This weekend, I hiked into the Flagstaff Lake Hut of the Maine Huts & Trails network for a quick overnight and to present Dave Herring (left), executive director of Maine Huts, with the Society of American Travel Writers Phoenix award. As a writer who specializes in Maine and who strives to get readers off the beaten path—beyond the chain motels and fast-food joints—to experience and discover the real Maine, I was particularly pleased to present this award.
Back in 1969, S.A.T.W. realized that tourism leaves footprints, some harmful to the environment, others—such as when we love a place too much—destroy the very reasons for travel. The Phoenix Award recognizes conservation, preservation, beautification, and antipollution accomplishments related to travel, and no place is more deserving than Maine Huts & Trails.
When completed, the 8-foot-wide human-powered/multi-use trail through Maine’s woods, lakes, and rivers will stretch 180 miles, from Newry in the Mahoosuc Mountains to Greenvile, on the shores of Moosehead Lake. Full-service, alternative-powered off-the-grid huts, spaced roughly every 10-12 miles or a day’s hike apart, offer comfy beds, hot showers, and delicious all-you-can-eat meals. The trail is open to bikes, skis, snowshoes, and foot, as well as, in some locations, canoes, kayaks, and rafts.
To date, two huts have been completed, one at Poplar Falls, a bit over two miles from the trailhead in Carrabassett Valley, and the second on the shores of Flagstaff Lake, just shy of two miles from the Long Falls Dam Road trailhead, or a good day’s hike or ski from Poplar.
Previously, I’ve hiked into Poplar; the hike into Flagstaff is far easier, opening up the experience to far more folks (one can even go in over the construction road, shortening it to just over one mile); in summer, it’s even a lunch (with option for overnight) stop on a pontoon-boat tour of Flagstff lake. The third hut, sited on Grand Falls of the Dead River, is awaiting final permits and fund raising, but construction is slated to begin this year, perhaps as early as May.
Before the snow melts and the huts close for mud season (later this month), go in for a look-see. Hike, ski, or snowshoe in for lunch, if not an overnight. You’ll be amazed at what’s available:
• bunkrooms sleeping 2-8 outfitted with nice mattresses, pillows, and fleece blankets and heated to 60 degrees;
• dining hall, with woodstove, and a lounge, with leather furniture, games, and a few books;
• drying room for wet gear;
• restroom equipped with showers, composting toilets, and sinks.
You might be in the middle of the Maine woods, but you’re not really roughing it. Even beer and wine are available.
Go ahead, give it a try. Trust me, you might be a bit challenged, but you won’t be disappointed. Below is a just a sampling of what awaits along the trail.
NOTE: Top photo credit and copyright Carey Kish; all others credit and copyright Hilary Nangle.