Friday April 25th 2014

Out Going

Hike up to the hut with Maine Huts and Trails

By: Shannon Bryan

And so it begins. The trail head.

I like to think of myself as an adventurer. And I am, even if I sometimes have panic attacks on mountain trails that Croc-wearing children have no trouble conquering. (When there’s a break in the trees and you can actually see how far down it’s possible to tumble, it messes with your head. But not a kid’s head. They’re too distracted by thoughts of Superman.)

To be an adventurer, you don’t have to hike the entire Appalachian trail or spend twelve arduous months in a makeshift shelter deep in the Maine woods, surviving on squirrel meat and whittling trees to pass the time. An adventure is an adventure – even if it is seems like a small one…and even if there’s a bottle of wine, heated hut floors, and a well-charged fire along the way. (Hey, an adventure doesn’t have to be painful. Or without wine. But I repeat myself.)

You’re likely to run into fellow adventurers on the trails – even on frigid days. Depending on the conditions, folks can ski, snowshoe, bike, or hike their way in.

Maine Huts and Trails offers 80 miles of trail in Maine’s western mountains, with four huts along the way for respite and warming up (or cooling down, if you overdo your layering and sweat most of the way there).

The hut and trail system gives hikers access to the mountains, lakes, and woods – and the huts are models of sustainability. And the views along the way? Well, they won’t bother you.

The views!

Adventurers can plan trips that are days long – traversing miles of terrain and stopping for food and sleep at one of the huts along the way.

Our adventure was smaller: a three-mile hike to the Stratton Brook hut and an overnight in the bunkhouse.

Because it’s winter.

I chose the Stratton Brook hut because it has the shortest distance from trail head to hut. I’m not a wimp or anything, but it’s cold out there. A chilly 11 degrees! But not long into the hike, the trail began to incline. Then incline some more. It was only three miles, but it was three miles uphill. My wicking layer did it’s best to keep up.

Stratton Brook hut! There’s fire and food in there.

It took us just over an hour to reach the hut. Since it hadn’t snowed in a few days and the trail was groomed and packed, hiking in was easy. With more snow, snowshoeing would have made more sense. And probably taken longer.

The bunkhouse

The bunkhouses are minimalist – if you’re used to a hotel. If you’re used to a tent, they’re, well, like a hotel.

I call top bunk!

Beds and pillows are supplied – you bring in your own pillow case and linens. While the rooms are warmish, a sleeping bag is the way to go in winter.

That’s nice to stare at, no?

The nature out there might get you staring. Luckily the hut has many windows, so you can appreciate the views and still play a round of Skip-Bo by the fire.

Skip-Bo while looking at Bigelow.

Dinner is served at 6 pm and it’s a communal-picnic-table-pass-the-bread kind of meal. Dinner and breakfast are included for overnight guests. Beer and wine can be purchased on-site. And they’ll be purchased all right.

The menu changes, but the focus is always on healthy grub that’s locally sourced as much as possible.

Dinner included garlic bread, pasta, kale salad, and dessert.

Then it’s book by the fire time. I think it’s clear by now that this isn’t exactly “roughing it.”

Fire. Book. Wine. Done.

Eventually, after conversation between fellow hutgoers begins to die down in front of the fire, folks will begin shuffling off to their bunks. Everyone will sleep. And in the morning, the sun shows up to light the scene and remind you why you came up here in the first place.

Sunrise

FMI: www.mainehuts.org/a>.
Rates ranging from $84-$125 a night for adults (rates drop if you rally a large group). There are four huts in the system, with a range of distances and elevations. Choose one as a base camp or move from hut to hut.

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