Monday, February 21, 2011

claudia diller: A Simple Log Cabin in the woods

claudia diller: A Simple Log Cabin in the woods: "I've been thinking about log cabins a lot these days - after my romp in the great north woods of Maine - and figured I might be able to tie ..."

A Simple Log Cabin in the woods

I've been thinking about log cabins a lot these days - after my romp in the great north woods of Maine - and figured I might be able to tie them in nicely with this week's president's birthday theme. It was a tough choice - President's Birthday Week now also seems to be National Buy a New Car Week. I decided to go with the more historically accurate and fundamentally correct version, as both George and Abe were born and raised in log cabins and certainly did not drive cars.

First and to my great surprise, it was Swedes and Fins who brought log construction to America from their native countries. For some reason I thought log cabins were as all American as apple pie and chopping down cherry trees. Evidently not.

The only other cool thing I read was that some people claim log cabins are earthquake proof because they do not topple or fall apart - they simply slant. That's good to know.

And then Lincoln Logs popped into my mind while I musing about all of this in line at the grocery store. My three younger brothers and I used to play with Lincoln Logs when we were growing up. I decided to find out more about them and what was going on with them these days - like do kids still play with them?

I actually learned more about the earthquake theory. As it turns out, John Lloyd Wright, son of Frank Lloyd Wright, bought the rights for the Lincoln Log toy design. He claimed that the foundation of Tokyo’s earthquake-proof Imperial Hotel, which he saw while it was under construction, inspired the shape of his logs.

The next surprise was that Lincoln Logs were named after Frank Lloyd Wright's discarded middle name - Lincoln. They had nothing to do with Abe at all. So much for an even cooler president's week tie in.

Lincoln Logs were first produced in 1916 and records show that the J. L. Wright Company of Chicago, Illinois, obtained the patent for the design on August 31, 1920 and had the Lincoln Logs name registered on August 28, 1923. Building logs of similar designs had been produced by several other toy companies since the civil war but John L. Wright's version was very successful from the beginning and has remained so to this day. His design was copied, and some say improved upon, by the Halsam Products Company, also of Chicago, with their American Logs.

In 1943, the company was sold to Playskool who makes the building sets today. Over 100 million sets have been sold to date. Seems like kids still play with them. I know my grandsons have a set.

To me personally, it's all very interesting that I started with Lincoln Logs and am, in a way returning to them, having discovered all of the stuff in between way too, and unnecessarily complicated.

A Simple Log Cabin in the Woods • 8" x 8" watercolor framed to 12" x 12" • $200

Thursday, February 17, 2011

claudia diller: In a Cabin in the Woods

claudia diller: In a Cabin in the Woods: "Skiing to Little Lyford Tom and I decided to get way out of town and spend a few nights in Maine's northern wilderness. The Appalachi..."

In a Cabin in the Woods

Skiing to Little Lyford

Tom and I decided to get way out of town and spend a few nights in Maine's northern wilderness. The Appalachian Mountain Club's operation up in Greenville serves Tom's Carrabassett Coffee in their dining halls, so we figured we'd go see how good it tasted. We would ski for three days and stay two nights- the first at Little Lyford Lodge and Camps and the second night at Gorman Chairback Lodge and Camps.

For us the adventure began in the winter parking lot AMC also uses to load skier's gear. The club would snowmobile our gear to the camps - we were asked to pack bedding and sleeping bags for Little Lyford. The Gorman Chairback cabins include all bedding. The parking lot is about eight miles from the center of Greenville on Pleasant Street. Our first overnight would be at Little Lyford - a six-plus mile ski from the where we left our van. We had the option of taking the snowmobile trail to the camps, a shorter and more road-like passage, but decided to take the newer Hedgehog Gate Trail.

The Hedgehog Gate Trail was a lot more interesting and a bit more challenging. The trail wound through the woods and up and around ridges. It was a good two-hour ski for us old farts, but a lot of fun. They have a halfway sign for those of us who have no idea how fast and far we go on skis. It was great because we determined when we hit that sign that we were skiing around three miles per hour. It helped us to plan out the time schedule for the rest of our trip.

The snow was all powder and there was lots of it. Maine had not had it's annual January thaw, so there wasn't a stitch of ice. The other astounding thing was the quiet. There wasn't a breath of wind. Just the sound of our skis.

As we turned the final corner down and into Little Lyford Camps, every image you could ever imagine about a little log cabin in the woods became a reality. A path with four-foot high snowbanks wound through the open area to the main lodge which was the kitchen and dining lodge. Breakfast and dinner were served family style. We met the very friendly crew and were shown to our log cabin - a comfortable one room with a queen and bunk beds, chairs and a few little tables, bottled water and a wood stove that we would need to keep stoked. When I told my brother about having to keep the stove stoked, he thought that was the coolest thing he had ever heard of. There was a porch out front and a styling outhouse a short walk around back. The whole setting was simple and perfect. There was a separate combined toilet, shower and sauna house back up by the dining lodge.

Little Lyford Camps sit near the Little Lyford Ponds. If you want to learn to fish -  catch and release only - this is the place to go. You're guaranteed to catch fish and can keep two a day. The camp chef will cook them up for you. Set within 66,000 acres of Appalachian Mountain Club conservation land, Little Lyford is close to the Pleasant River, Indian Mountain, Gulf Hagas, or the Appalachian Trail.

 Arriving at Little Lyford - our cabin was named Trails End.

 Our own outhouse

 We got comfortable in our cabin named Trails End

Tom relaxing with our gear hung to dry.

The dining room at Little Lyford

 Tom on his way back from the kitchen and dining lodge at Little Lyford

Chuck our host and Ari, who drove our gear in to camp, at the Little Lyford kitchen and dining lodge

Dinner was served at 6PM sharp and great. The other guests were really fun - BYOB and tall tales. The lodge is powered by gas lights and solar panels which Chuck, our host told us, will derive power even when it is overcast. We were up pretty late that night. Heading back to our cabin with our headlamps on was one of the most quiet experiences I've had in a long time. There was no wind and it was snowing lightly. There were no stars to see that night, but I guess when the skies are clear and the moon is out, a walk out on Little Lyford Pond is magical with Baker Mountain as a backdrop.

Dinner at Little Lyford with new fun friends

We woke up to about three inches of fresh powder and falling snow. There were signs of animal on our way to the breakfast. Chuck told us there was a resident fox. In past years he had seen a female and kits.

Guests liked that good Carrabassett Coffee

We ate a hearty breakfast served at 8AM sharp - including a treat of double chocolate muffins - and packed our own lunches with food provided by the kitchen. Our second night we would spend at Gorman Chairback. The newly constructed lodge and rebuilt cabins sit on the east end of Long Pond.

On the way to Gorman through a pine stand

It was a six mile trek through the woods to Gorman Chairback. We passed the trail head for Gulf Hagas but didn't have snowshoes with us which are recommended this time of year with all of the snow and ice. On another trip we might spend two nights at Little Lyford with a day spent exploring Gulf Hagas in between. All of the AMC camps have snowshoes you can borrow.

It was a beautiful trek and took us a little over two hours, including a stop for lunch on a fallen log we found off the trail a bit. There still wasn't a breath of wind and the snow kept falling. It was so quiet I remember becoming totally aware of how much noise our skis were making. The trails went up and down and around ridges and valleys. They were all well marked, but we'd stop to check where we were on our map mostly because we needed an excuse to slow down and take it all in. We met only one other couple out there - good liberals (which means open-minded according to Websters, by the way), and spent a few minutes bemoaning the LePage administration's attempt to roll back 30 years of good environmental laws.

The Gorman Lodge was beautiful with family style dining, toilets, showers and sauna. The cabins sat right on the northeast end of the lake with lovely outhouses around back. This place must be awesome in the summer - with its sandy beach and pristine lake. We did not need any bedding but thankfully needed to keep the wood stove stoked. There's something about having to work for this whole adventure that makes it special. The people you meet are kindred spirits - they love the Maine woods and want to keep them just as special as they always have been. Being able to accomplish a trip like this is a really nice reward for staying healthy and in shape.

Gorman Lodge
Gorman Lodge dining area looks out over Long Pond
 Gary was the head of the operation and our fabulous chef.
Tom in the lounge at Gorman Lodge


Looking down to the cabins from Gorman Lodge. This first cabin was eight-sided
 Andy showed us to our cabin and how to work the stove.

Our cabin at Gorman - Nancy's Nest

Getting comfortable in our cabin at Gorman

Looking west out over Long Pond from our cabin

After a sauna and shower, we had a terrific dinner and met more fun people. I couldn't sleep that night - I was too excited about being out in the woods. I felt invigorated and alive and wanted to make sure I inhaled as much of that wilderness energy as I could. It takes you right back to all of that primal stuff. Eating and staying warm being your only concern.

The next morning after we had breakfast and packed our lunch, we began the final trek back to the van. We both decided two nights was not enough - we needed one night just to realize where we were and what we were doing. Next time we'll make it longer.
Crossing over Long Pond outlet on our way back to the van

Tom on Long Pond - that's open water to the right and Baker Mountain in the background.

The trail back to our van was an eight mile trudge up a slow grade on the west side of Long Pond and along Trout Brook. The temps had dropped to eight degrees and the wind was gusting to 40. It was too cold to stop for lunch trailside - there was a lean-to and an open spot on the lake. We needed to keep skiing and we did for two and half hours with the exception of a few stops to take pics. The next time we do this, we'll head to Gorman first - it's all down hill.
When we hit the snowmobile trail that we started on before ducking into the woods on the Hedgehog trail, we were pretty bummed. It had all ended too quickly and that's always a good sign. We'll be back.

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Room of My Own

I read Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own many, many years ago. It changed my life. It was a revelation. And though her story centered around woman's inability to write because she generally had no money and no space of her own, my story went in a different direction.

I was fortunate, comfortable and had a beautiful room of my own. When I took a good look at it however, I realized my room was not really mine at all - it was filled with other people's stuff.

At forty something and many years later, I began the work of cleaning my room out. Since then it's been emptied a lot. There's more to go, but the slow, deliberate and conscious chore of filling it with my own stuff has begun.  It's simple and sparse but I really love how it's shaping up.

A Room of My Own • 8" x 8" watercolor framed to 12" x 12" • $200

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Cleansing Winter Whitewash

February comes from the Latin word februa which means cleansing or purification. This resonates with me - I love to take long hot showers and find the emotionally purifying quality of good chocolate a daily must.

I generally try to remove myself from the chill of February's deep winter weather with thoughts and images of the coming (an acknowledged long way off) summer.  I decided to celebrate this first day of the month by cleansing myself of all such thoughts and delving into the present with a purifying winter wash of white. It wasn't easy - my fingers are still numb. 

Cleansing Winter Whitewash • 8" x 8" watercolor framed to 12" x 12" • $200