Professional photographer Jamie Walter of Carrabassett Valley winter camps on frigid peaks to capture images of frozen peaks. Photo courtesy of Jamie Walter

Not a fan of cold weather? Yet you live in Maine.

Well, why not consider making friends with Old Man Winter this year? After an unprecedented summer and fall when everyone and their mother got out on hiking trails statewide during COVID-19, chances are during the “Winter of COVID” you’re going to want that nature fix again.

So we brought you some inspiration by way of some really big winter fans. We’re talking outdoor explorers who are accustomed to the frozen woods, mountaineers who take naps on mountain tops in the snow, Mainers who go on vacation where the temperature drops to nearly 50-below … and pay for the experience.

Because sometimes it’s not about the temperature outside, it’s about what you’re used to. So why not try getting used to the cold this winter? Maybe you’ll surprise yourself, or maybe nature will.

Carl Theriault, biathlon coach

Theriault is an Aroostook County native, a biathlon and Nordic coach in Fort Kent and a self-proclaimed “snow lover and cold lover.” He has lived in other parts of the world – but it is the distinct, crisp “creaky sound of the snow” that occurs in The County in the middle of winter that makes him feel most at home.

Carl Theriault, a biathlon and Nordic coach in Fort Kent and Aroostook County native, loves the pristine views that coat the landscape in The County in the deep winter. Photo courtesy of Carl Theriault

His favorite cold-weather days are those that come after two to three days of snow when the sky turns blue, calm and clear, and the landscape is quiet. He says it quiets your mind.

“I just love it. It gets to the point it’s not wet and soft. There’s something attractive about it, then. It’s clean. It’s pristine. It’s gorgeous,” Theriault said.

At the Fort Kent Outdoor Center, Theriault often coaches from the sidelines in temps that drop to 20 below. But by February, it’s closer to 15 degrees – downright pleasant for Theriault. Yet, he recognizes not everyone thrives in the cold. To those who do not, he recommends snowshoeing in the woods out of the wind.

“We have five months of real winter,” he said. “You have to find a good way to get out and enjoy it. Otherwise, you’re just not happy.”

Jamie Walter, professional photographer

Walter spends so much time across North America backcountry skiing and taking photos of mountains, his photos were featured in three backcountry ski guides released this fall. 

The Maine native has winter camped on Katahdin to ski below Pamola Peak – and on Mount Washington to photograph the summit known for the world’s worst weather. The Alpine winter landscape – where rime ice coats trees like frozen whipped cream – draws him.

“I love the cold and snow and mountains. It’s one of my favorite places in the world. When the weather starts freezing I think, here comes winter and all my favorite things,” Walter said. 

His favorite cold-weather adventure was hiking up Katahdin in crampons in the middle of the night to get photos of the Milky Way. Once his cameras were set, Walter simply took a catnap in his bivy sack in the snow.

“I had two hours of great sleep in 10 degrees. Then, I watched the most beautiful sunrise I have ever seen when I woke up. The sky was lit up in pink and orange,” Walter said. “The cold weather didn’t phase me. When you’re that excited, with the drive of the photography, I don’t even realize it. Those experiences in the mountains are so special.”

Polly Mahoney of Mahoosuc Guide Service dog sledding with her dogs on Umbagog Lake in Errol, New Hampshire, in January, 2019. For more than 40 years, Mahoney and her partner, Kevin Slater, have led dog-sled day trips and overnights from their Newry lodge to remote areas, where they host picnics over open fires in frigid temperatures. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Polly Mahoney, dog sled guide 

Polly Mahoney has been leading dog-sled trips and winter camping excursions for 30 years at Mahoosuc Guide Service. Before that, she lived in the Yukon Territory, winter camping with her sled dogs – once when it was nearly 65 below.

“I really like my dogs. And my dogs are made for the cold,” Mahoney said. “And I like the adverse weather conditions. I think in that moment, you only think of survival. You are very in the moment. You are very focused. When you’re living that close to nature, a part of you really becomes alive.”

With partner, Kevin Slater, Mahoney takes others on extreme winter camping trips to Canada and northern and western Maine. And they take no chances, outfitting every client in parkas, special boots and mittens to assure their customers will thrive in the bitter landscapes, and maybe gain an appreciation for them.

“A lot of people are a little nervous spending the night in the woods. They’re out of their element being on a frozen lake,” Mahoney said. “But many are amazed at how much they enjoy it – just going out to get firewood, or chopping a hole in the ice to get water.  It’s such a primitive thing. You’re close to the land. And it brings people together. It’s a very bonding experience.”

Thomas Jamrog of Lincolnville winter camping in November on conserved land to the east of Moosehead Lake. Jamrog, 70, has winter camped on a regular basis for 25 years. Now, he goes by fat bike. Photo courtesy of Thomas Jamrog

Thomas Jamrog, winter camping veteran 

Jamrog first went winter camping in a canvas tent outfitted with a wood stove 25 years ago, with two guides who took him on the frozen waterways around Moosehead Lake.

“It didn’t take 2 seconds for me to see this is what I want to do. It changed my life,” Jamrog said.

A decade later, he went with the same guides to Labrador, where the temperatures at night plummeted to 46 below. Jamrog described the extreme cold like a meditation in the woods, or a history lesson on human existence.

“As long as you’re active, you’re never cold. The body seems to acclimate. People have been living there for thousands of years. They learned how to tolerate the cold,” Jamrog said.

Now 70, Jamrog goes winter camping on a fat bike. In November, he rode with a friend into the 100 Mile Wilderness, where they camped in a modern teepee with a small woodstove. Jamrog tries to inspire others to join him, but enthusiasm for the adventure is hard to come by.

“I think they don’t think they can do it. I think, for me, I’m a northern-European person. All my ancestors are from the mountains of Poland,” Jamrog said.


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