Over three days from January 17-19, my wife Fran and I skied a wonderful circuit on AMC’s conservation and recreation lands, staying in comfort at two of their Maine Wilderness Lodges en route. Here are my trail notes from the last day of this most excellent ski trip, when we trekked from Gorman Chairback Lodge and Cabins across the frozen expanse of Long Pond, then on through the wooded wilds back to the car and the modern world.
GORMAN CHAIRBACK LODGE AND CABINS OUT TO AMC’S WINTER TRAILHEAD (6.5 miles, about 3 hours)
No rush this morning, getting up or moving out. Not on this, our last precious day in the 100-Mile Wilderness. The cabin was still comfy cozy this morning, owning too the one too may logs I stuffed into the stove overnight. Good books kept both my wife and I up fairly late, way past hiker (or in this case, skier) midnight. I was heavily into Tom Jamrog’s fabulous account of his brutal thru-hike on the Continental Divide Trail, “In the Path of Young Bulls.” Not sure if I’m going to put that hike on my to-do list or not.
It was quarter to eight before we wandered up to Gorman Chairback Lodge for breakfast, which is served at eight. We could smell good things in the kitchen as we walked in, and the coffee was on in the dining room. Two cups o’ Joe straightaway and we were good to go. The other group filtered in and we sat down together in conversation for one last time and dug deeply into the good chow. Nothing like a heaping helping of scrambled eggs, pancakes, bacon and home fries to get you going out here in the big woods.
We had a few more good laughs, traded contact info, then said our goodbyes – to each other, and to the great crew. You know it that we left a good tip in the jar for these hard working men and women. I grabbed a shower to complete the wake-up process before returning to the cabin to pack up. We brought our gear duffles over to the sheds for transport, cleaned up the cabin one last time (and looked longingly at the sweet little structure), then struck off across Long Pond.
The skiing options today were three. We could’ve skied the Gorman Lodge Trail through the woods on the north side of the pond, or the Long Pond Trail on the south side. But we opted for the best choice, to ski right across the lake from one end to the other, where we would again pick up the wooded trail. We weren’t sure that the route would be feasible given the warm and rainy weather of a week ago, but the staff assured us that the ice on Long Pond was at least two feet thick. Yep, that would do nicely.
A light snow began to fall as we started off, adding to the cushiony half to one inch of snow on the pond’s surface. Occasional icy patches required care, but otherwise it was absolutely dreamy skiing in the big wide open. The five peaks of the Barren-Chairback Range loomed in the monochrome skies off to our left, while behind us the four summits of the White Cap Range stayed pretty well hidden. There was no wind as we plodded along, and we enjoyed the wild scene and the mild effort immensely.
There are two areas of open water on the ski route across Long Pond, both marked on the map. We approached the first of these narrows and could see the dark open water just ahead. That’s when we ducked into the woods and went around, with some difficulty but not much. When we popped out onto the lake again I could see the open water bypass route there to my left, a very short stretch over a spit of land next to the open water. I knew it was there somewhere, but missed it. Could’ve saved ourselves a little of the trouble of plowing through the woods, but no biggie really. Moving across the middle stretch of the pond, we could easily pick out the trail corridor that bypassed the second open water spot. We were through it in a flash. The final mile on the pond went quickly, and before we made our way onto the wooded track, we took one last long look back east across the beautiful pond.
Trout Brook Trail is a long but easy grade, and after a little over a half-mile, we pulled off into the Phoenix Shelter for a bite of lunch. Two plastic chairs in the three-sided shelter made for a comfy stop, and we sat for a good while enjoying our tuna salad sandwiches, chips, cookies and hot tea while looking out to Trout Pond.
Just as we were packing up again, an AMC Pisten Bully groomer came by, setting down a wonderful track of fresh corduroy, which we enjoyed all the way out to the KI Road. We turned west on the wide road, which is shared by skiers and snowmobilers alike. As we skied the final mile, we met one skier after another headed in to either Little Lyford or Gorman Chairback lodges. It was Friday and the start of the weekend after all, and we must’ve passed a couple dozen people anyway.
The trailhead parking area was reached after a final sweaty climb. The trip was done and it was time to head home. We loaded skis and gear, changed up some, chatted with some of other skiers and the AMC groomer guy, then drove away. We were in Greenville in no time it seemed, then to Monson, where we stopped in for a birthday beer at the venerable Lakeshore House, owned by our good friend Rebekah Anderson. Two pints and we toasted yet another excellent ski trek in the 100-Mile Wilderness.
PLAN YOUR OWN WINTER ADVENTURE: into AMC’S Maine Wilderness Lodges.
READ MORE: About the first day of this great ski trip, from the trailhead start to Little Lyford Pond Lodge and Cabins. And then the second day, skiing the Lodge to Lodge Trail from Little Lyford to Gorman Chairback Lodge and Cabins on Long Pond.