Last year we asked some of Maine’s most avid outdoors people for the best outdoor gift they ever received. Among the items they cited were a pair of socks, a new way to explore waterways and a bucket of bacon for a mountain bike race. Those choices seemed hard to top. But we wanted to try. So here is our second installment of favorite gifts received by Mainers who love the outdoors.


Denise Fredette has climbed New England’s 100 highest mountains, including all 67 of the 4,000-footers. She bagged all 48 of New Hampshire’s 4,000-foot peaks in winter.

And she only started hiking seven years ago.

Then Fredette wanted to be more active, so she joined the Appalachian Mountain Club and signed up for some hikes. Now, at 41, she’s a group leader, guiding people on multiday backpacking trips. So it’s no wonder that Fredette asked her husband, Matt Kahrman, to get her a certain backpack last Christmas.

Fredette already had six packs but none were quite right. She has a long torso and they don’t fit properly. On a hike she met a woman who had a pack that fit her perfectly – the Deuter ACT Trail Pro. The woman let Fredette try it. And that was it.

“Hiking gear is so specific to the person. So I kept looking,” Fredette said.


Adam McKay grew up hunting in the Rumford hills. And a career as a state park ranger still keeps McKay in the woods. Come deer season, he hunts as often as he can.

In fact, he harvested a whitetail in Maine this fall during both the archery and firearm seasons. He also went elk hunting in Colorado before going deer hunting again in New Hampshire, where he harvested a third deer.

So the very best outdoor gift he has received was one his wife, Brooke, got him five years ago: the map app onX for his cell phone.

“It is pretty darn close to something you can’t live without,” said McKay, a ranger at both Range Pond State Park and Androscoggin Riverlands State Park.

“It has all 50 states, and it has Google maps and topographical maps. It has national forests and land trust lands. You know exactly where you are all the time. The possibilities are endless to get you outside.”

This fall McKay used the app on his first elk hunt. The app allowed him to study the land in Colorado from home so he could find the right habitat before he even went west, so he knew where to look for elk, which is why he saw one.

He didn’t shoot it but McKay said just seeing one was another gift.


Steve Tatko has been the head forester in the Appalachian Mountain Club’s 75,000 acres around Moosehead Lake for the past seven years. He oversees a staff of four doing work he has done in the woods since age 14, when he was growing up on his family’s woodlot south of Greenville.

Anyone familiar with the thick northern forest can guess what a guy who walks there in winter needs most: a good pair of snowshoes. Tatko prefers the old-school, ash snowshoes first made by indigenous people. Tatko’s father, John, gave him his first pair at age 10, and he’s used those snowshoes ever since, carefully varnishing them each year.

“A lot of people use modern snowshoes with aluminum frames,” said Tatko, now 31. “The traditional ash snowshoes, made with regular rawhide lacing, they float better on the snow. They are way better than the commercially made snowshoes. In deep snow, nothing beats them. I have probably walked 100 miles on snow to inspect harvest or to see the boundary lines. A big day I walk 10 miles in deep snow. Thousands of years ago, if you didn’t have snowshoes in the north country you didn’t survive.


Benjamin Williamson was a passionate musician before switching professions in 2012, becoming an acclaimed photographer. Now the director of photography at Down East magazine, Williamson’s life is literally focused on the beauty found in Maine. Except when he needs a break from that. Then he gets on his cross-country skis.

When his wife, Kim, gave him a new set of metal-edged Nordic skis in 2013, Williamson, a life-long skier who always used second-hand gear, was able to go anywhere on snow.

The best outing he spent was an eight-mile journey in a blizzard. For a nature photographer who chases extreme weather, it was ideal.

“On skis I take a break from photography,” said Williamson, 35. “I try to push myself. It feels really good any time I exercise and I love the chance to get out on snow in the winter. It’s my favorite season.”


Kaitlyn Bernard grew up in Fort Kent as a competitive Nordic ski racer.

Now she’s the head coach of the Falmouth High Nordic team, as well as the Appalachian Mountain Club’s policy manager in Maine.

So Bernard practically has a Ph.D in winter weather.

While she was in high school her parents got her a pair of Neos overshoes. They have remained the best outdoor gift ever.

“At the time my parents gave them to me, I was traveling all over New England to races,” said Bernard, 28. “These boots are amazing. You can wear them directly over whatever shoes you are wearing: Nordic boots, sneakers, work shoes. And they keep your feet completely warm and dry. Now I’m the coach at Falmouth and they are even more useful. I can be wearing my ski boots so I’m ready to go on the trails with the kids, but be standing on the sidelines waxing skis and cheering.”


Laurie Chandler of Bremen became the first woman to complete the 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail in 2015.

Chandler said the best outdoor gift she ever received came before her extraordinary solo paddle. It was simply a book.

In 2011 her brother, Gregory Apgar, gave her “The Lonely Land” by author and environmentalist Sigurd Olson about his 500-mile waterway journey along the Churchill River in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, a waterway previously used by fur traders.

Similarly, the Northern Forest Canoe Trail that stretches from Old Forge, New York, through Vermont, Quebec and New Hampshire to Fort Kent traces the travel routes of early Native Americans.

Chandler paddled solo the 347-mile Maine stretch of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail in 2011, and four years later completed the entire 740-mile trail by herself.

Looking back, she said Olson’s book helped.

“The book was a surprise gift from my brother, who is not known for such gestures. It came from the jumble of a free-book bin in a used book store,” said Chandler, 56. “Eight years ago, I was gearing up for my first long expedition, a month-long solo kayak trip across Maine on the NFTC. I’d never read Sigurd Olson until that gift.

“My soul felt the haunting power of those wild places. I ached to be there and felt as if I had been. The gift of writers like Sigurd Olson is given twice when one is both a paddler and a writer. I’ve gone on to read many of Olson’s books but this one worn copy will be forever treasured.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.