RANGELEY — The Trails for Rangeley Area Coalition (TRAC), a Rangeley-based outdoors group, closed out its hiking season on Whitecap Mountain in Rumford on Friday, September 25. The group also organizes day trips for paddling, biking and snowshoeing.

Scott Schoenthaler, front, and Trails for Rangeley Area Coalition (TRAC) President Jeff Zapolsky summit the outdoors group’s last official hike of the season on Whitecap Mountain in Rumford, on September 25. Photo Courtesy of TRAC

“TRAC brings so much to the Rangeley Area.  It is a chance for people of all ages (teens to those in their 80’s) to get many benefits:  exercising outdoors,  socializing with many different people,  making new friends in the area, seeing places that we never had heard of  and  helping others,” 15-year TRAC member Fred Dubay said in an email. “We also have people from all over the US and some other countries that are TRAC members.”

Dubay described TRAC as much of a social club as it is an outdoors club and said that the group has played a significant role in the connections that he and his wife have made in the Rangeley area. During the pandemic, Dubay stressed the social impact that TRAC has had on members.

“During the times of COVID-19, outdoor exercise and SAFE socializing are critical to good physical and mental health.  I think many new members of TRAC have joined for these two benefits,” Dubay said.

To keep members safe during activities, TRAC President Jeff Zapolsky said that people carpool only with those that they are in regular contact with, members practice social distancing while hiking and do not physically greet each other at trailheads.

“Some people missed the early hikes because they had to quarantine after returning to Rangeley from their winter homes,” Zapolsky said in an email. “There were a few TRAC enthusiasts that did not attend this year because of COVID concerns; but this was because they limited all their activities and were not just targeting TRAC.  Not unexpected considering that many of the TRAC members are retired and over 60 – a more vulnerable COVID demographic.”

Overall, Zapolsky said that the pandemic has had minimal effects on the group’s activities with turnouts ranging from 10 to 20 participants.

As TRAC’s volunteer president, Zapolsky is responsible for distributing pre-hike information and recording observations that the group makes regarding wildlife and plants. He then sends out additional follow-up information with these observation notes and a synopsis of the group’s hike time and route.

Trails for Rangeley Area Coalition Member Jim Ferrara, left and President Jeff Zapolsky present information to the outdoors group on the top of Whitecap Mountain in Rumford on September 25. Photo Courtesy of TRAC

While TRAC takes an official break from hiking during the hunting season, many members still meet for additional trips throughout the fall. A group met this past Tuesday to hike Bigelow Mountain in Northwest Somerset.  Zapolsky will also organize snowshoe trips in the winter months.

In the spring, TRAC members come together for trail maintenance days and clean brush, remove fallen trees along paths and remark trails.

“This helps so many people that have not even heard of TRAC but use the trails,” Dubay said. “Other “hiking” groups also give this service free to the greater Rangeley community. At times, TRAC folks help other groups clean their trails.  Rewarding experience.”

For additional information on the Trails for Rangeley Area Coalition, visit the group’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/TrailsforRangeleyAreaCoalition/ or email President Jeff Zapolsky at [email protected]

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