For the last several Christmas breaks, we’ve traveled to Peaks Island, Maine, off Portland, for a pre-Christmas stop with my parents and then driven with them to the northern Maine town of Rangeley. Rangeley is home not only to Saddleback ski area, but it also has many other small-town charms, including a great ice skating pond in the middle of town and a great sledding hill in the middle of a golf course.
I haven’t been running much since I had an episode of deep-vein thrombosis after a long flight to Manila in mid-November, but, now cleared by doctors to exercise on all sports that don’t include the risk of head injury (there goes downhill skiing), I’ve been slowly building back.
This morning, I checked the local Rangeley map and found a route along the Harold Ross Road, named after the legendary New Yorker editor who had the good sense to hire E.B. White. I admit to running slowly before reaching Harold Ross Road; to get there I had to run a good three-quarters of a mile along the Saddleback access road, and it was steep, befitting the beginnings of a good mountain road.
But once I reached the turnoff, I relaxed and fell into a steady rhythm. It had snowed an inch or two overnight and that made for the best type of winter running. I had soft landings. My footfalls were almost silent, save for a slightly squeaky land and push-off. The north wind pushed me south.
I registered only a few things along the way: some street signs – my favorite was Stub and Luraine’s Lane -- and also animal tracks. The deeper I ran down Harold Ross, the greater the number of tracks. I was running on a deserted road as well as an animal highway.
The most common track was moose. I stopped and put my running shoe next to a hoof print, and the hoof was significantly longer than my shoe, probably a size 12 man’s. I paced off the distance between prints, and one stretched five feet. I started out again and ran along the ridge, up and down, over streams, and pass pine wood, looking for but not finding moose.
Fifty-five minutes after my start, I returned back to our rented house on Rangeley Lake, called Windy Cross, perhaps because of the wind and also all the crosses in the house. I found my father, Mike. I had tried to persuade him the night before to go into the hot tub next to the house, and he had demurred, saying “let’s wait until morning.”
He was carrying bags to his car, getting ready to return home with my mother, Mary.
“Want to go in the hot tub, Dad?”
“Sure!” he said.
Five minutes later, we opened the hot tub and stripped down to our shorts. Barefoot, we made the short walk across snow and ice before submerging in the warm water. It was wonderful. (Check out the video.) Afterward, I asked my father how he felt and he said, “All my pores are open.”
How does that feel?
“I am feeling generous and benign,” he said.
We laughed, and he and I understood exactly what he meant. All is good.