Finding backcountry adventure at Rangeley Lake State Park

by Carl Natale on February 21, 2012

Deirdre Fleming takes a look at the state parks that are playgrounds for crosscountry skiers. Conditions vary and there are groomed trails. But I have a lot of fun in the ungroomed parks.

My favorite is Rangeley Lake State Park. It’s isolated and far enough north that it gets decent snow cover. There is no formal grooming of trails, but snowmobilers use the land to access the Lake. Which is a plus and minus. They pack down the snow for nordic skis but are a bit annoying.

We didn’t see many snowmobiles Sunday when Elaine and I visited.

The trip started in the snowmobile tracks on the main road into the park. Then we turned onto the Moose Country Corridor Trail that was well beaten by snowshoes.

That’s not recommended terrain for skis. But we’ve done this trail before on backcountry skis. It can be tricky. A couple tight turns and fallen branches required careful navigation. Plus I committed the cardinal sin of following trails. I followed the tracks in the snow instead of the trail markers. The previous party wandered off trail. I followed until the tracks stopped in the middle of nowhere.

I love skiing snowshoe trails. It’s a fast, almost effortless way to cut through the woods. It takes a little more skill than skiing groomed trails. It’s worth it to be in the middle of the woods in the deep winter. It’s a beautiful sort of isolation.

Short story is that we found the trail again and made our way back to the park roads. We enjoyed the sun and the mountain views while drinking hot chocolate.

We stuck to the snowmobile-groomed roads to get back to the car. Though most of the trip was uphill, it went smoothly. I was in the groove (not literally) and my body was happy to put forth the effort. The last 200 yards was downhill. A reward for making the effort. It was less thrilling than the Hudson Highway at Saddleback but still made me smile.

Why we do this

Winter is a challenge. The cold needs to be managed. Travel is harder if you’re not into motorized recreation. But the reward for doing something few people are willing to try is a sense of accomplishment and mastery of the elements that beat the adrenaline induced by speed. And it’s better for the soul.

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