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Rip & Go: Little Lyford to Gorman Chairback – 100-Mile Wilderness, ME

Ski (or snowshoe) hut-to-hut in the East's wildest preserve.
BP1111DESTRipNE_JSiceloff_WBranchPleasantRiv-445x260West Branch Pleasant River (John Siceloff)

Key Skill: Ski varied terrain
Master these three steps and you’ll be swishing through frozen landscapes with ease:

Cruising flats With cross-country or telemark skis parallel, push down and back on the right ski and slide the left ski straight ahead for a short glide, then repeat the process, pushing off of the left ski and shooting the right ahead. Extend the glide a little more with each stride, developing a rhythm. Plant the pole opposite to your leg, as with trekking.

Climbs With ski tips spread wide, tails together, duck-walk up a hill (creating a herring-bone track), weighting the inside edges as necessary to keep from backsliding. Use your poles for additional power and balance.

Downhill Less than a quarter mile from the trailhead, you get a chance to link a few turns on a nice open slope. On these untracked trails, make aggressive moves to get around a turn. If going left, place your weight first on your right ski, lift your left ski slightly and point it directly to where you want to go, then shift forward onto that ski. Push with both poles for momentum. As you finish the turn, pull the skis parallel again, and then repeat the process back and forth a few hundred yards to the bottom, where you’ll resume kicking and gliding along flat terrain.

See This: Winter Wildlife
Many forests go quiet in the cold. Not the 100-Mile Wilderness–it’s full of animals on the move. Here’s where to look.
Lynx: Look for the tracks of this secretive cat near the turnoff for Little Lyford Lodge and near the trailhead.
Moose: They go higher in the winter, and often lurk along the flanks of Indian Mountain.
Otter: Look just before Upper Valley Road and all along the Pleasant River and its tributaries.
Snowshoe hare: You’ll see tracks everywhere. But target dense understory near open terrain to see these four-pound rabbits.

Locals Know
Get an early start, pack some snowshoes or climbing skins (if you use telemark skis), and you can score a sweet view on day one. On the route to Little Lyford, take the five-mile sidetrip (see right) up 2,338-foot Indian Mountain. There you’ll find total solitude, plus an outstanding view of Katahdin, rising alone above the Upper Pleasant River Valley. From the junction with the trail to Little Lyford, affix skins (or don snowshoes), and commence climbing on the diamond-blazed Indian Mountain Trail. Cross a bridge, then bear left (east) up a yellow-blazed snow machine track. Climb to a cluster of RV-size granite boulders, then turn around to see the valley and Big K, less than 40 miles away. Continue to Laurie’s Ledge, a granite outcropping .5 mile from the Indian Mountain Trail, then the summit in another .4 mile. Reach Little Lyford by heading northeast to the Upper Valley Road (a ski track in winter), which leads one mile to a hard left to the Lodge.

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