big, but at the end of an hour of skiing, it was a killer. Of course L. made it all look so easy -- all 65 pounds of her.
My 10-year-old is already kicking my butt skiing this year ... which is a weird but not surprising since she is getting older and is in much better shape than I am. I need to get exercising soon because L is going to start gloating and I'm not ready for that just yet.
Afterwards L. and I enjoyed some fresh baked bread and soup from Foley's Bakery at Pineland's Welcome Center.
Skiing before Christmas is such a nice change from the snowless Decembers of the past few years. And it's a lot more fun getting in shape on skis than walking loops around my neighborhood.
And I'm happy to report that none of the cats were locked in the car with the keys this year. Although Toddy still remembers as he cried in the car and through most of the photos. He was rewarded with a kitty treat for his bravery and is quite content to never leave the house again (well, until he's forced to endure next year's picture).
The girls have really enjoyed the snow this week, especially with their furry neighborhood friend (he's a well-trained dog that the girls adore, unlike the crazy one we have problems with).
Alas, I must make a mention about grandpa's help snow-blowing our big driveway. Fino was having trouble with the snowblower and grandpa came to the rescue.
So Suhay's book and the website are out to set the record straight with the Pig Pardon campaign.
Since March 1st, National Pig Day, the campaign has been dedicated to setting the historical record straight concerning the first Thanksgiving - which was held at what is now known as Berkeley Plantation in Virginia. President Bush is scheduled to speak at Berkeley Plantation on Monday, Nov. 19th. We're excited to celebrate this historic event.
On Sunday I went through all the snowpants from the storage closet in anticipation of the snow yesterday. I had the girls try on the entire stockpile of snow pants (10 pairs total), all of varying sizes I've picked up from second-hand or end-of-season clearance sales over the years.
Each of the girls found two pairs of snowpants that fit them and I was psyched (no last minute runs to the store on Sunday for me ;-). The bummer was that all those snow pants were dark. Actually 3 of the 4 are black, which also look just like Fino's snowpants.
I thought that everyone having similar looking snowpants was going to be a problem this year. So the girls picked out some ribbon and tied it on to their stuff so we could identify them hanging on the rack.
This may or may not help keep us organized this winter but I thought it was worth a shot. But I ran short of ideas on how to find matching gloves and mittens in the big box we have.
The kids have been outside in the snow all morning and the whole family is enjoying the first snow fall of the season. (And it sure is a whopper!)
The kids had fun sledding on the small hill in our backyard this morning.
The ducks didn't seem to mind the snow either.
L. demonstrated her snow angel making abilities and gave it her own special touch. She is my creative thinker who is more self-aware than I sometimes give her credit for. I think it's more me thinking she doesn't really understand the implications of her ideas about things even though I'm pretty sure she does...
The Pirates played a great game last night, beating the Worcester Sharks 6-3.
It was a fun game to be a fan in the stands. There was plenty to yell and cheer about as you can see in this video. And just for the record, my crew was very happy to hear the old "Hey" goal song back in action (the one they ditched just wasn't as much fun).
6 Goals, 1 night
And I actually caught one of the goals on video (doesn't always happen that I have the camera on at the right time but I got lucky)
Since the team was on a roll scoring goals, the behind-the-scenes guys got on one too with the music selections. The crowd in our section loved it.
Music fun at Pirates games
The highlight of the game for L. and her friend A. (beyond the team playing well and winning of course!) was the balloon guy. L.'s been begging me at every game we've been to this season to get a balloon animal. I finally gave her the $2 to get one last night.
The girls went from target shooting with daddy earlier in the week to Sewing Club with mommy at the end of it.
We're going for well-rounded at our house.
The girls helped finish up the craft sale projects and made some ornaments to decorate the library's Christmas tree.
L. also learned how to use a Knifty Knitter with one of the sewing club's adult volunteers and has been busy making hats ... for her cats.
Sort of gives a whole new meaning to Dr. Seuss' tale for us.
I've also been sewing this week since I told the girls last year that I would make them Mrs. Claus capes for their various Christmas activities this month (with no such luck they would have forgotten that offer!).
Last year a friend let them borrow costume capes for the Portland Ice Arena's Christmas party and both girls loved the whole idea of them.