12 people signed up for this year’s Maine Hut’s skiing adventure. It was more than the number of people we’ve taken in the past and made the logistics a tad complex, but hey we did get the group discount in return.
When all the last-minute hurdles were overcome, 6 of us were able to start skiing early Friday afternoon whereas the remaining 6 started around 4 PM. On the way from Portland, it hit me that all 7 folks from last year were also doing this trip this year. Says something about this, doesn’t it? We tried including Stratton Brook Hut in our plans, but it is hard – especially if we want to hit Grand Falls Hut and we all know how awesome that hut is. This year, we stuck to our usual plans of hitting Poplar, Flagstaff and Grand Falls – in that order. Kylie suggested later that we could stay at Stratton the first night and then head straight towards Flagstaff the next day. It would be a long day, but I think it is doable.
The snow conditions were perfect when we started. The reason behind that - It had snowed total ~3 feet the week before and the temps had stayed below freezing. The ski trails were like butter – we were gliding on it. The beginning of this adventure always excites me! A lot of us repeaters felt much more comfortable on the skis and made great time to the hut compared to last year. The early and the late groups met and the newcomers had a taste of food we’ve constantly raved about. The Maine Huts people know how to do it right. Bed time came early as we wanted to recover from the long day of traveling.
Breakfast, packed lunch and on the trail. The crew this year was consistently efficient and hit the trails on time. We stopped to check out the waterfall right after Poplar Hut – it wasn’t as exciting as the year before. Temps were in the upper 20s and it was predicted to warm up to mid-thirties. We enjoyed the beautiful day skiing and climbed gradually towards the yurt. After enjoying the warmth of the fire and our lunch, we proceeded towards the view off the trail from here. While the view is only 0.3 miles or so, the trail isn’t maintained to get there. Thanks to Bryan – who did a ton of hard work breaking the trail before we had gotten there. We followed in his trails – I still found it hard to traverse the slight uphills in the deep snow. The view was neat and worth all the hard work.
Back to the yurt and we started descending. We looked out for the AT, but missed it this year again. It is hard to determine where it crosses the Maine Ski trail. By the time we got to the flat parts right next to the lake, it had warmed up and was above freezing. And here is where the snow started getting sticky. I had a big lump of snow form on my skis and with the help of a wonderful lady, got it all off and even waxed my skis. Everyone made it to the hut by 2-3 PM. Some of us checked out the view from the edge of the lake. We came back, had our showers and began the long wait for dinner. The Br(i)(y)ans spent time looking at Canadian Rockies maps. Our crew had decided to check out the sunset at 5:30. When it was 4:55, we realized that the sun was going to sun in the next 5 mins. We rushed to put our gear on and ran to the viewpoint (This has happened two years in a row now) and managed to catch the magnificent sunset just in time. Victory!
Great dinner was served followed by coconut cupcake – one of the best cupcakes I’ve ever had. Marika showed her technique to make a cupcake sandwich and Kylie introduced everyone to Spot It. It is a fun game to play – especially after some alcohol consumption ;) It was a clear night and the stars were out bright. George took some amazing star photos, Go check ‘em out.
Sunday came. It was going to be a warm day. Starting with 39 degrees, it was going to warm up to mid-forties. For reference, the same day started with a blistering temp of -17 degrees last year. That’s a whopping difference of 56 degrees! DOC, B~~~~ and Crusher skied in shorts mode, B~~~~ keeping his shirt zipper open. The snow became slushy and not so fun to ski on. It did make it easier to control speeds on downhills. After crossing Big Eddy trailhead, we started on the long flat section. DOC and I passed a couple of ladies who wore boots and were walking on the trail. They seemed to have stepped on the impaired groomed ski trail, so we got a little mad at them. DOC reversed his judgement later though, upon learning that the ladies referred to him and Crusher as “two hot guys in shorts”.
The day was sunny when we had started, but it was cloudy when we took a lunch break. The clouds were a bit dark, but there was no rain in forecasts, right? And.. it started drizzling. 40s and rain = not fun! It went on like that for an hour or so. We checked out the mighty Grand Falls surrounded by a swarm of snowmobilers. I suppose it was warm enough for ‘em (Last year, we didn’t see a single snowmobile). The gasoline smell and the constant sound encouraged us to leave the falls fast. Over the last bridge and then the last climb to the hut. We made it! Kylie got to the hut 1 hr 45 mins before the next person. Brian and Misun were brave enough to venture out and checked out the onward trail for the next couple of hours as the rain resumed its constant drizzle. Felt great to have a warm shower and we started the long wait for dinner. We chatted, made drawings, read books, took naps. Post dinner, some of us ventured outside and under Peter’s leadership, made a fire. It was fun!
Last morning. So far, everything had been smooth. But its Maine Huts, and not everything is meant to be smooth on this day. The temps were below freezing overnight and made the trail was icy, which made it darn tough to control speed on steep descents and making the fall hard (ice is hard compared to snow). I took a couple of falls and remember it being painful. I learned about B~~~~’s skis – his left ski bindings came off from the skis. He walked for a bit and then put the bindings together with duct tape. He still couldn’t get a glide on his left ski, so he partial-skied all the way back. It was otherwise smooth until we got to the end and realized one of us hadn’t made it. We hatched a plan – early flight people would take the shuttle and late flight people would wait for the person to show up and head back in Michelle’s plan. It was a long wait for the latter group. Some of us realized that they left behind a couple of things. What could possibly go wrong?
It all worked out in the end and all of us caught our flights, at least no flight cancellation drama. Thus, ended another year of adventure at Maine Huts.
Thanks to Brian for helping out with the logistics. I want to thank Michelle for driving. I want to thank folks who agreed to leave late and sacrifice some extra skiing time. And, bunch of thanks to the late flyers. Essentially, Thanks everyone for joining and being super flexible – sometimes that’s needed to make a trip a success. I really appreciate that.
P.S. Alternate trip report titles:
1. “Little B~~~~ came up!”
2. “Are you with group with the 2 hot guys in shorts?”
3. “What could possibly go wrong?”
4 “Oh the AMC crew!”