The Phoenix Network:
About  |  Advertise
Adult  |  Moonsigns  |  Blogs  |  In Pictures

Conquer the cold

Banish winter blahs with energizing outdoor fun
By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  December 9, 2009

Any New Englander worth his salted cod knows that the key to beating seasonal hibernation-induced depression is adherence to one simple motto: Leave The House. I stuck to this mantra last winter, and ended up having some of the most fun I had all year. Here's a recap of some of my adventures, and a checklist of some new ones I'm hoping to have once the snow starts falling (check out our comprehensive ski listings).



"Smelting, of course, is a fancy word for a certain kind of ice fishing, in which the desired catch is the aquatic species known as smelt. Smelt are silvery fish that measure, on average, between 5 and 8 inches long. They congregate in brackish, salty-fresh waters, like those in Merrymeeting Bay, near Bowdoinham. They are akin to salmon, but smaller (and less pink).

"Smelting, though, is also shorthand for initiation into a part of authentic Maine culture. It's been called 'one of the most popular rites of winter' by the Portland Press Herald, and 'a deep and dependable tradition on the state's coast' by the New York Times. The silly and charming Smelt Fishing In America won director David Camlin the Best Documentary award in the Portland Phoenix's 2007 Maine Short Film Festival mostly because it captured how special this ordinary activity could be. But the most important endorsement came by way of the true Maine outdoorsmen I know — almost all of whom count smelting as one of their favorite, and most fondly remembered, winter pastime.

"I can see why. From the moment I arrived at the wooden-floored, tin-walled shack atop the icy river, I felt enveloped by warmth, and not just that emanating from the rusty, rickety, wood-burning stove against one wall. It was also the feeling of camaraderie that comes from sharing a 10-by-10 space with four other people for several hours, all while cracking beers and jokes, and — oh yeah, catching fish."

I went to Jim's, on Route 24 in Bowdoinham (207.666.3049). Find your own favorite smelting spot at

The following month, I SLEPT IN A YURT:

"Safe to say, we weren't exactly roughing it. The yurt might have been in the middle of the Western Maine woods, surrounded on all sides by two feet of snow, but we ate like queens, slept in tank tops, and were able to update our Facebook statuses between fire-roasted hot dogs. Still, the two days I spent at the Frost Mountain Yurts with six other women were decidedly more reminiscent of Little House on the Prairie than my daily life in Portland.

"Not many people know what a yurt is. In fact, several of us who made the journey were unsure exactly what we were in for until we arrived in Brownfield. . . . What we found, once we trekked down the snowy path leading to our accommodations, was a circular structure with a raised wooden floor and latticed walls, covered on the top and sides by heavy-duty canvas. In shape and general function, the yurts are similar to the flexible, portable homes of Central Asian nomads. (The word 'yurt' is derived from the Turkic word for 'dwelling place.')

1  |  2  |   next >
Related: 2009 had some redeeming qualities - really, Mail dump, Eat, buy, love: A mini Going Green gift guide., More more >
  Topics: Lifestyle Features , Maine Huts and Trails, Mahoosuc Range, Deering Oaks Park,  More more >
| More

Share this entry with Delicious
  •   ALL THE WORLD'S A STAGE  |  July 24, 2014
    When three theater companies, all within a one-hour drive of Portland, choose to present the same Shakespeare play on overlapping dates, you have to wonder what about that particular show resonates with this particular moment.
  •   NUMBER CRUNCHERS  |  July 23, 2014
    Maybe instead of devoting still-more resources to food reviews, Maine’s leading news organizations should spend money on keeping better tabs on Augusta.
    Among last year’s 100 top-grossing films, women represented just 15 percent of protagonists, and less than one-third of total characters.
    Former Mainer Shanna McNair started The New Guard, an independent, multi-genre literary review, in order to exalt the writer, no matter if that writer was well-established or just starting out.
  •   NO TAR SANDS  |  July 10, 2014
    “People’s feelings are clear...they don’t want to be known as the tar sands capitol of the United States."

 See all articles by: DEIRDRE FULTON

  |  Sign In  |  Register
Phoenix Media/Communications Group:
Copyright © 2017 The Phoenix Media/Communications Group