1-minute ski: Dorion Loop Trail in Orono

Difficulty: Easy-moderate. The 2.9-mile loop trail travels over fairly even terrain, passing over gentle hills and crossing a few wide bridges. This trail is good for beginners.

dorionloop0115-9How to get there: Take I-95 Exit 191 to Kelly Road. Drive east on Kelly Road 0.9 mile to Route 2. Turn left and drive 3.1 miles (passing through downtown Orono and crossing a bridge) and turn left onto Rangeley Road (in front of Bangor Savings Bank). Follow Rangeley Road onto the University of Maine campus. At 0.9 mile, you’ll meet Rangeley Road ends at Hilltop Road. Turn right into a large parking lot. Drive to the northeast corner of the parking lot and park.

At the corner of the parking lot, a road leads into the woods and soon reaches Intersection 1 of the Dorion Loop, which crosses the road and is marked with a trail map nailed to a tree. In the winter, you may need to carry your skis until you reach the intersection if there isn’t much snow on the road.

dorionloop0115-2Information: The Dorion Loop Trail is one of the many recreational trails accessible from the University of Maine campus in Orono. The entire trail lies on university-owned land and is open to a variety of recreational activities, including cross-country skiing, dog walking, running and biking.

In the winter, the Dorion Loop is used by cross-country skiers and is about 2.9 miles in length, traveling along the university athletic fields and through the University Forest. In the summer, the loop shortens slightly, following a length of paved recreational trail instead of tracing the fields.

dorionloop0115-7The Dorion Loop Trail is fairly wide in most places and is marked occasionally with blue plastic squares nailed to trees. It intersects with several other recreational trails. Posted at each intersection, a weather-resistant map shows you where you are in the trail system.

If looking to lengthen your workout, the 0.6-mile Otto Farm Loop and the 0.4-mile Athletic Field Loop are connected to the Dorion Loop. Also, at Intersection 3, a connector trail leads to the Cornfield Loop; and at Intersection 4, a connector trail leads to the Pinkham Trails. While signs and maps are posted along these campus trails, I suggest carrying a map.

dorionloop0115-17The University Forests Office of UMaine is responsible for managing 13,000 acres of forestlands owned statewide by UMaine and the University of Maine Foundation. The office also coordinates research activities on the land, and it coordinates with Campus Recreation to manage the land for recreational use.

All trails are multi-use trail; however, motorized vehicles are not permitted. On trail brochures, the university asks that trail users pack out all litter, be courteous and helpful to fellow trail users, stay on marked trails, and avoid seasonal wet areas on the trails.

In the winter, trail users are expected to follow certain trail etiquette. Faster skiers should step around slower skiers when it’s safe to do so. Keep clear of the track when not skiing — for example, when you’re resting or chatting. Also, don’t walk, bike or ride a horse on a groomed ski trail. If you’re snowshoeing on ski trails, stay to the side and do not snowshoe on set classic tracks.

dorionloop0115-5Campus Recreation does not encourage dogs on ski trails, but dogs are not prohibited, according to trail brochures. Pay attention to your dog and keep it on leash, harness or under voice control at all times. Be sure to clean up after your dog and keep it out of the groomed classic ski track.

For information and a map of the trails, visit umaine.edu/campusrecreation/facilities/trails/.

Personal note: For Christmas, my boyfriend Derek and I decided to purchase each other cross-country ski (and the necessary boots and poles), but we decided to wait until January to purchase them in hopes of findinging some post-holiday sales. So we did some research on the types of skis that would fit our needs, and last Saturday, we visited a few stores and got lucky. Both of us found waxless cross-country skis built to fit in tracks but also work well out of tracks on packed snow.

Derek being confronted by a squirrel.

Derek being confronted by a squirrel.

Naturally, we were eager to test out our new gear, so on Sunday, we drove to the University of Maine in Orono and skied the Dorion Loop. Both of us had rented cross-country skis a few times before (you can rent skis and snowshoes right at the MaineBound barn next to the Collins Center of for the Arts on campus), but I would still consider us beginner skiers.

Using my GPS, I mapped the route, which ended up being about 2.9 miles long. After just a few minutes on the trail, the unnatural movement of skiing didn’t seem so awkward, and I noticed that I was gliding a lot more. I also realized I couldn’t stop smiling, especially when I picked up speed. One of the nice things about cross-country skiing and snowshoeing is that

Where I spotted the deer.

Where I spotted the deer. Didn’t get my camera up in time!

they are fairly easy sports to learn. You don’t have to take lessons or be an expert to get out on the trails. If someones faster than you, they can simply go around you.

Though the University Forest is visited often by recreationists, it also seems to be filled with wildlife. The few times I’ve been there, I’ve seen a variety of birds and animals. On this trip, Derek was confronted by a red squirrel that scampered out into the trail and stood in his way for several seconds, staring him down. We also saw some sort of hawk fly from a tree near the trail, and a while later, I spotted the fluffy tails of two deer as they bounded through the forest.

dorionloop0115-16I’d suggest this trail to any skier, beginner or expert. For beginners, it’s wide enough for people to easily pass you if you’re going a bit slow. I’d suggest traveling the trail clockwise to avoid skiing down the steepest hill, which is right by Intersection 1. For experienced skiers, this trail travels through beautiful terrain and leads to a vast network of other trails to explore.

Aislinn Sarnacki

About Aislinn Sarnacki

Aislinn is a Bangor Daily News reporter for the Outdoors pages, focusing on outdoor recreation and Maine wildlife. Visit her main blog at actoutwithaislinn.bangordailynews.com.