February 23rd, 2021
How to Rewild Ourselves
Can the remedy to stressful modern lives be found in the forest?
If you’ve spent less time on familiar downtown streets and more time among the trails and trees of our public lands during the past year, you’re not alone. Everyone from seasoned hikers to the previously outdoor-averse responded to a collective yearning for space and calm. Now that we’re learning there’s more to our excursions than just exercise and good views, what knowledge and practices can help us maintain an essential connection to the wild – and in doing so, improve health and well-being?
Into the Woods
When John Muir wrote of “going into the forest to lose my mind and find my soul,” he may have inadvertently described the art and science of shinrin yoku, the Japanese characters for “forest bath.”
Forest Therapy Guide and Registered Maine Guide Jeanne Christie discovered this concept of forest bathing for herself one day during a trail run. “Several years ago, I found myself stopped on the trail, looking around at the trees with a sudden desire to stay still,” she said. After completing certification training with the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy, Christie launched her business, Connect to Wilderness, and began leading guided forest therapy sessions throughout southern Maine. “If there’s a therapist, it’s the forest,” she said. “I’m simply a guide.”
Each forest bathing session is unique, tailored to the woods, season, and the group participating since “not everyone is ready to talk to the trees,” said Christie.
“The practice is to really experience where you are on a deeper level,” she said. “I’ve heard it described as ‘outward meditation’.” The idea of healing and release simply through quiet reflection in a forest may seem abstract and intangible, but Christie assures it’s a human necessity. “We’ve lost our connection to the wilderness, but it’s still within us,” she said. “Simply taking time to be in nature without agenda or motive—just an existential awareness of the forest—is an ancient instinct we’ve learned to suppress.”
Her guidance for a self-directed forest bath? “Gently push aside your ‘talking’ mind,” she said. “Experience the world through all of your senses. Close your eyes and observe the world through your other senses. Your mind will start talking again – don’t worry. Just allow these thoughts to move past. Wander at will!”
“The land is the real teacher.
All we need as students is mindfulness.”
ROBIN WALL KIMMERER
For a truly immersive experience in nature, plunging into the bracing waters of Maine’s rugged coast is an invigorating approach – if you can work up the nerve. Yarmouth landscape architect and artist Mitchell Rasor first gave it a try seven years ago, while looking for a new focus during a difficult period. Today, it’s a year-round practice he describes as “mentally and physically cathartic.’’ Even while traveling for work, Rasor is always on the lookout for a nearby swim spot. “I try never to miss a day between May and October,” he said.For anyone eager to take the plunge, Rasor suggests beginning in August when the ocean water is warmer (by Maine standards) and timing your swim for fair conditions. “The wind is typically lower and the water is calmer at dawn and dusk,” he said.
Whether you opt for a lake, river, or ocean, there are inherent risks associated with wild swimming. “You need to be aware of your surroundings, tides, waves, temperature, and currents,” said Rasor. “You’re aligned in the moment. It’s just you and the water.”
In the woods beyond East Blue Hill, a collective of alternative educators have established Way of the Earth, an inclusive school that teaches Earth skills and ancient arts – from hide tanning to herbalism to survival skills. Students “find skills to build an everyday functional and positive relationship with the surrounding world, and other people,” said instructor and outdoor educator Colby Smith. Much of the curriculum is centered around a Whole-Earth approach that recognizes the need for indigenous knowledge and leadership at its forefront. “We’ve been creating increasingly ‘artificial’ human-constructed environments without considering most other species in this process,” he said. “Indigenous or native people have always lived with the natural world at the forefront of their consciousness.”
Sign up for short courses in traditional arts, or if you’re feeling a real wanderlust, sign up for their immersive five-month summer wilderness program at an on-site primitive village.
For anyone with a desire to rewild but without months to spare, Smith offers some practical advice: “Returning to health and balance is a process – it takes time. Make small, but sure steps. Plug in to the place you live and learn about the interconnections that exist there. Quietly observe how this stream has slowly shaped the ground and how the mink is influenced by these shapes as it travels upstream. Observe how you too are shaped by the mink’s movements, the sound of the stream, and the shape of the land. Rather than just moving through nature, look around, move slowly, start a relationship with something there. Maybe it could use your help. Maybe it could help you.”
TAKE A BREAK DURING YOUR WORKDAY
— Saisie Moore is a freelance writer and gardener living on Munjoy Hill in Portland.
Keeping Our Spirits Up with Patrick Dempsey
Patrick Dempsey, most known for his role as neurosurgeon Derek “McDreamy” Shepherd in Grey’s Anatomy is a Mainer through and through. Born in Lewiston, he grew up in the nearby towns of Turner and Buckfield before becoming an actor and starring in the 1980s films Can’t Buy Me Love and Loverboy. His ties to Maine continue to this day. After his mother was diagnosed with cancer, he founded the Dempsey Center for Quality Cancer Care with physical locations in Lewiston and South Portland, and now virtually through Dempsey Connects. And since 2009, he has organized the Dempsey Challenge, an annual run, walk, and cycle fundraising race to benefit those impacted by cancer at the Dempsey Center.
As we head into the second year of a pandemic, we at the Maine Health & Wellness Guide are looking to inspire people to find their way back to health. We were lucky to catch up with Patrick Dempsey on what he does to stay positive, healthy, and balanced.
Can you tell us what you are up to now and what your days in the pandemic look like?
PD: Simple days in the beginning. It was nice to be home and not flying or working— just being together as a family, and then trying to comprehend what was going on with so much unrest and fear. We truly just lay around the house and then as things progressed, a bit more anxiety grew. We then tried to keep ourselves busy with positive activities such as walks, cooking as a family, along with a lot less TV!
What outdoor recreational activity do you enjoy most in non-winter months to stay active and find fun?
PD: Cycling, walks, hikes, time at the beach.
When you’re having a down day, what’s something that picks you back up?
PD: I have found that quieting my mind really helps when I’m feeling a bit off. I found the simple task of sitting in front of a fireplace does the trick for me.
Do you practice any meditation techniques, and if so, what are they?
PD: I do. It’s important to have time to collect yourself in the morning. I like to wake up before anyone else in the house, let the dogs out, and then sit quietly. I’ve been reading a lot of Ryan Holiday’s works and have found his interpretation of stoicism to be incredibly beneficial.
Being from Maine, what particular strength of Maine’s people do you connect with most?
PD: Mainers care deeply for their communities, and when people are in need, they step up and help generously. They are always last to accept help themselves, but the first to help others. I see this with the incredible support at the Dempsey Center. The Dempsey Challenge always highlights the strength of community and love that the state shows.
What is your favorite area of Maine to visit for adventure and makes you feel refreshed?
PD: The woods of Maine. The coast. I love the wildlife and Maine’s natural beauty.
This past year, Activity Maine embarked on a campaign called #keepourspiritsupmaine designed to encourage leaders in Maine to reveal how they found positive ways to handle the pandemic. Check out more of our Industry Snapshots on the craft brew, distilling, and Maine outdoor industries in the blog series located in the sidebar.
Jumping Rope to Run Faster
Jumping rope requires quick rebounds that recruit mainly the foot muscles and joints, a type of plyometric training that would be useful for runners. A recent study in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance set out to investigate this. A group of amateur runners were randomly assigned to an experimental group or a control group. The experimental group modified their regular warm-up routine to include jumping rope for two to four sessions per week with a total time of 10 to 20 minutes per week. After 10 weeks, runners in the experimental group had greater arch stiffness and statistically significant improvement in their three-kilometer run time compared to the control group. So, for runners looking for a way to increase their speed, incorporating jump rope training drills into their warmup may be a great way to do so. Dust off that jump rope and get going!
By Heidi Walls, MD
Reference article: García-Pinillos F, Lago-Fuentes C, Latorre-Román PA, Pantoja-Vallejo A, Ramirez-Campillo R. Jump-Rope Training: Improved 3-km Time-Trial Performance in Endurance Runners via Enhanced Lower-Limb Reactivity and Foot-Arch Stiffness [published online ahead of print, 2020 Mar 12]. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2020;1-7. doi:10.1123/ijspp.2019-0529
Tips on Ticks and Prevention
Like so many people who live for the outdoors, I’ve spent much of my time in the woods and waters of Maine until, at age 26, an unexpected rash brought my life to a screeching halt.
As a trained wilderness guide and a Maine native, I was well aware that Lyme disease existed here in the Northeast. Yet, I didn’t know its devastating effects when I developed the familiar bull’s eye rash in 2006. I wished I’d known more before becoming bed-bound for more than two years and succumbing to a desperate search for my health. Luckily after seven years, I fully recovered with the help of a team of doctors, neurological rehabilitation, and support through adaptive sports programs. Now I am back running trails, backpacking, and practicing martial arts in the elements again.
The cool, fresh mornings of spring in Maine open up so many opportunities to go outside and focus on healthy activities. As green begins to return in the forests, it seems to draw people from their homes and call them back to the great outdoors.
Staying healthy outdoors while maintaining the proper social distance is still on the minds of many fresh-air seekers hitting the trails this summer season. Yet, there is more to think about beyond the current pandemic when heading out on that next adventure.
Whether you are hiking, backpacking, camping, trail running, participating in one of the new virtual trail races, or gardening—there is potential for tick exposure. Children are most susceptible because they tend to play outdoors the most, and people who spend time outdoors are at a higher risk. Pets let outdoors can also pose a risk, as they are likely to carry ticks back into the home.
Avoid Bushwacking; Stay on Trails
Try to stay out of the long grass as many ticks stand on the end of the blades of grass reaching up with their legs, ready to attach to whatever happens to walk by. They will attach to a pant leg, shoe, or sock and then migrate upwards, looking for warmth.
Tick Checks are Extremely Important
I do quick tick checks along the trail, especially if I travel through low brush, leaf litter, or tall grasses. I do another check once I return to my car. Then once back at home, I do a thorough tick check. Use your hand to rub along your skin as it may be easy to mistake a tiny deer tick for a freckle. A tick will be raised slightly so you might be able to feel one more easily than being able to see it. Use a mirror to check your back. Then, throw your clothes in the washer and dryer. Be sure to check thoroughly. Favorite places for ticks are behind the knees, armpits, waistline, groin, and scalp.
What if you find an attached tick?
Remove ticks as soon as you see them. There are tick scoops that you can find at most outdoor stores or use regular tweezers. Grasp it as close to your skin as possible and pull with a gentle tug. Try to avoid breaking the tick. If broken, the head of the tick will be left inside the skin and may cause irritation. If you suspect infection, consult your physician right away.
Take a picture of the embedded tick. Write down the day and time that it was found embedded in case you need to have it examined or keep records for a doctor. Watch the area for any signs of rash and note any developments of other symptoms such as headaches, nausea, malaise, diarrhea, fever, etc.
In short, always be mindful of where you walk this summer. Not all ticks carry infectious diseases and not every bite will lead to disease. But better to be careful, educated, and aware. Consult your physician if you suspect you may have a tick-borne illness.
BE TICK AWARE
The Global Lyme Alliance, a research and education organization based in Connecticut, gives suggestions on their website to help people to “Be Tick AWARE,” which is an acronym for the following:
AVOID areas where ticks live. Ticks thrive in woodpiles, leaf litter, long grass, beach grass, bushy areas, stone walls, and perimeters where the lawn meets the woods.
WEAR light-colored clothing to spot ticks more easily, long-sleeved shirts tucked in at the waist, long pants tucked into high socks, closed-toe shoes, and a hat with your hair tucked in, if possible. Do not walk in the grass barefoot or in open sandals, even if it’s cut short.
APPLY EPS-approved tick repellent (such as DEET or picaridin) and insecticide (such as permethrin) to skin, clothing, and shoes as directed.
REMOVE clothing upon entering the home; toss into the dryer at high temperature for 10-15 minutes to kill live ticks. Putting them in the washer, however,
Tick larvae are less than 1 millimeter long (the size of a poppy seed) while nymphs are 1-2 millimeters long, about the size of a pinhead. Adult ticks can range from about 2 – 6 millimeters long when unfed and can grow up to 10 millimeters long after feeding.
Story by Jaclyn Sanipass, a survivor in complete recovery of neurological Lyme disease and Babesiosis. After a seven-year battle, she returned to the wilderness and led women’s retreats for more than 10 years. Her newly released book It’s In Your Dreams is a novel about her life as a wilderness guide and her journey of healing from Lyme disease.
Healthy Habits to Help You Ride Out the Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has proved to be paradoxical for our health: it’s engendered unhealthy habits by incentivizing some people to eat and drink more, exercise less, and consume more screen time in a sedentary state. Conversely, it also fomented a new culture of self-improvement, inspiring people to learn how to eat healthier, and pushing them to use their free time to exercise more and get in shape.
Here’s how you can be part of the latter category if you wish to stay happy and healthy as we continue to ride out the pandemic.
One way to pursue improved mental and physical health is by reducing screen time. Excessive screen time can languish our mental and physical health in a myriad of ways, according to Dr. Jordan Porter, a lecturer with UMaine Orono School of Nursing.
“Prolonged exposure to blue light emitted from computer screens and hand-held devices can suppress natural melatonin production, which upends our circadian rhythm and often results in sleep difficulties,” said Porter. In addition, he said, “Some research has found an association between exposure to blue light at night . . . and chronic conditions like obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.”
To consciously seek out ways to buffer your screen time, consider picking up a book. The Maine Book Club/discussion group on Facebook is a great resource to get an idea of what to read, with nearly 2,000 members in the group offering recommendations and forming small, online book clubs.
Another way to combat the adverse health effects of the pandemic is to head outdoors, where again, we can divorce from our screens and delight in all the vitamin D the sun offers, which studies show improves both physical and mental health.
“It’s time to trade blue light for regular bright light, especially in the mornings,” Porter advised. “Exposure to regular bright light during day hours can help maximize alertness, maintain a regular circadian rhythm, and counteract the winter blues, also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).”
There’s a slew of ways to be active outdoors in Maine, whether it’s mountain biking the 50+ official trails throughout the state, paddling along a lake or river, or hiking in the western Maine mountains. Visit NEMBA.org for mountain bike trails and visit mainetrailfinder.com to browse hikes all over Maine.
Since the pandemic hit, online fitness and meditation classes have multiplied. According to a 2021 Bloomberg article, “How COVID-19 Has Permanently Affected the Fitness Industry,” 72 percent of fitness club-owners currently offer on-demand and livestream group workouts. Some workouts are pre-recorded and allow for pausing or rewinding, and others are live-streamed to emulate group exercise.
One Portland-based cycling studio has mastered the balance of online and socially distanced in-person training. Réve Cycling Studio moved their business entirely online in March 2020 and launched an on-demand platform, Réve At-Home. Once the weather got warm, Réve Cycling switched to in-person mode, offering to meet clients at Thompson’s Point and cycle next to the ocean.
“Beyond all of the amazing mental and physical health benefits that come with working out, we go beyond that and really tap into the community through human connection,” said Marketing Manager Meghan Courchesne.
Another critical struggle for people who are pandemic-weary, is staying apart from friends and family, and the toll that has taken on their mental and emotional health. It’s still important to socialize—safely. With the warmer weather here, spend time with family or friends by enjoying the outdoors together at a state park such as Wolfe’s Neck Woods in Freeport, or visiting a restaurant or brewery with outdoor seating. With more people being vaccinated each day, we’ll soon be able to spend more time with each other, safely.
At the end of the 1994 prison film The Shawshank Redemption, the character, Red reads a letter from his escaped fellow inmate Andy Dufresne: “Remember Red: Hope is a good thing— maybe the best of the things—and no good thing ever dies.”
Even though it feels like we’ve been crawling through a 500-yard tunnel of horror this last year like Andy did, just remember: hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and it’s on the other side of this tunnel.
— Story and photos by Garrick Hoffman, a freelance photographer, writer, and graphic designer based in Auburn. Visit his website at GarrickHoffman.com. Follow him on Instagram at @garrickhoffmanphotography and @garrickhoffmanportraits and on Facebook at @Garrick Hoffman Photography.
Get Your Outdoors On at UMF
As the 2020/2021 season has unfolded in a time of uncertainty, the UMaine Farmington snow sports teams have been prepared. The snow sports program consists of three different disciplines: Alpine, Freeride, and Nordic. All programs begin early, with dryland training for the Alpine Team; aerial sessions for the Freeride Team, and for the Nordic Team, miles of practice to get into shape for the winter sport they love.
UMaine Farmington snow sports participate in the Reynolds Division as a part of the United States Collegiate Ski & Snowboard Association and normally compete all around Maine and in New England against many other Division II & III schools. Although UMF’s teams on average are smaller than most, they are a force to be reckoned with. What they lack in team numbers, they make up for in dedication and on-hill talent.
At the beginning of the season, I spoke with Shawn Russell, the university’s freeride/snowboard coach. He explained why athletes choose to pursue their collegiate career at UMaine Farmington. “In my opinion, we have the best venue in the northeast, with Sugarloaf and Sunday River resorts close by, Saddleback reopening, and Titcomb Mountain minutes from campus,” he said. “The access is unmatched.” The snow sports coaches are geared up to provide for athletes amidst this season of uncertainty. “I can promise that we will make it the best season that we possibly can,” said Russell.
The geographic location of UMaine Farmington immerses its students in the heart of Maine’s western mountains. Nestled in the small town of Farmington, the snow sports teams are in reach of world-class destinations. For any snow sports athlete, it is easy to fall in love with this region of Maine while earning an affordable education.
UMaine Farmington has seen its fair share of success throughout history: podium finishes, trips to national events, and graduates earning positions in the snow sports world post-graduation. The university had established a plethora of knowledgeable and inspiring coaches who are focused and determined to provide all athletes with the opportunity to compete on a local, regional, and national level.
Sam Scheff, a UMaine Farmington senior and the captain of the Freeride/Snowboard Team, has already had the opportunity to compete in regional and national competitions through the Team. In his sophomore year, he earned the chance to join a select few in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where he competed in his first national competitions. “Being on the Freeride Team is about representing the university,” said Scheff. “The best part is forming relationships with like-minded people, and the on-hill and academic support from the great coaches here at UMaine Farmington.”
The UMaine Farmington Alpine Team is headed by coach Andrew Willihan. In the past several years with the UMaine Farmington program, Willihan has rebuilt the Team to regional and national standards. Those who want to compete at a collegiate level ought to consider UMaine Farmington, according to Willihan. “The right choice is based on being able to gain a high-quality education for unbeatable value, while training and racing at the best resorts in the northeast,” he said. “For any skier who wants to be treated with the respect that matches their dedication to the sport, you cannot find an athletic department and team that can do what we do.”
— Story by Avery Boucher, Activity Maine’s Fall/Winter Outdoor Media Content internship student from the University of Maine Farmington
XC Skiing: A Fun Way to Get Active
Check out this Activities Guide of Maine video production by our UMaine Farmington intern, Avery Boucher.
Cross-country skiing is an activity that all abilities can take part in as it is as intensive as you make it. Whether you are looking to go out for a casual stroll or pack on the miles, XC skiing is a great way to get some outdoor exercise safely. “If you have never XC skied before, don’t worry, neither had I,” said Boucher. “With a group of friends, we were able to have some good laughs and spills, but by the end of the day, we all had it down and can’t wait for our next time out.”
As the weather has been unseasonably warm this winter, take advantage and go to your local rental shop and pick up a pair of XC skis or dust off that old pair of skis that have been sitting in the basement for way too long. With a quick online search, you can locate a rental shop and trails near you and be out on the trails in no time.
With Maine’s abundant, beautiful scenery it is no labored task to get outdoors and stay active.
We’ll see you out there!
MAJESTIC MOOSEHEAD LAKE, with its 400 miles of undeveloped shoreline, surrounding mountain peaks and expansive views, provides an inspiring backdrop to escape the everyday fast pace of life. The winter months and the abundant snowfall open up a spectacular opportunity to explore back-country trails and frozen bodies of water. Wildlife abounds on trails and it is common to see moose, deer, wild turkeys and many woodland animals up close and personal.
If cross-country skiing or snowshoeing is your winter sport choice, you can enjoy your passion on nearly 25 miles of packed and groomed trails in the pristine Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and winter hiking are permitted on ungroomed trails, but it is recommended that only experienced individuals use the ungroomed trails as the terrain is often steep and uneven.
Snowmobiling is allowed on approximately 22 miles of trails within the National Monument. Local snowmobile clubs are responsible for the management of snowmobiling activities. For current local trail conditions check out The Maine Snowmobile Association’s website www.mesnow.com.
Ice fishing and winter camping opportunities are also available in the Katahdin Woods and Water National Monument. Reservations are required for walk-in primitive tent sites, and lean-tos, as well as for bunk space in primitive community huts. Winter campers must be prepared for extreme weather conditions, follow a carry in/carry out trash policy, and only use downed wood gathered in the area by the campsite for a campfire. To register contact Susan Adams, EPI Recreation Manager: 207-852-1291, email@example.com
Consider treating yourself to an authentic winter adventure of dogsledding. Contact Don and Angel Hibbs, expert dog mushers, who operate Maine Dogsledding Adventure at (207) 731-8885 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Special ½-day to 2-day tours provide a unique experience for families and winter adventurers. Mush 10-12 miles in the wilderness near Baxter State Park. Everyone gets a turn on the runners driving the sleds!
You have great choices in accommodations for your winter getaway in the Katahdin Region. In Medway, you will find the Gateway Inn conveniently located just off the Interstate. Your canine companions are always welcome. Enjoy a continental breakfast before you head off for a day on the trail. River’s Edge Motel lets you sled from your door to an on-site trail, After a day on the trail. Enjoy a sensational pizza or some other wonderful appetizing dish prepared on the premises to please any palate. In Millinocket you will find the iconic Katahdin Inn & Suites. Here you will enjoy a large heated pool, hot tub, exercise, game and play room area, plus a business center, if you need to check back on work while away. You will also enjoy a continental breakfast, and yes, they are pet friendly.
For more information contact: The Katahdin Region Chamber of Commerce: 207-723-4443.
GET OUT AND CLIMB THIS WINTER!
Mountain guide Jon Tierney believes that anyone who likes being outside in winter and has a reasonable degree of fitness can be successful climbing ice.
“The learning curve for ice climbing is easier than rock climbing because you can put your crampons and ice axes almost anywhere” Tierney says. Jon has been guiding and teaching ice climbing since the eighties. He has even taken clients to western China to tackle first ascents of difficult ice climbs and mountain peaks. Jon is one of 80 fully certified international mountain guides working in the US (IFMGA) and the only one residing in Maine.
If you are interested in learning to ice climb, instruction is essential. Hiring a professional guide is the surest and fastest way of learning to ice climb safely. Jon’s school, Acadia Mountain Guides Climbing School offers daily instruction in Acadia National Park, Camden Hills, and the Sugarloaf and Sunday River regions as well as over the border in the White Mountains. The school is fully accredited by the AMGA to provide rock, ice, mountaineering or backcountry skiing instruction or guiding.
Start swinging those ice tools today!
Ice Climbing Courses Winter 2021
KATAHDIN 2-DAY WINTER ASCENTS
MT WASHINGTON ASCENT
Half-Full Day of Ice Climbing in Acadia National Park, Camden Hills, or Bangor Ice Park
You can get that New England feeling of ice climbing in Acadia and Camden without the drive to Mt. Washington Valley.
(207) 866-7562 | ACADIAMOUNTAINGUIDES.COM
Finding Winter Wellness with Mindful Snowshoeing
For the many Mainers who’ve spent months in a state of ongoing change and uncertainty, the pandemic might be starting to take its toll. As winter slowly progresses, you’re probably searching for new ways to safely spend time outside the home.
Luckily, there’s one activity that covers a whole lot of ground. Snowshoeing, particularly when it’s accompanied by mindfulness and meditation, can be one of the most restorative forms of winter recreation we have readily available in Maine.
WHY MINDFULNESS MATTERS
Mindfulness is a therapeutic technique that involves focusing one’s awareness on the present moment by acknowledging the sights, sounds, sensations and thoughts as they arise in real time. It can help you achieve a state of focus that brings mental clarity and physical ease.
According to the American Psychological Association, practicing mindfulness can reduce stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms, boost memory and focus, decrease emotional reactivity, provide greater cognitive flexibility and even enhance interpersonal relationships.
HOW TO PRACTICE MINDFULNESS WHILE SNOWSHOEING
From the Nordic Heritage Center in Presque Isle to Harris Farm in Dayton, (and everywhere in between) there are no shortage of scenic snowshoe trails to choose from in Maine. Once you’ve taken your pick, (or maybe you have your very own secret trail) strap on your favorite pair of snowshoes and set off on an adventure. Here are a few steps that can help you get into a state of mindful awareness:
Take in Scenery with Your Senses
Start by simply taking it all in. Feel the crispness of the air on your face. Hear the sounds of nature around you—the falling snow, the rustling leaves and branches, the wildlife rummaging around. Observe the light shining on each individual object. Smell the trees and freshly fallen snow.
Focus on Your Breath
One of the best ways to practice mindfulness is by syncing up with your breath. Inhale with a long, deep breath, hold for a pause, and slowly exhale. You can even repeat: “I breathe in. I breathe out,” to anchor your mind to the process and help you stay out of your thoughts.
Find Rhythm With Your Movement
With snowshoeing comes the ease of repetition and a state of rhythmic bliss. This, in and of itself, is a form of mindfulness. Move at your own steady cadence and strive to time each step with your breathing techniques, perhaps still repeating “I breathe in. I breathe out.”
Stop For a Mindful Snack
Mindful eating is a great way to tap into the sense of taste and truly enjoy a snowshoeing time-out. Stop for a few minutes to savor your trail snack, taking the time to chew each bite and be fully aware of its texture and taste in your mouth. Eating becomes an intentional act and a way to practice mindfulness on the snowshoe trail.
Why Guided Meditations are Great For Snowshoeing
Another way to engage in mindfulness while you snowshoe is by practicing a guided meditation. If focusing on your surroundings is still distracting you, which is normal, grab a pair of earphones and listen to a guided meditation. Apps such as Headspace www.headspace.com, Calm www.calm.com or even YouTube offer a wide variety of guided meditations that vary in length and cover your unique meditation goals.
Other Snowshoeing Benefits
In addition to the numerous benefits that come from practicing awareness, mindful snowshoeing also imparts many physical benefits. It can enhance cardiovascular health, strengthen the muscles of the legs, burn calories (420-1000 calories per hour, depending on pace and snow conditions) and provide a low-impact fitness activity that’s safer for the joints.
TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR WINTER WELLNESS
As we head into this particular season, it might feel like too many things are still unknown. Know that you have more control than you realize! Simply by grabbing some warm gear, a pair of snowshoes and employing a mindful mindset, you can experience one of the most enjoyable Maine winters yet.
— By LeeMarie Kennedy, Copywriter and Content Marketing Creator in Boston, MA. When she’s not meticulously wordsmithing, she can be found teaching and coaching as a RYT-500 yoga instructor and wellness specialist, walking in nature, traveling the world, laughing, drinking coffee or eating something delicious.
3 Winter Hikes in Western Maine for Every Skill Level
In the heart of Sugarloaf country, these winter hikes will get you out into snow-covered forests and fields with views of white-washed peaks, crystal waters and even a frozen waterfall.
Hiking doesn’t have to come to a halt when snow hits the ground. Although winter hiking comes with its challenges and some extra gear, this season, with a little preparation, can be one of the most magical times to hit the trail.
While snowshoes aren’t necessary on these groomed trails, you’ll want to wear sturdy winter boots with good treads, and may want to carry hiking poles and cleats in case of ice. Dress in layers, and have an extra dry layer in your pack. Always be sure to check weather and trail conditions. When the sun goes down, temperatures can drop quickly, so make a plan to be off-trail before dusk.
1. Family Friendly:
Narrow Gauge Pathway
The Narrow Gauge Pathway is a nearly flat trail that meanders along the valley floor with the picturesque Carrabassett River. Built on an old narrow gauge railroad, the wide gravel path makes for easy walking, with plenty of opportunities for breaks to throw stones in the river and enjoy a picnic on benches along the way.
There are a few well-marked entry points along Route 27 in Carrabassett Valley, all affording a similar experience, with quick access to the trail and river where hikers can make an out-and-back walk of any length on the six-mile trail. The Airport Trailhead, behind the Sugarbowl bowling alley, is the southern-most access point. With a very slight incline on the way up, this means the same slight downhill on the return. After passing through a large field, the trail soon hits the river and travels beside its scenic tree-lined shore most of the way.
Poplar Stream Falls
Poplar Stream Falls is a 51-foot waterfall at the confluence of South Brook and Poplar Stream that looks different in every season. Catching it in the height of winter means much of the waterfall is frozen as if suspended in time.
To access the trailhead, park at the Carrabassett Valley town office parking lot, the first left off Carriage Road, since there is no parking at the trailhead. Then walk up Carriage Road and take your first right, going over a small bridge to the trailhead.
Surrounded by the quiet of the snow-covered forest, the pleasant gurgles of Poplar Stream may be all you hear for most of the walk, as the trail climbs gradually uphill with a few minor steep portions, until the rush of water gets louder. You’ll turn the bend and see the falls straight ahead, about two miles in.
Poplar Stream Falls can also be accessed by Maine Huts and Trails Poplar Hut Trail, which is also intermediate.
Stratton Brook Hut via Newton’s Revenge
Part of the 50-mile Maine Huts and Trails network, this trail begins at the Stratton Brook Hut Trailhead off Route 27 in Carrabassett Valley. After the trailhead kiosk, a short connector trail crosses a bridge and joins a small portion of the Narrow Gauge Pathway, which soon meets up on the left with Newton’s Revenge. Don’t let its flat start fool you— soon after a gentle climb, the trail lives up to its name for the final mile. If the climb doesn’t get your heart pumping, then the slope-side views of Sugarloaf Mountain will. At the top, the trail connects to the Stratton Brook Hut service road, which leads you to the hut and 360-views of both Sugarloaf and the Bigelow Range.
This trail is typically groomed, but check the Maine Huts and Trails website for current conditions and watch out for skiers. It’s about three miles from trailhead to hut, which during normal times offers lodging and meals, but is currently closed due to the COVID-19 virus.
If there is no snow or only a light dusting, take Oak Knoll Trail for a more challenging and slightly longer (almost four miles) ascent. As its name suggests, a path of rust brown oak leaves mingle with charming stepping stones to guide your way up its many switchbacks. This trail isn’t groomed and best to avoid in deep snow.
— Story & Photos: Catie Joyce-Bulay. Catie is a Winslow-based freelance writer who recently moved back to her home state. Find her writing on travel, beer and people pursuing their passion at catiejoycebulay.com or Twitter @catiejoycebulay.
Winter Arrives Way Down East
When November’s freezing nights arrive in the Machias region, folks crank up their woodstoves, and the smell of burning seasoned wood wafts along with the fragrance of freshly-tipped balsam branches. Seasonal work is a major economic factor in Washington County, and the crafting of hundreds of thousands of beautiful Christmas wreaths and holiday decorations for shipment across America, provides job opportunities for many people.
Wreath making can be found across all of Down East in the Machias area, which is home to several of the major players, Whitney Wreaths in Machias, Machias Bay Wreath in Machiasport, and Gay’s Wreaths in neighboring Marshfield. In addition to these companies, there are a host of small, independent providers of beautiful and fragrant wreaths.
By mid-December Mother Nature has usually graced the area with a blanket of snow, which launches a variety of fun winter activities on the Down East Sunrise Trail. This 96-mile multi-use trail is dedicated to snowmobiling, snow shoeing, cross-country skiing and hiking after the trail is snow covered. The trail traverses some of Maine’s most pristine landscapes of blueberry barrens, forests and breathtaking coastal scenes. There are access points along the entire trail. In Machias one can get on the trail just before the causeway/dike.
Great accommodations and dining opportunities make Machias a perfect winter destination. The Bluebird Ranch Family Restaurant, Helen’s Restaurant, and Pat’s Pizza are several of Down East’s excellent dining institutions.
After a prolonged absence due to insurance difficulties, the town of Machias and the Machias Bay Area Chamber of Commerce returned public ice skating fun to the South Side Ball Field last winter, to provide folks with another great way to enjoy winter fun. For more information [and updates relative to the pandemic] contact the Machias Bay Area Chamber of Commerce – (207) 255-4402.
— Text: Jim Harnedy. In his third professional career, Jim was the author of a number of books and magazine articles, as well as being an editor and co-publisher of several Maine magazines. Jim passed away last spring, and it is with great fondness that we celebrate his frequent contributions to the Activities Guide of Maine.
How UMF and Mainely Outdoors program keeps the community thriving outdoors
We told you about Avery, our new intern who is an outdoor enthusiast and student at University of Maine at Farmington. Here’s a little bit about Avery. And here’s a cool video he shot highlighting his school’s outdoor rec program Mainely Outdoors.
Check out his article below as we continue through October to #keepourspiritsupmaine!
How UMF and Mainely Outdoors program keeps the community thriving outdoors
By Avery Boucher, intern for Activities Guide of Maine
Amidst the global pandemic, the University of Maine school system has welcomed students back onto campus this fall. Face coverings, social distancing, and randomized testing are all required if students want to be present on campus. As the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF) students filled the dorms and resumed in-person classes, many students sought creative ways to engage in social activities safely. One campus- driven organization in particular stepped up to the plate; Mainely Outdoors, or better known by most on campus as MO.
MO, best described by the Program Director Andrew Willihan, is an “outdoor recreation-based program that supports getting UMaine Farmington community members outdoors. From introductory instruction to seasoned enthusiasts.” The introduction of Covid-19 has resulted in a surge of outdoor recreation that has developed since March of 2020. MO was geared up and ready to provide for the UMF community. Within the second week of the fall semester, MO was renting gear and leading local trips such as mountain biking at Titcomb Mountain and night hiking at Prescot Field. Both weekly trips have had turnouts in the double digits.
Though MO was cleared by UMF facilities for operations this semester, its operations came with guidelines: thorough sanitization of all equipment, participation in social distancing, and the requirements of face coverings when within 12 feet of one another in an outdoor setting. By conforming to these guidelines, MO has been able to provide the students with outdoor recreation at a time when it has become most needed.
“Our most valuable asset is our location,” said Willihan. “We are in the heart of the western mountains and waterways of Maine. Our next biggest asset is our student staff. The passion, inclusiveness, and work ethic drives the program to be a constant within the community and an outlet for many.”
MO and the UMF campus tend to draw many that are already well versed in the outdoors, although one of the primary goals of MO is to get people who have never engaged in outdoor recreation before. The Farmington campus is immersed in a great geographic location for Mainers and students from other states to earn an education while also partaking in recreation of all sorts.
Due to Covid-19, Mainely Outdoors’ rental equipment and excursions are only available to students and faculty of the UMF. In a normal year, MO would have provided excursions to all UMaine students, faculty, and community members; however, MO hopes to return to regular operations in the near future.
Geary Brewing Co. keeps a strong and vibrant course through an uncertain fall
Industry Snapshot with Robin Lapoint President & Co-Owner
Even Geary Brewing Co., New England’s first craft brewery— a pioneer in its field—had to adjust to the whiplash changes of a pandemic, but to date, co-owner and president Robin Lapoint is proud to say the brewery remains fully employed and everyone has stayed well and healthy.
Back in the spring, they had to make the difficult decision to close the tasting room to limit health risks and focus on the well being of their brew team and operations staff. Both their brand and contract brewing remain strong and they are grateful to have the expertise and capacity to support their business operations as well as other brewers.
For the fall, Geary’s continues to offer curbside pick ups (call 207-730-0979) and delivery by CarHop. They have used this time to work on packaging and branding, and invest in and install capital equipment to increase quality, efficiency, and capacity. Their emphasis is on making sound business decisions and planning for variables heading into the winter and 2021.
Thirty years strong, Geary Brewing is positioned to weather the Covid pandemic and future challenges. To keep active and seize the opportunity to enjoy the great Maine outdoors, co-owners Robin and her husband, Alan, have spent their free time boating on Sebago, golfing with their children, and hiking through Acadia National Park.
Check out more of our Industry Snapshots on the craft brew, distilling and Maine outdoor industries as we #keepourspiritsupmaine
Meet our new intern Avery Boucher!
We at the Activities Guide of Maine are excited to welcome Avery Boucher as our Fall/Winter Outdoor Media Content internship student from the University of Maine Farmington. In partnership with Mainely Outdoors, Avery will get to utilize his passion for outdoor recreation to create digital content that introduces and inspires our audience to experience new Maine adventures.
Mainely Outdoors is an outdoor recreation-based program that supports getting UMaine Farmington community members outdoors, from introductory instruction to seasoned enthusiasts.
Growing up in Burlington, Vermont, Avery was immersed in many outdoor recreational activities including fishing, mountain biking, skiing, and trail running. Avery is pursuing a degree in Environmental Policy and Planning and a Minor in Legal Studies. He is following a career path that involves his passion for the outdoors and environmental awareness. We are very happy to have him here as we grow together and to help him along his journey!
Avery will work on producing video content and we will be assisting him in creating blog posts about local adventures that will be shared across Activity Maine’s media channels. Our goal is to help develops his communication and digital media skills over the next several months.
Stay tuned as we post some of Avery’s blogs and videos this week as we #keepourspiritsupmaine