Last night the thermometer at camp dipped to a chilly -17 degrees! Vermont Public Radio reported that Artic weather was settling in over the state for the next several days. The snow squeaks under one’s feet at those temperatures and the cold air feels chilly going down. But the sun shines even at -17, and recent snow fall entices me to head out on my cross-country skis!
Cross-country skiing is the best way, from my perspective, to experience the winter woods. For sure there is deep snow to plow through, and our trails do have hills to climb, but the rewards? It’s a winter wonderland out there! Our stained cabins look like gingerbread houses decorated with white frosting. There’s tracks to be studied . They tell winter mysteries of squirrels, chipmunks, voles, owls, deer, fox and others who settle in at camp once we are gone. And there’s a great downhill run from the waterworks to the lodge. Fun!
Cross-country skiing has a long history and I am delighted to be one of the most recent converts to the activity. In Scandinavia there are rock drawings that are over 4000 years old that depict humans on skis! Early northern peoples discovered that transportation over snowy terrain was much easier on skis. But imagine! The skis depicted look to be over eleven feet long! Here in the US, cross-country skiing was useful for the Rocky Mountain postal service. John “Snowshoe” Thompson comes to mind as a postal delivery man in that area. Over three days, Thompson would ski a 90-mile route over the Sierra Nevada mountains to make sure isolated residents got their mail. Can you believe that he did that job for twenty years!
Here in Vermont, my time on my cross-country skis is purely recreational! The archery field is laced with the tracks of a few hearty Betsey Cox people. The tracks disappear into the woods, they traverse the Sangamon horse pasture and around and about between our two camps. It’s fun to see who has gone where!
There’s a long history of skiing at the camps! Way back in the 1930s, when Leone Smith (Sangamon’s founder) was up and around in the winter time, he built a rope tow out of old wheels and sturdy rope. He cut a trail from Sangamon’s lower bank of cabins on which winter visitors could fly down the steep embankment and out over the frozen Burr pond. One can only imagine the contests about who could ski out the farthest on the ice! Sadly perhaps, the rope tow has been gone for many years and there are no visible remains of the trail. But there are those older Sangamen who can tell the tales!
Rest assured that camp is lively even in January! Winter animals and hearty visitors share our terrain and even in -17, there are adventures to be had!