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ENE Blog: Sledventures in Maine

By Tom Richardson; Photos by Kevin Erdvig & Zach Hand
The summit of Coburn Mountain.

The ENE TV film crew just returned from a busy two-day snowmobile trip in northwestern Maine, specifically the snowmobiling hub of Jackman. Our hosts were Scott and Mallory Newton, who, along with partner Scott Hunnewell, own and operate 201 Powersports, which rents snowmobiles, side-by-sides, and ATV’s, as well as riding gear and supplies, from locations in Jackman, The Forks, and Bingham.

Moose River Lodge & Motel in Jackman.

We convened in Bingham on Sunday afternoon to be outfitted in the latest Klim jackets, bibs, boots, gloves, and helmets, then drove an hour north to Jackman, where we checked into our rooms at Moose River Lodge & Motel. The lodge is right on Rte. 201, and offers direct trail access and plenty of parking for snowmobile trailers. It is also home to a terrific restaurant, but more on that later.

Zipping right along on one of the ITS trails.

The next morning we suited up, hopped on our Polaris Indy VRI 650 sleds, and hit the trails, which were in fairly decent shape despite some recent rain. Dependable snow cover is one reason the Jackman area is such a popular snowmobiling destination, and the season can last well into April.

We rode Polaris Indy 650's on the trip.

With Scott leading the way, we headed northeast along ITS 88 bound for Pittston Farm in Rockwood, a distance of around 45 miles. Along the way we passed numerous riders also enjoying the Maine winter, although not the huge crowds we anticipated during a school vacation week.

Pittston Farm in Rockwood is a popular lunch stop among snowmobilers.

We arrived at Pittston Farm, on the western end of Seboomook Lake, around noon. As owner Jenn Mills explained during her interview, the farm was originally established in 1910 by the Great Northern Paper Company to provide food, lodging, and supplies for lumberjacks during the log drives. Today, the farm is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and serves as a destination for ATV riders, fishermen, paddlers, hikers, and, of course, snowmobilers. We were fortunate to have arrived early, as the dining room soon filled with fellow riders seeking sustenance. The food offerings are simple but delicious. We all tucked into huge burgers, which were served with an enormous side of hand-cut fries. The farm also has a bar, as well as a gas pump. Overnight accommodations are available in several motel-style rooms or rustic cabins.

A mounted moose head at Pittston Farm.

After lunch, we made our way back to Jackman via Club Route 66, which offers long, wide straightaways where riders can really open the throttle. The motto here, according to Scott, was to “get your kicks on Route 66.” He wasn’t kidding.

A vintage snowmobile hangs from the rafters in Northern Outdoors Lodge.

Our original plan was to ride south to Northern Outdoors Lodge in The Forks, but we changed gears and decided to return to Jackman and trailer the sleds, as we were running short on daylight and fuel. It was a good call, as we certainly wouldn’t have made it by nightfall.

Northern Outdoors caters to snowmobilers through the winter.

After loading the sleds, we drove to Northern Outdoors, where we checked into our cozy four-bedroom cabin and enjoyed a delicious dinner at the restaurant with lodge founder and co-owner Suzie Hockmeyer. Suzie is a lifelong outdoorswoman who, with her former husband Wayne, founded the very first whitewater rafting company in Maine in the mid-‘70’s. She and Wayne built The Forks lodge in 1983, and 10 years later opened the Kennebec River Brewery. Today, you can stay in one of the lodge’s well-appointed cabins, a “lodgominium” condo, lodge rooms, or at the campground along the Kennebec River. The lodge also features a terrific restaurant, a game room, hot tub, pool, and fuel pump. And of course, it offers guided rafting, float-tubing, ATV, snowmobile, fishing, and hunting trips, as well as snowmobile and ATV rentals through 201 Powersports.

Cameraman Kevin Erdvig films Grand Falls on the Dead River.

The next morning we filmed the lodge and an interview with Suzie before grabbing a breakfast sandwich and heading down the trail, this time following the Kennebec River north before turning west along the Dead River. After an hour or so we arrived at Grand Falls, a beautiful waterfall on the Dead River featuring natural ice sculptures formed by the tumbling water and rocks. It’s a popular destination that’s only accessible by snowmobile in winter.

Arriving at the summit of Coburn Mountain.

With our bellies starting to rumble, we climbed back on our sleds and made our way to our lunch destination: 15-Mile Stream Lodge & Outfitters, home to Rachel’s Restaurant & Bar. Run by Shane and Rachel Crommett, this little trailside restaurant boasts a surprisingly extensive menu of delicious comfort food. Among our group we ordered a Reuben, a turkey club, a breaded chicken sandwich, and one of Rachel’s celebrated specialty pizzas. All of it was first-rate. Later, we interviewed Shane, a well-known hunting guide who also happens to possess a collection of vintage snowmobiles dating back to 1966. He showed us some of these early sleds, and we were blown away by how much snowmobiles have evolved in the last half-century.

Mallory Newton (left) and Scott Newton (right) pose for a photo with the author on the summit of Coburn Mountain.

After lunch, we made a beeline for our next stop: Coburn Mountain. At 3,717 feet, Coburn is the tallest mountain in Maine with a groomed snowmobile trail to the summit. On a clear day it offers sweeping views as far as Mount Katahdin to the east and into Canada to the north. No such luck on our trip, as low clouds obscured the view. However, it made for a surreal scene.

Coburn Mountain features a steel firetower on its summit.

With the powerful winds threatening to blow us off the mountain, we descended the trail and completed the last leg of our trip back to Moose River Lodge in Jackman, where we were treated to a celebratory dinner hosted by owners Kim and Shawn Galgovitch. The lodge’s restaurant is presided over by chef and local historian Jason Shaw, who prepared an amazing meal of lobster mac-and-cheese and prime rib, with sides of mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and candied carrots. Meanwhile, bartender Bethany concocted creative cocktails, including a snowflake martini and apple-cider old fashioned.

Ice-frosted pines on Coburn Mountain.

It was the perfect wrap to our two-day sledventure, and we owe everyone who dedicated their time and resources to making it happen a big debt of gratitude. Half the work with these shoots involves scheduling, so it was a huge help having Scott and Mallory set everything up ahead of time.

 

 

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