With the ground beginning to thaw here in Maine, the soil crunches under my feet as brown, slimy, viscous water oozes around the cap of my shoe and penetrates a cold dampness through my sock, chilling my toes. It’s that most favorite season here in the Pine Tree State, where the long dark shrugs off its cloak and welcomes with open arms the incoming day, dissolving the long hours of night. That season is called Mud Season.
Maine has different seasons than the rest of the country, and if you ask a true Mainer—I am not one of them—they will tell you, Mud Season is a legit time of year. So, let me go through the eight seasons with you—yes, that’s right, I said eight—starting with the most dreaded time of year, winter.
Winter: The north winds dip into the state as the sun sits lower in the sky, plunging us into an icy state of frigid despair, where icicles build upon the eaves and snow piles higher than I stand at six foot four. Two things I have become adept at, and loathe, are shoveling fire hydrants and paths around my house. With each wintery blanket of white chill that coats the ground, I curse the length of my driveway, walkway, and square footage of my deck.
The long dark wears on people and a descent into madness sets in. By mid January it is not unusual to find a group of people sacrificing the seasonally unaffected to some deity or demigod, hoping that their cheery nature burnt in a wicker man of frosty’s image, will bring back the golden orb in the sky that has abandoned the white landscape of inky darkness. These are the days of despair, when those sane people nicknamed snowbirds, retreat to southern clines, only to return when the sun has risen high in Maine’s sky again. Those that survive the winter months, welcome the next season, even though it is fraught with its own perils.
Mud Season: Only in Maine could the population delineate a time on the calendar and dedicate it to mud. This season sits on the cusp of winter and spring. During this period the soil thaws atop the surface, yet deep below the earth is still frozen at the frost line. This shitty design keeps water pooled on the surface, with the ice deep below acting like a barrier blocking water from being absorbed into the aquifers. All that melty snow, all that muck and water, stands in large puddles, ruts, and frost heaves, with no where to go, creating the thickest mud imaginable.
Frost heaves up from the ground, causing undulating roads, like Nessie’s back. The thawed earth atop can be pitfalls, traps designed to capture the unsuspecting motorist on dirt roads. I fell victim to this years ago, and as my car plunged feet down into the gravel road which normally supported motor vehicles, I was trapped deep in the woods. The grill of my car buried in mud, the earth gave way underneath, grabbing hold of the vehicle. In instances like this, you hope a tow truck will brave these roads. I was saved eventually. Ah, Maine.
Spring: Spring is a misnomer in Maine. Spring should be happy, warm, green and colorful. Instead it becomes this hellscape of more mud, dirty snow, and grey forests refusing to leaf. While the cherry blossoms are blooming in D.C., Maine refuses to budge and continues to have snowstorms and Nor’easters, essentially flipping mother nature the bird. But hey, once it gets above 40 degrees, Maine is a tropical paradise, and the shorts come out.
Eventually, life comes back to nature, only to be bombarded by some late spring snowstorm, like winter is trying to kill off every living thing in the Pine Tree State. Spring exists solely on paper, and instead it is the lingering, lasting effect of the cold freeze still gripping the state. It should be called Thaw instead. In the back forty of your yard, shaded by some corner of your shed, come mid May, there will still be a pile of snow melting slow at its own pace. This is the constant reminder winter leaves for you in Maine; time to start cutting firewood, winter is almost here again.
Black Fly: A horrific season, one filled with dread and terror, humans don full netted body suits to keep these little bitey assholes from attacking. Whats a black fly, you ask? Only the most fucking irritating creature on the planet. Mix a mosquito with a gnat and you have the black fly. Swarms of these horrid creatures fill the skies of Maine, especially swampy, woodsey areas, and move like locusts searching for humans to swarm upon and devour their sweet flesh.
Mummified corpses have been found in the woods, drained of all blood, their flannel shirts and wool pants three sizes too big for the desiccated body with a bottle of Allen’s Coffee Brandy lying close by. Some say it’s the northern chupacabra, other’s think it might be vampiric in nature. Me, I know better. It was just some poor soul run down by a swarm of black flies, as they were chancing a leisurely stroll through the woods without a can of DDT or netting. Rest easy though, this season only lasts from mid May to mid June, so there is opportunity to enjoy the sun without being food for bugs…well those bugs.
Summer: A brief magical time in Maine, its when the pastiest people stand outside with their shirts off blinding drivers as the sun reflects from their white skin, like a survivor on a deserted island using a signal mirror to alert a plane. Restoring the depleted stores of Vitamin D, Mainers wander out of their homes in shambolic fashion, lying on the earth like slugs, absorbing the golden rays which cascade the greening earth. Best way to describe this mass migration into the golden rays is like cormorants sitting on the rocks drying their wings out.
Don’t expect to see many people at the beach yet, well at least true Mainers. The waters are still a warm and muggy 54 degrees, but by the end of the summer, they will reach a scalding 60 degrees if it was a tropical heat summer. And we all know how often Maine reaches Caribbean temperatures, so expect that warm water.
Tourist Season: Technically tourist season and Summer overlap and could be confused by an outsider as one in the same. Mainers though, in the early stages of summer, don’t notice the tourists quite yet, as they are still groggy from their winter hibernation and Vitamin D deficiency. So, summer is that magical time where a Mainer is in a delusional state of euphoria. But then that feeling ends and they are left with the irritating reminder of Tourist season.
This season is a particularly fine time of year, when the roads become impassible parking lots of gawking spectators, trying to capture the authentic Maine experience, the “other” New England. As these guests entrench themselves in the authentic experience by staying at multi-million dollar hotels, and eating at grand restaurants that serve only the finest NY sirloin and fifty dollar lobster newburgh, they post selfies on facebook and Twitter perpetuating the Vacationland stereotype. The population of some Maine towns quadruple, giving a 1 to 4 ratio of resident to tourist. If that doesn’t scream authentic, than I don’t know what does.
Fall: As we transition away from the warmth of the sun which graced us with its presence for a full four months, we are quickly plunged right back into the embrace of that cold hearted son of a bitch that wishes to strip the leaves back off those trees. In this season tourists still linger, peeping at suggestive and voyeuristic trees, which will drop their foliage for anyone with a camera. The tide has stemmed though, and many towns begin to shutter their doors along the coast. The shop owners, now having made their money for the year, are ready to leave Maine for warmer climes. These are the smart ones.
With the peak foliage having lasted a whole two weeks, the trees are now bare. Except oak trees, those miserable oak trees, which resist the season and hold their leaves until December, making yard cleanups nearly impossible, since by that point there is already two feet of snow gracing the earth. And don’t forget the continual bombardment of acorns dropping to the earth. Wear a helmet in the yard around oak trees, when these projectiles hit your head an anger rises through your body as you curse the tall behemoth, as if it were some Ent attacking. When fall winds down, it makes way for the last season.
Hunting Season: The most important season in Maine. When scores upon scores of residents don their uniform of blaze orange and mossy oak so the “responsible” hunter doesn’t mistake the human on two legs walking upright through the woods, for a deer with antlers, soft downy fur, a tail, and, you know, a quadruped ungulate—so hard to discern between the two. But hey, responsible hunters shoot first, sort that shit out later. So the residents of the state are relegated to the blaze orange clothing until it is all over. Tree stands dot the forests and it is so refreshing for non hunters to amble through the woods, wondering if an errant bullet will be the finality of one’s life.
While beer cans litter dirt roads of the backwoods of Maine along with bottles of Bitch Whisky–it’s a thing–and crumpled cigarette cartons, nothing screams a love of the season than going out drunk and killing some creatures. There are laws against this, just like there are laws against driving without a safety belt; we all see how well that works. And don’t forget the scores of out-of-staters who become seasoned pro hunters in this short season, hitting the woods in their camo and blaze orange all geared up to kill. Ahh, nothing like enjoying nature. Take a deep breath, smell that chill air, and wait for the bullet to whiz past your head.
So now that you are aware of the eight seasons of Maine, don’t forget to pack your luggage for the appropriate weather, swarm, or possible misidentification of animal. It is important that if you are visiting during a cusp, to just pack whatever, because the weather changes here with the
most fickle of nature.
And just like the saying goes, “if you don’t like the weather in New England, wait a second, and then go the fuck back where you came from.” Or something like that.
I was a July visitor once and I sincerely apologize for purchasing a sweatshirt in Bar Harbor that read “Maine” as if I attended the college there, a pretense of having survived a winter or more. Kind of like wearing a bomber jacket but having never served.
I am from Long Island, NY, originally. Very moderate and mild winters. I summered in Maine for almost 14 years before going to college here. I was shocked at the brutality of the weather during the winter. Don’t apologize for purchasing a sweatshirt, Maine relies on tourism to survive. That is our main economy. I just write with a sarcastic and satirical tone. I hope you enjoyed the beautiful July weather. Mount Desert Island is magical and beautiful.
Yeah and we think winters are miserable in Seattle. Down right balmy.