Lance Tapley is a former tenant of mine. His two sons just graduated
from medical school.
Back in the 1970’s Lance spearheaded the successful drive to save
Bigelow Mountain in Maine from Ski Resort Developers.
Deep State: How to Renew Yourself at the New Year
Spend a month in the beautiful deep woods
by Lance Tapley
Tuesday, December 31, 2019 10:53 AM
Grand Falls Hut (Photo John Orcutt, orcuttphotography.com)
Maine Huts & Trails Needs You
The difficulties of my stay, I’m told, were extraordinary. The weather was almost historic. I write those things because Maine Huts & Trails is a marvelous addition to Maine’s outdoors, and it now needs support.
Grand Falls is one of four huts on an 80-mile, groomed trail system through the western mountains. The huts serve cross-country skiers, snowshoers, hikers, and bicyclists.Unfortunately, because of money woes the nonprofit organization has been forced to stop its periods of “full-service” — serving meals — this winter, and remote Grand Falls Hut has been closed for the season. The outfit apparently relied too much on income from users and not enough on building an endowment.
Volunteer caretakers, however, will keep three huts open for people bringing in their own food. To learn more, including how to support the organization with a donation or make a reservation for an inexpensive overnight stay, go to mainehuts.org.
Deep State is an investigative, political-analysis, and occasional personal-essay column diving deep into Maine. It appears in The Free Press every few weeks. Email tips and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Two winters ago, I spent from mid-December to mid-January as the volunteer caretaker at Maine Huts & Trails’ most remote hut, Grand Falls. I went there to enjoy the magnificent wild location, see what it could teach me, get some reading and writing done, and support the organization. It became an adventure.
“Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.” — Franz Kafka “Conversations with Kafka,” Gustav Janouch
December 15, 2017
Arrived yesterday noon with cross-country skis, snowshoes, backpacks and food boxes after a wild ride through new snow in a truck driven by an energetic, middle-aged back-to-the-lander, Darren, who’s the outfit’s maintenance guy.
I’m finally relaxing by the dining-room woodstove, enjoying its glow after a day and a half of trying to figure out how everything works. It already feels strange to be alone eight miles via a cross-country ski or snowmobile trail — once the snow gets deep — from the nearest deserted back road. Then it’s 25 miles to the tiny village of North New Portland.
The pocket satellite communicator I was promised for solo outdoor jaunts is being repaired. No cell service outdoors. But on the hut — it’s really a beautiful, almost-luxurious, lodge — there’s a satellite dish and an antenna providing internet and phone connections for the caretakers. And in a week Peggy and three of our grown sons will ski in for Christmas. She’ll stay after they leave.
December 17, 2017
Yesterday a raven croaked a cryptic greeting as it glided from treetop to treetop above me as I left the hut on a snowshoe hike to the rarely seen Grand Falls. It’s well named: about 40 feet high and three times as wide, it’s one of the largest waterfalls in the East.
On a previous trip in late winter, I had seen it frozen over. Now a lot of water is roaring over it, generating clouds that the west wind pushes up the Dead River Valley past the hut, a mile and a half distant. Sometimes I can faintly hear the falls from the hut.
Today I took my first ski outing. Sunny, breezy, very cold. I went up the service road to the Lower Enchanted Road, then down a lightly blazed forest trail to the trail above the river, then back to the hut.
In the forest I had to pick my way around and across blowdowns. Lots of deer tracks and scat. Undoubtedly, I was the first skier on that trail this season. Considering where I was, I was especially cautious on downhills.
Dropping me off in Kingfield, my younger outdoors buddy Colin told Sue, the huts’ volunteer coordinator, “He’s cautious.” Reassurance to her? But I know Colin thinks I’m too cautious.
December 18, 2017
I alternate reading Hemingway’s short stories with Thoreau’s “The Maine Woods,” giving myself a class in nature writing from stylistic geniuses.
In the big view from the dining room, early darkness transforms the light snowfall into waves of gray haze tumbling over the hillsides.
Frequently, I was anything but cautious in my youth. As a freelance writer, I have lived in a more economically risky way than anyone I know. But I’m aware my cautiousness has increased with age.
Of course, the body becomes weaker, but I’ve been lucky in health. My contemporaries, though, chant the dirges of age around me every day. These have had their effects on me, especially the deep bass notes of sicknesses and disabilities. An older friend calls it “the organ recital.” And friends are dying. And dead.
I love my friends, and I hate this negative scene. I want to fight this losing battle. It’s one reason I took up winter mountaineering in my late 60s. It’s a deep reason I’m at Grand Falls. Is there a partial antidote here? I do love Maine’s natural world.
But I spend too much time indoors. I must feed logs — many of which I have to split — into the furnace every few hours to raise the temperature of the huge water tank that heats the floor tiles through elaborate pipes. This task is a pain in the ass, especially during the night.
December 19, 2017
Rain is predicted for the 23rd, when Peggy and the boys plan to ski in. They have experience in bad winter weather, but still …
December 20, 2017
“This is a job,” I told Peggy on the phone. I have to split wood for the stove, too.
But I do get to write and read some. Now I’m reading Edward Abbey, a paperback of essays I found in the tiny hut library. The title, “One Life at a Time, Please,” is obviously a takeoff on Thoreau’s famous deathbed reply when asked if he was prepared for the next world: “One world at a time.” Hilarious Henry, humorist to the last.
“One Life” was Abbey’s last nonfiction book in his lifetime. He inspired me when I was young. He made the kind of work I did as a writer and environmental activist seem cool.
I have several slight connections to him. One occurred when I was at the San Francisco Chronicle in 1971. I skied into Mineral King Valley in the High Sierra and wrote pieces for the newspaper and the Sierra Club Bulletin opposing the development by Walt Disney of this gorgeous, remote valley into a huge downhill-ski resort.
Because of the Sierra Club’s efforts, the development never came to pass. My experience with Mineral King led to my campaigning with others to save Maine’s Bigelow Range from a similar fate, which also was successful.
In the same issue of the Bulletin (now entitled Sierra), Abbey had an article. He used the simple argument of beauty to urge the preservation of the wild canyons of southeast Utah. I used the same argument on behalf of Mineral King — and later for Bigelow.
But nowadays beauty isn’t enough. Many environmentalists feel they must oppose economic development with an economic argument, such as income from recreational use.
The very farthest-in-the-south sun has emerged from the clouds, making the snow shine. “My darlings,” I said aloud to the sky, the snow, and the snow-saturated trees. I love them all. That is my longtime, secret mantra.
Winter Solstice, 2017
Bigelow is on the horizon, a snowcapped profile 10 miles to the south. I am truly embedded in the Maine mountains.
I urged Peggy and the boys to delay coming in until Christmas Eve day because of a now-predicted substantial snowstorm ending in freezing rain.
Darren’s daughter Amy dropped off more supplies. “Today probably is the last time I’ll be able to drive in except on a snow vehicle,” she told me. I was happy to get the InReach satellite device.
December 22, 2017
An exceedingly sad day. After reviewing the worsening forecast, I wrote an email late last night to Peggy and the boys telling them not to come for Christmas. A foot of snow on the way — it has already started — then frozen rain, then more snow for days ahead. Even the major highways will be bad. Peggy called immediately and agreed, to my gloomy relief.
Feeling lonely for the first time, I cut down a small fir. I will have some kind of Christmas.
December 23, 2017
Following delicate tracks in the snow down to the Dead, I observed that the deer always took the most efficient course over the contours of the trail.
As with the river, Spencer Stream, a major tributary, is more frozen over with my every trip to it, the ice now in white, green, and even brown swirls, a universal organic pattern that Thoreau exclaimed about in “Walden.” Ironically, he saw it in the half-frozen mud of a railroad embankment. His ecstasies are such a contrast to Hemingway’s subterranean understatements.
Snow has now been falling for eighteen hours.
This will be the first Christmas I’ve ever spent alone and the first in more than 40 years that Peggy and I won’t spend together. Depressing. And I haven’t seen Adam, who lives in San Francisco, for a year. Peg took a bus to Boston today to have Christmas with the boys. I’m glad but jealous.
I planted my tree in the reading room — precariously, in a bucket of sticks and damp wood shavings. Using wreath materials Sue gave me, I decorated it with whitened pinecones, red glass balls, and Old Man’s Beard collected from spruce trees.
I emailed a photo of it to my family and a few close friends, with a note: “Because of the weather I’m unexpectedly alone for Christmas — REALLY, REALLY TOO BAD! An imitation of Donald Trump’s self-pitying tweets.
Peggy replied: “The tree looks BEAUTIFUL, Lance!” Nice try, Peg.
Christmas Eve, 2017
Break a leg in the summer woods, you hurt. Break a leg in the winter woods, you die. That’s my distillation into a corny maxim of my winter-wilderness cautiousness. I’ve seen people in deep trouble on ski-backpacking trips, and I’ve had my own troubles.
When the sun briefly appeared this afternoon, ice gleamed on every twig of the bent-over birches. So lovely, so cold.
How many people spend Christmas Day cleaning showers, sinks, and floors? A lot of people, probably, with whom I now feel more solidarity.
The saving grace for me of this day is what’s all around me, the “stern, but gentle, wildness,” as Thoreau describes it. And this is a comfortable building.
Lifting a glass of red wine, I made my traditional Christmas-dinner toast, alone for the first time: “To Jesus!” I respect immensely that wise revolutionary, but not what men have made of him.
December 26, 2017
Not until 8:20 a.m. did the sun rise over Basin Mountain and its clear-cuts — those flaws in my idyllic view. Smoke flowed across the hills from the white, windy fires of the snow-covered trees.
Online, I saw that many reservations had been cancelled because of the weather. But not every one …
After my afternoon feeding of the furnace, I came back upstairs and washed my hands at a sink in the bathroom area. For a half-second, I thought I saw in the mirror a slight female figure smile as she silently passed behind me on the way to the toilet compartments. An apparition, I almost seriously thought.
I went to the kitchen. When I went into the dining room, a dark-haired, pixyish girl had materialized, curled up on the couch by the stove. She was 13, she said, and had skied here far ahead of her parents.
She was correct: Her parents and her 13-year-old cousin didn’t show up for an hour and a half. Others of their party will arrive tomorrow.
After 12 days, my solo was over. Did I really want company? Now I must tend to guests.
December 27, 2017
When the rest of the extended family appeared today, they included a 6-year-old and 9-year-old on a sled. My cautiousness again reared its hoary head: I doubted the wisdom of bringing in little kids on such a viciously cold and blustery day. But they had survived and soon were scampering about.
“Ah … Lance, there are dead flies in my bunkroom,” one of the newcomers informed me.
I picked up dozens. Guests brought their own food and cooked for themselves, but I still had to provide services. This group, in fact, treated me like a servant, never speaking to me unless they wanted something. That was a new role for me.
December 28, 2017
“The Maine Woods” is remembered for several great literary passages, especially Thoreau’s depiction of the higher elevations of Katahdin:
What is this Titan that has possession of me? Talk of mysteries! — Think of our life in nature, — daily to be shown matter, to come in contact with it, — rocks, trees, wind on our cheeks! the solid earth! the actual world! the common sense! Contact! Contact! Who are we? where are we?
That contact is what I have most sought in life, especially in my life in nature.
It also can be expressed in Hemingway’s symbolic way, his mixture of sadness and joy when contemplating the beautiful earth and the short and sometimes ugly time we have on it:
He felt a reaction against deep wading with the water deepening up under his armpits, to hook big trout in places impossible to land them. In the swamp the banks were bare, the big cedars came together overhead, the sun did not come through, except in patches; in the fast deep water, in the half light, the fishing would be tragic.
Today, the sun rose from the river’s bigger, corresponding river of vapor. From the valley’s trees the wind blew streams of snow into that higher river.
Now, alas, because of the daytime subzero temperatures, the remoteness of the road and her concerns about her car, I agreed with our close friend Pusti, who was going to drop Peg off at the trailhead tomorrow, that she shouldn’t
One of my favorite composers. I interviewed and videotaped a performance
by her in the 1980’s.
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Subject: Freedom of Information Act Request: Kroll Inc.
To Whom It May Concern:
Pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, I hereby request the following records:
FIles mentioning the company Kroll Inc. or its subsidiaries, a corporate investigations and risk consulting firm based in Midtown Manhattan, New York City that was established in 1972 by Jules Kroll. Its subsidiaries include:
Kroll Associates Limited
Kroll Background America Corp
Kroll Associates UK Limited
Kroll Ontrack Ltd
Kroll Ontrack Legal Technologies Ltd
Kroll Associates (Asia) Ltd
Zolfo Cooper Capital LLC
Kroll Holdings Limited
Kroll International, Inc
Kroll Ontrack Singapore Pte. Ltd.
Kroll Associates Srl
GW Consulting, Inc.
Kroll Associates SA
Kroll Risk Consulting Services, Inc.
Kroll Holdings Inc
Kroll Information Services Inc
Kroll Background Worldwide Ltd
Kroll Forensic Accounting Ltd
Kroll Associates Iberia SL
Packet Storm Security
Kroll Security Group, Inc.
Certico Verification Services, L.L.C.
Kroll Talbot Hughes Deutschland GmbH
Kroll (Beijing) Business Risk Management Consulting Co Ltd
Kroll Ontrack GmbH
Kroll Background Screening Spolka Z.o.o.
Kroll Cayman Limited
Homeland Solutions, LLC
The requested documents will be made available to the general public, and this request is not being made for commercial purposes.
In the event that there are fees, I would be grateful if you would inform me of the total charges in advance of fulfilling my request. I would prefer the request filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available or CD-ROM if not.
Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to this request within 20 business days, as the statute requires.
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