I have never met Tom St. Germain, but he is a hiking legend on the island. He authored an authoritative hiking guide called A Walk in the Park, and anything that catches his interest surely catches mine.
When he posted that a beaver dam plus all the rain and runoff had flooded Sieur de Monts, I cleared my schedule for today so that I could go on a skating adventure of a lifetime. I invited my retired mother along, trail name “Last Time”, because she is still spry and always up for an adventure.
Since the Park Loop Road is closed, we entered Sieur de Monts from Route 3 and parked as close as we could be without driving past the orange barriers. I told my mother to bring ski poles as did I, for both stability and self-rescue should we go through the ice.
Truth be told, I was not concerned about going through the ice. Even flooded, it is a shallow wetland, we would not go in deeper than our….??? Knees? Waist? I am not exactly sure the precise depth of the water or the ice, but all I can say is that I knew we were secure. Before the January Thaw, Eagle Lake had over eight inches of ice and the bitter cold of the last few days seems to have instantly solidified the ice again. I have been driving around Maine, drooling at the frozen fields and wetlands, and this was finally my chance.
I have friends who have told me it is great fun to trek distances through wetlands on skates, and I have only began exploring the idea myself. I have read about Canadians and Europeans who traverse the frozen landscape on skates, but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would be among them.
No other skates had marked the ice. It had clearly been walked, but we felt especially adventurous to realize we were the first. The parking lot looked like more of a traditional rink, and from there we cut through the woods to skate across Great Meadow, the wetland adjacent to the Park Loop Road at the end of Ledgelawn Extension. My mother marveled at the different textures of the ice, and kept exclaiming, “I have never done such a thing!”
Almost to the Park Loop Road, I wanted to cut northwest and see if I could find Hemlock Road, a trail lined with birches on either side. If I did not know the area so well, I would have been hesitant to bushwhack on skates but sure enough, I found the trail that I had taken pictures of in every season! Trails have a certain look to me that roads have to everyone else; I can tell how the trees and ground has been shaped by hundreds of thousands walking it.
We skated up the Hemlock Road to the intersection with the Jesup Path, and then turned alongside the boardwalk of the Jesup Path heading back to Sieur de Monts. Ice completely covered some of the boardwalk, and other parts of it were still visible.
Even though all the educational displays were closer to knee-level than usual, my mother still wanted to stop and read about all the plant and wildlife that we would find here in summer. “Frogs. I don’t see any frogs, do you?”
We had a good laugh about all the wildlife we were not seeing. I tried skating among the trees, and the vocalizations of the ice cracking and croaking worried my mother but did not stop me. I still felt confident skating around the trees, even though I knew when rocks (and presumably trees) interrupt ice, those can be the most vulnerable places. Ice cannot create as tight a seal around rocks, and rocks are exuding heat that causes the ice to melt faster around them.
We kept thinking of all of our friends who love to skate, and lo and behold, we ran into a farmer from the Ellsworth Farmers’ Market! Word had been leaked out about the skating, and by the time we left, our skate tracks and our cars were not the only vehicles parked at the closed entrance to Sieur de Monts.
Winter, you awe me. Yes, I need a dreamy escape, but often I do not have to travel far to find them!