Looking Up

This weekend was a kaleidoscope of soft snow, roaring wood stoves, homemade food (cooked by someone else!), big hugs, sweaty mittens, unbeatable views, and the happiest of happy hours.

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It felt as if we had gone through the closet doors and found ourselves somewhere near the lamp post in the Narnian woods.

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The joy of being outside, with people you love, in a place far less touched by the 21st century does something to you- no cell reception meant there was no thinking about responding to emails, checking Instagram, or texting back a friend. I was free, breathing in and out nothing but gratitude.

 

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As two young twenty somethings (one still in grad school), we live on a tight budget, and often say no to expenses that fall outside of our needs. But trips like this are a need– a few times a year, we budget for experiences that break us out of our ruts and help us to look up, above the tree line. The views up here make me want to hold on to this perspective for dear life.

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I hope wherever you are this winter, you have the chance to go somewhere that lets you slow down and reflect…preferably somewhere with a piping hot, enormous slice of homemade gingerbread.

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Catching Peak

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This weekend, Trevor and I were fortunate enough to attend Maine Huts and Trails’ second annual Harvest at the Huts: a five course, sustainable, local meal served at Stratton Brook Hut. It’s a three mile hike up a hill with stunning views of Sugarloaf Mountain and the Bigelow Mountain range.

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We were utterly blown away.

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The guest chef, Jordan Rolleston, outdid himself. Every ingredient was brought up to the hut from a local Maine farm. No course was quite what we expected- the oysters were paired with a blueberry vinegar, the “salad” was made from pickled apples and squash, the rabbit dish was served with pine nut breadcrumbs.

Each course was paired with an exceptional wine. The 30 or so other guests there were warm and rugged (our two favorite qualities.) It was a weekend to remember, and repeat.

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veggies

Our favorite course was the lobster veloute- a rich and creamy soup studded with big chunks of Maine lobster and dotted with chive cream.

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Though the rabbit pappardelle and the honey cake dessert were close runners up.

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Our sommelier was knowledgable, attentive, and friendly. He’d come around with every course and tell us small info-bites about each wine and why it was chosen:  “It’s got a fresh ripe overtone with an undertone of butter,” “The perfect example of what a Sauvignon Blanc should be,” “It has a velvety smooth taste which pairs well with the velvety smooth rabbit.”

Our favorite description was, “If I had to characterize a Syrah, it would be a cowboy wearing a tuxedo!”

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We paired up with another newly wed couple, Ben and Petra, and deemed ourselves the kids table.

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We slept in bunks that night, waking several times to marvel at the stars. Trevor pointed out the Andromeda galaxy- a cluster of bright infinity.

The next morning we woke to coffee and blueberry pancakes with local syrup- and somehow managed to keep eating. We enjoyed a slow and easy hike back to our cars, stopping at every viewpoint we could find.

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Since we were right next to Sugarloaf, and becuase it was the Great Maine Outdoors weekend, we decided to indulge in a lift ride up Sugarloaf mountain on our way home to take in the views one more time.

On our way down the mountain, our lift guide told us, “You guys are lucky- you just caught peak this weekend.”

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We are indeed exceptionally lucky. My advice to all Mainers? Take some time this week and go someplace quiet where you can completely revel in this color explosion. There’s something about the energy in the woods this time of year that lets you be your best self- surrounded by nature, free from worry, and filled to the brim with gratitude and love.