It seems everyone has a favorite season, as people flock to their special location during their preferred time of year. Personally, I can't say which would be my preference because each is so unique and has so much to offer. My wife and I are experiencing an empty nest for the first time in many years and it has brought a new found appreciation for friends, family, and the great outdoors. In previous years, we would make our transition to the Carrabassett Valley area in September, but this year we stayed down on the coast until early November. The weather and surf have been just incredible, offering clean, sizable waves with virtually no one on the beach. We've also rediscovered the Portland area and reconnected with old friends, while enjoying the great restaurants and night life.
As good as the beach has been, we've been anticipating the transition to our home in the beautiful Western Maine Mountains. It's nice to see all our friends, catch up on all the local happenings, and of course get on my snowboard and have some fun. Even though we haven't had much snow falling from the sky, our little piece of paradise has been blanketed with man-made snow allowing top-to-bottom riding. Sugarloaf is such a unique place, like no other. I've heard it referred to as "the corner of first and first." Where even if you've never been there before you can strike up a conversation with a total stranger and soon find that not only do you have something in common, but you also have mutual friends. As you drive into Carrabassett Valley the sign says: From here on out, your life will never be the same. It certainly doesn't take long to find out how true it is, and why folks drive 5-6 hours each way, every weekend, to come to Sugarloaf.
I truly enjoy coming back to see the improvements and additions made to this special place. This year, the Maine Huts and Trails added the Stratton Brook Hut which is slated to be complete just before Christmas. I went to check it out and I was amazed at the views of Sugarloaf and the Bigelow Mountain range. Another addition to the area are mountain bike trails that now connect the Narrow Gauge Trail to the Sugarloaf Outdoor center, along with trails for beginner and intermediate riding. The hard working crews from the Carrabassett Area New England Mountain Bike Association (NEMBA) also made vast improvements to the existing trails on Maine Huts and Trails system, in the Bigelow Preserve and on Penobscot Nation land in the Reddington pond area. They also added a disk golf course to enhance the outdoor experience.
If you haven't been to the Western Maine Mountains lately, you will be pleasantly surprised with the new features. All the hard work done by the locals has made it easier for all to enjoy its beauty.
The Western Maine Mountains are part of the Maine's Lakes & Mountains Region, sharing its western border with New Hampshire. Full of mountain ranges and pristine lakes, it is best known amongst skiers and snowmobilers. However, the area is popular in all seasons.
Also found in the area are the Maine High Peaks Scenic Byways. Follow Route 27 from Kingfield, past Sugarloaf Mountain, to Coburn Gore. Nearby, the Rangeley Lakes National Scenic Byway runs along Routes 4 and 17 in Rangeley.
The small towns of Eustis and Stratton were not only a stop on Benedict Arnold's March-on-Quebec, but sit on crossroads to some of Maine's most accessible stretches of outdoor adventure. The Northern Forest Canoe Trail passes through town on the South Branch of the Dead River, linking Flagstaff Lake with Rangeley Lake. Many hikers of the Appalachian Trail use the area to get a hot shower and a great meal or "base camp" for a weekend to log some miles on the AT.
Maine Huts and Trails is a non-profit organization that maintains trails and provides accommodations. You can stay at one of the huts and experience a "boutique hostel." They also help with trip planning, activities, mapping and trails. The newest, Stratton Brook Hut, will be opening in December 2012.
Bigelow Preserve is a public land of about 36,000 acres located in Western Maine. The area includes 7 summits and is favored for outdoor activities such as wildlife viewing, camping, fishing, hunting, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and the impressive fall foliage vistas.
New England Mountain Bike Association, or NEMBA, is a non-profit organization supported by mountain bikers and members of the bicycle industry. Through various methods, they maintain and enhance the trails.
Penobscot Nation Land: As the original natives of Maine, the Penobscot Indians now live in this area of preserved land. To learn and experience more, you can visit their museum, Penobscot Nation Museum on Indian Island.