We stashed our take out cars and wedged our packs to be hauled in a sunny hut by a parking lot. Off we went this year on your choice of a three or four day Maine Hut to Hut ski tour. Four huts, a possible eighty miles of trails. We did sixty something. It really should be called lodge to lodge. These are full-service, state-of-the-art, mostly off-the-grid huts. There are batteries that store power from the solar panels, a storage tank for excess shower hot water, radiant floor heat, and a wood-burning Tarn furnace. The staff of each hut gives an after-supper tour of the inner workings. Clivus multrum toilets efficiently foam away your deposit and compost it below. Food compost is taken out on sleds to avoid attracting critters.
Speaking of food, it was delicious. Things like roasted kale, thick french toast, shepherd’s pie, cake with plenty of chocolate frosting. You put together your own lunch from fixings they put out. They even accommodate vegan and gluten-free customers. beer and wine are available for purchase.
One of the highlights of this year’s trip was Pete Lane’s (the tour organizer) magic with the inevitable blisters (especially if you are using rental equipment). His trick involves blister band-aids that really stick and duct tape to secure them.
Another highlight was the master pole-making. We had a double pole whammy from a brother and sister team. One broke his pole and his sister lost her grip on one of hers just above the scary Grand Falls near the final Grand Falls Hut. Even Benedict Arnold would have not gone after it. He passed that way once in an attempt to get to Canada via the Kennebec and Dead Rivers. So from the time we reached the hut until late in the afternoon there was much striped maple gathering and whittling. Splints and duct tape helped create two incredible poles. One with its own natural basket.
Beautiful views of Sugarloaf Ski Area from a picnic table invite you on a pretty downhill run from Stratton Brook Hut to the Narrow Gauge Pathway which is open to dogs and walkers.
One popular side trip was a walk to some smaller waterfalls near Poplar Brook Hut. Micro spikes were used and lent to others. Some people even climbed the frozen cascades. One of us had brought in delicious homemade crackers and humus to share. Little did we know how hungry we would be. Each night we found ourselves eagerly waiting for dinner to be served like little kids.
Halfway between Poplar Brook Hut and Flagstaff Hut is a fabric yurt where a fire was started with old mans beard moss by a determined skier to dry out our wet things. We ate lunch in shifts as the yurt was small. We discovered you can ski on Flagstaff Lake and saw and heard a grey jay imitating a least bittern.
Tricks we learned: keep your water bottle upside down so the bottom freezes instead of the top, put your hand warmers in your soggy boots at the end of the day to help dry them out, vaseline and duct tape are your best friends. A good ice breaker is to ask people after dinner to reveal something about themselves that the others would be surprised to know. One person demonstrated that she could put one leg around behind her head, another had snuck across the border from Canada to the US once upon a time, people had danced with Bill Gates and taught tennis to Leon Uris, someone asked for a donation of a kidney.
The second and third day we were blessed with twenty inches of snow because March is the snowiest month in this part of Maine. We would like to go back and see the trail in the summer for a hike or mountain bike.
For more info go to www.mainehuts.org
This trip report was submitted by Debbie Page, a wonderful person, friend of the Catamount Trail, avid backcountry skier, volunteer, and end-to-ender! She participated in the Maine Huts Tour led by Pete Lane in 2014 and had an amazing time. To learn more about this years trip to Maine please visit the Catamount Trail Website… or just Click Here. Think Snow!