Confession: I'm terrible about organizing personal trips ahead of time. For single day or overnight excursions, I've always been a ride-and-decide tripper. Lately, it’s gotten worse. Friday evenings after work are usually a melee of tracking down equipment from the weekend before, checking the weather reports, pinpointing a general region to visit on Saturday, and deciding what type of excursion is on the plate.
"You want to go snowshoeing? But we’re in for 3-6" of fresh snow...find your skis," is a common back-and-forth that ensues on a typical Friday night. We’ll throw the Maine gazetteer in the car and decide on the exact location over coffee early the next morning.
The thing is -- that works around here. Maine has so many accessible, low-cost and free outdoor trip destinations that It's easy to be lazy. If I really can't make up my mind, we'll pack the car with everything from beat-up ice skates in case we pass a good skating opportunity, a sled ("I think there’s a killer hill out that way"), to our cross-country and A.T. ski gear. Throw in a few granola bars and some leftover spaghetti (no one’s ever mistaken me for classy) and we’re good to go. Nothing pains me more than passing a pristine skating pond and realizing I left my skates rusting in the garage. Yes, I’m spoiled...but you can be, too. Blame Maine.
The last couple of weekends have been interesting with the amount of snow accumulation this winter. Matt is a good skier. He backcountry skis for the challenge. Me? I'm scrappy and almost painful to watch. I ski in the woods because I find it easier and less embarrassing to dodge immobile trees than people. Bonus: No lines!
Over the past few years, our go-to spot has been Streaked Mountain in South Paris. Streaked is a short, one-miler with a 1,040' elevation. It's small enough that you can fit in multiple ski runs and steep enough to make the trip worthwhile. With clear views to Mount Washington and Shawnee Peak, you get a lot for a little at Streaked (as long as you don’t mind the towers on top). Because it's such a short hike, we brought Matt's two-year-old nephew to Streaked a few winters ago, pulling him up in the pulk sled. The experience reinforced that although Streaked Mountain is a short hike -- it's not a relaxing one. There's nothing gradual about it. Be prepared to sweat.
A couple weekends ago, we wanted to conserve our gas mileage and find an accessible backcountry spot similar to Streaked but a little bit closer. We loaded the car with the appropriate ski gear Friday night and headed northwest the next morning with a couple sites in mind. We ended up at Burnt Meadow Mountain in Brownfield. The hike up to North Peak was gradual and winding, and after a short scramble to the upper-most ledges, Burnt Meadow culminated in a flat, open summit with almost 360-degree views. The ski down was challenging -- it was scrubby at the top and dense growth made for tricky lines. It was great for snowshoeing in the winter, or hiking during the summer/shoulder seasons, but not the ideal day-tripper's backcountry ski mountain.
Excited about Burnt Meadow as a great summer spot, but challenged to find a better backcountry ski site, we moved on to Pleasant Mountain located in Bridgton and Denmark. Pleasant Mountain is southern Maine's tallest mountain at 2,006 feet --and with ten miles of trail network and six establish trails, it offers a range of seasonal, weather, and mood dependent fun. The ski up was easy and gradual. The views? Beautiful. The ski down? Pick your line, because you can’t go wrong. It was everything we've been looking for…and did I mention, free? Thanks, Maine. I'll be back.
Like any good Maine girl, I fell in love over the islands. My partner was born and raised...