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Sugarloafer
04-17-2006, 07:26 AM
This should be a nice addition to the Sugarloaf area :

Start of $11M trail system nears


By SAMANTHA DEPOY
Correspondent

Copyright 2006 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.
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CARRABASSETT VALLEY -- Construction on an $11 million wilderness and western Maine trail hut system could begin this summer.

When complete in 2007, skiers will be able to glide up to a lodge, take a sauna, enjoy a home-cooked meal and get a good night's sleep on a trail planners hope will gain national significance.

The first step rests with the Carrabassett Valley Planning Board, which is expected to vote on a site building application next month.

This week, Larry Warren, president of the Western Mountains Foundation and the visionary of the system, appeared before the board for a preliminary presentation.

Construction on the first hut -- actually a hydro-powered, 44-bed log lodge with a wood-fired sauna, full toilet, bathing facilities and scenic views -- will begin in July, Warren said, if the application is approved.

The first building would be located at Poplar Stream Falls, a few miles northeast of Sugarloaf, about two miles from the parking area and located on land leased from the Penobscot Indian Nation.

"We're trying to create a resource of national significance. We want to make sure it represents and reflects positively on the community," Warren told board members Thursday.

At the meeting, the board expressed support, though a public hearing this spring is likely, they said.

The Poplar Stream Falls hut is one of two that Carrabassett Valley's board will have to approve.

Andover, slated to be home to another hut, will be the only other municipal planning board involved in reviewing applications. The remaining nine fall under the jurisdiction of the Maine Land Use Regulation Commission.

The Western Mountains Foundation has negotiated rights to a 120-mile corridor between Carrabassett Valley and Moosehead Lake and is working to finalize negotiations for the southern belt, between Carrabassett Valley and Newry.

The cost of purchasing the first 120 miles and building the first three huts is $4.5 million, according to Warren. About $2.2 million has been raised to date, he said. The cost of the entire project is estimated at $11 million and will take five to seven years to complete.

Warren expects work on a second hut -- at Flagstaff Lake, about 10 miles north of the first -- will start in September. A third hut, 20 or so miles north of Carrabassett Valley at Grand Falls, will begin in November.

Once a site is readied, it takes four days to assemble the log structures that will house trail users, Warren said. Huts will open as soon as they are complete, he said.

Foundation board member Jeff Cole, a resident of Gardiner who is also working as an architect on the project, said the beauty of the buildings is their ability to complement their setting while being subtle.

"The goal of this trail system is to tell a consistent story," he explained to the board. "Each hut will tell a different chapter in that story."

The Western Mountains group has partnered with the Chewonki Foundation, Outward Bound, and Kieve and Wavus camps and is in talks with Yale University and the Penobscots to offer support and education along the trail and in the huts.

David Herring has been named executive director. Herring spent six years serving as field supervisor and manager for the Appalachian Mountain Club's hut system in New Hampshire.

Samantha DePoy -- 778-3949

samdepoy@verizon.net

lx93
04-17-2006, 07:42 AM
Well, the views certainly do make the trip worthwhile.

Also, I've never once met another hiker in bagging the Bigelows, Crockers, Redington, Saddleback/The Horn this past month, so it probably wouldn't have as many crowds as the Franconia Ridge or Presis.

una_dogger
04-17-2006, 08:22 AM
Sounds like a great move for Maine.

lx93--try getting a tent site at Horn's Pond any other time of the year!!!

king tut
04-17-2006, 06:12 PM
Larry had a booth set up at homecoming last fall at Sugarloaf about this. It looks pretty cool. I chatted w/ him for a few minutes about this. It's a great idea that has been in the woodworks for a while. The only negative is that it is probably going to be a bit expensive to partake in the experience. It would be great to x-c ski thru lots of miles of wilderness to huts though. I'm looking forward to seeing the end product.

alpinista
04-17-2006, 07:18 PM
This all makes me nervous. As much as I love the White Mountains and the access for hikers of all abilities to stay in the mountains because of the hut system, I love Maine just as much because of its remoteness and ruggedness. I just hope this wouldn't destroy the beautiful wildneress experience we're able to get in Maine...

funkyfreddy
04-17-2006, 07:28 PM
This should be a nice addition to the Sugarloaf area :

Start of $11M trail system nears..........

CARRABASSETT VALLEY -- Construction on an $11 million wilderness and western Maine trail hut system could begin this summer.

When complete in 2007, skiers will be able to glide up to a lodge, take a sauna, enjoy a home-cooked meal and get a good night's sleep on a trail planners hope will gain national significance......

Yeah, sure sounds like a wilderness experience to me. :eek: :mad: :rolleyes: I suppose there are those who would like to see a Hotel Marriott and a McDonald's along the Maine AT as well......
I don't!!!!

Guess I'll have to go up there and hike again soon before the area gets developed, yuppified, gentrified, commercialized, etc. along the lines of North Conway, NH..... yuck! :( :mad:

cushetunk
04-17-2006, 08:27 PM
I've been following this story off and on for a few years, and have had the chance to mull over it. My initial reaction was negative, but now I've mellowed into a mild "whatever" attitude. Here's why:

First off, at present, this part of Maine is just too far away from most people to become a destination. Keep in mind that both Sugarloaf and Sunday River have been near either end of this proposed route for a relatively long time, and are already attracting many more people and money than a hut system for cross country skiiers ever will. Ever. Yet, it is easy to notice that Carrabasset Valley and Stratton, and even Bethel, are a far cry from North Conway.

Second, the area is not wilderness. It's got ski areas and snowmobile trails and active clearcutting and military bases and mountains sporting antennas and decrepit wind towers. So, I'm not sure a few huts with wood fired saunas are going to tip the balance.

On the flip side, Maine does have excellent opportunities for hikers and skiiers who like to explore off the well-beaten path. For those who like the challenge of following old tote roads and bushwhacking and debating which turn off is the likely trailhead, it's a great place. Developing a trail between Newry and Poplar Stream might eat away at that feeling. But that feeling is not exactly wilderness.

(The same charge of developing the wild could also be leveled against the Grafton Loop Trail, or the Wright Trail, or a published 3000-footer list.)

Finally, it is worth noting that I don't believe this hut system intends to be analagous to the AMC huts. It appears to be a lowlands-based system for skiiers. If this hut system included, say, a Horns Pond Hut, an Abraham Hut, and a Speck Pond Hut, then I would agree it was eating away at something really special.

For the moment, though, I say "whatever..."

Stan
04-18-2006, 08:22 AM
I just hope this wouldn't destroy the beautiful wildneress experience we're able to get in Maine...

I agree.

I'm also bothered by the $11 million price tag which to me sounds like expensive accomodations.

Not that I don't enjoy luxury, I just hope it is far enought off the beaten path to leave the beaten path, well, unbeaten in the sense of the "beatiful wilderness experience we're able to get in Maine".

Sugarloafer
04-18-2006, 09:31 AM
Guess I'll have to go up there and hike again soon before the area gets developed, yuppified, gentrified, commercialized, etc. along the lines of North Conway, NH..... yuck!

I guess you can never say never, but I've owned property at Sugarloaf for 10 years and I think the chances of Carrabassett Valley, ME becoming North Conway are fairly remote :rolleyes:.. Driving to Sugarloaf from metropolitan areas is a death march...4 hours from Boston in the winter; longer in the summer with southern Maine beach traffic. Hell, it's 2.5 hours from Portland ! It's pretty easy to take the "anti-any development" position on these issues, but I prefer to look at as an economic positive for the Sugarloaf area if done right.

EDIT: I guess I replied before I read cushetunk's post. He's got it right. From what I've seen the proposal does not include any major development of hotels/motels, restaurants etc. Frankly, I think an investor would have to be nuts to take that kind of risk in that area.... there's just not enough off season (meaning non-ski season) demand.

alpinista
04-18-2006, 12:29 PM
I definitely don't mean to suggest that this one project would lead to Carrabassett Valley becoming a tourist trap. However, I believe it is part of a gradual effect on these wilderness areas. Perhaps we are "lucky" that it's such a haul from "civilization" and that that factor alone will keep it relatively pristine.

I hope so.

That said, I don't live in Maine so I guess I don't really get a vote anyway. :D

marty
11-21-2007, 05:38 PM
Here is the website for the Maine Huts System, which has links to some maps: Maine Huts (http://www.mainehuts.org/trails.htm)

It appears to some extent that the trail system will utilize existing logging roads and paths, rather than than the AT. For the most part, it will go through lower elevations, rather than over the largest peaks.

On a personal note, a branch of the trail actually goes right past my camp on Mooselookmeguntic Lake. They are also building two huts within walking distance of my camp (Metallak Pond and Height of Land). It will be interesting to see how this all develops and what changes it will bring to the area. If nothing else, I will be able to report ongoing progress.

Regards,
Marty

RoySwkr
11-22-2007, 03:54 PM
(The same charge of developing the wild could also be leveled against the Grafton Loop Trail, or the Wright Trail, or a published 3000-footer list.)

One key difference is that these will apparently be upscale accommodations, while the others are open to anybody. So they will attract somewhat different clientele, maybe more maybe fewer.

I remember when Jackson Ski Touring took over a lot of trails in the WMNF and said trail fees would be voluntary, which I believe to no longer be the case. They have certainly changed the skiing experience.

cushetunk
11-22-2007, 07:13 PM
One key difference is that these will apparently be upscale accommodations, while the others are open to anybody. So they will attract somewhat different clientele, maybe more maybe fewer.

I remember when Jackson Ski Touring took over a lot of trails in the WMNF and said trail fees would be voluntary, which I believe to no longer be the case. They have certainly changed the skiing experience.

Well, I wrote my comment almost two years ago. Obviously you're correct; a few new trails and a fancy-pants hut system are not equal. I think my point was more that we as hikers accept some things as almost unquestionably good without much consideration (i.e. Grafton Loop Trail) while other things that maybe will not be so bad are perhaps not fairly considered.

kltilton
11-24-2008, 12:22 PM
I had the privilage of staying at the Poplar Falls Hut last week. It is definietly an upscale experience compared to the AMC huts, but about the same price. I am curious to see what the experience will be like in winter with snow on the ground. I heard that the Flagstaff Lake hut will be finished before winter. I spent the better part of two days surveying the potential bridge crossing upstream from Grand Falls on the Dead River. They are definitely moving forward.

Stan
11-24-2008, 07:06 PM
I visited Poplar Stream Falls Hut on a dayhike while in the area last summer. It is more luxurious than the AMC huts with hot showers and heated bunkrooms.

The facility is state of the art in terms of being green. Worth a visit I say.

This was initially greeted with skepticism by many, including me. I now think it is a good concept, the huts will be a days ski or hike apart. It offers a nice alternative for a lot of people and, in my opinion, does not detract from the ambience that many of us enjoy in Maine simply because there is so much of Maine that it is easy to avoid this trail if you do not want this type of experience.

I've made reservations for a group visit in the winter.