When the Penobscot Paddle & Chowder Society winter outings schedule was deliberate final October, I volunteered to coordinate a Nordic ski journey at a location to be decided on Jan. 15. On the time, it appeared affordable to count on there could be a number of choices to select from. Not this winter. Acceptable snow for Nordic snowboarding has been extraordinarily scarce and primarily non-existent within the foothills and coastal plain.
Because the deadline approached, I nonetheless hadn’t decided as high quality selections south of Aroostook County have been restricted. A number of years had handed since I’d skied the Slim Gauge Pathway in Carrabassett Valley, in order that choice appeared price exploring. I depend on my buddy, Brent Elwell, for all issues Carrabassett Valley. A name to him a few days previous to the scheduled journey resulted in hopeful info as he’d been snowboarding within the valley repeatedly and extra snow was forecast for that night time. He volunteered to examine Slim Gauge path situations the next morning.
Brent equipped nice information: The Slim Gauge was groomed and ultimate for snowboarding. Chowderheads Jade and Sean Klutz have been elated along with his report and shortly signed on.
The Slim Gauge Pathway is without doubt one of the most original bike and ski trails in Maine. The historic path follows the previous Kingfield and Useless River Railroad mattress alongside the boulder-strewn Carrabassett River between the city of Carrabassett and the tiny village of Bigelow. A chapter in my ebook, “Maine Al Fresco: The Fifty Most interesting Out of doors Adventures in Maine,” narrates an distinctive bike journey on the trail.
The car parking zone on the Airport Trailhead situated on the precise off Route 27 a couple of mile north of the Carriage Street in Carrabassett Valley was nearly full when the 4 of us arrived. The climate was sunny and surprisingly heat with a reasonable breeze. The parking space was a busy place as skiers, fats tire bikers, skijorers, snowshoers and canine walkers have been all making ready for a trek.
We started by snowboarding a connector path throughout a groomed open subject north of the airstrip with a spectacular view of Bigelow Mountain within the distance. Traversing the William Munzer Leisure Bridge over the Carrabassett River, we arrived on the precise starting of the Slim Gauge Pathway.
Regardless of heavy visitors, the path was well-groomed and in good situation. The tracks have been in glorious form for traditional snowboarding. Minor injury attributable to the numerous competing actions diminished the standard of the untracked sector, however it was nonetheless greater than ample for skate skiers.
We crossed a slim bridge over Houston Brook and traveled adjoining to the river whereas having fun with views of the difficult whitewater rapids we’d paddled throughout membership journeys prior to now. Ascending progressively in a blended conifer and hardwood forest, visitors was busy in each instructions. Whereas by no means steep, the trail rose steadily for a lot of our ski to the northern terminus in Bigelow.
The well-formed tracks facilitated an environment friendly kick and glide as we skied uphill. The path turned away from the river and handed a Maine Huts Path junction on the precise. Skiers have the choice of following the trail to Stratton Brook Hut, however it turns into harder. We continued on the Slim Gauge.
The path rejoined the river the place a steep embankment overlooks a very precipitous part of the mountain freshet. Shortly after, we crossed an extended bridge over an expanse of frozen wetlands and handed an outdated cabin constructed by railroad employees in 1900 that’s nonetheless in use. The gradient moderated as 4 Chowderheads arrived on the junction for Campbell Discipline Trailhead.
Following a soothing break at Campbell Discipline, we proceeded north previous one other Maine Huts Path junction that additionally offers entry to Stratton Brook Hut. Foregoing that choice, we quickly reached the outskirts of the outdated village of Bigelow the place the previous Bigelow Practice Depot is now a personal residence. A brief spur left results in Stratton Brook Trailhead. We determined to start our return journey.
That’s when the enjoyable started in earnest. We loved an exhilarating descent on the quick hard-packed tracks, double poling many of the greater than 5 miles again to Airport Trailhead. A mess of skiers, snowshoers and bikers have been met on our return. Slim Gauge Pathway needs to be some of the fashionable multi-use winter trails in Maine.
It’s snowing as I write. Snowboarding choices will quickly be plentiful!