“Drive to Newry and receive your next clue,” was the message we received midday yesterday and so as soon as my guy closed his store and sent in an order for more merchandise, we hopped into the truck and began our journey north. In Newry, just beyond Bethel, we found out we were to continue on to Rangeley and patronize the local businesses.
First, however, we had to get there. Darkness enveloped us and flurries confused my vision as I drove with caution through Grafton Notch to Errol, New Hampshire, and then back into Maine toward our destination. Our wildlife sightings: two raccoons, a snowshoe hare still brown in color, a couple of deer and a cow moose and the bull moose you might see to the left of the first telephone pole. We were excited to say the least. And, I had proof that my slower speed was apropos–cuze my guy was teasing me.
It was almost 8:00pm when we pulled into town and stopped at Parkside and Main for a burger. The restaurant closed at 8, but owner Kash Haley was gracious and told us to relax. So between plays in the football game, and bites of our burgers, we oohed and aahed as one of the waitresses shared photos of her grandchildren with us.
And then once all the patrons and staff had left, we sat for a bit longer at Kash’s insistence and enjoyed the game and each others company while he cashed out and sanitized the kitchen.
This morning found us rising to a blue sky over Rangeley Lake. Doesn’t the saying go like this: Blue sky in the morning, snowflakes in the offing? For they were and we knew we had to dress appropriately for a day outdoors. But first, we had a few more local businesses to visit, the first being Keep’s Corner Cafe for breakfast and then we grabbed sandwiches from Woody’s Deli at Loony Bin Variety. And with the check came our next clue: “Rangeley–equator to pole, it’s all the same.” Huh?
But, we did our research and sure enough, the western Maine town of Rangeley is located precisely between the Equator and the North Pole. How cool is that? And it was at that sign that another clue appeared. “Choose one: Either explore Orgonon or Find your way to the giant AT sign and seek the piazza.” Several years ago we’d snowshoed the trails at the Wilhelm Reich Museum, aka Orgonon, so we chose the latter for today’s challenge. The AT we understood to be the Appalachian Trail, but a piazza on the trail? Would there be a hut with a porch? Perhaps a fancy porch?
A few miles south we found the giant AT. And across from the parking lot on Route 4 we spied the opening to the part of the trail we thought we should follow.
And so we ventured forth, stopping moments later for a couple of deposits of red fox scat. Another critter to add to our 24-hour menagerie.
We crossed a sluice way of the Sandy River, and imagined the history stored in the rocks.
As we hiked, snowflakes decorated the variety of maple leaves.
And we began to notice that our journey would pass through a variety of natural communities and over various obstacles including roots,
and rocks mixed with roots.
My guy was in the lead, though he commented throughout that I wasn’t far behind, trailing only by a few footsteps. But when he reached a certain point, I’d been looking down for careful foot placement and so I didn’t know what he was exclaiming about–until I looked up. At. Piazza. Rock.
From Maine Trailfinder we discovered this tidbit: “According to the geological notes about this area, ‘The granite of Saddleback is jointed into huge building blocks. An unusually large one has slid out of its place in the mountain side and, instead of breaking and skating down the slope like the others, has balanced across another block to create one-half of a cantilever bridge, forming Piazza Rock.'” Oh, did I mention that we were hiking up Saddleback Mountain?
Perspective isn’t gained until one actually stands under the building block. The clue said that one of us must climb atop the structure and the other view it all from below. Thankfully, despite his fear of heights, my chivalrous guy chose the upper path.
He made it seem so simple as he crawled up the rock and then contemplated the platform before him. For a second, he wasn’t sure he’d be able to go further. But, that could mean the loss of points for us. I didn’t say anything to encourage or discourage because I was standing on safe ground below.
My job was to appreciate the boulder from its underside. And certainly I did as I looked up at the stone diving board planted for a giant’s leap.
And bravely making his way toward the tip–my guy!
I looked up to where he stood–atop a turtle head, for after all, we stood on turtle rock.
And he looked down . . .
Later he told me that his father always said as he stepped onto a porch, “I’m going out to the piazza.” Indeed.
Interestingly, both of our fathers accompanied us on this leg of the race for apparently as my guy thought of his dad, I spent some time thinking about my father and how much he would have loved exploring trails such as this one with us.
But, we were in a race and so though we reveled in memories of our fathers, we had to move back to the trail signs and check for our next clue, which was again a choice: “Make the next move or Channel your best bat.” What?
We followed the trail, crossed one of many streams and located the Piazza Rock Campsite–all set for the next temporary residents who would leave no trace behind.
It was right behind the hut that we noticed the privy–and location for any who chose to make a move . . .
In the game of cribbage that is for a game board sits between the two-seater. My guy might have chosen this for he knew he could beat me, but he was once again chivalrous and suggested we channel our best bats. Team Pink did stop at the privy and we never saw them after that so we wondered if they gave up on their card game and moved on to Orgonon.
We, however, continued on and reached “The Caves.” One after the other, we shimmied through, hardly as graceful as a bat might fly.
It wasn’t easy, but we moved in and out and reached our next clue: Locate lunch rock with an aquatic view.
Onward we climbed, reaching Ethel Pond first, where the ice at the edge was thin and my guy reminded me that I should approach with care.
About a half mile up the trail we spotted another wetland. Really, we expected to see a moose in each, but when one expects to see a moose or any other form of wildlife, it doesn’t happen. And it’s truly more enjoyable when the offering is a surprise.
Speaking of surprises were the first ice formations of the year.
Periodically, we crossed water, but the ice formed best at our last crossing, where lunch rock awaited. We’d made it to the stream that flowed from Moose and Deer Pond, a place we couldn’t necessarily visit, but could appreciate for the wildness it offered its wildlife residents.
Lunch rock stood in front of my guy and it was there that we enjoyed the chicken salad sandwiches we’d ordered from Woody’s Deli at the Lonny Bin.
As we looked about, we discovered that we weren’t the only ones to dine in that vicinity, for the balsam fir scales and cone cobs indicated that the resident red squirrels were also frequent diners.
And, it appeared, another had also consumed a meal for Junco feathers were plentiful. A foe of a different feather had gained a few joules of energy.
Our lunch spot became our turn-around point and with great speed we made our way back to the sluice in now time at all, completing our eight mile hike with side trips in 5.5 hours, sorry that we couldn’t summit Saddleback Mountain because we were told to return to our truck by 3:30pm. We actually reached the truck by 3:10. In our minds, another day will find us returning and summiting Saddleback as we really like the trail and were eager to discover what else it had to offer.
As we drove toward Errol on our return trip, we spotted Team Mustang stopping just below Orgonon and wondered what they questioned when they stepped out of their car.
We continued on to the starting point in Newry, ready to step on the mat and end this leg of the race, only to discover that we’d made a mistake.
How could that be?
We thought that lunch rock was our turn-around point, but we should have continued about 50 more feet where a spur trail would have led us to Eddy Pond. Oh, we could see the pond, but not get close to it. If only . . . we’d paid closer attention to the map.
As it was, when we arrived at the mat beside Puzzle Mountain Bakery in Newry, we had to sit for a half an hour and wait. No one arrived. Thankfully. And then we had to answer one important question: How many streetlights are there in Upton? Eight. Check.
We finished third but got the streetlight question right and so we received a blueberry raspberry pie. YUM.
The Amazing Race–Our Style: episode nine . . . and the fun continues; we’re still in. Phew.