In the North Country we notice when the bank gets new all-weather mats. We order dessert with our breakfast. We know who is shopping at the Co-op by the cars in the parking lot. We appreciate when the local coffee shop refreshes the Lavender and Linen candle in their unisex restroom. We have around-town camouflage and we proudly save our good camouflage for hunting season. We enjoy a reliable social consistency up here and yet we are subjects to the constant fluctuations of the seasons. Every month has its own products and presentations. You can overhear one New Hampshire sage complain about meteorologists getting paid to be wrong while nearby a local stoic responds with some over-the-counter Mark Twain, “if you don’t like the weather, wait a minute.”
Buds burst into bloom in my yard. Above tree line my snowshoes break through April’s icy crust. I end up buried hip-deep at four thousand feet.
My mom is receiving her Mother’s Day flowers. I am drenched in sweat. Carrying a heavy pack I climb up a sun lit trail. I am wearing shorts and crampons. Climbing the monorail of hard-packed ice, I am on my way to a high mountain hut in Spring.
The schools are all letting out. College students, desperate for summer jobs, are dropping off resumes at local businesses. My shop’s doors are locked up early this June 9. I’ve closed up to take the Stand Up Paddleboard through our forested waterways by the light of summer’s full moon. The Loons and I haven’t seen each other for a year, we exchange the slightest nods and go our separate ways.
Sunglasses fixed to my face for months now, these raccoon eyes and the blond in my beard are fine by me. I accept July’s first sunburn.
August is my time for travel. I rent an island in Maine. Accessible only by canoe, I host an annual Lord Of The Flies setting and provide Great Gatsby indulgence.
Just as everybody is heading out of town and back to school, the trails grow quieter.
The leaves begin to peak in their reds and oranges and again the mobs click selfies and point fingers out windows from pulled over cars. The colors cover our mountains and single leaves slide down the melt-swelled streams.
Put your Micropspikes in your packs before Halloween and don’t dare remove them until you are once again sending those flowers to mom.
Permission to widen at the middle seems to be granted in New Hampshire’s North Country come November. We are still picking candy from our teeth. Excuse our gluttony while we pack on necessary insulation. We must prepare for our Thanksgiving feasts.
All the chatter of December is about snow. When will the mountains open? Is this a La Nina or an El Nino year, and which means snow for New Hampshire?
The Main Street thermometer reads -18 during parts of January, but no bother, next week will begin the thaw… fifty degrees, rain in the forecast…
February is when we forget all our end-is-nigh-winter-is-over-chatter, cold beers in warm bars watching the approach of nor’easters on the Weather Channel. The best businesses close on powder days: thigh deep in fresh snow, exhausted by two in the afternoon, early to bed, more snow in the forecast tomorrow and Wednesday too!
The locals still call it the snowiest month in the North Country. Early March loves to tease with a few forty degree days during which we don sandals and go about town in only a light jacket. The spring buds peek out from under their snow drifts. We are conflicted. Do we exchange bike for skis or simply add the bike rack to the back and get our skis sharpened one more time for those bluebird spring days? The professionals cover their Subaru Outbacks and Toyota Tacomas with skis, bikes, and a kayak for good measure.
New Hampshire’s North Country is a place where unless you play, you will not stay. Our raw and unfiltered lifestyle is seasonally-based. (We have no less than six seasons a year.) All the money you save on our blatant disregard for “fashion” should be allotted for the multiple outdoor activities that will ensure your sanity throughout our barometric schizophrenia. If you acquire boots, boats, bikes, and refine a palate for beer, you might have a shot at a great life in our hills.
When the trails are wet, we paddle; when the trails are frozen, we peddle. If the hills are white, we ski; if the conditions aren’t right, well, we’ll see… The pubs are a tradition of the mountain community. No matter the day’s trials and tribulations, pals with which to commiserate or celebrate always await you with an open barstool or cafe table. The exclusively indoor existence in New Hampshire’s North Country smells like an incontinent dorm room and demands asylum attire. There is no reason to become pale in stained sweatpants while your midsection widens and your muscles atrophy year after year, after all, you can have all that in any city in the world.