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On the Job

A haven in Maine’s great outdoors

In the winter, Sarah Pine commutes to work for Maine Huts & Trails on skis.

Maine Huts & Trails

In the winter, Sarah Pine commutes to work for Maine Huts & Trails on skis.

An eight-mile commute to work might sound like a breeze, but for Sarah Pine it’s especially idyllic. She goes to work from her home in Maine’s Carrabassett Valley on skis.

Pine, 30, is hut operations manager for Maine Huts & Trails, a nonprofit that manages backcountry lodges that are part of a hut-to-hut trail system in Maine’s western lakes and mountains region. On any given day, Pine might be ordering supplies for dinner, checking the propane generator, answering questions about snowshoeing trails, or sweeping the floor.

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“These huts are in a remote wilderness setting, “ she said, “but we’re here to provide hospitality and comfort to our guests.”

These “boutique hotels” have clean energy systems to reduce impact to the environment. What does it take to maintain them up in the back country?

Maintaining the energy systems is a large part of my responsibilities. I check the specific gravity of the batteries and fill them up, grease the hydro station, add wood shaving and bacteria to the Clivus [toilet composting system], clean ash out of the tarm [wood boiler], and remove snow from solar panels.

What’s the vision behind these huts?

Maine Huts & Trails is dedicated to creating a 180-mile network of trails stretching between the Mahoosuc Range in western Maine to Moosehead Lake. They increase accessibility to the wilderness and help boost the local economy.

You said the best part of your job is being outside. What’s the worst?

It has to be the latrine duty at the Flagstaff hut. It can get quite disgusting. The other huts have composting toilets, and those are super efficient, extremely clean, and don’t smell at all.

How does the weather affect your job?

It’s huge. In the winter, we do snow dances because of the cross-country ski trails. This winter we’ve had lots of ice and rain. In spring, it’s mud season, and it takes a while for the trails to dry out. There’s also bug season — black flies and mosquitoes.

What’s your go-to winter garb?

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I just invested in a pair of minus-40-degree boots after shuttling food with a snowmobile in minus-19-degree weather. Another few key pieces of gear I purchased this season [include] a pair of toe covers for my mountain bike shoes and studded bike tires. This allowed me to make the best of the icy weather we have had.

Do you miss lattes and malls?

No on the lattes — we have really good coffee in the huts, delicious organic dark roast that keeps us all going. As far as malls, I can’t remember the last time I’ve stepped foot in one.

Cindy Atoji Keene can be reached at cindy@cindyatoji.com.

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