January 30, 2014

Introduction to the Ice Fishing Drinking Game

Sitting in a 7 ft. x 7 ft. popup shack is more entertaining than one would imagine who's never been. Being in such close proximity keeps it lively. The fifth hour on the ice led us into conversations I could never have imagined. Ice fishing has a way of bonding friends... cold beer doesn't hurt either. A flag can and will pop up at any moment, so you need to keep your eyes peeled. In order to keep things interesting, I make friends play a little game - as soon as you spot a flag pop up, you are charged with  hollering "flag!" as loud as humanly possible. If we're on a semi-trafficked lake and a neighborly fisherman yells over to let us know we've got a flag, we all need to finish our beer. It's all in good fun.

Tending traps keeps a guy fairly busy. If one particular spot shows more promising fishing than another, we drill holes closer to the productive area. Should a certain depth be more successful, we'll adjust the other lines. Hooked bait also has a way of disappearing via tricky fish and an empty hook produces no fish. If nothing is working - we'll adjust everything. If that doesn't produce fish, you drink more. I can't say that tends to help us haul in large fish, but it helps keep the cold at bay.

Today we throw out 10 traps and test lake depth with a sounder. We hover our shiners 2 feet off bottom. Our goal is to find a school of perch, but hopefully a hungry trout. Before an hour's time, we enjoy a nice fight with a handsome white perch. Hoping this catch is a promise of future activity, we drill additional holes nearby and move a few traps around. Within the afternoon, we release three white perch as well as haul in three keepers. As w pack up to  head home for a fish fry, I describe to the others my famous fish recipe. Perhaps I'll share it with you soon... Cheers!

January 25, 2014

Ski Lessons at Maine's Saddleback Mountain

My first skiing experience was 10 years ago. I was 18 and took the big hill without a single lesson. Just moments into the first run, I realized I didn’t know how to slow my downhill approach. My rental skis tumbled through the air – into the woods –  just seconds before I followed behind. It was a bad experience to say the least. That all changed last weekend. Since I began working at L.L.Bean, I realized everyone enjoys alpine skiing and I should give it a second chance. So, I headed West.
Saddleback’s Riding School was rated #2 for Top Ten Places To Learn To Ski In New England in 2013 and they boast plenty-of-face-time, individually-tailored ski lessons on classic New England terrain. It didn’t hurt that 2-hour lessons were only $75 each (including rentals and lift ticket). And if you buy two lessons, your third is free. If you’re looking to learn to ski – ask for “Lori” – she provided the best experience we could ask for. This isn’t to say that other Maine mountains don’t have a superior program – I was simply looking for affordability.
In 2 days , 4 lesson-hours and 12 full hours of mountain time, I left able to control my speed, confident in my turns, well-versed in proper form and really excited about my new sport. Saddleback Mountain is definitely a haul for those of us near Portland, but the locals say you can count on beautiful drive, smaller crowds, a family atmosphere and some of the lowest ski prices in New England.
What to look for:
$29 Maine Days (available to Maine residents on Feb 2, Mar 2 and Apr 6)

January 3, 2014

Ice Storm | Fresh Snow | Maine Winter

The trees in New England are still weighed down and bent over by the heavy ice accumulation that has been left behind. A walk through the woods sounds eerily like a constant, but slow, shattering of glass all around you. Small chunks of ice give way from the tall pines and come crashing to the snow's crusted surface. A fresh foot of snow has been a weekly occurrence. Now it's knee-deep in the woods and we have plenty of powder for snowshoeing and skiing. Or to simply keep a man busy with a snow shovel. At least the power is back on now (which for us means heat and water), decorations are put away and most importantly, the in-laws have packed up and gone home. Coincidently, in relation to my last point, that's also when the dog stopped puking. Thank God. I hope you all had a great holiday - now let's get outdoors.