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CLOSE-UP ON RANGELEY, MAINE

Land of lakes

Region's year-round fun is no longer just for hunters and fisherman

Email|Print| Text size + By Diane Daniel
Globe Correspondent / November 28, 2007

Thanks to its location far from Interstate highways and sizable cities, this little town in western Maine has stayed much the same for decades. The biggest news in the past couple of years has been about the expanded and relocated IGA supermarket, the addition of a Thai restaurant, and a new ski lodge at Saddleback Maine. The region known as Rangeley Lakes has 110 lakes, ponds, and streams, and it includes the small village of Oquossoc 7 miles west. Surrounded by mountains, the area is largely undeveloped, though more and more houses are being built along winding dirt roads in the woods. While Rangeley became legendary as a hunting and fishing mecca, now it attracts nature lovers year-round.

Rest

If you want to stay "downtown," you can't beat The Rangeley Inn and Motor Lodge (2443 Main St., 800-666-3687, rangeleyinn.com). This landmark hotel (an inn of some sort has been on this site since 1877) with 52 nicely appointed rooms, some overlooking a pond, anchors the town. If you don't stay there, at least pop by the lobby, dating to 1908, and view its wonderful collection of historical photos. About a half mile off Main Street lies the newly renovated Pleasant Street Inn Bed & Breakfast (104 Pleasant St., 207-864-5916, pleasantstreetinnbb.com). The wireless-connected inn features five guest rooms in a quiet residential setting, with two sitting rooms, a front porch, an outdoor patio, and enough space to park your boat or snowmobile trailer. Loon Lodge (16 Pickford Road, 207-864-5666, loonlodgeme.com) sits on Rangeley Lake and has a panoramic view of the mountains and lake. Built in 1909 as a private residence, the log cabin structure was renovated in 2001. In Oquossoc is Bald Mountain Camps (Bald Mountain Road, 207-964-3671, baldmountaincamps.com, open May through September), built as a sporting camp in the late 1800s. One of the region's oldest camps, rustic and charming Bald Mountain sits on the shore of the 16,300-acre Mooselookmeguntic Lake, the state's largest after Moosehead.

Fuel

If you want to rub elbows with the locals, start your day at the B.M.C. Diner (7 Richardson Ave., 207-864-5844) just off Main Street. Open for breakfast and lunch, it serves big biscuits, real hash browns, and juicy burgers. Many Appalachian Trail through-hikers, on their way from Georgia to Mount Katahdin, reach Rangeley in September and head for the Red Onion (2511 Main St., 207-864-5022, redonion5022.com), a Main Street landmark since 1970 that serves pizza, pasta, steak, and seafood. Tasty sandwiches and salads are at Moosely Bagels (2588 Main St., 864-5955), while vegetarians and vegans favor the whole food market Grassroot Naturals (2623 Main St., 207-864-3736). Locals and summer folks heralded the arrival of Thai Blossom Express (2743 Main St., 207-864-9035), mostly a take-out place. No trip would be complete without a stop at Pine Tree Frosty (2459 Main St., 207-864-5894, seasonal hours), the source for two summer favorites: lobster rolls and ice cream.

Spend

Don't let the name scare you away. Ecopelagicon Nature Store (7 Pond St., 207-864-2771, ecopelagicon.com), housed in a pondside building where billy clubs were once made, is a shopper's delight. You'll find gifts, games, music, toys, maps, clothing, and kayaks, as well as regional books. Also on the shelves are works by William Wegman, the photographer (and a summer resident), some even autographed. For more books, music, and a collection of regional art, visit Books, Lines & Thinkers (2513 Main St., 207-864-4355). The Alpine Shop of Rangeley (2504 Main St., 207-864-3741, alpineshoprangeley.com) opened its doors in 1948 and carries gifts, books, and outdoor clothing. Home-decor fans should check out Birchwood Interiors (2497 Main St., 207-864-3500), which specializes in Maine cottage furniture and lodge fabrics. In Oquossoc, River's Edge Sports (Route 4, at the public boat landing, 207-864-5582) on Rangeley Lake carries hunting, fishing, and snowmobiling gear.

Party

Nature lovers have two favorite early-evening activities here: sunset cruising and moose watching. Cruise operators include Dockside Sports Center (2556 Main St., 207-864-2424, docksidesports.com) and Cupsuptic Boat Rentals (207-864-5249, cupsupticcampground.com) in Oquossoc. You can look for moose on your own or hire a guide. Likely spots to find moose are Route 16 from Rangeley to Stratton, Route 4 from Phillips to Rangeley, and Route 17 from Rangeley to Rumford. Guides include Matt Tinker (207-246-5604, mooseman@tds.net) and Rich Gacki (207-864-5136). A list of guides is at maineguides.org. When the lights go down, the upscale crowd downs their pints at the Pour House at The Rangeley Inn (2443 Main St., 800-666-3687), while the flannel-shirt crowd hangs at Sarge's Sports Pub & Grub (2454 Main St., 207-864-5616). The Lakeside Theater (2493 Main St., 207-864-5000, rangeleymovies.com) shows films daily in summer and Friday through Sunday the rest of the year.

Do

For a hawk's-eye view, head for Height of Land, an overlook near the Appalachian Trail that has been called the best view in Maine. Heading south on Route 17 from Oquossoc, your first stop, on the left, should be at the Rangeley Scenic Overlook, then continue south until you reach Height of Land on the right. The Wilhelm Reich Museum, Orgonon (Dodge Pond Road, 207-864-3443, wilhelmreichmuseum.org) is where the Austrian psychiatrist and scientist studied the power of sexual energy in the 1940s. A regional museum worth checking out is the Rangeley Lakes Logging Museum (154 Stratton Road, Route 16, 207-864-5595), open summer weekends and by appointment. Displays include handcrafts, art, and historic logging machinery and tools.

Play

Saddleback Maine (976 Saddleback Mountain Road, 866-918-2225, saddlebackmaine.com) has attracted downhill skiers to Rangeley since 1959. For Nordic skiers, there's Rangeley Lakes Trails Center (524 Saddleback Mountain Road, 207-864-4309, rangeleyxcski.com) with 25 miles of trails. The Rangeley Lakes Snowmobile Club (rangeleysnowmobile.com) maintains more than 150 miles of trails and hosts the annual Snodeo, coming Jan. 24-26. When the weather warms, you can rent bicycles at Seasonal Cycles (2593 Main St., 207-864-2100). Kayaks are available at Ecopelagicon Nature Store (7 Pond St., 207-864-2771, ecopelagicon.com), which also arranges guided tours. Rangeley is an angler's paradise in spring and summer. Fishing supplies, permits, guides and charters can be found at River's Edge Sports (Route 4, at the public boat landing, 207-864-5582) in Oquossoc.

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