Dan, a Diagnosis, and Some Love

Inoperable brain cancer.  The words knock me for a loop.  I had just seen Ron last Friday.  He looked good.  After two months of treatment, he wasn’t chemo/radiation skinny; which probably fooled me into thinking he was doing better than he was.  He smiled; he told his story.  There was no self-pity in his voice.  Nor in hers.

RA Time

I learned that down in Boston he’s been undergoing a couple of months of radiation for glioblastoma, a nasty brain cancer.  Hannah’s brother Doug died of glioblastoma thirteen years ago.   Ted Kennedy, too.   It’s a stage 4 aggressive brain tumor for which there is no cure.  Treatment buys time.

Though Ron and I have seen each other time and again over the years, it’s his wife Wanda who is my connection to the family.  For ten years she and I taught on the same 7th grade team in the Kittery, Maine public schools.  She was the rock and soul of our team of teachers; just a good, decent, and dedicated person and teacher that you would very much want your kids to be around.

Their four boys went to York High School around the time our three kids did.  York can be a small town in the best way.  Looking out for each other.  Feeling connected from one part of town to the other.  Rallying around each other in good times and challenging ones like these.

RA Gofundme

At the bottom of the online article (May 12, 2015 seacoastonline.com) that I read, there was a place to click on GoFundMe.com/averystrong to donate to the family for travel and medical expenses.   After four days of fundraising, 117 folks have already donated.  Hannah and I are lucky to be able to do our part.

The money is the money, and it is needed.  But mainly the 117 donors are saying “I love you, Ron.  I love you, Wanda.  I love you Averys, one and all.  You are not alone.”

Dan and Hannah Hike Locally at Mount Agamenticus in York, Maine

Mount Agamenticus is in the upper left hand corner of this map of the town of York

Mount Agamenticus is in the upper left hand corner of this map of the town of York

Living within four miles of the Atlantic Ocean, Hannah and I sometimes don’t go to the rugged Maine coast for months.  Losers?  I think not.  Busy lives?  Not really?  We take it for granted?  Bingo!  We also neglect another outdoor treasure in our backyard: the trails of Mount Agamenticus just four miles from home.

A9D trail map

Mount A, as the locals refer to it, covers some 30, 000 acres here in southern Maine.  At 691 feet it has views of the White Mountains to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the east.  From Portland, Maine to the Mexican border at Brownsville, Texas, there is no higher elevation this close to the ocean than Mount Agamenticus.

A1A hannah's loft sign

From I-95, go inland at exit 7 in York.  Take a right (north) at the park n’ ride on Chases Pond Road (CPR).  After 1.7 miles you’ll pass our United Nations flag and “Hannah’s Loft” bread board from a time gone by when Hannah ran a two-room bed and breakfast.  Continue north on CPR for two miles, then make a left (inland) on Mountain Road for two and a half miles to the base of the mountain with trailhead parking.

Bill and Hannah ready to hike Mount Agamenticus

Bill and Hannah ready to hike Mount Agamenticus

With new signage and trail construction, York Parks and Recreation has made the trails around Mount Agamenticus a magnet for families and causal hikers alike.  Let’s be clear – at under 700 feet high, it’s not Mt. Katahdin or Camel’s Hump, but it is worth getting off the couch for a forest green afternoon. On this Labor Day Saturday with many hikers taking to the trails, there is a joyous festive feel in the air.

The trail begins

The trail begins

While there is a steep road to the top with two hairpin turns for those driving, the well-marked Ring Trail provides hikers with a gentle hike in a thick forest; be they families, those seeking a good hour long work out, or those AARP types among us.  Though mountain bikers use these trails, there are none in evidence today.

Arriving at the aptly named Ring Trail around the mountain

Arriving at the aptly named Ring Trail around the mountain

Under the canopy of oaks, pines, and beeches, the trail is rocky but not a strenuous climb at all.  With our Canadian friend Bill Buggie we soon cross back over the Summit Road along a rocky trail with exposed roots.  Bill is an affable guy who says “Yes” to life.  As an education consultant to Bhutan in the Himalayas and one who has walked The Camino in Spain, he is often up for hiking adventures with us.

Sharp right on the Blueberry Trail

Sharp right on the Blueberry Trail

Within minutes we turn right at the junction of the Blueberry Trail to the Summit (rather than continue on the Ring Trail that, well, rings the mountain).   The Blueberry Trail is a red blaze steady climb of a few hundred feet to the mountain top, cleared with some controversy in the early winter of 2012.

One year and a half after the timber cutting on the summit

A year and a half after the summit timber cutting

Thanks to a tree clearing initiative supported by the major nature preservation organizations in the area to return the summit to its 1960s self, we have unobstructed 360 degree views.  With the summit trees logged, shrubs and undergrowth flourish and grow a habitat for wildlife that had long since disappeared under the towering pines.  Thanks to the selective clear cutting at the summit the views towards Mount Washington, Portsmouth, out to the Atlantic, or north to Kennebunk are views similar to those one would have seen fifty years ago.

Atop Mount Agamenticus looking to the north

Atop Mount Agamenticus looking to the north

At the top, the grassy terrain is suitable for picnics and recreation.  Our daughter Robyn took horse riding lessons here in the early 1990s. With my team of teachers from Frisbee Middle School in Kittery, I brought 80 7th graders here for an outdoor hiking experience.

View of the Atlantic Ocean

View to the north towards Mount Washington

Once a ski resort in the late 60s/early 70s, Mount Agamenticus had a chairlift, T-bar, and three trails for skiing with a 500 feet of vertical drop. Trying to make a go of coastal skiing, entrepreneurs added snowmaking and tried night skiing; there was a ski shop and summit lodge.  The price was right as adults were charged $4 on week days with a season pass costing $60. Unfortunately, inconsistent snow and a snowmaking system compromised by salty sea breezes led to the closing of the skiing dreams of locals.

View to the Atlantic Ocean

View to the Atlantic Ocean

Compromising the view, only if you let it, are a dilapidated fire tower with no access for the public and the ubiquitous cell phone towers.  Urban legend has it that a “praying Indian” (St. Aspinquid of the 1600s) was buried on Mount A.  There is little evidence that this is actually true.

Descending the Sweet Fern Trail

Descending the Sweet Fern Trail

After a climb of 25 minutes and checking the views to the ocean and the mountains, we choose the Sweet Fern Trail to descend, which shortly connects to the Ring Trail.  Families with the kids’ youthful energy makes all seems right with the world.  The system of trails around Mount Agamenticus allows visitors two to three hours of hiking adventures.

And how sweet it is that after a late afternoon hike for an hour, we have but a fifteen minute drive home sweet home.

Dan and Hannah Take on a Maine Snowstorm (Hercules)

Hannah with shovel

With a storm brewing and snow lightly falling, Hannah and I leave our house just once all day to shovel two inches of light feathery, powdery snow off our driveway.  A 24 hour nor’easter has begun and we decide to stay off the roads for the duration.  Our good friend George from Kittery is our one and only visitor.  He comes for one of Hannah’s haircuts and to play ping pong with me as we usually do every Thursday.

By bedtime the temperature is zero degrees Fahrenheit and snow is predicted to continue to fall all night and into the following morning. Knowing we have our work cut out for us come morning, we sleep fitfully.  Around 630A under the outside light that illuminates much of the driveway, we begin shoveling in the predawn dark.  It is still zero, but now the wind chill is minus 25 degrees.  After only twelve minutes my fingers are tingling and we return to our warm our bodies and souls at our 162 Chases Pond Road home.

front door

Four more times for roughly 12 to 15 minutes each, Hannah and I go two-on-one to clear our driveway.

Today I have a two part (five minute total) YouTube video about “Living in Maine after a Snowstorm.”  I take you on tour of our property after winter has given us her best shot.


January in Maine after a Snowstorm (part 1)

January in Maine after a Snowstorm (part 2)