When you're a 40 something single mother of a teen with lots of ambition, you find yourself in all kinds of interesting adventures and situations. Come back to laugh at us any time you feel the need, heaven knows where we'll be doing what next. Here you can expect a few words, a lot of images and hopefully ideas on what you can do for your next adventure.

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Memories of Thanksgiving past

It's November. It's a time for thanks, preparing for the winter months, changing of sports and shorter than short days. And it's almost time for Christmas - I'll save that for another blog.

November reminds me of the days when I was young, raking a mountain of leaves from underneath the outstretched arms of the large maple tree on our front yard only to send them scattering again with one large leap. We would rake and jump, rake and jump, rake and jump until the leaves were crushed into little pieces and could be found in every pocket space of clothing I had.

It also reminds me of our dysfunctional trips to the great white north where my grandparents lived to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday. We lived in Lewiston, they in Linneus. It was a 3 1/2 - 4 hour drive and trust me, my father could make it less than 3 hours if us girls could hold off going potty, mom packed enough food, the weather was clear enough and he didn't get stopped by the State Police. We were like a low-flying jet in that old blue Chevy station wagon with all the luggage strapped on the top and us kids laying down in the back covered by a blanket. It's a wonder we never got killed. "She's looking at me" "I have to go to the bathroom" "I'm hungry" "Could you please slow down?" "Palsy just got sick" - oh yeah, we used to take our dog Pal with us too. He would hover on the floorboards the entire way, borderline loosing faculties in one way, shape or form.

We would arrive in a grand entrance skidding sideways spraying gravel from the driveway with my parents about to throttle each other and bail out of the car, stretching our muscles tightened into piano strings from the ride. Grammie would usher us in to a multitude of pies and cookies - we all had our favorites set aside for us. The Marlboro Menthol and Camel Filterless smoke would be heavy in the air, along with the stench of coffee that could probably burn a hole to the center of the earth. A chorus of "I'm bored" would immediately set in from us girls, usually followed by a "can you shut them kids up? I'm trying to watch tv!" from our grandfather.

Thanksgiving day would come and find all of us crammed around a makeshift table to a spread of turkey, stuffing, home made rolls, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas, carrots - pretty much the entire supermarket. I'm not sure how she ever could afford to get all that food (or how she cooked it all on that tiny little stove), but there was always plenty. We would eat until ready to burst at the seams, then Uncle Pete would pass out on the couch and snore while us kids would play according to the weather and my mom and dad would go hunting out back. Mom would not only hunt for deer, but for a Christmas tree as well. (One year, she actually shot the top of a fifty-footer to drag home. Seriously.) Anyone left hanging around was helping to clean up after dinner, except for Grampie. He was exempt from anything he didn't want to do.

As far as us cousins were concerned, Linda and Pete would typically argue about anything, Pete would typically cheat at some game, Michele would want to paint her nails and Stevie, Kevie and I would want to play on the organ. The organ. I'm surprised grampie didn't smash that thing into a gazillion pieces at some point, but then again he would use it as his excuse to high-tail it outta there with his buds when he was younger. Maybe that was the ploy.

The Saturday afer Thanksgiving was spent with a Baked Bean supper, complete with grammie's homemade rolls and potato salad (one with and one without onions, she was so good to us!) and whatever turkey day leftovers she could muster into bean-supperable. We would leave first thing (sort of) Sunday morning to start the trek home. We were usually in such a hurry to get out of the sticks that something was usually left behind. One time, we actually left Palsy at grammie's house - thank goodness we weren't in Bangor when we realized that!

Another 3 hour whilrwhild trip home would always have some interesting story behind it. One year, with dad following other fathers with loaded cars in a big hurry to get home, we pulled into the right lane of the southbound turnpike just in time to watch a little old man headed northbound. We all looked at each other in awe. People, we were probably doing 80+, can you imagine the head on collision that would have made? A few times my father was the recipient of a speeding ticket, which in turn taught me a few of my favorite swear words. Somehow, we always made it home safe and sound - but let me tell you, we probably wouldn't talk to each other for at least a week after getting home.

My turkey days now are spent much quieter, family is split up everywhere and life is complicated. I miss those crazy famliy meals with everyone talking and reaching across the table - my day now is spent alone, while my son is with his father's family. Am I sad? A little - but he's experiencing a family tradition that I can't give him from my side. Our Thanksgiving will be held on Saturday with my mom and my niece. We will have a chicken (I don't like turkey), mashed potatoes, squash, peas - enough to stuff a small gathering. We'll eat pumpkin pie until it comes out of our ears, but the most important thing is that we will be together. I think we could have turkey sandwiches and not care, as long as we're together.

Again - Christmas is a different thing, I'll get to that later.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Mountain Division Trail - Gorham end - 11-22-2009

The weather today - November 22nd, the weekend before Thanksgiving - was at least 60 degrees today in the direct sunshine.  I'm really hoping that the warm fall we've had doesn't flop on us and turn into the coldest, snowiest winter on earth! Monkey and I discussed last night and landed on hiking the Mountain Division Trail, but this time starting from the Gorham end. The parking area there is off Gambo Road, which can be found just off the River Road in South Windham/North Gorham. The parking area is shared with the Gorham Youth Soccer fields and the way to the trailhead is blatently marked.

We found the path, after moving out through the recreational field area, to be paved and in excellent condition. We found ourselves traversing along towards Windham with many others (it was early - around 10:00), somewhat overcrowded for my liking but we all spaced out with time - we let them go on ahead of us. We weren't in any hurry.

First thing I noticed was that there was a lot of wood clearing going on to the right of the trail, which allowed for deeper viewing along the trail's edge. Many titmouse and chickadees working the pines through the area, so I suppose it was good for birdwatching.

We stopped in the middle of the bridge crossing the Presumpscot to take in the views - it was much wider there than I had expected it to be. I spotted a few Common Megansers working the area, but no other waterfowl could be seen. That bridge is super-high up! Enough so to make me a nervous mom and I shooed the monkey off the other side. We explored some woodpecker-beaten trees, a place where a turtle had climbed the steep embankment to lay her eggs (the leftovers were there), an old granite culvert and an underground granite cattle crossing, a few chipmunks, some long-horned steer in an adjacent field and lots of people walking their dogs.

Actually, we met a new friend along that path - his name was Manny. Manny entered our lives by way of a woman jogging with a dog of her own who was trying to shake him off. He was a handsome yellow lab obviously just looking for a friend. We distracted him from her dog and I called him over to check his tags - the friendly little critter obliged and the tag provided his name, address and a contact phone number. He lived on the road we were close to crossing, so I figured if he followed us he wouldn't be that far away.... Well - once we hit 237 I realized he was about 1/2 a mile from home. Oh jeez - well, at this point if he followed us he would be lead further from home and if he went on his own I was afraid he would get hit by a car. His nails were long which meant he wasn't left outside alot, I was nervous that he belonged to some old lady and got away from her. He was so friendly and funny, I could have brought him home! Instead, I called Gorham's non-emergency to see if I could get him a ride home. When the officer pulled up he opened the back door, whistled, clapped his hands and that dog took off tearing and jumped right in the back. We all laughed and Manny was smiling as he got a ride in the car with the nice policeman. I just hope he didn't get into too much trouble with his mom and/or dad.

After Manny's departure, we managed to make it another 1/2 mile before the legs gave out from under the monkey. We parked it on a conviently located bench and ate the snacks I had brought for nurishment. While I was sitting there I realized that we were about 100 yards from where we had stopped last spring when we first tried to make the whole trip. Rather than try to drag the monkey those few precious feet, I've decided to just call it and say we've walked the entire trail from Gorham to Standish. We turned from the bench and started manuvering our way back towards Gambo Road. To round out the trip we spotted a pair of Brown Creepers with flocks of chickadees and nuthatches working the pines.

Total trip - about 4 miles. Total time - about 2 1/2 hours. Total worth - priceless. We had so much fun together, walking and learning and watching and enjoying each other's company. We both agree that the Standish end of the hike is more interesting, more to see and the ponds make the perfect stop-and-return place. The Gorham end, however, is paved and very nice on the feet. I would almost suggest biking the Gorham end and hiking the Standish end.

Photos from our trip are below.....click and pic to view all...

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Mountain Division Trail - November 1, 2009

We started November with yet another beautiful, sunny day. Halloween night had turned to rain and wind so it was exciting to wake to the sun. We packed up a few things and headed towards Rt 35 towards Standish to meet up with the parking lot across from Sebago Lake. After parking at the Mountain Division Trailhead and filling out the appropriate water district paperwork we headed on down the trail.

The first encounter was with a beautiful horse who snorted his hello as we walked by. We had barely made it past him and his owner when the Monkey let out a little girl scream, having been spooked by a garter snake. I laughed out loud - couldn't help myself. Next we bumped into a gentleman walking his..... cat - seriously. The cat was in a harness and very friendly, chattering away at all the birds and small creatures he would attack if not held back. After giving both of us a hearty rub-down, he went about walking his owner down the path.

We moseyed along, marveling at the coloring of the trees. Their leaves were barely hanging on, as if to try to keep the branches warm for another day. Inevitably the wind would whoosh down the trail plucking them and those who had previously met their demise into a whirlwind of browns, oranges and yellows.

We walked, serenaded by Chickadees and Nuthatches, to the YMCA camp on Otter Pond, then along it's shorefront to the field opening where the Railroad track passes through. We spent a few minutes tossing rocks into Snake Pond then turned to start our way back towards civilization. We took at break on one of the conveniently placed park benches and watched some people go by, striking up a conversation with one lady having socialization issues with her dog. She sure was friendly, and insistent that we were going to hear her story. We politely realized the time and excused ourselves with being late for a fictitious rendezvous and took off, just about running.

On the way back we poked in on the gravel pit to see what was up. It's posted, I know - bad me. We found huge pollywogs in the pond and even some shiners warming themselves in the sun. A pair of Bufflehead ducks were on the pond, and a flock of Snow Buntings were working the shoreline for bugs and seeds. After two hours of enjoying our one on one time with nature, we found ourselves back at the car.

This trail is fantastic for a quick hike or bike, children, dogs or alone. It's wide and clear, and we plan on trying it out snowshoeing this winter too. If you feel up to it, you can go all the way to Dundee Park in Windham! Bring your camera - you never know what you'll see along the way!


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