Stillwater River Trail & Marsh Island Brewing
The Stillwater River Trail wends easily over an old railroad grade (circa 1860s) along the Stillwater River from downtown Orono nearly to the islands and dam below the Stillwater Reservoir. When the sewer system (laid down under the railbed 50 years ago) needed repair in 2005, the town decided to create the walking trail, a three-mile out-and-back hike.
From the Bennoch Road trailhead, follow the placid Stillwater River west for a half-mile on private property before you reach the section owned by the Orono Land Trust, the pathway’s stewards. Mixed hardwoods and the occasional pine, then a grove of pretty paper birch, and finally some huge red oaks and impressive hemlocks punctuate the route. Near the Orono Water District building, retrace your steps to the parking area, but instead of turning up to it, continue along the river to Main Street and Marsh Island Brewing, which is directly across the road.
A few years back, Jim Swett, the owner of Swett’s Tire and Auto in Bangor, and his wife, Alice, who owns Hogan Road Deli & Convenience next door, took notice when one of their master mechanics, Clay Randall, began winning numerous homebrewing awards. That’s when the trio put their heads together and decided to open a brewery. An old storage space in Orono seemed like the perfect location, so they rehabilitated the place and got to work, with the help of the Swett’s son, Prentiss.
The comfortable Marsh Island Brewing tasting room features a long bar and table tops made of huge white pine slabs, and 11 taps pouring a variety of high-quality, traditional recipes and contemporary brews. Downrigger IPA was the first beer the brewery produced and is still the standard bearer, while the hop-forward Pulp Truck IPA and the Wooly Bugger Pils are regulars as well. If they’re on tap, the Lime Gose is a refreshing treat on a nice summer or fall day, but then, so is the Peanut Butter, You Who? Chocolate Milk Stout.
Hike: Stillwater River Trail, oronolandtrust.org
Brew: Marsh Island Brewing, marshislandbrewing.com
— Text & Photo: Carey Kish of Mt. Desert Island. Carey is an avid beer drinker, editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide, and author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast.
Getting Back on the Road and Preventing IT Band Syndrome (ITBS)
While the most hardy Mainers continue to pound the pavement year round, most of us probably stick to cushioned treadmills in the gym, or even taking a breather over the winter months. But, whenever it’s time to get back out on the road anytime after a running hiatus, runners in particular, need to be cognizant of developing overuse injuries as they get back into training. By keeping a few key points in mind, athletes can prevent or significantly decrease the severity of these frustrating (and sometimes devastating) injuries.
What is Iliotibial Band Syndrome?
Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS) is an overuse injury caused by friction between the Iliotibial Band (on the outside of the thigh) and the lateral femoral condyle (outside portion of the knee). It is most commonly seen in runners, cyclists, and other athletes who are repetitively flexing and extending the knee. Pain is usually felt in the front/outside portion of the knee and can be extremely debilitating. ITBS accounts for up to 15% of overuse injuries around the knee, and running athletes are at highest risk.
What causes ITBS?
Common causes for ITBS include a rapid increase in either the volume or intensity of running. A prime example is a runner who has not been running over the winter and returns at the same volume as he or she was running the previous season. Poor arch support from running shoes, particularly in athletes with a tendency to over pronate, also places runners at risk.
STRETCHING & STRENGTHENING FOR YOUR IT BAND
What to expect from medical intervention
ITBS is a fairly straightforward diagnosis. However, it is important to see a sports medicine trained physician if you are having persistent pain around the knee that doesn’t respond to simple resting. X-rays are typically normal in athletes with ITBS. MRI can be useful in athletes with particularly severe cases in order to rule out more serious issues that may mimic ITBS including meniscus tears and stress fractures.
On average, 90% of patients engaging in appropriate treatment will have resolution of symptoms within 4-8 weeks. Treatment initially consists of rest, icing, and oral or topical NSAIDs. Physical therapy with training modification is also a mainstay of treatment. Therapy focuses on stretching of the ITB, lateral fascia, and gluteal muscles, deep transverse friction massage, strengthening hip abductor muscles, and proprioception exercises to improve neuromuscular coordination. If initial attempts at conservative therapy fail to provide relief, a corticosteroid inject may be considered.
Tips for preventing and recognizing ITBS
Keep a running log. Increase your training intensity/volume by no more than 10% per week.
Consider including cross training with an exercise that does not require repetitive knee flexion/extension in your regimen. (i.e. swimming)
Allow a rest day once per week.
Warm up and focus on stretching before your runs. A foam roller can be particularly helpful to stretch the IT Band.
Make sure you have appropriate arch support from your running shoes. Change your running shoes every 300-500 miles.
If you have worsening pain that comes progressively earlier in your runs and is not relived by rest, or if you have persistent pain, particularly at night, seek an evaluation with a sports medicine physician.
— Text: Jonathan P. Watling, MD; Orthopaedic Surgery, Sports Medicine
Plogging: A New Way of Running that is Sweeping the Nation
One of the best things about Maine is the diversity of landscapes. Whether it’s outside your front door or an hour or so drive to the mountains, the coast or a pristine lake, we get to enjoy a run or walk on beautiful roads, trails and beaches. It doesn’t get any better than this.
But it seems that just about wherever you go these days you find yourself running or walking by trash. More so on the roads but occasionally you’ll see trash on trails, too. A water bottle here, a beer can there. Plastic bags, paper cups, cardboard, Styrofoam. Even used diapers.
Many who run or walk by the trash will shake their heads. But the problem with the righteous-indignation response is the trash is still there on the side of the road. It takes about a millennium or longer for a plastic bottle to degrade in a landfill. Disposable diapers take up to 500 years.
So, here’s a novel idea that a crazy Swede came up with a few years ago: pick up the trash while you are running or walking.
No doubt you’ve heard of plogging by now. It’s a mashup of the Swedish word for picking up—plocka upp—and jogging, and it’s a global “thing.” Not only is plogging good for the planet, but also good for your health. That’s because you use different muscles to bend or squat to pick up trash. Consider it a form of CrossFit minus the type-A trainer screaming in your face.
I confess, I’m a plogger. It helps with my physical conditioning and it makes me feel good to do something positive for the planet. New Year’s Day 2019 was sunny and mild so I decided to go for a five mile plog. Unfortunately I only managed two miles because I hit plogger’s pay dirt. (See photo.) In all, I collected 32 pounds of trash consisting of 54 redeemable bottles and cans, some Styrofoam, two windshield wipers, and a lot of paper, cardboard, and plastic, and a frozen disposable diaper. Yes, I was wearing gloves.
Anyone can plog, you don’t need fancy shoes or moisture-wicking clothing. Just stuff a couple bags in your pocket (reusables are best) head out the door and start walking or running. You don’t know what you’ll discover.
— Text & Photo: Bruce Rayner. Bruce lives and plogs in Cape Elizabeth. He’s Chief Green Officer of Athletes for a Fit Planet and a member of the Maine Track Club. On March 11, the Town of Cape Elizabeth voted to make two weeks a year official Plogging Weeks – the week of Earth Day, April 21-28, and the week of Indigenous People’s Day, October 14-21.
A Competitor’s Nutrition Guide
The number one mistake I see when working with all athletes of all levels is under-fueling. I think most people feel that in order to perform better, they need to keep a slim figure and that this can be achieved by eating the bare minimum needed to sustain performance.
Nutritional Guide for Runners and Athletes
Long-term athletic success is not sustainable without proper nutrition, and eventually the body will break down, whether it is from injury or other health issues. Athletes need to eat enough to sustain their bodily functions (based on how much lean muscle mass they have) and then eat to perform on top of that. Performance nutrition does not come out of your body’s energy to live and often people confuse these two things.
By fueling enough for your body, brain and your performance level, every running foot strike, every rep, every soccer ball kick, etc., can be utilized more efficiently with an optimized nutrition plan.
|This plan is based on 4 personal nutritional questions for athletes to ask themselves in order to improve their overall health and performance:
These questions are important to address because often athletes will mistakenly focus solely on macronutrient choices without knowing if they are actually consuming enough in the first place. Depending on the desired length of performance, if you don’t consume enough fuel to sustain you, the type of food you eat will not matter as much.
Another common mistake is that people think that supplementing will help them perform better. I always say, until you know you are dialed into the first 3 steps above, a supplement of any kind will not do anything to help and you may end up wasting your money.
So how do you know if you are eating enough or too much? Linking up with a Certified Sport Nutritionist or Registered Dietitian is a good place to start.
It is helpful to find a professional who can assess how much lean muscle mass you have through anthropometric measurements. Typically they will assess how much body fat you have, and be able to indirectly calculate your lean muscle mass from there.
By assessing your unique physiology and training goals, the right professional will be able to customize a nutrition plan that will sustain your lean muscle mass and support your daily training and competition schedule. A hint for finding the right help: if you are training regularly, your nutrition plan should not be the same day to day. Just like training, your nutrition plan should also be periodized toward your daily training goals.
If hiring a professional nutritional support is out of reach, the next option would be to eat a balanced diet – meaning items from each food group (or substituting if you have a food allergy) – and eat frequently. I like to tell clients to aim for 6-7 meals per day, each meal containing carbs, fats, and proteins, and to aim to eat every 2-3 hours. This will at the very least ensure that your body is fueled at all times and not going through periods of energy depletion. While this may sound daunting, it is very easy when you break it down like this:
- Pre/Post Workout fuel
People fright at the thought of eating “this much,” but this is what is takes to perform whether it is in sport, exercise, mentally at work, in relationships, etc. Your body and brain will thank you and you will achieve far more than you ever thought you could!
A good summary of this guideline is found in a favorite quote of mine: “I don’t diet, I just eat according to my goals”. I think if people regularly adopt this mindset they can overcome a lot of the biases that are out there in regard to nutrition and what is “healthy.”
— Text & Photos: Tara Whiton. Tara has her PhD in Sport Physiology and Performance and a master’s degree in Exercise Science and Nutrition. She is a certified strength and conditioning coach (CSCS), Certified Exercise Physiologist, Certified Anthropometrist, and Certified Sport Nutritionist. She can be reached at email@example.com or her Instagram @timandtara for more information.
Early Specialization in Youth Sports
In 1997 Tiger Woods drained the final putt of a record-setting performance at the Masters, millions of parents, coaches, and educators watched in awe. By age 21 he was the most formidable force in the sporting world. Either conscious or sub-conscious, these well-documented facts galvanized the early specialization movement. Best-selling books such as Outliers, The Talent Code, and Bounce are wonderful accounts of the grueling ascent to expertise. However, they might create as much trouble as inspiration. The message received by parents and coaches often places early specialization into one sport above the value of diverse movement. More importantly, it’s held high above “play.”
Tiger joined a list of young phenoms like Mozart and Bobby Fischer; people who got in their 10,000 hours at a remarkably young age. The message is loud and clear to many parents and sport coaches: start your kids young. However, I think the real lessons are distorted. When I think of starting young, the intent should always be developing the fundamentals that can apply to all branches of a discipline. For Mozart, that’s developing pitch and scales; for Bobby Fischer its reading people and learning strategies in Chess; for athletes, it’s the fundamental patterns of movement. It’s not about sending your kid to pitching camp at age 9. It is about playing football or soccer in the fall, basketball or wrestling in winter, and track or lacrosse in spring. It is about learning how to run, rotate, lunge, skip, and pivot. What can be developed is fundamental to athleticism: acceleration, deceleration, rotational power, read and react, etc. No one sport corners the market on these skills. Likewise, no one sport should dominate the lives of children or even young adults.
Before you send Suzy out to that summer camp, understand that collegiate coaches look as much for athleticism as anything else. They want their players to be athletes first and it is best developed by a wide range of sports. Early specialization can accomplish this but it carries the likely prices of burnout and overuse injuries.
It’s unfair to draw from a sample of one but we can look deeper into the early phenomenon and find more clues. Athletes like Tracy Austin, Jennifer Capriati and Ty Tryon (there are many more) all reached notoriety at a very young age, and subsequently slipped due to injury and burnout.
Research has clearly shown that the body will accomplish an assigned task with little regard to correct movement mechanics. So if a 12-year old is pitching 8 months a year, the task remains the same but the movements will change due to fatigue. This is the platform for developing an overuse injury. Statistics show these are on the rise. The same holds true for any posture specific to a single sport. It’s why swimmers have a hard time with good shoulder mechanics and tennis players struggle to hip hinge. It’s precisely why baseball and softball athletes should pick up a soccer ball.
Let’s be clear: there is nothing wrong with sending a child to soccer camp over the summer. Problems occur when a child plays the same sport year-round. There is no suggestion to drop the concept of hard work or “deliberate practice.” Simply put, a child’s 10,000 hours should be spent moving in all kinds of environments and being a part of different sport cultures; aka “playing.” What comes of this is a group of athletes who are: a) less likely to burn out; b) more capable of adapting to a new coaching style (an underrated piece of the puzzle); and c) less likely to be injured. These players will look like athletes and work in whatever sport they end up loving. So feel free to work on those 10,000 hours, but don’t drive by the playground on your way to Jimmy’s “elite” summer hockey league. Stop the car and let him go play.
— Text and Photos: Stan Skolfield, ATC, CSCS is the owner of Skolfield Sports Performance and has over 20 years of experience as a Certified Athletic Trainer and Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He is a leader in the fields of sports performance and athletic training with a concentration in youth sports. He has worked with athletes from 7 years old, up to the elite professional level. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook: Skolfield Sports Performance.
Hikes & Brews: Jockey Cap and Saco River Brewing
A short hike off Route 302 in Fryeburg, Jockey Cap looks down on the Saco River valley and the Fryeburg area. In the 1930s, the hill was briefly a ski area — and home to Maine’s first rope tow — but has since found a second life as a family hiking destination. From a trailhead behind Quinn’s Jockey Cap Motel and Country Store, the trail quickly climbs 200 feet over rocks and roots to the summit. The quarter-mile climb from the parking lot to the peak is steep, but not terribly taxing — most hikers can probably make a round trip in less than a half hour, without breaking a sweat. The reward at the summit (beyond the panoramic view from nearby Sebago Lake to farther Grafton Notch and Mount Washington) is the spectacular Peary monument. With a large metal compass dedicated to Arctic explorer Robert E. Peary, the monument details all the surrounding landmarks in striking profile.
It’s easy to find your way to Saco River Brewing from Jockey Cap, as the brewery is literally across the street from the trailhead. Tucked behind the Two Black Dogs Country Pub and steps from the namesake Saco River, the brewery opened in 2016. The small tasting room and brewery, built out from an old metal fabrication shop, maintains the industrial feel, with concrete floors and a poured concrete bar painted with an approximation of the Saco River. A red Old Town canoe hangs over the bar and a glass wall holds the ever-changing tap list (offering a window into the brewery). Visible just beyond the wall is a barrel — filled with beer, natch — and the production portion of the brewery. Still in operation in the foreground is a small, one-barrel pilot system, where owner Mason Irish can brew small batches of beer to serve at the brewery.
Hike: Jockey Cap Glacial Erratic, Fryeburg, Maine
Brew: Saco River Brewing 207-256-3028
— Text & Photo: Josh Christie. Josh is the author of a number of books on beer and the Maine outdoors, as well as co-owner of Print: A Bookstore in Portland, Maine.
2019 Gear Trends
RaceME sat down with John Rogers, owner of Fleet Feet Sports Maine Running in Portland Maine, and Erin Flatley, Marketing and Social Media Manager, to learn about trends we can expect to see in running gear this year.
Starting with shoe trends, John said, “I see the future of shoe innovations continue to be aided by the latest technology in 3D imaging and scanning. This precise data combined with in-store gait analysis, makes it easier to assess proper sizing based on a person’s foot type, individual shape of arches and pressure points. These advanced imaging tools give us more accurate details for measuring gait characteristics from ‘heel strike’ to ‘toe off’ with significant information in real time. In the future, I see more shoe stores having the ability to create personalized inserts and footwear right in the store.”
A Fleet Feet and Karhu Collaboration
The Karhu Ikoni is a revolutionary development in the world of running shoes. This shoe was shaped by foot-scan data from more than 100,000 Fleet Feet fit id images (see more about fit id below). That means real feet dictated the specific design of the shoe and that Fleet Feet customers, owners and employees (maybe even you?) are part of development process. Stop into either Maine Fleet Feet store location and find out more information about this unique footwear.
fit id™ creates a 3D scan of a person’s feet and provides specific measurements including foot width, length, and arch height. The scan takes five seconds to complete and appears on an in-store tablet, allowing the fit specialist to review, discuss observations, and find solutions together with the individual. Customers can get re-scanned on future visits, so Fleet Feet Sports staff can discuss any changes in measurements. fit id™ helps create a powerful in-store experience for customers that is free and they can’t get online. The technology also includes a kids’ scanning feature, which incorporates a gaming element into the scanning process.
Though there are numerous factors that come into play when assessing shoe mileage – from training styles and surfaces to your body weight and mechanics – replacing your shoes every 300 to 500 miles of wear is a general practice for athletes. Because of these very unique circumstances, Erin Flatly from Fleet Feet Sports Maine Running gives us some personalized indicators to follow to when it comes time to start shopping for the next pair of shoes.
Erin recommends to go by feel. “If it doesn’t feel like it used to and you notice subtle changes in how the shoes conform to your foot or how it is performing while you run, that is sign of wear. Also take notice if physical signs in your body such as certain twinges, shin splints or aches that start to come on gradually, because that is another key sign. Other physical signs that you need new shoes are any blisters or hot spots on your heel from the back of the shoe wearing down, or if the shoe is not feeling stable to you.”
Shoes are a very personal piece of equipment for many athletes, requiring a lot of research and trial and error to find the right brand, style and fit.
Extend the life of your shoes
1. Only wear the running shoes when running. “Mileage is mileage, and even just standing, due to the compression, will take its toll,” said Joey Michaud, Fleet Feet Maine Running stores’ Retail Experience Manager, who then provided a great analogy “It’s similar to how carbonated beverages lose fizz over time and go flat. It’s the same with the composites that make up the encapsulated air inside the shoe material. With every step, you are compressing that material down further and further.”
2. Alternate with another shoe around halfway through the life of your main running shoe and and slowly incorporate it in. This allows your main shoes longer time to recover between runs, which allow them to maintain their structural integrity for longer.
3. Do not wash your shoes in a washing machine. Instead, use a sponge and a toothbrush with soap and water. If you do get your shoes soaking wet on a run, take the laces and inserts out and let all parts dry completely.
Biddeford on the Map
Maine’s new ‘It’ city takes the throne
Since its earliest days as a European settlement in the 1600s, Biddeford has bustled with industry, fuelled by the relentless surge of the Saco River that snakes through the heart of the town. These days, designers and distillers have replaced the textile workers and shipbuilders throughout the redbrick mill district that defines the cityscape. The Pepperell Mill building now houses more than 100 small businesses, and this creativity spills out through the streets, where new talent mingles with familiar faces among the city’s cozy restaurants, bars, and boutiques that are sure to entice you in from the snowy sidewalk.
So whether you’re a first-time visitor or a staycationer looking to explore a new corner of Maine, Biddeford is a feast of experiences.
Before you declare Portland to be Maine’s unrivaled gastronomic star, take a tour of its southern cousin, a newly minted foodie destination in its own right. Suddenly, we’re spoiled with choices. Begin your day with breakfast at Palace Diner. The city’s worst-kept secret, the train-car diner, is a magnet for brunch hunters even on weekdays. Any wait you endure will be worth it though, once you bite into that crunchy fried chicken or syrup-smothered French toast at the long counter. Bring cash and an empty stomach. If you’re looking for something a little more on-the-go, Rover Bagels serves fire-blistered bagels and pizza fresh from its wood-fired oven to enjoy on a cold day as you wander around the corner to Main Street. If you cross the street, you might spot a pink- and yellow-hued mural covering an exterior wall. That’s the first clue that you’ve stumbled across Elements, a quirky coffee shop specializing in coffee, books and beer. Is there a better trio out there? It’s easy to lose an hour browsing titles and sipping your brew of choice within its buttercream-colored walls.
Foodies can find pages of inspiration at the city’s dedicated cookbook store, Rabelais. If that kick-starts your appetite again, Elda on Main Street has national critics clamouring over its seasonal Maine-inspired dishes. If you’re looking to treat yourself to a special meal, this is the place to do it. And for an authentic Maine Italian, make a beeline for George’s Sandwich Shop, a Biddeford institution that can whip up a classic sub for you in minutes.
But to truly appreciate Biddeford’s recent appeal, one need only look to the burgeoning scene of brewers and distillers, many of whom are earning national recognition for their creations. For a glimpse of the city’s growing momentum, visit its creative engine: the Pepperell Mill, the 35-acre mill district in the heart of Biddeford downtown. Amid the local business, artisans and even glassblowers, you can enjoy a pint at Banded Brewing’s lively taproom. The winter seasonal stout – the Jolly Woodsman, made with Portland’s Speckled Ax coffee – will give you a boost as you play arcade and board games. If you prefer the harder stuff, Round Turn Distilling is just next door, offering award-winning Bimini Gin in a selection of winter cocktails. Sample straight or enjoy blended up in a Hot Toddy or with spiced syrup and pineapple juice in a Pacific Rim cocktail. Additionally, Dirigo Brewing on Pearl Street in the mill district and Run of the Mill brewpub on Factory Island, are both excellent spots to nurse a drink or a small plate while watching the icy currents of the Saco River churn past the window.
Work off all this indulgence with a visit to the shorefront; Biddeford Pool is the area’s exclusive oceanfront zip code. Parking on Gilbert Place is mercifully quiet during the winter, allowing you to access the wide, sandy beach for a bracing walk beside the icy surf. Or visit the Rachel Carson Wildlife Center and walk 2.5-mile out-and-back trail from Timber Point Trailhead out to the ocean. Along the way you might spot the wild residents who call this little pocket of natural splendor home.
— Text & photos: Saisie Moore. Saisie has worked at Portland Monthly and The Daily Telegraph in London. When she’s not writing, she explores Maine and beyond in a converted camper van with mountain bike in tow.
Safety Gear for the Road
As many of you stack firewood or get the oil tanks filled preparing for the next storm, it’s a good time to prepare your vehicle for winter travel as well. Here are a few items that you should always have in an emergency kit in your vehicle.
For the vehicle
- A good set of jumper cables
- Tow strap or chain
- A full-size spare tire if possible
- A basic tool kit
- Road flares
For you and passengers
A backpack or a tote in your trunk should contain batteries, a flashlight, an emergency radio, a space blanket and/or winter sleeping bag, an extra pair of socks, gloves and a hat, water and snacks (especially high-energy bars), matches and/or a lighter, candles, a first aid kit, a knife/multi tool, and a small shovel.
Most people who live in the Northeast and in very rural areas need to carry the above items at a minimum. It is easy to plan for an outdoor adventure such as skiing, camping or ice fishing, but if you find yourself stranded between point A and point B, it could be a life-or-death situation if you have not prepared accordingly. If you’re going to venture out, make sure to rip this page out, tape it to your dashboard, and buy these items before the ice and snow start to fly.
— Text & Photo: Alex Ribar
Winter Adventuring into Maine Wilderness Lodges in the 100-Mile Wilderness
The 100-Mile Wilderness is perhaps Maine’s most enigmatic landscape, a vast 750,000-acre expanse of rugged hills and mountains, pristine lakes and ponds, free-flowing rivers and streams, and the next-to-last stretch of the renowned Appalachian Trail, all bookended by Moosehead Lake and the West Branch of the Penobscot River.
Trails galore in the 100-Mile Wilderness mean countless opportunities for day hikes and overnights treks in late spring, summer and fall. The best time to visit may well be winter, however, when cold weather adventurers can click into cross-country skis or strap on snowshoes for a wonderful journey into the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Maine Wilderness Lodges in the heart of the region. Here, you’ll enjoy an abundance of well-marked, groomed trails by day and outstanding, off-the-grid accommodations by night, a very special experience in a remote, awe-inspiring natural setting.
AMC became a landowner in the 100-Mile Wilderness 15 years ago, a bold move that helped connect a remarkable 65-mile corridor of conservation lands, and has since acquired more than 70,000 acres. AMC operates three traditional sporting camps and has built 120 miles of multi-use trails, an outdoor recreation bonanza, which is perfect for a winter weekend getaway with friends or family.
Medawisla Lodge and Cabins, on the west end of Second Roach Pond with a marvelous view of Katahdin, is accessible year-round via gravel logging roads. Miles of groomed ski trails emanate from the lodge, leading around the pond and to Shaw and Trout mountains nearby. For first-time winter visitors to the area, this place is a good choice.
Little Lyford Lodge is set amid deep woods, just a stone’s throw from the West Branch of the Pleasant River as well as Little Lyford Pond and its fabulous vista of Baker Mountain. Gulf Hagas, Maine’s spectacular “Grand Canyon,” is only a couple miles distant via marked ski trails.
Gorman Chairback Lodge and Cabins is situated at the east of Long Pond in the shadow of Third Mountain, part of the wild and rugged Barren-Chairback Range.
From the winter parking lot on Katahdin Iron Works Road, Hedgehog Gate Trail leads seven moderate miles to Little Lyford, while Gorman Chairback is reached in an easy 6.5 miles via Long Pond Trail. Make a long-weekend loop between the two lodges by following the Lodge-to-Lodge Trail. Guests can have overnight gear sledded into camp by snowmobile, making for lighter travel with just a daypack.
AMC’s Maine backcountry facilities feature cozy log or frame cabins, complete with a woodstove and warm bunks or beds. Each lodge sports a spacious dining room and lounge with a woodstove. Restrooms also have hot showers, and there’s a wood-fired sauna for steamy relaxation after a cold day of fun outdoors.
Meals are sumptuous and served family-style in the camaraderie of fellow travelers. Filet mignon, salmon, roasted chicken and mountains of side dishes, plus soup or salad and fresh baked bread, are typical dinner fare. Vegetarian dishes are also available. And there’s always a delicious dessert. Breakfast is an equally large affair, with an egg dish, a side of bacon or sausage, pancakes or French toast, potatoes, muffins, coffee and juice. Brown bag trail lunches include a hearty sandwich, salty snacks, cookies and fruit.
AMC’s Maine Wilderness Lodges can be a do-it-yourself adventure or you can arrange to go with an experienced guide. Either way, check with AMC for lodging information, trip planning and preparation details, trail maps, and tips for safe, enjoyable winter travel.
AMC’S Maine Wilderness Lodges
— Text & Photos: Carey Kish of Mt. Desert Island. Carey is editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide, author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast, and an avid beer drinker.
Join a Group for Cold Weather Running
Winter running in Maine is the epitome of “embracing the suck,” but dressing for the weather and joining a group can make all the difference. The elements outside can be intimidating, but it’s more runnable than you think. Before resorting to the treadmil, consider with the right shoes, clothes, and planning, winter running can actually be fun.
First, invest in the gear to keep you comfortable. For temperatures in the 30s, make sure you have a base layer of an undershirt (never cotton), some kind of insulating layer, such as fleece or wool, and over that, a vest to keep your core warm. Top that with a wind-resistant light jacket. You’ll also need some insulated running tights or leggings that can wick away the sweat, while holding in heat. For your extremities, plan on socks with sweat- resistant fabric, a hat, gloves and a neck warmer. Don’t wear all black: keep your layers bright so traffic can spot you.
Next, find the motivation. When the temps are below freezing, having the support of a group can help you reach your goals and stay on track. It’s easy to ignore the alarm and pull the blanket over your head, but knowing there’s a group of people waiting for you can help you push excuses aside and get out the door.
Sometimes, just joining a group is the hardest part, especially if you’re new to running, but after taking the plunge into a group run, be prepared for instant camaraderie and community. Chances are there will be someone with a similar pace to your own.
Group runs can push you to do things you would never consider solo, be it a hill workout or Sunday morning long run.
Group training keeps the conversation flowing and the miles seem to fly by. Suddenly, those long runs don’t seem so long anymore.
Every runner deals with high and lows during a run, and sometimes those lows can really take a toll on your mental and physical toughness. When running with a group, you’re surrounded by people who have experienced the same things and can help pull you out of a slump when you may have otherwise quit, had you been running solo. Helping someone achieve their goals can be as fulfilling as nailing your own workout.
So, layer up and find your tribe. There’s something about fighting the elements, pushing through it together, and upon return, swapping high-fives and bonding over the experience you just endured.
— Text & Photos: Chelsea Patterson. Chelsea is a member of Thick Quad Squad, a weatherproof (rain or shine) run club and community offering free weekly runs and events for all paces. The group meets at Coffee By Design on 1 Diamond Street in Portland every Sunday at 8:00 a.m. For the most up-to-date meeting times and info, please visit our social media Instagram: THICKQUADSQUADRUNNING.
White Heat & Whiskey
White Heat casts an impressive vision from the road leading into Sunday River. From the proper angle, it looks like a wall of white. If you didn’t have a healthy respect for White Heat and Shock Wave (to the left looking up), the warning signs posted as you get off the chair will have you paying attention. It starts off with a couple of nice gentle rollers, then the long consistent pitch drops off and you know you’re in for a good ride.
Early in the day when skier’s right (looking downhill) is freshly groomed, you will not find a snow surface any finer. The smooth corduroy begs you to unleash as much speed and as high an edge angle as you dare. The first time I skied White Heat, the snow was firm, but easy to carve. I could hear the snow landing and sliding from the rooster tail coming off my skis. I was honestly giggling by the time I reached the bottom.
Approach White Heat with fresh legs, smooth snow surface, and sharp edges. Then, whether you opt for smooth, rhythmic speed control turns or laying them over as far as you can in huge giant slalom turns embracing your inner Ted Ligety, you’ll want all your strength, balance, and concentration.
Pay particular attention to that last part—concentration. If you tumble on White Heat, several things will happen. You will spread your gear in a classic “yard sale”; you will slide a considerable distance, and last but most certainly not least, you will be vocally and ruthlessly judged by the skiers and riders on the chair running right over White Heat. It always reminds me of the Lunch Rocks crowd at Tuckerman Ravine. Whenever someone eats it, there’s a moment of respectful silence to ensure they’re not injured, then uproarious cheers and laughter once they raise a hand.
Once you’ve blazed a couple of runs down White Heat, you’ll need some refreshment. Equip yourself with a bottle of Fifty Stone Highland Style Whiskey. This whiskey reminds me of a Balvenie or a Glenmorangie—a smooth single malt style with a bit of complexity hidden beneath its smooth golden complexion. You won’t be disappointed with the first sip, the warm embrace, and the smooth finish. I prefer it with a single ice cube to impart a wee bit of water to open the whiskey and cool it down. So, pour yourself a glass, and have a seat. Better yet, pour yourself a double.
— Text: Lafe Low. Life is the former editor of Explore New England and Outdoor Adventure magazines. He is also the author of Best Tent Camping: New England, Best Hikes on the Appalachian Trail: New England, and 60 Hikes within 60 Miles of Boston, 2nd Edition. He has no more room in his garage for any more skis, but that will not stop him from trying.
Winter on Wheels
The growing popularity of fat biking has opened the door to exhilarating winter riding across Maine. Prepare to meet the powder with our newcomer’s guide.
DID YOU, ONCE AGAIN, HANG UP YOUR BIKE HELMET FOR THE SEASON WITH A PANG OF REGRET?
The colder months no longer need to be an enforced separation from two wheels. Fat bikes make it easy for riders of all levels to explore Maine’s snowy trails with ease, once you know what to wear, where to go and how to stay safe.
Meet Your Ride
Don’t let the chunky tires and rigid frame intimidate you; fat bikes are designed to float smoothly over snow, sand, and mud. While most models have only front suspension or none at all, the balloon-like four-to-five- inch tires cushion impact and offer stability, even on heavy terrain. The sport’s booming popularity means that bike shops such as Gorham Bike & Ski in Portland or Barker Mountain Bikes in Bethel will kit you out with a rental and a helmet for $40-$65. All designated trail areas listed below also offer fat bike rentals, along with the purchase of a day trail pass. Make sure the shop fits you with the correct size bike and suitable tire pressure for the day’s conditions.
Like most cold-weather activities, the key to comfortable fat biking lies in layering. The initial acceleration in the cold air will feel chilly, but after a few minutes pedaling, you’ll heat up fast. Wear a sweat-wicking base layer in either a wool or polyester blend to ensure you stay warm and dry. Combine this with a waterproof outer shell or a mid-layer fleece on extra cold or windy days. Thermal tights or leggings will do the trick on dry days and can be combined with waterproof pants for slushier conditions. A chamois is also a great way to keep a little cushion between you and the bike seat during longer rides.
We all know the key to happiness with winter sports is warm fingers and toes. A pair of ski socks and hiking boots provide suitable footwear for beginners. You may lean toward mittens for warmth, but gloves are preferable as they allow braking dexterity. Ski or winter running gloves will do the trick. A microfiber neck warmer that can double as a headband will cut the cold air to your face and sit comfortably beneath the most important accessory of all: a helmet. Don’t leave without one.
Fuel the Fun
The dry, cold Maine air will make hydration a number- one priority. Fix a water bottle to your frame or carry a CamelBak filled with hot water and drink it often to counter insensible water loss. Reward your imminent exercise early by stocking up on calories before you ride. Winter sports demand a lot of energy, so feast on a mix of carbs and protein before you go and bring along energy gels and bars for a mid-ride refuel.
While large tires allow you to cruise over a variety of terrain and snow conditions, the best riding is found on groomed trails, where packed snow makes pedaling easier. This means you can ride on snowmobile trail networks throughout the state. Sugarloaf isn’t just for skiers anymore; the Carrabassett Valley has picturesque riding among its Nordic trail network. Elsewhere in southern Maine, Pineland Farms allows bikers access to its 15 miles of snowshoeing trails. For $30 you’ll get a bike, helmet and trail pass for two hours. This season, Bethel Village Trails expanded its trail system to include dedicated fat bike access in western Maine.
A trail pass and bike rental can be obtained from Barker Mountain Bikes for $45. For a full day’s biking up north, the AMC Maine’s 100-Mile Wilderness offers 80 miles of ski and snowmobile trails east of Moosehead Lake.
It’s essential to check snow conditions prior to riding, just as you would skiing. Trail networks may expand or limit fat bike access depending on conditions.
— Text: Saisie Moore. Saisie has worked at Portland Monthly and The Daily Telegraph in London. When she’s not writing, she explores Maine and beyond in a converted camper van with mountain bike in tow.
Winter Gear Reviews
LIBERTY ROGUE OUTDOORS
SHIVER SHIELD EXTREME COLD WEATHER GEAR
by Alex Ribar
Shiver Shield is a line of extreme cold weather gear manufactured to be thin, light, and resistant to the coldest temperatures on earth. Using NASA-inspired technology, the insulation is just three-to-five mm thick and will withstand the cold better than any other gear on the market. Shiver Shield also stands behind their jackets and pants with a limited lifetime warranty against manufacturing defects.
In March 2018, Liberty Rogue Outdoors put the Shiver Shield Extreme Cold Weather Gear to the test. I personally spent two days and two nights testing this product on a mountain near my home here in Maine. My only clothing was the Shiver Shield jacket and pants. I used a tarp for shelter and did not use a sleeping bag. I slept on the ground with just the Shiver Shield gear, a good pair of cold weather boots and gloves as well as the Shiver Shield Beanie. I was comfortable and warm all night!
Shiver Shield has been featured on the CBS show “The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation,” where the host of the program was sprayed down with liquid nitrogen. That’s -320 degrees Fahrenheit! The clothing remained pliable and did not get brittle and the host remained protected throughout the ordeal.
For extreme cold weather adventures, such as ice fishing, snowmobiling and hunting, Liberty Rogue Outdoors highly recommends Shiver Shield gear. I personally feel you can go further, stay outside longer, and fulfill your quest.
For more information on Shiver Shield and the products they offer, go to
DIAMOND GRIP AND SUMMIT
By Lafe Low
Walking or hiking anywhere in Maine is often a bruise-and-embarrassment-inducing exercise once the temperature hovers steadily below the freezing mark. The wisest walkers among us will equip ourselves with a pair of Yaktrax traction cleats. These beauties will have you saying, “Ice? What ice?”
There’s a whole range of burliness levels for the different Yaktrax models, from commuting down Congress Street in Portland to summiting Old Speck on a day that would keep the Yeti in his cave. The line includes the Walk, Run, Pro, Diamond Grip, Summit, and Ski models. The lower models are fine for ensuring you won’t perform a dramatic pratfall as you’re entering the office, but the Diamond Grip and Summit are the ones for more serious—and safe—winter hiking. The Ski model, as the name implies, is to keep you similarly attached to Mother Earth while walking from your car to the chairlift. Ski ($20), Diamond Grip ($45), The Summit ($90)
Secure Your Size
As with any footwear, even an accessory like this, sizing is critical. Yaktrax recommends adding two sizes for insulated boots like Sorels or something like that. For regular hiking boots, the general S, M, L, XL, XXL should be fairly accurate.
MSR EVO TRAIL SNOWSHOES
by Carey Kish
From the packed snow of groomed tracks to the variable conditions in the wooded hills and mountains—for all but the most technical terrain, really—MSR Evo Trail snowshoes are up to the task, as they have reliably been for more than two decades and for untold numbers of confident users. The Evo Trails feature a super versatile binding that are easy to get in and out of with gloved hands, and accept a wide variety of winter boot types. Bonus: the bindings lay flat and are easily strapped to your pack. The eight-inch wide, 22-inch long plastic decking accommodates many different users (body weights, gear carried) and snow conditions (hard pack to deep powder). Use the six-inch tail extensions for even greater flotation. Full-length steel traction blades, molded braking bars and toe crampons offer secure purchase. For extended snowshoe adventures, extra straps, strap clips and the tiny repair kit are recommended.
Retail price: $139 (the Float Tails are an additional $49)
Maine Outdoor Adventure Club encourages networking and new friendships
Headed outdoors? Want some company? Members of the Maine Outdoor Adventure Club can always find someone with whom to hit the trails and waterways of the Pine Tree State.
“MOAC is a member-driven organization,” said the group’s president, Jeffery Berry of South Portland. “It’s really based off what people want to do.”
The organization itself hosts four events annually, one each quarter.
“That’s just a chance for members to get to see each other in a group setting,” said Berry, emphasizing that most of the club’s activities are organized by its approximately 700 members. Anyone who wants to plan a trip can post details on the members-only portion of the group’s website at moac.org. Other members can then join in.
“The members who post make the decision on where they want to go,” said Berry, who joined the group about a year ago.
“The key thing is [MOAC] just gets me more active and out with like-minded individuals,” said Berry, who participated in a canoeing trip in Machias recently. “I got to have people in my canoe that I might not have met otherwise.”
He described the club as an activities and social group that aims to get people outdoors.
“We’re a social club with a hiking problem,” he quipped.
Of course, the group’s activities are not limited to hiking.
“Our outdoor activities range from peaceful and relaxing to challenging and full of excitement,” states the website. “From the extremes of winter camping, ice/rock climbing, strenuous hiking, mountain biking, whitewater kayaking, to the gentle sail, walk or snowshoe, MOAC has something to offer everyone.”
The group was originally founded in 1989 and ran operated through the magazine Casco Bay Weekly. Though the magazine no longer exists, the club has survived and gone digital.
More than half of the group’s membership is retired, said Berry, though the organization is not specifically geared toward older folks. Many younger people join, but get sidetracked by work and family obligations.
“Life keeps getting in the way,” he said. “We’d like to attract more younger folks.”
Most MOAC members also live in southern Maine. In addition to organized annual activities and member-led trips, the group hosts monthly meetings in Portland. About 50 people typically attend these meetings, which include speakers discussing topics ranging from outdoor cooking to first aid.
Membership is $20 annually for an individual and $30 for a family. It includes full access to the website, where members can organize trips and chat, as well as access to the MOAC library, which includes reviews and how-to guides. It also includes a monthly emailed newsletter, discounts, voting privileges and even what the website describes as a “nifty” car decal.
For those who want to know more, the monthly meetings are open to the public as are some of activities, such as films devoted to conservation topics, trail maintenance days, a fall foliage paddle and winter activities.
— Text: Johanna S. Billings. Johanna is an avid hiker as well as an award-winning writer and photographer. She is based in Steuben.