Thursday, December 12, 2013
If one of your New Year's resolutions is to spend more time outside exploring Maine's winter wilds, well, I've got a few suggestions for you.
Day hikes are fine, but how about extending your snowy trekking into an overnight, a weekend, or even a week-long adventure? Options abound, so take your pick, make some plans, gather up the appropriate gear, and go. The winter woods are calling!
CAMP IN A STATE PARK
Six state parks are open for winter camping: Sebago, Mount Blue, Bradbury Mountain, Aroostook, Cobscook, and Camden Hills. Parks roads are usually plowed to a parking area; from there you'll need to hike, snowshoe or ski with gear a short distance into the designated tent site. Picnic tables, fire pits, and pit toilets are available, but no potable water. Contact the park manager in advance of your visit. Info: www.parksandlands.com, 287-3821.
The Maine Huts & Trails system is now complete between Route 27 in Carrabassett Valley and Route 201 in West Forks, a distance of over 50 miles. Four backcountry "huts" dot the route at Poplar Falls, Flagstaff Lake and Grand Falls, and a new hut at Stratton Brook on the south slope of Bigelow opens this month. Heated bunkrooms, hot showers and hearty food are the reward for a good day of skiing with a light pack. Ski the entire route for an outstanding multi-day challenge. Info: www.mainehuts.org, 265-2400.
TREK INTO BAXTER STATE PARK
Pulling off a grand winter ski and sled trip into Baxter State Park is a daunting task, but the rewards -- like a magnificent view of Katahdin cloaked in winter white -- are so worth the effort. The park website has a bounty of planning information, including a winter handbook, the mandatory advance reservation forms, gear lists, maps, and mileage charts. Lean-tos and tent sites are available, but why do that when there are plenty of cozy bunkhouses and cabins scattered about the park? Info: www.baxterstateparkauthority.com, 723-5140.
Rough it in style at the Maine Wilderness Lodges operated by the Appalachian Mountain Club on their lands east of Greenville. Ski the extensive trail system in the heart of the 100-Mile Wilderness, while your gear is sledded in ahead of you. Then relax for the night in a private log cabin at Little Lyford or Gorman Chairback lodges, and enjoy home-cooked meals, a hot shower and even a sauna. Base out of one lodge or trek between the two. Add the historic West Branch Pond Camps (an AMC partner) for even more adventure. Info: www.outdoors.org, 617-523-0655.
CAMP IN A YURT
Adapted from the windswept plains of Central Asia, these unique structures come well-equipped with comfy bunks, table and chairs, wood stove, cook stove, pots and pans, water, and lanterns. You just need food and drink, warm clothing, and a sleeping bag. Find yurts for winter use at Shawnee Peak, Bridgton; The Birches, Rockwood; Frost Mountain, Brownfield; Goose Ridge, Montville; Hidden Valley Nature Center, Jefferson; and Pagett Farm, Palermo.
SNOWSHOE TO AN A.T. SHELTER
Strap on your snowshoes and pack the camping goods into a classic Maine A.T. three-side log lean-to. Trailside shelters at Baldpate, Frye Notch, Sabbathday Pond, Little Bigelow, West Carry Pond, and Leeman Brook are within striking distance of the road, so you don't need to mount an expedition to get there. But you will need a full complement of gear and plan to be self-reliant. Info: www.matc.org.
TENT CAMP IN ACADIA
Blackwoods Campground is open for winter camping from Dec. 1 through March 31. The road to the campground is gated and closed, so you'll need to pack or sled your gear a mile into the designated tenting area. A hand pump furnishes water, and a portable toilet is available. Before camping, get a free camping permit from the Acadia National Park winter headquarters on Route 233 just west of Bar Harbor. Info: www.nps.gov/acad, 288-3338.
Carey Kish of Bowdoin can't wait to get out for a few multi-day adventures this winter season. Send comments to: