BETHEL – When Peter Gartner returned to Maine a few years ago, he realized just how many fascinating people populated the state and Western Maine.

That realization prompted the beginning of Down Home Maine, a series of lectures and presentations sponsored by the Western Maine Senior College and the Bethel Historical Society.

One of the first guests was Oddlyn Holm, a local sailor who told of his adventures as he tried to find the Northeast Passage through the Arctic with his home-built steel sailing ship.

Members and guests of the senior college have also heard from experts on wind power and the Plum Creek Moosehead project, others who told how to make snow, and an expert gemologist.

The free series is not just for people over age 50, but for anyone with a curious mind.

“There are just so many wonderful stories,” said Gartner, co-chairman of Western Maine Senior College along with Jackie Cressey.

The senior college also offers four or five mini-courses each semester, and a health series.

The next Down Home Maine series program, set for Dec. 6, complete with wine and cheese, will feature Larry Warren, president of the Western Mountains Foundation and founder of Maine Huts and Trails, and David Herring, executive director of the organization.

They will speak about a plan for a 180-mile trail and huts system in Western Maine. The proposed system will establish a trail from Moosehead Lake to Bethel for hiking, mountain biking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, along with a dozen huts spaced about 12 miles apart that will provide room and board services.

The program, and all in the Down Home Maine series, takes place from 4:30 to 6 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month, except for January, at the Gehring House at the end of Broadway Street.

Programs so far scheduled for next year are:

• Connie St. Pierre, owner of the Outlook Studio in Bethel, March 6;

• Victor Hart, a Round Pond lawyer who will bring his photographs and adventures in Antarctica, the Arctic, and the Himalayas, April 3;

• Sara Wight, spokeswoman for the Woman to Woman project that focuses on economic efforts made by Peruvian women, June 5;

Anyone who is interested in any of the programs offered by the Western Maine Senior College may call Gartner at 665-2181, or reach him by e-mail at [email protected]

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