Maine Huts & Trails is a nonprofit that operates four eco-friendly huts and helps manage 80 miles of cross-country skiing and hiking trails in Maine’s western mountains, hoping to grow to 23 huts and 180 miles of trails. Sarah Pine – yes, that’s her real name – is the organization’s operations manager. Pine grew up in Norfolk, Va., and came to Maine to be a river rafting guide. She earned a degree in community health at the University of Maine in Farmington. After a series of mostly outdoor and seasonal jobs, she worked part time for Maine Huts & Trails and landed the full-time job almost a year ago. Maine Huts & Trails has seven other employees.
Q: What’s a typical day for you like?
A: I deal with the hiring of the staff, food ordering and on a typical day, I’m cleaning the huts, cooking for the guests, shoveling snow and talking with the guests about trails and skiing. Right now, I’m doing a lot of hiring and menu planning to be considerate of our guests and things like vegan menus. My favorite part is meeting with local farmers and basing my menu off of what they can supply in large quantities.
Q: Is it busy right now?
A: We’re actually between seasons right now. We call it the self-service season – it’s muddy, although we still have tons of snow, but when the snow melts on the coast they don’t realize there’s still snow up here. We shut down the first of the month and people can still come in for a cheaper rate but they don’t have anybody cooking or cleaning for them. Skiing this time of year is amazing and nice – a lot of corn (coarse, granular)snow.
Q: What are the lodges like?
A: They’re really beautiful. Each one has a main lodge and that has the dining room, the kitchen and the bathrooms. We have a library with books on birds, mushrooms and animal tracks. We’ve got games and toys for the kids and adults. In the dining room, we have a fireplace and it’s a great place to curl up with a book. Then there’s the kitchen, where the staff will cook up great meals, and the bathrooms with composting toilets, but there are still hot showers. Around the main lodge are the bunk houses.
Q: How many guests can you accommodate?
A: Full up, we have 44 at three (huts) and 42 at Grand Falls hut.
Q: Do most of your guests stay in one place or move from hut to hut?
A: A lot of times in the winter, they’re going hut to hut and leave from a trail head, and make it in for dinner. They have dinner, wake up, have breakfast and head off to the next hut. In the summer, we have Flagstaff Lake hut. It’s a really short trip in and the lake can entertain kids for hours. They’ll usually spend multiple days at that hut, and we have canoes and kayaks.
Q: How do you get to work from your home in Carrabassett Valley?
A: I usually go to the trail head and ski in during the winter and in the summertime I can leave from my house and bike.
Q: Is that the best part of your day?
A: I love to ski and I love to bike, so that’s a perk of the job.
Q: So if that’s the best, what’s the worst?
A: There really isn’t any. The day-to-day cleaning can sometimes get old, but there really isn’t a bad part, or at least I can’t come up with one. There’s an outhouse at the trail head and that can get kind of gross. The composting toilets at the hut, you’d think that would be gross part of the job, but it’s not. There’s no smell and it’s not really gross at all.
Dinners can be difficult, mainly making sure that we accommodate different dietary needs. We ask ahead, but come New Year’s, somebody makes a resolution and we don’t know until they arrive, so it’s tricky. But we can usually accommodate that. I have pretty much a plant-based diet, so I know how that can be. We try to do lots of veggies; we’ll have protein, but we load up on veggies.
Q: Is food a big focus for you?
A: I’m really passionate about food and where it comes from and the impact that our food choices have on our environment. We’ve done a couple of programs for kids, so cooking healthy food that they’ll like is important.
Q: Do you stay at the huts in the winter or ski out in the dark?
A: In the winter, I definitely stay in the huts more often, but in the summer I tend to go home because it’s light out later. I might stay two or three nights a week in the huts in the winter.
Q: You sound really happy to have what some people would see as a tough job.
A: I’m so lucky. I was kind of overwhelmed at first because I was always working seasonal jobs, so this is my first big-girl job, but I’m really settling in and enjoying it.
It was a huge shift at first. I worked in a law office and wore high heels not long ago. When I came up, I fell in love with the lifestyle. My parents always took me canoeing and skiing up north when I was a kid, but I didn’t think I would ever be doing this. I don’t look back, that’s for sure.
Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at: