You Can Ride For An Extra Month Here!
Story & Photos by Mike Lester
I can’t remember the last time I went snowmobiling this late in the season. If I put on any miles in late March it’s typically a really mushy mix of snow and muck or, ‘snirt’, as we like to say. Last week I tallied 120 miles on perhaps the best trails I’ve ridden this season – five days before April!
My brother, Matt, and I were invited to Maine to stay at one of the State’s nicest resorts for outdoor enthusiasts. Northern Outdoors is located on Highway 201 in The Forks, Maine. Between The Forks, West Forks and Caratunk – or the tri-city area, there’s a whopping annual population of 190 people. During the summer, the area’s population explodes as tourists flood in to tackle the mighty rapids. For snowmobilers though, this place is the launch point to some of the greatest riding around.
We were privileged to stay in one of Northern Outdoor’s private chalets equipped with three full bedrooms, kitchens upstairs and down complete with fridge, stove, dishwasher and microwave, 2 bathrooms and a spacious living room area on each floor. Plus satellite TV kept our minds occupied following amazing meals in the main lodge.
Our sleds set out from the resort and headed down wide, winding, tree-lined trails on the Forks Area Scenic Trail or FAST, as it’s commonly known. Again, remember we’re talking about late season riding here – almost April. There’s enough snow right in town to make even a short ride worthwhile and within the first ten minutes of our ride we’d already seen 16 deer. The trail leads us further north and soon Mother Nature starts to lay down some fresh, new fluff.
At a brief pit stop, our guide, Greg Caruso tells us we’ll be taking a 5-mile detour because there’s something cool he wants us to see. No sweat; let’s roll. On we go. I’m positively amazed at the trails. Through my helmet I can hear the sound of rushing water getting louder and louder until finally we stop by Grand Falls on the Dead River. Greg tells us that by spring, the water is expected to raise from roughly 1000 cubic feet per second, to upwards of 8000 CF/S or more, in early spring. We take a few minutes to soak it all in, then head back out on the trails.
Next we head over to Coburn Mountain. On a clear day you can see for miles from the peak, but on this day, with the snow falling and clouds looming overhead, the peak was hidden as we stopped at the base. We took a small trail just wider than our ski stance and headed straight up.
If we had encountered someone coming the other way, I have no idea how we’d have gotten around. At the halfway mark, sitting at around 1500 feet elevation, the trees were so heavily covered by a recent ice storm they seemed to be hunched over like an elderly man carrying a load on his back. Off we went again, straight up, this time reaching the peak at 3800 feet!
Our next stop was the Bulldog Camp at the base of Bulldog Mountain. Where we were riding you’d never expect to see anyone – in fact in about 4 hours of riding we’d only seen three other snowmobiles.
This clean and quaint little cottage is the best spot in the area (and maybe the only spot in the area) to stop for a hot meal. To our amazement the place was full and the snowmobilers inside were as surprised to see us, as we were to see them! After a great meal, some sharing of stories and a quick gas-up we rode out and around on the Shutdown Mountain Loop.
A seemingly endless supply of trails lined the countryside. As Greg puts it, “I could show you about a hundred different ways to get to the same spot.” But first, a quick detour took us to the clear cuts in the saddle of Johnson Mountain off the Alpine Trail System.
Deep powder covered the hillside and our sleds held on as we all showed off a bit of free riding, taking a much-needed break from a hard day at the office. We must’ve spent at least a half an hour carving up the hillside before we headed back out on the Alpine Trail System.
The rest of the afternoon consisted of more of the same and we only saw a small handful of snowmobilers the entire day. It was five days before April and I rode the best conditions of the entire season in this amazing hidden paradise for snowmobilers.
The Morning Sentinel reports that there could be as many as five more weeks of snowmobiling in Northern Maine with up to six feet of snow covering the ground and holding firmly. (http://morningsentinel.mainetoday.com/news/local/4901295.html). Northern Outdoors plans to extend its operating dates up to at least April 6th and perhaps beyond if conditions hold and they invite you to enjoy some great sledding at special 50 percent discounted post-season rates.
visit NorthernOutdoors.com and call 1-800-765-7238 for more information.