If there’s one weekend this winter to get outside for an adventure, it’s the weekend of Feb. 14-16, the fifth semi-annual Great Maine Outdoor Weekend.
More than 100 outdoor events are scheduled to be held throughout the state. Ice skating parties, owl watches, ice fishing derbies, full moon snowshoes, ski races, winter camping workshops and more will be open to the public, so families can get outside, try something new and “play local.”
All events are listed at greatmaineoutdoorweekend.org, where participants can search by map, activity difficulty, activity type, accessibility, dog friendliness, date and region.
So many of these events look like they’d be a blast, it’s a bit overwhelming. Fortunately, the activities are spread out over three days, so you can fit in a number of them if you plan ahead.
At a lot of these events, you’re going to find rental gear and expert knowledge for free or low cost. The event organizers’ main goal is to get people outdoors without erecting price barriers. It may be an opportunity for you to try out something like cross-country skiing or snowshoeing.
You can travel to a new region in Maine for a weekend outdoors, or you can look for events right in your community. For example, in the Bangor area, my home base, there’s going to be a variety of great events:
- On Friday, Feb. 14 — Valentine’s Day — there’s a romantic full moon snowshoe, 6-8 p.m., right down the road in Orland, at the Great Pond Mountain Wildlands. They plan to snowshoe, ski or walk the Dead River Trail and call for owls.
- On Saturday, 11 a.m.- 2 p.m., will be the Great Maine Outdoor Weekend Celebration at the Fields Pond Audubon Center in Holden. They’ll have snowshoes available for exploring the fields and trails, sleds for playing “like otters,” ice on the frog pond to explore and warm drinks in the nature center. The Maine Discovery Museum will be joining the party for hands-on science and art. Sounds like a great event to take my little niece to.
- Later that evening, 6:30-8 p.m., the Bangor Land Trust is hosting a “Love the Land” moonlight snowshoe at the Walden-Parke Preserve in Bangor.
- Or I could attend the “Moonlight Ski, Bike and Snowshoe,” 5-9 p.m., at Orono Schools and Rampe Conservation Easement in Orono. The event will be hosted by the Penobscot Valley Ski Club, the Penobscot Region NEMBA and the Orono Land Trust. The event will include freshly groomed ski trails lined with lights, along with a bonfire or two, hot cocoa and more.
- On Sunday morning, starting at 10, there’s a winter tree identification workshop at Sunkhaze Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Milford with naturalist Lindsay Seward. Believe me, hiking with a naturalist is an amazing experience. They point out things about your surroundings you never would have noticed. Then you can repeat these little bits of knowledge to your hiking buddies and look really cool.
Those are just a few events happening in the Bangor area. There are even more than that. I enjoy searching events by looking at the event map.
The previous Great Maine Outdoor Weekend, which took place in September, attracted more than 7,000 participants to almost 100 events hosted by 70 different organizations across the state. And of those participants, 30 percent were either new to the outdoor activity or the outdoor venue.
The weekend is organized by the Maine Outdoor Coalition, an extensive network of outdoor-oriented organizations and companies, such as L.L.Bean, Chewonki, Friends of Acadia, Maine Coast Heritage Trust and the Appalachian Mountain Club.