The couple of inches that fell early yesterday morning turned the former ice skating rink conditions at Fuller Farm into great cross country skiing conditions.
And we were clearly not the only family to have decided it was necessary to get out and enjoy the unexpected snow.
The kids loved making the first ski tracks through the hills at the farm and spent a lot of time skiing down them. There is a challenge to skiing dowhill on cross country skis on ungroomed trails (skiing downhill was much easier yesterday) and keeping your balance. You never know what rut under the snow is going to knock you down.
After a while the kids and their friends got creative with their skiing style thinking it was fun to balance themselves going downhill while squating. If you've ever tried this you'll know it's probably a little harder than standing up.
The groomed trails are hilly and a fun challenge for intermediate skiers. My kids have been cross country skiing for three years and have good control of their 'pizza pie' (snow plow) stop and 'duck walk' (herringbone). These trails put those skills to the test and the kids thoroughly enjoyed the twists and turns of the up and down terrain through the woods.
The groomed trail conditions were great the day we visited despite the lack of snow recently.
There is a warming hut about 1/4 mile into the trail that the girls particularly enjoyed. G. wrote in the guestbook while L. worked on the 1,000 piece puzzle. It was a cozy spot with the wood burning stove and it was difficult to drag the kids away from it (we made three different stops to the hut while exploring the looping trail system).
The trail map was easy to follow with markers posted on trees at every intersection.
There were steeper points on the hills that some of my family members opted to side-step down.
While the ones with a need for speed practiced their 'pizza pie' downhill instead.
A second outhouse further in to the trail system was a great convenience.
And the chairs and picnic table nearby prompted us to enjoy a break for lunch. Of course the kids opted to sit in the snow because well, they're kids and sitting in the snow to eat lunch is fun. For the adults, the chairs were a welcomed treat.
If your family has been cross country skiing for a couple of years and has good control on hills, you'll love these trails. If you don't have that level of skill, get out your snowshoes (or borrow some). These trails are really nice and kids will love the clubhouse-feel of the warming hut. The short distance (although it is uphill) to the hut will keep the kids motivated to find it while enjoying a nice trek through the woods.
Fee: $10 adults, young children with skiing ability are free when accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Equipment Rentals: None.
Bathroom: Outhouses are conveniently located in two different areas of the trail system.
Ski Level: Intermediate. The trails are hilly so the ability to herringbone uphill and snow plow to control speed downhill are a must. Snowshoes are also welcome on these trails and a good option for family members not at this skiing level.
Dog-friendly: Dogs not permitted on trails.
Kid-friendly factor: GREAT (if intermediate skiers)
Kid Rating: Both girls gave this trail 5 stars (on a scale of 1-the worst to 5-the best).
G: I liked all the hills and I LOVE the cabin (warming hut) because it's cool. I like how the groomed trails are smooth and very easy. And they are very nice people, the people who own it. I really liked playing with their dog Widget.
L.: I liked all the hills and the warming hut was fun because I liked doing the puzzle there. I liked these trails because I could go down hill and that was fun.
Other: Free hot cocoa and tea for all visitors compliments of Dave & Bev Petell, the friendly owners of the trail system. And if you wrap your sandwiches in tinfoil, you are welcome to warm them up on the wood stove in the warming hut.
The girls have been up to their ears in animal poop this past week.
L. helped me clean and lay new straw in our chicken coop the other day. It's amazing how much poop 30 chickens can create. And shoveling out the boxes is not so fun when the "glued" straw is half frozen. L.'s glad that we don't have to do this job every day.
And G. has been working at a local farm with a 6-month old heifer she's named Sparkles for her new 4-H project this year. She's been to the farm once a week since early November and really enjoying being around the larger animals and working hard to halter-train Sparkles.
And although G. didn't help clean the chicken coop this week, she did not escape poop patrol. It was just a different kind.
The girls and I went to Riverside Golf Course on Saturday afternoon to check out the conditions. We were hoping to meet up with our 4-H ski club the next day on the trails but there were a lot of ruts and ice on what snow was left.
It wasn't nearly as much fun as last time so we decided to postpone our ski club meeting on these trails until Portland gets a few more inches of new snow on the ground.
We went off the trails to avoid the ice and grassy patches.
But there were a few good places for some fast double-poling on the icy-snow tracks that we enjoyed.
We're hoping the 'few snow showers' forecast this week will drop enough new white stuff to improve the skiing conditions without too much trouble for our non-winter sports friends (who are finding us annoying right now ;).
For me, I'd much rather have snow than sub-zero temperatures ...
The whole foster thing was a sham orchestrated by Fino and the kids to soften me up about adopting Lupus. It took me a while to catch on and after a couple of months since his cast removal, he is now a permanent member of the family.
But I wonder how many times Dulce and Lupus might think living with two loving girls is a bit of a hassle.
Take their Christmas presents. They each received a catnip toy along with a couple of new outfits (the American Girl outfits were getting "boring" I was told).
Dulce in the new fisherman sportswear
Lupus (the boy cat) in the Mrs. Claus outfit
Feel free to caption these photos for us ...
BTW, Toddy the blind cat seems to be enjoying not being the focus of the girls' attention lately.
Saturday the girls learned more about spinning and fiber arts and did some crochet and knit squares through the annual 4-H Craft Day (a county-wide 4-H event).
Then on Sunday, the girls' club made aprons for the 4-H snack shack at the Cumberland fairgrounds. The booth is the largest 4-H fundraiser for the county program and although it's hardwork to serve as short order cooks and servers for the afternoon, my family thinks it's a lot of fun too.
The kids liked the idea of wearing matching aprons while working there this year.
And I thought Fino deserved special recognition for his group's apron, which required some creative handling with the little boys in his group. They had special code names to manage the sewing machine's peddles that included, "drive like grandma" and "speed racer."
The club made six aprons to donate to the snack shack and had plenty of fun doing it.
Then during our snow day on Monday, L. decided to put her sewing skills to use again by working on her Raggedy Ann doll for the annual 4-H Fashion Review.
The yarn hair was not an easy task but somehow L. managed to get it done (since I had never done this kind of thing before it was a learning experience for both of us) and she is pleased with the results (and I'm just glad it's over).
Now with all the new snow - and more on the way - we can get back to our skiing activities and 4-H ski club this coming weekend.
The kids had a lot of fun on our last outing before all the rain.
L. and I saw a great Pirates game last night as they shut out the Bruins. It started with an unlikely sight and wrapped up in true hockey form. It was a fun night to be a fan in the stands.
The Maine Suzuki youth orchestra piled on to the ice to play the National Anthem.
And they were good.
Then with less than two minutes left to play in the game, a big fight broke out and six players (three from each team) were tossed out of the game. It was a big melee and the crowd was on their feet the whole time -- and of course there were especially loud cheers at the waving exit.
L. was her chatty self in the stands with her Webkinz monkey CheeChee wearing a slightly too-small Pirates t-shirt (from her other game mascot).
"Pirates get a goal!"
"They don't get a goal."
She was also busy remaking the face of her balloon monkey because it didn't look enough like a girl. Apparently she needed eyelashes and a smiling mouth of teeth.
I also caught a shot of the Chuck-A-Puck clean-crew per Andrew's request of Seen Team last night (which was overdue -- sorry it took so long to catch up with you guys!).
I have to share this video L. and I found on YouTube, which we looked for after reading Mike Hoffman's blog entry. L. watched it several times because she couldn't stop laughing at the guy eating with his gloves on.
Every time I mentioned 'postal' used in tandem with 'shooting' my non-shooting friends gave me a weird look, which made me curious where the name came from. Here's the NRA's explanation of the Postal League the girls are participating in right now.
NRA's Competitive Shooting Division sanctions about 10,000 shooting matches a year. Among these is a type of match called a postal. A postal match is one in which competitors fire on their home ranges using targets marked for identification. Targets are mailed to NRA for scoring and compilation of results.
Postals allow shooters to compete on a national basis without ever leaving their home range.
The course of fire is NRA Indoor Three-Position Smallbore Rifle (three 10-shot strings of fire, one each from the prone, kneeling and standing positions, at a distance of 50 feet).
The girls are on an all-girl, prone team that will send in the top score targets - through the mail - to the national headquarters for rank and standing through the season.
L. is thinking target shooting is a whole lot of fun and makes it through each of her three rounds fairly quickly. G. takes her time loading and setting up her shot each and every time with a little less success on hitting her targets. But she's enjoying herself - and making her daddy happy - and the rest of the team seems to be OK with waiting the extra time for G. to finish her round.
The video Fino took last night (have I mentioned lately how thrilled Fino is to be on the range with the girls every week?) sort of demonstrates the action (or lack thereof) on the range.
Skiing the trails of Fuller Farm in Scarborough was a lot of fun for us this weekend. But I'd caution beginner skiers to stay away from the trails leading to the river and stick to the one that loops along the treeline around the open field.
We took the path of packed down snow over the bridge and onto the trail through the woods.
When we came to this trail marker, we opted to turn and check out the trails near the river.
It was more of a challenge than expected because we had to duck under some branches while passing over deep footprint holes and making a turn (which is tricky on xc skis) going downhill. I placed good odds we'd all land on our butt before we made it to the bottom.
I was right.
We followed the trail along more level terrain before we came upon another, more steep hill. L. opted to make her own tracks while G. took the uneven footpath that she half skied, half slid on her butt down to the bottom.
It was a struggle to get back up this steep hill in wet, melting snow so L. took off her skis to make the climb.
G. came up with her own way to manage the uphill climb. We turned it into a follow the leader game back to the trail near the open field.
And continued the game for a while.
The girls really enjoyed making their own tracks through the deep snow for a back-country skiing experience, something we haven't done much of previously. The open hills around the field did have some snowmobile tracks that made going downhill easy and fast.
Fuller Farm trail and G.'s 'special way' for climbing hills
Trail: Fuller Farm, Scarborough
Length: 220 acres of open field and wood trails. There are marked trails through the woods.
Grooming: No, this is back country skiing with only a few snowmobile trails through the fields (no snowmobiles are permitted on the wooded trails).
Dog-friendly: Yes, we made lots of new furry friends on the trails the day we visited.
Kid-friendly factor: GOOD
Making your own tracks through the open field was fun for the kids. The trails leading through the woods are marked but paths leading to the river (on the right off the main trail) has steep hills and would be a challenge for beginner skiers.
Kid Rating: Both girls gave this trail 4 stars (on a scale of 1-the worst to 5-the best).
G: I liked they had lots of hills and I liked climbing up the hill in my own special way. I liked skiing through the woods and the main trail was fun and easy. I liked there weren't any snowmobiles on the trails in the woods.
L.: I liked making my own tracks in the snow and I liked going down the smaller hills in the field.
We loved the trails at the Center but the drive up the hill to the trail head from Route 11 proved too challenging a task for our car.
We needed four-wheel drive and the kids had a hands-on education about the benefits of that feature. With two kids in the car and our tires spinning out on the hill required a lot of explanation that neither my husband nor I were in the mood to discuss at the time.
We arrived at the ski center at sunset (which was barely 4 p.m.!). Since it was our first introduction to the trail system, we didn't venture far from the lodge in the dark. The kids really enjoyed the nighttime adventure with their new headlamps (everyone got one for Christmas) even though they didn't need the additional light on the brightly lit trails (they came in handy on our trek down the hill to the car though!). There were several hills to satisfy the kids' need for speed on the small loops we explored that night.
On the trail our first night.
We walked back down the hill with all our ski gear. We did not chance a fall on the salted patches of road by skiing down in the dark to get back to the car. I might be lacking a few brain cells when deciding to drive so far north without 4-wheel drive but I did feel I redeemed myself by nixing this idea.
The next day we woke up to falling snow and it was clear our car was not going to conquer the hill that day either. We parked at the base again and made the trek back up with all our gear and lunch packs. But just as the lodge came into view, a plow truck came along and we were asked if our car was parked on the street below. Apparently it was in the truck's path and needed to be moved or the town was going to tow it. Fino caught a ride back down the hill with the plow guy and found a new location to park.
It was approx. 1.2km walk uphill to the trail head.
Life is nothing if not an adventure and a study in improvisation.
While catching our breath in the lodge after a second day of the slippery walk uphill in our cross country ski boots, we spent some time watching a couple of biathletes shooting their air rifles on the range right outside the lodge's windows (a lot of talented athletes train here). Since both girls have been learning to target shoot, they watched with interest. They also took note of how the biathletes carried the rifles on their backs while skiing, although neither of the girls was interested in doing that.
The girls also played around with their new sled dog stuffed animals and begged for a return trip to the area for the Can-Am race. We heard a lot about this event during our visit by the locals and it sounded like tons of fun.
After reviewing the trail map on our second day, we decided to explore the Volunteer Way and part of the Acadian and Can-Am loops. It was approximately 5k total and according to the map ratings, would give us mostly level trails with a few hills to keep things interesting. I thought the more novice-like ratings would also keep us clear of the serious skiers training on the more advanced loops.
There were however some markers out on the trail that did not match our map so for a little while we were unsure if we were on the correct trail. It wasn't a big deal since we were having fun and eventually came across signs to point us in the right direction. The Center is working on a new map to solve this problem (they reworked some signage recently), which was posted at the lodge as something coming out soon.
We spent several hours on the trails our second day in the falling snow, skiing at a leisurely pace with several water and snack breaks. We rarely saw another skier.
The snow not only accumulated on the ground, but also all over us as well (but our water bottle covers worked out well for the several hours we were out on the trails and our water didn't freeze).
I had packed sandwiches and pasta salad for our lunch and was happy to have the option to store them in the refrigerator at the lodge while we were out on the trail. And after several hours in the falling snow, our jackets, hats and gloves were soggy so the girls' discovery of a dryer in the ladies room the night before proved a nice lodge feature as well. A 10-minute stint had us dry and comfortable again.
After our second day of walking back down the hill to our car with all our gear in tow, we opted for a couple of low-key tourist stops on Main Street in Fort Kent our last day in town.
The first was a photo op at the end of Route 1 sign. In the background on the right is the bridge to Canada.
We didn't bring birth certificates for the kids so we didn't think crossing over in to Canada was possible. But after a stop at the custom's station, they agreed to let us walk over the bridge to take a photo.
The international boundary line is on the bridge over the St. John River.
The diversity of trails are great for all skiing levels and abilities at the Maine Winter Sports Center in Fort Kent. It's well-worth a trip to experience the world class trails (the 2004 World Cup Biathlon was held here). But if you're planning to visit, be sure you've got a set of studded tires on your car or take your four-wheel drive vehicle, especially if you've got kids in the car to remind how much easier things would have been if you had.
Skiing on the trails in Fort Kent
Trail: Tenth Mountain Ski Center/Maine Winter Sports Center, Fort Kent
Length: 25 kilometers of groomed trails, approx. 3k of trails have lights for night skiing
Grooming: Yes, a classic track and wide skating lane
Parking: Yes. There is a steep hill to get to the trail head that may require studded tires or 4-wheel drive.
Fee: None. There is a box at trail head for skiers wishing to make a donation.
Equipment Rentals: Complete ski packages can be rented for $5.00/half-day and $10.00/ full day. A pull-behind chariot is available to parents with small children at no charge. Hours of availability are posted at the lodge.
Bathroom: at the Lodge, which is open daily during the winter for restroom use.
Ski Level: all levels
Dog-friendly:Only Volunteer Way Trail (2.5k) is open to dogs
Kid-friendly factor: GOOD
By taking the novice trails, you'll avoid the athletes training and will make it easier for parents to ski next to their children (avoiding the single file to allow for passing skiers). And the lodge amenities - a refrigerator and dryer - can make a day long visit all the more pleasant with children in tow on the weekends (lodge is not open during the week except for bathroom use on the ground floor).
Other: There is a wax building open 7 days per week for skiers. A stadium and shooting range are also next to the lodge and offer a chance for visitors to see athletes target shooting.
Kid Rating: Both girls gave this trail 5 stars (on a scale of 1-the worst to 5-the best).
G: I liked the lodge and the trails were good but you just needed 4-wheel drive to get up the big hill to the trails. Walking up the hill to get to the trails was not so much fun. But I really liked the trails because they were groomed and there were a lot of pretty pine trees and there were some fun hills to ski down.
L.: I liked skiing on the hills and being able to ski there at night and during the day. I liked the lodge too because it was pretty.