Bigelow Mountain as seen from a snowmobile trail in Carrabassett Valley. Dee Menear/Franklin Journal

“I like getting out here … and just looking at wildlife,” Jim said as we traveled snowmobile trails … taking in the sights from the heated cab of a groomer.

“It’s incredible. People should stop and pay attention to it.”

Jim is the caretaker of the trails. His winter nights are spent making sure trails are safe and in tip-top shape. The top speed of the groomer is about five miles per hour, which gives him plenty of time to “stop and pay attention”.

We had just spotted a frenzy of rabbit tracks weaving in and out of trailside evergreen shrubs.

Given the below-average snowfall for the region and this season’s late dropping of deer antlers, I asked Jim if he ever came across fresh sheds while he was out caring for the miles of recreation trails in his jurisdiction.

He had not, he said. But, he knew where to be on the lookout for deer.

He shared stories of how he would often spot fresh moose tracks on a trail he had just groomed. “Sometimes, there are so many tracks it looks like they had a moose dance while I was turning this thing around,” he said.

There is just as much to see from the seat of a snowmobile, he said.

“Stop and pay attention,” was his advice.

They were words he repeated a few days later when Colleen and I planned to hit the trails.

With only a vague familiarity of the trail and a map in hand, we plotted a trip to our favorite eatery.

Just to be sure of our direction, I asked him if our route would get us where we wanted to go.

He confirmed we were headed in the right direction but repeated his advice.

“Just remember to stop and pay attention,” he said. “Not everyone gets to experience the sights you’ll see today.”

We crossed familiar fields, rivers and roads before tucking along the base of Mt. Abraham. We were headed into the heart of the mountains.

My mountains, as I like to call them. They have been my background for more years than they have not. I can identify their peaks, notches and outlines without thought.

After we gained a bit of elevation, we stopped at a clearing and were greeted with an outline of snowcapped mountains against a cloudless bluebird sky. It was breathtakingly beautiful but the view was foreign to me.

I’d never seen the mountains from this particular clearing.  The peaks were there but the outlines didn’t look as they should. For a moment, I had no clue where I was or what I was looking at.

Then I spotted a familiar rounded peak. “Ahhhh … that’s Black Nubble,” I said. “On the other side is my favorite fishing spot and beyond that is town.”

With that one landmark, we were able to identify the surrounding mountains and pinpoint our location in the wilderness.

As I marveled at the scene before me, I contemplated how blessed I was to be able to live and play in an area that overflows with the unaltered beauty I saw before me.

We decided to “stop and pay attention” and had been given a picture-perfect moment. But, for some reason, it wasn’t a moment either of two shutterbugs thought to snap a picture of before continuing on our way.

It was and always will be a view that lives only in our minds. Memories are sometimes better that way, don’t you think?

Winter is waning but, before lush green beings to take over, I hope to have one more chance to drink in an unfamiliar winter-washed view … one more chance to “stop and pay attention”.

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