Last Friday in Maine was a glorious thing. 70 degree weather in the middle of March. T-shirts and flip-flops were put on notice, and the winter jackets cast aside with hardly a glance or so much as a thank you. Then this morning appeared 3 inches of fresh snow. This week’s forecast: snow showers, cold, and windy. What to make of these mixed signals? Simply this – like every year, spring is taking its time. When it finally does arrive, well…there is nothing like it.
The long, cold winter months will have given way to the bright, fresh air; the quiet solitude of the woods pushed aside by the rush of new life. It is an amazing time of year and it wouldn’t be possible without those cold winter months. In fact, for all the bad press it gets, we who love the summer in Maine owe winter a big debt of thanks. Let me explain…
Winter in Maine (like all northern states) is harsh. It can be unpleasant. It lasts a fairly long time. Snow clearing is a constant, as is the need for heat. The days are short, and the sunlight weak. These reasons drive a lot of people away from Maine, as they just prefer not to deal. What does this mean for the rest of us?
Well, Maine is a massive state with a tiny population. Maine’s biggest city would be a suburb of most larger American or European cities. The upshot is that we get to keep massive amounts of land in pretty much the same condition as we found them. Natural. Undeveloped. Unpolluted. The clean air and water here are so good that they have near magical properties attributed to them (just ask the bottled water companies who ship millions of gallons of Maine water to the rest of the world each year). In other words, Maine offers perfect conditions for summer camping in harmony with the environment. Summer camp has always been a minimally impacting activity, and in turn, requires lots of space that has been minimally impacted. Unlike most every other place in well-populated North America, Maine has such undeveloped spaces in abundance, and the world’s best selection of summer camps to match.
Maine is lucky then, to have largely escaped the changes that we humans inevitably bring to every landscape we admire. That does not mean it is unchanged though. The geography and climate of Maine have shaped, without parallel, the perfect place to spend summers. Far enough north to avoid the oppressive heat and humidity of the Atlantic states (air-conditioned summer camp cabins? I don’t think so!), but not so far north as to lack a summer, Maine is temperate in the summer, after being very cold in the winter. The annual snow pack recharges the water supply, and fills the countless lakes to brimming with clean, fresh water.
Lakes and hills created by retreating glaciers that are a constant visual reminder of the power of ice, and every dip into Stanley Lake’s spring waters is another thank you that we don’t need a chlorine filled pool to enjoy a swim. Our forests are shaped by the cycle of long, dark cold, and sudden, glorious warmth and sun to be tall, healthy, and abundant. So even before development pressures encroached on camp properties in more southerly states, Maine has always been the best choice for a summer camp location, again, thanks to the side effects of winter.
So why bother writing all this? Because we need to remind ourselves, after cleaning the snow from the car again, after finding and apologizing to the winter jacket, after watching another snowplow tear up a garden bed, that we who get to experience the sublime beauty of a summer in Maine are lucky to have a winter like this. If we didn’t have these winters, well, summer in Maine would become like summer anywhere else. And who would want to be anywhere else than in Maine this, or any, summer? Thanks Old Man Winter….now get outta here.