A friend once said, “If you live in Maine, you need to embrace winter.” She was right. After too many years of misspent youthful winters, I found the antidote for cabin fever: Identify the things you love to do and discipline yourself to get out and do them. Eventually, you’ll be a cold weather devotee addicted to short days and long frigid winter nights. Alright, that’s goofy talk. However, you may find yourself looking forward to your favorite winter activities in the fall, enjoying an abundant wintertime agenda and feeling a sense of loss when spring arrives.
There are lots of excuses to stay huddled on the couch addictively binge watching whitewater videos and reruns of old Patriots Super Bowl victories. Limited daylight, bleak weather, ice storms, hazardous traveling, the flu, snow removal — the list seems endless.
If you think things are tough now, they were worse when I was a kid. I know, you’ve heard that before. But really, back then there were no Patriots Super Bowl victories to watch over and over, and whitewater videos didn’t exist. I can remember when my grandparents had the only television in the neighborhood and viewing hours on the three stations were from 4 to 10 p.m. Life was a struggle.
Some winter activities require a considerable commitment of time, money and travel, such as snowmobiling, downhill skiing or one of my favorites, winter mountaineering. Not so with cross-country skiing. A pair of skis and poles, boots that fit and the usual winter garments, and you’re ready to ski the winter blues away. And, the sport is older-people friendly.
One of my preferred cabin fever treatment clinics is Harris Farm X-Country Ski Center in Dayton. There is much to like at Harris Farm. A fourth generation family business, it reminds me of several farms that flourished in Randolph when I was growing up. “Howdy Doody” and the “Mouseketeers” were hit TV shows then. When I arrive at the farm, it’s like stepping back in time … without Howdy.
A family-friendly place, it’s common to see parents guiding their miniature progeny on the easy trails or pulling babies in sleds. On weekdays, we gray panthers abound. Cabin fever is a virtual impossibility when playing at the farm.
A confessional is in order. Something I don’t like about many commercial Nordic ski areas is short trails criss crossing one another, meandering in circles. I feel like a rat in a maze experiment. If you like that sort of thing, it’s an option at Harris Farm. However, a big attraction for me is skiing the perimeter trails on both sides of Buzzell Road. This allows for about a two and a half hour outing without once repeating a section of trail. It’s easy, even for us doddering geriatrics; just keep making right turns. The satisfying result is the impression of a wilderness expedition.
Immediately after the first sizable snowstorm of the winter, I met with my frequent outdoor companion Eggman DeCoster at the farm for an afternoon ski. Also in the “older people” category, the Eggster is still fully engaged in employment but not opposed to stealing a mental health day for cabin fever rehab.
A beautiful, breezy winter day, the trails were expertly groomed and in superb condition. Fortuitously, Eggie was game for my favorite perimeter ski.
Beginning across the road from the lodge, we turned right, of course, dropped into a dense forested area and glided the rolling hills of the intermediate Cold Water Brook Trail. Following about a mile of exhilarating skiing, we emerged onto a wide field connecting with the easy Joe Buzzell Trails. Persisting to more difficult Farm Forest Trails, the sector ended with a challenging descent on Express Way.
After climbing steeply on Deer Run, the trail crossed Buzzell Road and joined the appropriately named Out-to-Pasture Trails. Cruising down Maternity Loop in an open field and negotiating the demanding Lucky Logger Trail, Bobcat Loop was next. Traveling to the far eastern terminus of the trail network, we successfully navigated consequential Buck Bramble before returning to the lodge on Sokokis Woods and Pole Barn Run trails.
In frequent need of cabin fever therapy, this was the first of what I expect to be many visits to the Harris Farm clinic. I’ll keep returning until the snow is gone and the streams open for whitewater paddling. When that happens, winter skiing will be missed.