“The great affair is to move” – Robert Louis Stevenson
Maine Huts & Trails (www.mainehuts.org) is a series of 4 eco lodges and 80 miles of trails in western Maine near Sugarloaf ski area. None of the lodges (aka huts) are accessible by car. You park at a trailhead and hike, bike, ski or snowshoe in from there. Janet decided she wanted to do a 3-day hut to hut ski trip. In February. I was less enthused. It seemed like hiking, but with twice the effort, while freezing to death.
The first year our reservation was canceled due to lack of snow. The following year I parked the car against a snowbank at Big Eddy trailhead and unloaded two duffel bags of gear. Two guys arrived on snowmobiles, picked it up and drove away. We clipped into our skis and set off down the trail to Flagstaff Hut, hoping the gear would be there. The trail was rated as green – easiest, which ordinarily would have been fine, but it was solid ice and ungroomed. We had track skis without metal edges and began wiping out.
Getting up from a fall, I pondered Schopenhauer’s philosophy that the two foes of human happiness are pain and boredom. Trying to prevent boredom in this manner put me in danger of inducing great pain in myself. I wondered if this was a viable road to happiness.
Three hours and 5 miles later we arrived at the Flagstaff Hut and met up with our gear. The hut is located on a peninsula jutting into Flagstaff Lake. We checked in and walked down to look at the lake. It was white and frozen, like everything else around us. We ate dinner in the lodge family style and then retired to the bunkhouse for the night.
The next day, Flagstaff to Grand Falls, was the longest leg of the trip and we were underway by 8:45. The trail follows the Dead River due north for about 14 miles to the Grand Falls Hut. The snow was softer and much more skiable. We passed a skier going the other way and he told us we were getting close to the toothbrush bridge. For the next several miles, I tried to visualize a bridge shaped like a toothbrush. No images appeared in my brain, but least it was distracted from the cold. Suddenly it hove into view – The Tom and Kate Chappell Dead River Foot Bridge. It was extremely attractive but looked nothing like a toothbrush. Maybe the skier guy had meant to say toothpaste bridge.
Grand Falls Hut
Across the bridge the Falls Trail lead us past Grand Falls and by 4:30 we arrived at Grand Falls Hut. There were only a few people at this hut, the staff was friendly and the food was excellent. The next morning begat brilliant sunshine. I read in an Adirondack chair outside the hut while Janet went for a short ski trip to reconnoiter the area. When she returned, we decided to take advantage of the free snowshoes and went for a hike on the Fisherman’s Trail. A flat spot near the river called out, so we spread a blanket on the snow and sat down to enjoy the sunshine. Suddenly a swarm of tiny bugs emerged from the snow and began hopping on us. They looked like fleas, and knowing the biting propensity of fleas, it seemed appropriate to depart. We later found out that although they are called snow fleas, they are not fleas at all and do not bite.
The next day was a short 7-mile jaunt back to the car. At the outset of the trip, the thought of skiing 14 miles in the middle of winter, with no shelter along the way if you got tired or cold, was daunting. Arriving back at the car 5 hours later, unhurt and unbored, happiness was mine at last. Until I realized I needed better skis to access more remote places.