Distant laughter mixes with the sharp crack of ice as it expands. The sun has gone down and the skaters weaving among the trees in the twilight are ghostly. The moon is new and the shadows deep. The figures quickly become lost in the dimness as they skate further away through the woods. The next day the ice was buried in snow.
Skating the flooded marsh and forest is a perfect example of making lemonade with lemons. A few days ago heavy rains melted a foot of snow, but the ground was frozen and so the water did not drain away. The fields flooded, the Wild Gardens of Acadia were under water. And then the temperatures dropped quickly. A magical skating surface appeared. Word spread and over a dozen skaters, walkers, and a hoola hooper came out to play.
There will be damage to the Sieur de Monts Nature Center, and the gardens will need some clean up. An unfortunate visitor drove around the barriers put up by Acadia National Park crews and onto the still hardening ice of the parking lot—the car broke through, sinking into over a foot of water that then froze around the wheels. There is a price to pay for this thaw and freeze, but there was also the opportunity for adventure.
I have never seen this perfect combination of weather that created a frozen playground, and may never see it again. I have missed other once in a lifetime events, and am finally learning to drop everything and go do it, whatever it may be.
I walked the just-frozen surface with my ice creepers then went home for ice skates, and to send the message to a local ice-skating condition email list.
Some avid skaters made a breathtaking video of themselves skimming along the Jesup Trail for Friends of Acadia, the non-profit support group for Acadia National Park.Others went back after dark and skated until 11 pm with headlamps on. They would skate by each other, not knowing if they knew one another or not–they were just light beams passing in the night. Another friend missed it all, and asked me to please add her to the skate lust. I pondered that a sec, then realized auto correct had changed skate list to skate lust, but skate lust it will now be.
And then, as quickly as it came, it was over. First the snow covered the ice, light as dust and easy to skate through, then it warmed and the snow got heavy, thwarting zealous plans to go out with snow scoops and shovels and expose that once-in-a-life time skating surface. Temperatures rose to fifty degrees, rain came, the snow disappeared and the surface turned to slush.
People ask me, “Do you think it will freeze again so we can go skating there? We missed it.” Or they say, “That was the highlight of my winter, nothing will beat skating there.”
But there are second chances, after all. The rains came again, the slush turned to water, and once again the meadow became a sheet of seemingly endless ice. The friend who wanted to be on the skate lust got out to play hockey, and I will be back in the am to weave through the trees.
Who knows what the next adventure will be. I only know there will be one. It is Maine, it is winter. Get out there and seize the season.