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Maine Huts & Trails 1st Annual

31 January 2014

Trip Report Friday 31 January–Tuesday 4 February 2014

Four remote huts make up Maine Huts & Trails, provide full service food, drinks, heat, & skiing from the front door. That was all we needed for four days that gave us more than 100km of cross-country skiing.

Friday: Travel

We started the trip on Friday after work to travel part way to our destination, with the plan to reach the trailhead next day on Saturday morning.

On the way, we met at Sebago Brewing Company in Portland, ME, for dinner.

We spent the night at the comfortable Colonial Valley Motel in Farmington, ME. The staff had prepared the rooms to make check-in very easy for such a large group.

Total drive for the day was 3:00 hours.

Saturday: Grand Falls

We met at 7:30 in the motel lobby ready for breakfast before the full day of skiing.

The Homestead Bakery was ready for us with quick breakfast service of omelets & pancakes. They also prepared lunch wraps to eat on the trail later.

Ninety minutes later we arrived at the trailhead (location 45.187°N, 70.159°W), left our bags in a small booth for the staff to transport them to the hut in snowmobiles, & started skiing toward the hut for 3km (this was lap 1 of the full activity log for the day).

Our bags had already arrived. We rested briefly, moved our bags to the bunk bed rooms, & prepared to continue skiing for the day. The plan was to ski north as far as each person feels like before returning the same way back to the hut.

For some of us, the target destination for the day was all the way to Grand Falls. Luckily, after a few rolling hills, the trail was flat along the Dead River bank.

There was not enough snow on the ground to create ski tracks. With hard packed snow, it was difficult to travel fast with cross-country track skis. Three hours & 17km later (lap 2 to the trailhead before a short hike in lap 3) we arrived for a lunch break while viewing the falls.

Location: 45.297300°N, 70.222367°W

Now it was time to hurry up for the return trip before it got too dark, and, most importantly, before missing dinner service at 18:00.

It took the same time, about three hours (lap 4), arriving at the hut in time for dinner. Starving.

Sunday: Halfway Yurt

We woke up to a fresh layer of snow. On a warm day, this was wet snow. It kept accumulating underneath the ski making it impossible to glide. Until Maxiglide Quick Wax came to the rescue.

The majority of the group was returning home today, except myself & Mike. On our way to the yurt, the group stopped at the parking lot to store their bags in cars.

From there, it was a continuous climb to the Halfway Yurt (lap 3 of the full activity log for the day).

Location: 45.144306°N, 70.139275°W

We had a lunch break inside the yurt while resting from the climb. Inside the yurt, it had a stove, bench chairs, & a small table.

Descent to the trailhead was fast, reaching 20km/hr maximum speed (lap 5), and this was by no means the fastest in the group.

As the group left & we made our way back to the hut, staff were going over the trail creating ski tracks. That was a sign of more great fun for the remainder of the trip.

The day was not over yet though. There was still time for a stroll along the Flagstaff Lake shore with amazing views of the Bigelow mountains as the sun set.

Location: 45.1993583333333°N, 70.1798166666667°W

Monday: Stratton Brook & Poplar

For the remaining two days of the trip, we wanted to ski the other half of the trail system, with access to two huts: Stratton Brook & Poplar, as well as the option of skiing Sugarloaf mountain.

We drove to Poplar hut trailhead & started moving fast toward Stratton Brook hut: tracks were laid, snow was fresh, & weather was great. It was gentle climb for most of the way, except the last 2km, as it got progressively steeper until reaching the hut at the top of the mountain (laps 2 & 3 of the full day activity log).

Location: 45.101352°N, 70.302132°W

We arrived earlier than expected, so we could afford a long lunch break, while waiting for our coats to dry in the drying room.

Location: 45.100893°N, 70.301792°W

The initial descent from the hut was too fast & steep for me to ski it with cross-country track skis. Instead, I walked it while Mike skied it.

Location: 45.1009583333333°N, 70.3022116666667°W

Past that, it was a fast descent with views of Sugarloaf mountain.

Location: 45.097158°N, 70.274162°W

After the climb to Poplar hut (lap 8), there was still time for a trail run to see Poplar Stream Falls.

Location: 45.1018138888889°N, 70.1936883333333°W

Back in time for another delicious dinner.

Tuesday: Sugarloaf

Another beautiful day in the mountains, with plenty of snow, under clear sky.

Location: 45.101675°N, 70.186142°W

It was one long descent from Poplar hut to the trailhead. From there, we drove to Sugarloaf resort nearby.

We managed to ski the entire outer loop of the trail system for 19km, including backcountry ski of some sections that had not been groomed yet.

Location: 45.0777683333333°N, 70.2958833333333°W

After lunch, we were ready for the drive back to Boston.

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