These bars are not cooked. They are kept in the freezer until the day I need them. I modified the original recipe from the March 2009 issue of Outside magazine. These are just a bit cheaper than the commercial products, have no additives, and taste really good.
1 and 1/2 pounds chopped dates
3 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp Grand Marnier
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 c dried cranberries, raisins
1/4 c chopped pecans, 1/4 c chopped walnuts
1/2 c home made granola
1. Chop up dates, combine with maple syrup, vanilla, Grand Marnier, salt, spices. Stir in the rest.
2. Sandwiched between parchment paper, roll out mixture until uniform 1/2 inch thick.
3. Chill in freezer for 15 minutes, then cut into bars
Our final night was punctuated by strong winds and a rapidly dropping thermometer, twin siblings of a high front moving in from the northwest. The moon was out and the interior of the white cotton tent was remarkably bright.
On my nightly foray to bladder duty, I was immediately impressed with the cold, and we agreed that it was probably in the single numbers by dawn. When I returned to my sleep spot I draped my extra sleeping bag over my body to keep the cold off my hips. I also put on my woolen long johns, and was able to drift right back into a very comfortable place until the morning.
I broke another pattern and just laid in bed as others were stirring. V8 woke up first, scrummed up some kindling, and soon had a crackling fire going that had the tent warming up in less that 10 minutes. Then it was Auntie Mame’s turn to cook us up a breakfast of orange juice, thick slices of French toast, with butter, maple syrup, sausage, and some very strong coffee . We didn’t have far to go today, and lingered over seconds, and in my case thirds.
All we had on our next plate this morning was to pack up the sleds and walk on the snow for a mile back to the car.
It took little time to stuff our own gear away, roll up the pads, take down the tent, and load up the sleds.
Birdlegs was willing to cuddle Judy all the way down the trail.
This trip was doubly important to me, as I got the chance to collect all my winter gear for the first time this season. I regret forgetting my rubber boots, but I am not going to make that mistake again.
A super crew on this excursion. It is a total pleasure for me to hang out with women who are experienced at taking care of themselves in the outdoors, and who make me laugh.
I have three more trips coming up in March.
On March 4, Bad Influence, Rangoon and I are all set to walk the length of Moosehead and Seboomook Lakes, pulling toboggans for almost a week.
On the weekend of March 13, I head up to Tanglewood 4H camp to spend a weekend in a tiny cabin with the six members of my “Board of Personal Advisers”.
On March 21, I’ve rented the new Ski Lodge cabin in Camden Hills State Park. They’ll be ten of us in there for a couple of days.
I’m sort of stretching the concept of outdoor activities, but here we are today, hard at work practicing the flourishes that we have worked on for so long that shore up and hopefully embellish the polka lifestyle. Our next gig is in the town of Hope, Maine on March 20th.
( Photo courtesy of Mo Kirkham .)
Spent the evening engaged in my typical tossing and turning on the first night out. I heard rain hitting the tarp in the night and was none too eager to launch out into the day, so when V8 told me it was just 6 A.M., I slid down and zzzd out for another hour.
It was warm out today, much above freezing, which brought to our doorstep an unseasonably warm day. It’s gonna be slush-walking. I was going to have a problem; I forgot to pack my rubber boots. All I had with me for footwear were my mukluks, which are superb in the real cold, but are virtual sponges at any temps above 25 degrees. Solution: plastic bags and a mess of hope. Birdlegs gave an extra plastic food bag, which I added to the one I had pulled out of my pack. I put them on over my inner socks, then slid my tall fleece over socks over them and on went the mukluks. At least I’d be able to dry everything on the line overhead tonight.
V8 whipped up a giant of a breakfast: super-grain hot cereal with dried cherries, bacon, and rich, real coffee.
Our plan was to head back down the mile to the car, walk south on Rt. 3 for a little bit, cross the road to pick up a the 4 mile trail that climbs to the top of Cadillac Mountain and return. On our way down Route 3 I saw a deer cross the road ahead and head out toward Cadillac. I was convinced it was a portent that we were meant to climb Cadillac today. But we soon realized that we had walked way too far down Route 3 and missed the opening of the trail to Cadillac. Now I did what I don’t normally do. I went along with group’s alternative to hike along the gentler, kinder, Acadia Loop Road. V8 headed up a bushwhack down to the Loop Road which passed through a tunnel underneath Route 3.
I still had on my snowshoes, which I wore in the hope of sustaining dry feet above the ever softening crust.
Here’s a video of our group strolling along the unplowed surface of what is unquestionably one of the most heavily traveled roads on Mt. Desert Island, except that today, we saw no other hikers, just three cross country skiers, a half a dozen snowmobilers, but no other hikers.
We followed the Loop Road past stony beaches littered with flotsam from the ocean. Some beaches had access via winding wooden stairs. Birdlegs and I explored one of them. I climbed back up to the road with a souvenir bait bag drawstring pouch, plus a decent photo of a half eaten sea urchin.
V8 and Auntie Mame hung a left when we reached the trail that went back to Blackwoods campground. I have some walk left in me, so Birdlegs, Cody and I decided to march on to where we would eventually reach Otter Cliffs, a popular climbing spot up toward Thunder Hole and Sand Beach. One of the high points of the trip was Birdlegs spotting of what appeared to be an albino Red Squirrel. These little guys do exist. The wind increased as the day came on, as a cold front was advancing from the west. Back at the campsite, we came in on a restfully napping V8 and Auntie Mame, a scene presented in soft focus in the waning afternoon light.
Despite our campsite nestled within a grove of spruce, the increasing wind was threatening a potential mini-disaster in the vicinity of the stove. The wind was now emitting a dull roar in velocity, and was threatening to push the 8 eave side of the tent into the glowing stove. I needed to brace the leading 2 corners of the tent out, pulling it as far from the stove as I could. I was eventually successful in tying out the lower edges of the tent, packing two sleeper lengths of firewood deep into the snow.
V8’s turn for supper was an outstanding version of her chicken curry, preceded by hummus, pita crisps, kettle chips, and Snake Bites. A massive slice of some superb type of dense bundt cake set up the dessert session. The rest of the evening was punctuated by laughter, once the clean up essentials were taken care of. I awakened twice in the night for some bladder action, and each time ingested deeply the smell of the night, the black sky shimmering with February lights.
With somewhere in the neighborhood of three million visitors a year, who’d believe that you can just walk in and have your pick of any campsite at Acadia National Park’s Blackwoods campground?
It might take a visit on a February weekend with a foot and a half of snow on the ground, but free oceanside camping is fine with me. Four of us made the weekend outing: the three Mainers, which included myself and the Speedy Sisters, known individually as V8 and Auntie Mame, and Birdlegs, hailing from New Hampshire. The Mainers were veteran winter walkers, and for Birdlegs, it was her first taste of “warm” winter camping. We also had the pleasure of being accompanied by veteran winter walker, Jody dog, our five pound Pomeranian.
We went in mid-day Saturday, and came out Monday morning. It doesn’t take much to camp in Acadia during the winter. About all you need to do is register with a ranger on duty at park Headquarters. After he gave us our map, a page full of rules, and a warm good-bye, we drove down Route 3 to Blackwoods Campground, an the southern end of Mount Desert Island. The 1 mile road into the campground itself is unplowed. That’s where my home-made toboggans come in.
After we wedged the Caravan into the plowed out parking area on the side of Route 3, we loaded all our gear onto three sleds and grunted our way up the snowy track to our destination. V8 was chugging the point, with Birdlegs soon hauling on her harness right behind. Camp rules forbid the cutting of any standing deadwood, so I brought my own tent poles, 7 of them, ranging from 14 to the 18 foot ridge pole. They stacked on the top of my 10 foot toboggan, along with my 9 x 12 wall tent and my stove, plus some firewood. When it was my turn to grunt up, I couldn’t even budge the sled and depended on Auntie Mame to periodically push and even align the toboggan in the track. We all needed snowshoes to keep from sinking in.
It didn’t take long to reach the camping loops. The terrain was essentially dealing with one long but gradual uphill then a fairly gentle curving slope down. We eventually located a site that was within a brief walk to a port-a potty. The wash houses were winterized and locked up, but soon Birdlegs was successful in operating an ancient frost free metal hand pump, and secured a few gallons of drinking water in our red plastic pail.
After we stomped down a suitable site and dug out a stove pit, we spent the early afternoon unpacking the sleds, putting up the tent and rain fly, and setting up our temporary home, dividing up the tent into a rear sleeping area and a front kitchen work space.
Stove? Right, complete with stovepipe and thimble. One of the most intelligent purchases I ever made was buying a lifetime, titanium box stove from Four Dog Stoves .
The price of the unit in the ten years since I purchased it has more than doubled. I rigged a stout cord up high inside the ridge that would serve as a station for any wet foot gear and clothing that we’d have to dry out. When the stove is cranking it can get over 90 degrees up there. With the stove and dry wood, we were able to heat the tent up to the point where I was down to my undershirt.
Eventually we settled in, and enjoyed the heat and ambiance of the filtered light through the white Egyptian cotton tent fabric.
I have a sweet deal here. Mame and V8 volunteered to cook breakfast and dinners, and provide the fixin’s for us to pack our own lunches. As the darkness came on, we lit two candles and stuck them in the snow near the entrance and the tent was softly, but adequately illuminated by out 2 candlepower system.
Mame started the gustatory frenzy off with carrots and celery with hummus, and smoked salted almonds. I made up a couple of the infamous Snake Bites (Yukon Jack, lime juice, and snow) for myself and V8. Soon a thick hamburger was coming my way, on a puffy roll, slathered with mayonnaise and catchup. Chocolate pudding cups did the dessert session justice.
We continued to stoke the stove with the split dry oak that we had trucked in here on the toboggans. When it was time to sleep, someone blew out the candles, damped down the stove and withdrew into the depths of their winter sleeping bags. I know it wasn’t me.
The author, Wayne Johnston, has perception and skills far above anyone else I have remembered reading. Johnston is a native of Newfoundland. The protagonist, Sheliagh Fielding, was first introduced in a superb prior novel by Johnston, The Colony of Unrequited Dreams. In this one, at age 44, Fielding seeks the isolation of an abandoned settlement on an island off the coast of Newfoundland, and she essentially takes the reader back in time for the bulk of the novel. There is not much that can be written about day to day life on an abandoned island of only one resident. Fielding is a six foot three tall, sarcastic, life long alcoholic, who has known direct love so briefly in passing. Fielding retains her humanity despite her pattern of living in the dregs of Newfoundland, and those digs are deep. Much of the novel is past recollection of a huge wasteland of family lies, deceptions, and apparitions. As a believable character, Fielding is as well developed and unique a presence as in any novel. The writing is brilliant, the wordplay rich and layered. This is not a book to rocket through. I now plan to read everything Johnston has ever read, having completed three of his novels so far.
I had planned to hit the gym early and do a Spinning class, but it didn’t happen. Things worked out, as they do, and the day was warm and the road was melted down. I put the orthotics in , slipped on my trail shoes, and did a quick 5 miles on High St. later this afternoon. The light was inspiring, and I felt a twinge of spring in the air. I was practicing my modified gait. On one end of the street I watched a motorcycle apporach me, which slowed and stopped. I did not know who it was, didn’t recognize the bike or the rider, who was swaddled in insulated Carharts and was sporting a full faced helmet.
“It’s me, Gabe Finkelstein . I have a bike now!”
Gabe was showing off his almost new Suzuki DR 650 dual sport bike that he had picked up in November. He had the bike registered and was looking forward to taking a licensing course in a couple of weeks. We talked bike for a bit and he shoved off with a huge grin on his face. He is a top level mountain bike rider who told me that morning runs on Mt. Pleasant over the snowmobile trails were really prime right now, especially after a good freezing night. I’m going to move on that one, may call Nelson and head over there this week.
A half and hour later I was up the other end of High St. I had the iPod doing its thing, when I thought I heard some yelling, and turned around to see a mountain bike steaming along. It was one of my riding buddies, the local brewer, Andy Hazen. His legs were really pumping and I cheered him on as he went by. I thought he was heading off on one of our loops, a 10 miler we sometimes do up Moody Mountain and then around and back from Searsmont. A few minutes later I saw him heading back towards me.
” I just did the 10 mile loop, and wanted to do an extra two miles!”