Ringing in the New Year at Poplar Hut

A winter storm on Thursday, December 29th brought about 30″ of new snow to Carrabassett Valley in Maine. We looked forward to cross-country skiing our way to Poplar Hut, one of Maine Huts & Trails amazing destination huts.

While I was having a leisurely start to the day (we slept in until almost 7 a.m.), Earl packed the car. It was nice not having to be on the road by 6 a.m. Even so, we still managed to get out the door at 8:06 a.m. Not too bad!

We were about 10 miles up the Maine turnpike when I asked the question, “Did you grab my ski boots?”

Earl hesitated. “Where were they?” he asked.

“Not in the middle of the floor,” I replied.

“Nope. Didn’t grab them.”

Fortunately we were near a turnpike exit (Scarborough exit 42) so we got off and then back on to go home to get my boots.

With boots in the trunk, we were back on the road by 8:48 a.m. We reached our destination in Kingfield, Maine at around 11:30 a.m.

The young woman at the Maine Huts & Trail office told us there were mixed reports on the skiing conditions. The snow was soft, plentiful, and in the process of being groomed by the staff.

Earl and I discussed our options as we drove the few miles farther up the road to the trail head. We decided we would ski. The other options were to snowshoe in or strap our snowshoes on our packs as a back-up if skiing proved too hard.

However, my pack really isn’t set up for strapping on snowshoes. I was also concerned that if we needed to swap over to use them, how would I carry my skis? We were confident in our decision to ski in to the hut.

Until…

We talked with two other locals who strongly advised against skiing. We changed our minds and snowshoed in. It was a smart choice.

When we arrived at the hut people did talk about how tough it was to ski the 3.3 miles from the trail head up to the hut.

We arrived at Poplar Hut just before 1:30 p.m. We drank hot cocoa, ate our trail lunch, and talked with some people who had been moving from hut to hut to hut while on vacation.

Once we were warmed up and our bellies satisfied, we headed back out into the cold to snowshoe to the waterfall located not far from the hut. We found the side trail and followed it until it stopped in the middle of nowhere. It appeared the previous adventurers had run out of trail-breaking steam. We had a choice, we could turn around or we could continue breaking the trail to the waterfall.

That is what we did! It was pretty tough snowshoeing thru 30 inches of snow, but it was also pretty fun. Creating a path where there hadn’t been one was awesome!

Meals at the huts are served family style. The large tables seat 6 – 10 people. The staff puts platters and bowls of locally sourced food on the tables. Guests take what they want and pass the bowls to the next person. Maine Huts calls it “backcountry cuisine,” this finicky-eater just calls it yummy.

The food is so good, in fact, that Maine Huts has been chosen as one of Six Ski Destinations for Foodies. The staff really seems to enjoy cooking for the guests. For our New Year’s Eve meal, one of the staff members baked her special onion bread and another baked champagne cupcakes for dessert.

I confess I did not stay up to ring in the new year. At around 10:30 p.m. we headed to the bunkhouse. Earl stayed up reading, I ate cookies and then went to sleep.

New Year’s morning we were gifted with an amazing sunrise after a brief morning snow shower.

We hung around the hut for a few hours after breakfast, finally getting on the trail at around 10 a.m. We had lingered to chat with a staff member who had hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2015. He was also someone we met at the Flagstaff Hut when we attended the Nature Conservancy sponsored weekend in 2015.

If you enjoy “glamping” (glamorous camping), you should check out Maine Huts & Trails. Well-maintained, multi-use trails guide you to your destination. The huts are beautiful, warm, and welcoming. The staff is funny, talented, and friendly. The mission is impressive, achievable, and powerful.

Within the next few years, the organization hopes to build a fifth hut. But until that happens, there are four other ecologically friendly, off-the-grid lodges waiting for you to visit.

 

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