While lacing up my cross-country ski boots three weeks ago in the yurt at the Rangeley Lakes Trails Center, I overheard a conversation focused on the new “Gnome Village”.  My signature curiosity led to my follow-up series of questions which, in turn, has led to this column.

We (my wife and I) finally got around to buying our season passes at the The Center a few days earlier, and were back again, this time to take a lap around the very nicely groomed (as are all of the trails, thanks to lead groomer, Beth Flynn and others) Geneva Bog Trail.

The skiing was followed up by my conversation with Marty Velishka, part-time employee behind the counter and a proud member of the group of “contributors-in-kind” whose various skills created the village as it stands today (see photos).

It actually began with a half-dozen or more gnome houses crafted by Chet Massey about 10 years ago, who then mounted the houses on trees throughout the trail network.  The houses were nice enough as curious conversation pieces, but they had no occupants.  Clearly, there was a need for gnomes!

The sign directing visitors to the Gnome Village trail

Enter Nini Christensen, Education Technician at RLRS, with additional training in, enthusiasm for, and experience in outdoor education; and Beth Flynn, trail groomer operator and board member of the Rangeley Lakes Cross-Country Ski Club.  They came up with an idea sure to increase kids’ interest in the skiing, snowshoeing and summer walking/hiking the trails…real honest-to-goodness gnomes to occupy the houses.  About 8 years ago, they ran the idea by talented art teacher at RLRS, Sonja Johnson,…and soon a gnome factory of sorts, went into production mode.

I should first stop here and explain what a gnome is:


The average age of a gnome is 400 years.  They are very small, and work by night in forests although sometimes in human dwellings, such as in the rafters of barns watching over the livestock.  They tend to wear tall, pointed hats.  Gnomes were found in great numbers in Europe many years ago, and those who claimed to see them occasionally were considered to be helped by the gnomes.  They were plentiful when the countryside was free from strife, but in recent years they are rarely seen.

I could go on and on, however you probably are getting the picture already that gnomes only exist in the minds of those who believe in them.  That is true.  However, probably the only book on gnomes, entitled GNOMES by Dutch author Wil Huygen and delightfully illustrated by Rien Poortvliet provides a delightful romp through the lives of gnomes for those who believe or hope to.  A copy of this fully illustrated coffee table-worthy book may be viewed at the Trails Center yurt…just ask the staff person on duty to look through it.  Who knows?…you may become a believer as well!

The George Crossen-built centerpiece gnome house in the Village Square.

Now, back to the creation of the Gnome Village in the woods of the Rangeley Lakes Trails Center:

Sonja Johnson then had her 9th graders, as a pottery-making project, each make a gnome out of pottery clay, paint their gnome with their personal choices of glaze, then fire their creations in the classroom kiln, and finally create clothing, including pointed hats, out of bits of available fabric.

We found court-jester gnome Ivan at home in his house.

In later years, students in all the middle school grades (6-9) had the opportunity to create gnomes to be contributed to the Trails Center Gnome Village project, or keep them if they wished.  For a number of years now, the few gnome houses scattered about the trails had ceramic gnomes placed in them.  About a year ago, the idea of an entire Gnome Village was hatched by Nini and Beth.  More than 20 delightfully designed gnome houses were then built by volunteer woodworkers and attached to trees in the gnome village site.

A typical gnome house. Perhaps there is a gnome living there!

Ron Koslowski and Marty Velishka cut a trail to the site chosen for the village.  Dan Aleck cut the wood for the many signs at his sawmill, Marty then carved the words on the rough cut wood with his router.


The centerpiece of the village was then built by local builder, George Crossen.  Trails Center employee Danielle Archibee, who was found to be a talented artist as well, painted the large Gnome likeness, complete with a tall, pointed hat (see photo) above the open door.  This handsome “gnome home” is about 7 feet tall, and the open doorway is proving to be a great place for believers, young and old, to get their pictures taken.

Jake Beliveau, at Boss Equipment Inc. provided a four-wheeler to help move the house down the trail and into the village center in October of 2019.  Ron Kozlowski, Dan Aleck, Dan Duschesne and U.S. Border Patroller (name believed to be Francis Hill) all helped with the moving process.  The house was firmly secured to a tree lest it tip over and injure a gnome working in the village at night.

Nini Christensen took me on a tour of the village a couple of weeks ago.  It is absolutely delightful !   I took a few pictures while Nini described her idea for augmenting the village with more nature and gnome teaching opportunities.  She hopes to have a gnome puppet stage created by the fine volunteers, and some log benches to accommodate a dozen or so children for learning interesting things about nature in this cozy wooded setting.

This gnome is named Makeda (not Linda!)

And the latest word is that Danielle has painted two fine gnome characters on a large piece of plywood…complete with two face holes cut out for delighted visiting gnome-seekers, both young and old, to get their pictures taken.   It should be in place by the time you read this column.

Colby College students, Sally Burke and Nina Leiman, take time out from surveying skiers in the yurt for their thoughts on the impact of recreation and conservation in the High Peaks Region…to visit the Gnome Village.

I urge all readers to check out the village.  And if you have small children or grandchildren, your visit will prove to be even more delightful.  It is a short walk (perhaps 200 yards) from the Trails Center yurt in the snowless seasons, or via snowshoes/skis during the current snow season.  Ask at the yurt for directions.  It is important that you not disrupt the groomed cross country skiing trails if you prefer to walk.

We need to write, otherwise nobody will know who we are.


                                                                                            Garrison Kiellor

I’ll be ridin’ shotgun, underneath the hot sun, feelin’ like a someone….


Per usual, your thoughts and comments are welcome.  Jot them down on a 3”x5” card and have a gnome slip it inside the log door on our mudroom on the rockbound west shore of Gull Pond….or simply fire off an email to [email protected]  

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