Planes Trains and Snowmobiles: Part 2 (Gerry Balchuinas)
Published on Friday, December 18, 2015 in News & Updates, Snowmobile Travel
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As we left last time, we had just gotten out on the trail and were headed around the corner. We were on a nice groomed trail and there was a big bull moose in our way. Yes, I know he was a bull, I personally saw where he made the snow yellow.

The snow was so deep the moose were staying in the trails. It makes their life much easier. We decided to head the other direction, for John knew a different route. We were headed from the Grey Ghost to the site of another ghost, from the days when steam ruled the rails, when men were men, and rarely lived past 60. We were going to find the Eagle Lake and West Branch Railroad in Northern Maine.


We were on this beautiful section of trail, clipping right along when I saw a wheel come flying up over the hood of my sled and into the bushes. I pulled along side Chris Ferramo and signaled him over. Sure enough he had lost a back idler wheel. Just then Ben King pulled up on his sled; it sounded like a lawn mower. “Needs a plug” I said. “I don’t think so,” Ben said. Well, he was right, a snow snake had jumped up and ate a cylinder.

We started the 35-mile trek back to the camp. Ben and I decided to head home on Saturday morning and try again in a couple of weeks. My wife was glad that I could make the birthday party. And so was I!

Two weeks later, after a quick rebuild on Ben’s sled, we were headed back up there. This time my buddies were coming along for the trip. Chris Bigwood along with Derek Anderson and his brother PJ Anderson have been my friends for years. These are the type of guys who help you move, fix your car, listen to your lousy jokes and aren’t afraid to tell you they stink. Guys you can always count on, not really friends, family is a better word.

Snowmobile Kokadjo on Moosehead Lake

Speaking of family, my son Kevin was also along for this trip, on his break from college. It was his first ride up north in two seasons and he was excited.

It was late on Friday, so we decided to head out and do some off-trail riding. We went up to this old lake where Chris F. and his friend John have gone many times. Way off the main trail and not a track on it. No camps, no roads to it, about ¾ mile or so across the ice. We parked and shut off the machines and it was quiet, I mean quiet, no planes, no birds, nothing.

Chris F. fired his sled and started to carve in the powder like you see on the sled videos. There was at least three feet of powder and he was cruising side to side. All of a sudden he was off. He caught a small ice patch or something and off he went. He was OK, a little more embarrassed than anything. I would imagine now that thousands of people are reading about it, he will really be embarrassed.

Chris, Derek, PJ, Kevin and I headed back to Moosehead Lake for it was getting late. Ben, John, and Chris decided to do a few more miles. Ben came back and his sled had broken a spring. He joked, saying we were jinxed staying at a ghost camp and that we would never see the trains. Even though the Grey Ghost camps are named after a fishing fly, I still was wondering. Were we going to ever see the trains?

The next morning was the big day, Ben borrowed John’s sled, for John had to head out. We were on our way. We headed right up the lake to North East Carry. We pulled in to top off with fuel, and there were deer everywhere. If you like to see deer, this is the place for you. Chris had made it to the trains the weekend before, after fixing his sled, so all of the GPS points were set and off we headed to Chesuncook.

Eagle Lake and West Branch Railroad

This place is in the boonies. I mean boonies. Not a town nearby for over 20 miles. All propane lights and generated power. Chris stopped in real quick to order us lunch for the way back.

We were headed the last 15 miles or so to the trains. It’s a neat ride, you hop from lake to lake and the trains are on the side of Eagle Lake. After a few windy, twisty, one-sled trails, you see them. There they are sitting on the edge of the lake just like they were when the woodsmen stopped using them, in the Allagash Wilderness Waterway in Maine.

Eagle Lake and West Branch Railroad

I had been reading about the Eagle Lake and West Branch Railroad and trains for a few years and to finally see them with my son and my best friends, was a great experience. We wandered all around and inside of them marveling at their size. They were almost tipped over until a group of volunteers carried in jacks and timbers to get them upright again.

After many pictures of the old abandoned locomotives, we headed back to Chesuncook LakeHouse and Cabins. It is a picturesque farmhouse on the edge of a huge lake. They raise their own buffalo and that is what was for lunch. The Surprenant family runs this bed and breakfast on the water’s edge and offer home-cooked meals and lodging year-round.

After a great dinner we headed back to the lake to climb Mt. Kineo on Moosehead. After a long climb up a steep trail, we were enjoying some breathtaking views of the lake. I would have to say that this had to be one of my all-time favorites, probably only taking second to the Gaspe in Canada.

I would recommend the B-52 trip to riders of all levels. Easy to find and a place everyone should see. The trains are a great destination. However they aren’t for a beginner or riders with medical problems. The trails past Chesuncook aren’t groomed and get quite bumpy and are very tight and twisty. You will also need good navigation skills for the trails aren’t marked very well. Those big lakes can get very confusing fast.

The trip to Chesuncook can be done with the novice rider, so don’t be afraid of that. The hosts at Chesuncook will advise you of conditions, and what not, before you have to venture out towards the trains. Stop and fuel up at North East Carry and you can make it to the trains and back with a newer sled without worries. There is also fuel available at Chesuncook if you need it.

The climb up Kineo is for very experienced riders only. Once you start there is no backing out and some places will wreck your sled if you lose control. If you want to attempt that climb, the trail is behind the brown camp on the side of the mountain that the Moosehead River comes in. There is a fire tower on the top and the views, as I said, are awesome.

Snowmobile Kokadjo on Moosehead Lake

I would like to thank all of the clubs up in the northern Moosehead area for all of their hard work. It is a great riding area. Don’t forget to stop in at Kokadjo or Pittson Farms when you are up there. Gas and great food at both places. Pittston is another great place for wildlife. You will see deer and maybe be lucky enough to see a gray jay. Just like a blue jay, only totally gray. They also have a great country-style buffet, too. I would like to thank the Grey Ghost Camps for a great stay in a great spot, and also my buddies I have mentioned before, and of course my son Kevin for a great time, and finally beating all the odds and seeing the trains.

We started with a Ghost of a plane to a Ghost of a cabin to a Ghost of time when steam ruled the world. Maybe Ben was right, we were jinxed, but if that was what being jinxed is I don’t want to ever have it any other way.

Read Part 1 of Gerry Balchuinas snowmobile adventure in Northern Maine.

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