Thursday January 27, 2011 | 09:01 AM

Mt. Abram in Greenwood had already closed for the day when we pulled into the base lodge parking lot last Saturday evening. The day's skiers and snowboarders had been shooed away along with the setting sun and the unlit mountain was nearly imperceptible against the pitch blackness of the sky.

It looked like we'd arrived late for the party - but through the lodge doors, up the stairs, past the picnic tables and outside again, at the base of the mountain, a group was gathering in the eight-degree air.

Some donned snowshoes, some hiking boots and poles, some with headlamps and backpacks and at least one wore telemark skis.

We were collectively planning to hike Mt. Abram. At night. In the snow and cold.

The hike is part of the mountain's Full Moon Hike series, which runs monthly through April. Motivated hikers can climb their way to the summit, where hot cider and music await, under a full moon (or close to full). Then it's back down via ski, snowboard, snowshoe, boot - however you see fit.

Gear is piled into bins and towed up the mountain for you. Good thing too, if I'd been required to carry my stuff up, I would never have made it.

I'd guesstimate 60 people made their way up that mountain. Some made quick work of it, others took their time. Some - ahem - trudged. Mt. Abram is pretty darn steep.

The moon was in hiding for most of the trek, so natural light was scarce, but I appreciated the eerie darkness of the trees and trail, which seemed to disappear into nothingness ahead.

Near the top of the mountain, flood lights helped lead the way. We were sweating from the effort by now - enough so that I'd even taken off my hat and gloves and unzipped my jacket a bit.

At the summit - which took us about 50 minutes to reach - music blared from a stereo, people danced in ski boots or posed for picture on the still chair lift. Mountaintop revelry was at its peak.

Inside the warm, warm warming hut there was hot cider, oysters on the half shell, shrimp and a crock pot of meatballs. How they got up there is a mystery to me, though I'm pretty sure I know how the PBRs and bottle of Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum arrived.

When my group was ready to head down (meatballs eaten, body temperature cooling) I asked what level the trail was. "You'll be fine," I was told.

In truth, this novice snowboarder ended up hoofing it most of the way, after peering down the steep terrain of what turned out to be a black diamond trail. The short "sledding" experience I attempted by lying belly-down on my board proved to be an expeditious - and terrifying - way to get down the mountain. I'll never do that again.

I will, however, go back for another Full Moon Hike. They're FREE after all.

For another take on the hikes, read Outdoors writer Deirdre Fleming's story from the Maine Sunday Telegram: Getting to the top is just half the fun

Check out www.mtabram.com for more info on the mountain and the Full Moon Hikes.

About the Author

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Shannon Bryan, content producer for MaineToday Media, likes exploring Maine - from mattress races to cardboard boats, she's into the weird stuff.

Karen Beaudoin, online editor for MaineToday Media, likes knowing the important things - like who's just opened their deck for a sunny afternoon beer and what Portland's eclectic set of street performers are up to.

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