Women’s weekend or gal getaway might make you think spa and shopping, but that is not me and my gal friends. Instead, we explored snowy paths, did morning snoga (yoga in the snow) caught a brook trout, worked on our tree ID, and cruised miles of trails by snowmobile.
In January I went to sign up for the IF&W program, Becoming an Outdoorswoman in Maine Winter Skills Workshop, (yes, it’s a really long name) and found it was full. A quick search led me to Mount Chase Lodge’s Women’s Winter Weekend. Serendipity is a wonderful thing.
Prior commitments, not enough notice, logistics—by the time we hit the road it was my friend Becky and I, and two for the road is perfect for girl talk. I had commandeered my husband’s Subaru Outback, complete with studs, and we set off to find more winter than we had been getting on the coast.
With a “the journey is the destination” attitude we stopped to thrift store a needed down vest for Becky, and I scored a chalk lettering instruction book. Back on the road, Becky read from a deck of cards, one of my many sets of Knowledge Cards from Pomegranate Publishers. I am addicted to these, and have decks in bathrooms, guestrooms, glove boxes, and my travel kit. Basically flash cards, but a bit more stylish, subjects include constellations, acronyms, units of measurement, etiquette and art history. I want them all, and I really want the fonts set, because I love typefaces, but that is out of print and now costs fifty dollars. Our set was Literary Classics, where we had to figure out the novel a quote came from, and its author. We were embarrassingly bad. Becky had the edge for contemporary authors, and we groaned and moaned as we missed ones we really KNEW, just could not recall. Before we sank into self-pity, or tossed the cards out the window, we were seeing expansive, distant views—Mt. Katahdin, and a range of hills far bigger than those on our Mount Desert Island home.
A roadside sign for rocks and minerals in Stacyville, Maine enticed us, and even though we had not planned to shop, we did. Alvin and Connie Theriault have building after building filled with cool stuff, llamas, fainting goats and chickens. We spent over an hour learning about Maine’s minerals and gems, and headed back to the car loaded with geodes for kids and grandkids to break open, fur trim to replace the already matted and snarly faux fur on my green denim jacket’s hood, jewelry making supplies, and an assortment of Maine rocks that cost between one and two dollars which we justified as educational. (They come with location details, as well as type of mineral.) Alvin, a retired game warden, is also the state’s largest retailer of flies and fly-tying equipment. I walked away with a catalog for my husband, and a free rock. At the register, every customer can choose a gift from two bins, either a mineral or a fly. Alvin says it is common for those who buy fly-tying items to grab a stone, and rock hounds walk off with a fly.
Next stop: Ellis Family Market in Patten, Maine. A friend of Becky’s told her that Aroostook County butter from Houlton Farms Dairy was hard to come by, and worth going out of the way for. Ellis’s carried it and was right on the way, so yes, we made a butter stop. Before we even got in the market we were chatting with strangers, and this something Becky and I both delight in. A guy in a little red car told us we might only be able to buy two pounds each as supplies are limited, and that Becky should move a bit to the left for the best photo. This last comment was because I was trying to get a pic of Becky in front of the market for her friend, and he wanted to make sure we got the sign in. I do not know the friend’s name, but am very grateful to her because we might have zipped by and never have come home with a pound (not two, we were restrained) of velvety, crazy rich, and creamy butter. I do love good butter. Plus, best souvenirs are things you cannot get anywhere else. Since Houlton is not on my destination list in the near future, I really had no choice but to buy some there in Patten.
Shopping was pursuing us, whether we liked it or not, and we liked it. The next roadside sign advertised “Fresh eggs and chaga.” A hand-lettered sign on the garage also asked “Do you believe in life after death? Trespass here and find out.” Undeterred by sign or barking dog, I stepped around a deflated football and approached. A long-time chaga drinker, I like comparing flavors from different areas of New England and Canada, and they can be remarkably different. I even hosted a blind chaga tasting party once. The chance to try a local Mt. Chase chaga was not to be passed up. A largish man came out, and I asked about the chaga. That was his girlfriend’s business, and she was away. He went to call and see if she had any. No. He could have said good-bye then, but saw my disappointment. He thought he might be able to find some, and went into the garage with the trespass and find life after death sign. A few minutes later he came out waving a big, intact hunk of the fungus. Since I am happy to process it, I was delighted. Grinning, I asked him the price. A kind of shy smile, and he said, “Merry Christmas!” Wow, I am really liking this neck of the woods.
We finally rounded the corner to Mt. Chase, and found the road blocked by a pulp truck. With mountains in the distance, and a log-filled truck maneuvering in front of us, we sat and watched contentedly. We were not in a hurry, we planned it that way. A three-hour trip had taken far longer, and was the better for that. We had left home early, so we could stop with no stress or worry. We had yet to arrive at our destination, but had already had a fab getaway, and could turn around and go home. It was only five hours since we started out, and I was a world away from all the stuff I was trying to have a brief respite from. That is a gal trip for you.
So, here I am, end of my blog, and barely started. This was the journey. The destination is ahead. Mt. Chase Lodge, snowmobile collision, blackberry brandy on ice, literally, and four crazy women (not Becky and I of course) in the next and concluding blog.