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CC’s Outdoor Journal; Experience Stratton Brook Hut
CARRABASSETT VALLEY- As a mid-January snow fell gently to the earth blanketing all that stood in silent winter slumber, the winding trail to Stratton Brook Hut was alive with laughter as six enthusiastic women began their ascent to the newest of the Maine Huts & Trails shelters.
I use the term shelter very lightly, as you will find nothing but the most up to date accommodations in the fourth of so many huts in the proposed 12-hut, 180-mile trail system.
A friend and I made our way between the Flagstaff and Poplar Stream huts two years ago and stood in awe of all the MH&T had built and were offering outdoor enthusiasts. We made a promise to one another that we would return, but this time, we had to share the experience and brought four more friends.
As we snowshoed our way along the Narrow Guage Trail, we could make out a sign at a fork ahead. The sign pointed us in the direction of Stratton Brook, only 2.7 miles away and Poplar Stream Hut, an additional seven miles.
One of the many great things about MH&T, is their well-marked trails. At every intersection there is a sign detailing where to go next. And, if by chance there isn’t a sign, the trails are so well-groomed that you have no choice but to continue to follow the path through the woods.
The trail beckons to you; whether it be the over-hanging birch tree weighted down with snow, creating an arch of entry into the thickening wilderness or the sudden bend in a steep hill that calls to you to go a little further to see what’s on the other side.
If you listen closely you just may hear the sounds of those who have froliced on nearby Mount Bigelow Range or even Sugarloaf. All the way up the trail it’s like you’re playing a child’s game of peek-a-boo with these two. It isn’t until you crest the last hill, that all is revealed.
With a vast view of the Bigelow Range and all that lies beyond to the northeast, and the trails of Sugarloaf staring back from the southeast; Stratton Brook Hut perches on the top of the ledge and you find yourself not wanting to look away.
Not to worry, once inside the main hut, their woodstove-heated sitting area is sided in large windows for you to look out over Avery and West Peak, and you can catch a glimpse of The Horn from the dining room. If you’re fortunate enough to be slumbering in a south-facing bunk room, you will be able to stare out over the city-like lights of Sugarloaf at night. But not to worry about being disturbed by them, it’s as if you’re holding a snow globe looking into a whole other realm.
While at the hut, there is no need to worry about your next meal. We enjoyed delicious, mouth-watering morsels graciously prepared by our hut staff; Ricky, Saphrona and Chris. As they descended on our table the first night with short ribs, roasted carrots, hearty homemade bread, black bean soup, stuffed squash and peas, and for dessert, chocolate cake; we were all wondering how we would roll ourselves out of bed for our next day of adventure.
That night we all slumbered in our bunk room built for eight and rose with the sun. As we opened our door that morning, there, through the snow-thickened air, was the orange of the sun peaking around the mountainside. Breathtaking.
After cleaning up in the six-minute, coin-operated HOT showers we gathered for our morning meal of brown sugar and raisin oatmeal, banana muffins and our choice of orange juice, coffee, tea, and water. Delightful.
After breakfast, as the snow swirled around the top of the ledge, we ventured out on the trails until mid-afternoon with our delicious lunches prepared by Ricky and Saphrona. Upon our return, the sun had come back out, the snow had stopped and we found great pleasure relaxing near the fire in the sitting room with a glass of wine.
You see, we had to rest a little before a few of us decided to use the sleds we carried in to finish the day with some sliding down the steep hill behind the hut. What fun!
That night we enjoyed another amazing meal and Ricky lead us through the energy tour. Educating our group on how the hut is maintained and how they strive to be the most environmentally friendly as they can.
Comparing the energy tours of the Flagstaff, Poplar Stream and Stratton Brook huts, it was obvious that the MH&T engineers have come a long way in decreasing their carbon footprint with each hut built.
That night while sitting around the fire, we were already discussing a hut-to-hut trip for later this winter. We were hooked.
Before departing that next day we signed up for our individual membership for only $35 and have already begun planning our next great Maine Huts & Trails adventure.
I want to leave you with this final thought, as I sat writing this I was listening to Bernward Koch’s Walking through Clouds. I can’t explain this hut experience any better than by the name of this beautiful instrumental. I urge you to get out and experience the outdoors, listen for the sounds of nature that will guide you to fully appreciate the moment you’re in. If you end up at the Maine Huts & Trails, which I highly recommend, you will be pleasantly surprised by all they offer the outdoor enthusiast.
I want to thank Laurieann Milligan, Sue Lajoie, Mary Jane Dillingham, Kathy Jordan and Catherine Johnson for blessing me with their friendship, their great sense of adventure and for always helping me to live in the moment.
If you would like to share your outdoor adventure, please email me at email@example.com.
To book your stay at one of the Maine Huts, visit www.mainehuts.org. Their reservation process is quick, easy and informative.