My dear friend Michael Banks and I won a 48HRS trip during Wayfinder Schools Farm to Sea Auction. The choice of destination was ours, so we hit the town of Rangeley with a pack of friends to see what fun we could track down one stormy, snowy, windy weekend up north.
3:30 p.m. @ Simply Home
Patti Butler and her husband Pat are our gracious hosts for the weekend. Together we leave Falmouth and head north, braving the winter storm. For the last 30 miles, we have our high beams on, the car is in low gear, and my knuckles are white on the steering wheel as I follow tire tracks toward Oquossoc.
7:00 p.m. @ Forks in the Air Mountain Bistro
Dinner at Forks in the Air Mountain Bistro does not disappoint. Owner Mike “Kup” Kupstas opened the restaurant six years ago hoping to create the perfect retirement gig in Rangeley. Now he divides the work with his wife, brother, daughter, and son to deliver a fabulous menu and service.
9:00 p.m. @ Moose Alley
We roll into Moose Alley, which seems to be the hot spot in town, especially since tonight is Rock and Roll Bowl. The alley feels like a giant ski lodge with state-of-the-art bowling lanes, an indoor fire pit, leather recliners, nine pool tables, and multiple bars.
10:30 p.m. @ Sarge’s Sports Pub and Grub
A night out on Main Street would not be complete without last call at Sarge’s, the local watering hole. The sign out front says, “Welcome Pond Hockey Teams,” as the annual New England Pond Hockey Festival is this weekend. A set by the amusing and talented Tom Ball Band is in full swing.Chris Farmer, the general manager of Saddleback Maine, is on sax. Players from the Amherst College women’s hockey team are dancing and mingling, and bets are placed for the next day’s tournament. It is getting colder outside by the minute, so after a few drinks we head to Pat and Patti’s house for some shuteye.
9:15 a.m. @ Moosely Bagels
Excitement is in the air as teams stream into town for the ninth annual New England Pond Hockey Festival. I stop in for a quick breakfast sandwich and hot coffee at Moosely Bagels— delicious fuel for a morning of pond-hockey watching.
10:00 a.m. @ New England Pond Hockey Festival
We meet Linda Sikes, the face of Rangeley pond hockey. She is a force and in charge of the on-the- ground operations at the festival. Then we make our way over to Haley Pond for the opening ceremonies, which include the national anthem and lots of hooting and hollering. Annual rivalries face off to defend their records on this outdoor rink.
11:40 a.m. @ Inner Eye
We are now extremely cold, so we wander off in search of hot cocoa. We find a satisfying cup inside the Inner Eye, a marvelous Internet cafe with quirky gifts, local photographs, and a vintage lunchbox collection. The space, once a local pharmacy, was reimagined and given new life by Moose Alley owner Nancy Bessey.
12:15 p.m. @ Alpine Shop
We walkalong Main Street and head into Alpine Shop for hats and sweatshirts. It is a warm and welcome detour.
1:36 p.m. Koob’s Garage
Heading to lunch we stop for gas at KG’s, where we watch a huge pack of snowmobiles gas up. These “sleds” are almost more common than cars this time of year.
1:45 p.m. @ Bald Mountain Camps Resort
We make our way to Bald Mountain Camps Resort on Mooselookmeguntic Lake. Our weekend crew has grown substantially and we take over the biggest table at the resort, which is next to the warm fireplace. Owner Steve Philbrick joins us and reports the weather forecast. The wind across the lake is blowing 28 miles per hour, it is eight degrees below zero, and the wind chill is negative 25 degrees.
3:30 p.m. @ Niboban Sporting Camps
The gang assembles for a tour of Niboban Sporting Camps on Rangeley Lake, where traditional recreation camps are available to own or rent. They are right on the lake, too, which conjures memories of boating, fishing, and leisurely campfires even on this chilly afternoon.
6:30 p.m. @ Loon Lodge Inn
Loon Lodge Inn is a cozy old house on Rangeley Lake that also has a dining room. We notice many of the same servers we saw at our breakfast and lunch spots. When we mention this to our friendly server, he notes, “The bad thing about a small town is everyone knows your business. The good thing about a small town is everyone knows your business.” We enjoy yummy comfort food in a quiet, charming atmosphere.
9:30 a.m. @ Gingerbread House Restaurant
We head to the Gingerbread House Restaurant and watch a herd of deer congregate on the edge of the property. They are eyeing the feeding trough, waiting to be fed by Gingerbread House owners. Today owner Kate Williamson feeds them—it is a labor of love and it has become a tradition in the Rangeley Lakes Region.
10:45 a.m. @ Saddleback Maine
We make our way to Saddleback Mountain in search of anyone brave enough to ski on this cold day. Luckily, we find many happy skiers and the lifts in action.
12:00 p.m. @ Powder Dreams Ski Shop
We stop into this snowboard and ski shop located on the access road to Saddleback. The shop offers expert tuning and a fun selection of clothes, too.
1:00 p.m. @ Bald Mountain Camps
Rumor has it that some planes are landing on the lake back at Bald Mountain Camps, so we venture back. We aren’t disappointed, and we enjoy chatting with the brave pilots.
3:00 p.m. @ Rangeley Outdoor Sporting Heritage Museum
Before the weekend ends, we step inside the Rangeley Outdoor Sporting Heritage Museum, where we are all captivated by the stories of Rangeley’s unique and intriguing outdoor history.
3:45 p.m. @ Height of Land
As the sun goes down, we save the most famous spot for last—Height of Land. This famous scenic overlook at 2,195 feet is breathtaking any time of year. From up here it is hard to imagine how many lakes are under that blanket of snow. It proves to be a glorious spot to contemplate an amazing winter weekend in Maine.