Planes Trains and Snowmobiles: Part 1 (Gerry Balchuinas)
Published on Sunday, July 10, 2011 in Guest Columns, News & Updates, Snowmobile Travel
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For years I have been taking riding trips all over the North East and have written about many of them for SAM and sledmass. This past trip was no exception. I took another trip up to Maine to do some exploring and to find some sites I had heard about up there. One site was of particular interest to me, for it represented a part of my background.

 B-52 Crash site near snowmobile trail at Elephant Mountain, Maine

The first night found us in Bingham, Maine; we were staying at the Pine Lodge Hunting Camps, on the club trails. It’s a bed and breakfast and quite cozy, and the rates are very reasonable. The hunting trophy room is incredible. It is a bit away from the ITS trails and it will take a bit of snowmobile ingenuity to find them. Ben King and I headed out from the lodge in search of our first site. We were looking for the B-52 site on the ITS trail near Elephant Mountain.

The site is on the edge of Elephant Mountain way out in the sticks of Maine, about 15 miles out of Greenville, on Moosehead Lake. The B-52 was on a mission from Westover Air Force Base, in Massachusetts, and crashed into the side of the mountain on Jan 24, 1963, apparently after a structural failure. It went down 10 seconds after striking the mountain.

There were nine people on board and only two survived. The local snowmobile club, The Moosehead Riders Snowmobile Club, as well as many local residents, assisted in the rescue of the soldiers. The club still helps maintain the crash scene today, see more at the website

B-52 Crash on Elephant Mountain Maine

As I stood there, around the site, a kind of eerie feeling hit me in the base of the neck. The kind that makes the old hair stand on end. I was in a spot that people had actually taken their last breath, out there in the minus zero cold, in feet of snow. Standing next to the wreckage was a humbling experience. It is all preserved now and no one is allowed to take anything from the site. Of course there is your usual graffiti from people who have no respect, but it is still like it was the day it crashed.

Parts all over the place, wheels, wings, even the cockpit lay there on the side of this mountain. A stone memorial with the soldier’s names on it is the only indication of the actual loss. It is an accident that happened years ago that really hit home with me. These soldiers lost their lives, as many have, working and fighting for our country. If you get a chance to get up there, it is well worth the trip. Oh yeah, the trails were pretty nice, too.

Ben and I were back at Pine Lodge relaxing when my phone rang. It was my buddy, Chris F., calling to see how the riding was. I told him all about the plane and he said that he was headed up on Friday to find the old logging trains out in the Allagash. “Wanna come?” he said. Oh boy, twist my arm. The snow was so deep we couldn’t see out the bathroom window and we were headed home on Friday, this gave us a perfect excuse to stay a day or two more. So, now it was my turn to make a phone call, “Hello honey, I love you,” I said. “Oh boy,” she said. “How many more days are you staying?” Nice… I was in, she was good with it, now I had to get off the phone quick before she remembered the birthday party we were supposed to attend Saturday night. This time I told her I loved her, ‘cause I do, and we said our goodbyes.

Pine Lodge Hunting Camps

Now it was Ben’s turn. He talked to his wife Becky, and luckily, she was good with it, too. So I called Chris back and said to head up, we would meet him Friday morning. I was very interested in the trains, for I have been a lumberjack all my life, just recently switching professions. I had heard many stories about these trains and wanted to see them for myself. I knew they were hard to find but I had Ben with me and he can find anything. I mean anything! One time we were plowing the track for an ice drag. About four hours later Ben noticed he lost his cell phone. He said, “I bet it is on the track near that bump.” We went down and he went to it like a bloodhound on a runaway convict. I couldn’t believe it. So I knew if he was with us, even if we couldn’t find the place, he could get us back.

About 10A.M. in Bingham we saw Chris in his Dodge Hemi coming down 201. We pulled right out, wasting no time. It was a three-hour ride to Bingham and we had two more to get to Rockwood – where we were headed. After a few slippery hills and turns, we arrived at the Grey Ghost Camps in Rockwood, Maine, a great place to stay, nice clean cabins and reasonable rates. The access trail had a groomer parked in it; that is always a plus. The camps are on Moosehead River, which feeds into the lake. There is a power plant up stream and the river is always open, due to the warmer water. It seemed weird to have it below zero and see running water. Chris and his buddies rent a cabin for the whole winter, so he always has a place to hang his hat. We suited up and headed out for a quick ride.

Pine Lodge Hunting Camps trophies

The destination was the old logging trains that had been abandoned out in the Maine Allagash wilderness. We figured we could put down some GPS locations to make the actual finding of the trains on Saturday that much easier. Out we go to do some logging road riding. Here I am at 40, trying to keep up with a dude (Chris), who could be a snow-cross rider, sailing through the powder and drifts. This kid can ride, always in control and to the right. His friend John was with us and was just as good. Remember, we were out on the logging roads laying fresh tracks in 4-6 feet of powder. It was an awesome feeling, that is for sure. These guys have been renting in this area for 15 years, so they know the Rockwood region like the back of their hands. We hit the main trail again, and off we went. We got up around the corner and, well… I guess you will have to wait ‘til Part 2 to hear the rest.

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