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Documentary on The Black Ghost, Detroit's legendary street racer

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The Black Ghost, a 1970 Dodge Challenger 426 Hemi, reached mythical status in Detroit's street racing scene, where it would sporadically appear, blow the doors off the competition, then disappear without warning. This is a great documentary about the vehicle, its owner, and the vintage racing culture. — Read the rest

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kvarley
21 days ago
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15 Ways to Play in the Snow This Year

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While you won’t be able to pile into a gondola with randos or share nachos at the lodge, you’ll still be able to make the most of this season. Whether it’s abiding by Covid-19 protocols at a resort, safely exploring the backcountry, snowmobiling to hot springs, or taking up skate skiing, there’s no shortage of ways to get out there this winter.

1. Get Backcountry Educated

Backcountry skiing near Vermont’s Bolton Valley
Backcountry skiing near Vermont’s Bolton Valley (Photo: Courtesy Bolton Valley)

With built-in social distancing in uncrowded terrain, heading out of bounds will be popular this winter. If you’re trying it for the first time or it’s been a while, signing up for a backcountry safety course is essential. At Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Wyoming, a new backcountry ski camp debuts this winter with two group clinics, slated for January 12 to 15 and February 1 to 4 (from $1,760). The resort’s expert guides will also offer one-on-one clinics on avalanche safety, route selection, and touring skills in the area’s first-rate sidecountry terrain.

At Vermont’s Bolton Valley Resort, 24 miles east of Burlington, you’ll need to purchase a ticket to access its backcountry (from $13), but its beginner-friendly terrain makes it a good place to learn. You can rent touring gear, take a lesson, sign up for a guided group or private tour, and even book one of two backcountry huts. 

If you’re on the West Coast, Alpenglow Expeditions leads everything from sidecountry tours out the gates of Squaw Valley (from $105) to Avalanche 1 courses ($525) to introductory backcountry field days (from $199), where you’ll learn the basics of route planning, avalanche safety, and tips on efficient skinning.

Many backcountry courses will be virtual this winter because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education’s Level 1 course will be taught by both the Apex Mountain School in Vail, Colorado ($565), and the American Alpine Institute in Bellingham, Washington ($435). Classwork can be conducted virtually via Apex’s Flex option, while the AAI will host evening Zoom meetings. On-site field days will be held in the Vail area and the mountains east of Bellingham or Seattle, respectively. 

2. Book Your Own Ski Hill 

In southern Utah’s Tushar Mountains, Eagle Point Resort offers a splurge-worthy option to rent out the entire ski area for you and a few friends for the day. It’ll cost you $10,000, but includes private access to 650 acres, five lifts, and some excellent tree skiing. For other hills you can have to yourself, check out our list here

3. Ride a Fat Bike

The Fat Bike World Championships at Crested Butte, Colorado
The Fat Bike World Championships at Crested Butte, Colorado (Photo: Petar Dopchev)

From Flagstaff’s Arizona Nordic Village and North Fork Park outside Ogden, Utah, to New Hampshire’s Bretton Woods Nordic Center, many resorts and nordic ski areas are opening up to fat-tire bikes as a way to get more people outside this winter. If you want to rip fresh corduroy on a bike, Colorado’s Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association grooms 22 miles of slopes and the Crested Butte Nordic Center has six miles of trails on local easements for fat biking. In town, the Alpineer rents winter bikes (from $40). For a downhill-only experience, northern Minnesota’s Giants Ridge (day pass from $30) has lift-served fat biking this winter on three select trails totaling three miles, or test your endurance on its 37-mile nordic-trail system ($17), which is also open to fat bikers. 

4. Ski Early…

This winter, Steamboat Ski Resort in Colorado will offer First Tracks lift tickets for those who want to load into the gondola starting at 7:45 A.M. You’ll get access to the Sundown Express, Sunshine, and South Peak lifts 45 minutes before everyone else (from $39).

5. … Or Late

Strap on a super-strength headlamp and take the Ramcharger 8 lift at Montana’s Big Sky Resort. From Wednesday through Saturday, join a private guide starting at 6 P.M. for night skiing, a new offering at the resort (from $425 for up to seven people). You’ll have select runs to yourself as the moon rises over Lone Peak. 

6. Stay in Your Own Hut

A backcountry hut in Oregon
A backcountry hut in Oregon (Photo: Christian Heeb/Cavan Images)

Bunking in a communal-backcountry hut likely won’t fly this winter. So it’s a good thing some are sized just right for a small group and can be booked in their entirety.

In 2018, the Thelma Hut opened in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, just half a mile from Highway 550 south of Red Mountain Pass, and not far from Silverton Mountain. The sleek, solar-powered cabin sleeps eight in separate quarters and can be booked for private groups (from $480) or as part of a guided touring trip with Peak Mountain Guides (from $460 per day, plus the cost of the hut).

In Montana’s Tobacco Root Range, 90 minutes west of Bozeman, the Bell Lake Yurt sleeps eight in a cozy 20-foot retreat set at 8,500 feet. Big Sky Backcountry Guides has exclusive access to 14,000 surrounding acres, which includes everything from low-angle trees to steep couloirs. Book a private, guided, fully catered excursion (from $225 per person), or overnight in the yurt (from $360 per night). Plan a resort day at Bridger Bowl Ski Area (from $35), 70 miles east, after your trip.

Part of the Vermont Huts Association, the tiny 250-square-foot Nulhegan Confluence Hut, located in the state’s Northeast Kingdom and a five-minute walk from the property’s parking area, fits six people in a sleeping loft and downstairs futon (from $80). There’s easy access to snowshoeing and snowmobiling trails, backcountry terrain, and resort skiing at Burke Mountain, 50 minutes away (from $56).

7. Learn How to Winter Camp

Near Heavenly Ski Resort in Northern California, book a guide from Tahoe Jack’s Adventure Authority for an overnight snowshoeing expedition. You’ll hike into the backcountry and set up a base camp. Gear, meal preparation, and just the right amount of instruction are included (from $325). 

Or sign up with the Mountaineers, a Seattle-based organization leading an online winter-camping course in December (from $75), paired with an overnight snowshoeing and camping field trip to Mount Rainier in February.

It may be hard to imagine winter camping within Minnesota’s sprawling Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, but gear sleds and a proper tent setup make it possible to explore the 1.1 million acres without advanced nordic-skiing skills. Sign up for a guided trip with Ely outfitter Piragis Northwoods Company. With a starter package, a guide selects a good spot, helps you haul in your equipment, and sets up camp—all the while teaching you winter-camping skills—and then leaves you for the night (from $250). The next day, you can ice-fish for trout or hit up the area’s extensive cross-country trails. 

8. Snowmobile or Dogsled to Hot Springs

Hot springs in Montana
Hot springs in Montana (Photo: Reese Lassman/Stocksy)

Guides from Idaho’s Brundage Mountain Ski Resort, 116 miles north of Boise, lead snowmobile tours (from $249) to four steaming mineral pools at Burgdorf Hot Springs, which plans to reopen this winter after a long COVID-19 closure. (Check its opening status before you go.) 

In Wyoming, the Teton Tour Company offers a 20-mile guided snowmobile tour in Bridger-Teton National Forest that ends up at Granite Hot Springs, a developed pool enhanced by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1935 (from $275). For a more luxurious experience, the 40-suite Amangani (from $800) in Jackson runs daylong guided snowmobile or dogsled excursions to Granite (from $700 per couple).

Deep in Beaverhead-Deerlodge, Montana’s largest national forest, the 3.6-mile Miner Lake Snowmobile Trail traces along the Lower Miner Lakes to Elkhorn Hot Springs, located four miles north of Maverick Mountain ski resort. Rent your snowmobile in the town of Dillon from Beaverhead Adventures (from $190), which can arrange delivery, and spend the night at one of 12 rustic cabins at the springs (from $80). 

9. Skin Up at a Resort

If it seems counterintuitive to make your own way uphill at a place where chairlifts exist, then consider this: unlike the backcountry, resorts conduct avalanche mitigation, so you can minimize the worry and tour in a safer setting. Also, many resorts allow uphill traffic outside of normal lift operating hours, so you can avoid crowded slopes and squeeze in a lap or two before or after your workday. 

Colorado’s Aspen Snowmass is known for its liberal uphill policies at all four of its mountains. At Snowmass, Highlands, and Buttermilk, you can skin up all day along designated routes marked by orange signs. At Ajax, you have to stick to the early or late shift—before 9 A.M. or after 4:45 P.M.—when the lifts aren’t running. If you opt for dawn patrol, après at the outdoor deck at Bonnie’s, the restaurant located midslope on Aspen Mountain, for coffee and oatmeal pancakes. 

A few other resorts that allow uphill access on designated routes throughout the day: Sugar Bowl in California, Crystal Mountain in Washington, and Sunday River in Maine. Not sure if your local hill allows skinning? The U.S. Ski Mountaineering Association keeps an updated list of resort policies.

10. Book a Private Snowcat for Your Pod

Why not use social distancing as an excuse to splurge on your own private tractor for a day in the backcountry? At Maine’s Sugarloaf Mountain, you can book a private cat Monday through Thursday for up to 12 people to lap the sidecountry terrain on Burnt Mountain (rates unavailable as of press time).

At Homewood Mountain Resort, a family-friendly destination near Tahoe, California, the resort-operated nine-person snowcat takes skiers and riders out the gates and across 750 acres of nearby Ellis Peak for striking views of the lake (from $3,000 for a group). 

11. Take Up Skate Skiing

White Pine Touring, Utah
White Pine Touring, Utah (Photo: Courtesy Sam Rice/White Pine Touring)

You won’t find a more full-body winter workout than skate skiing. But you’ve got to get your technique down to be efficient and smooth, so take a lesson if you’re new to the sport. The outfitter White Pine Touring in Park City, Utah, offers private and group skate-skiing lessons at White Pine Nordic Center, as well as guided outings on cross-country skis along the area’s trails or into the Uinta Mountains (from $50).

Twenty-five miles south of Whiteface Mountain, one of the High Peaks in New York’s Adirondack Mountains, take a private or group skate lesson (from $25) on 34 miles of trails at newly renovated Mount Van Hoevenberg Cross Country Ski Center, and ski to a hut where waffles are served by a crackling fire.

12. Shred at a Backcountry Resort

Imagine a ski area with no chairlifts and no grooming. But there’s avalanche control, pre-set skin tracks, guiding, rental gear, and a base lodge. That’s the idea behind Bluebird Backcountry, which opened last winter for a 14-day trial season with 400 patrolled acres on a ranch north of Kremmling, Colorado, 40 minutes southeast of Steamboat Mountain. Unlike cross-country resorts such as White Grass in West Virginia, Bluebird is all about big vertical. The resort is set to reopen at a new, nearby location on December 24 with 4,200 acres and a broader range of slope angles. Advance reservations are required for non-pass holders, since only 200 skiers and riders are allowed on the mountain each day. New this year, you can park your van or RV in the lot for slopeside lodging (day passes from $50, season passes from $350). 

13. Snowshoe a Frozen River

About six miles south of Lutsen Mountains Ski and Summer Resort, on Minnesota’s North Shore, snowshoeing gets a lot more exciting with the help of frozen waterways. Hike up the ice-shrouded Onion River, whose trail is accessed via the Ray Berglund Wayside, before passing through a canyon lined with towering icicles. Rumor has it the locals ski down the frozen waterfalls, but we recommend sticking to snowshoes. Sawtooth Outfitters, nine miles south from the resort, rents equipment (from $18).

14. Explore the Midwest’s Bounty 

Mountain Bohemia, Michigan
Mountain Bohemia, Michigan (Photo: Courtesy Joey Wallis)

Yes, Michigan has backcountry skiing. What Keweenaw Peninsula lacks in vertical drop it more than makes up for in snowfall, thanks to its northern location on the Upper Peninsula and the surrounding waters of Lake Superior. Here you’ll find short, steep pitches and some of the deepest powder in the Midwest (more than 300 inches fell last year—an amount that rivals Telluride, Colorado, and Park City, Utah). 

Near the tip of Keweenaw is Mount Bohemia (from $85). The resort has 585 acres of ungroomed runs, including short backcountry laps through widely spaced glades and slopes with 900 vertical feet. “The snowpack here has a bunch of moisture, so the snow sticks to everything, and there are tons of features to jump off,” says Collin Rehm, a freesking coach in Jackson Hole who grew up in Michigan and spent four winters skiing the UP. After a day on the slopes, take a soak at the on-mountain Nordic Spa

If you’re looking for more serious Midwestern backcountry, head 107 miles southwest to the hills around Michigan’s Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, which has four cabins ($68) across 60,000 acres that can be strung together for a proper hut-to-hut ski tour.

As for other unexpected backcountry destinations, East Coast skiers should check out newly gladed backcountry zones across New Hampshire and western Maine, including Cooley-Jericho Glade, near Cannon Mountain Ski Resort in the town of Franconia, and the Black and White Glade in Rumford, 72 miles north of Portland. They’re part of a project by Granite Backcountry Alliance, an organization that’s working with private landowners and local conservation groups to develop more of these areas across the two states.

On the West Coast, in a deep-snow winter you can backcountry ski an hour east of Los Angeles. You can summit crests like 10,064-foot Mount San Antonio and 8,985-foot Telegraph Peak right out the gates of Mount Baldy Resort in the San Gabriel Mountains.

15. Party on a Tube

Après-ski dance parties in crowded bars may not be a great idea this winter, but you can still boogie under disco lights—on an inner tube. You’ll find cosmic night-tubing sessions at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows in Northern California, Oregon’s Mount Hood, Colorado’s Keystone, and Pennsylvania’s Camelback

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kvarley
55 days ago
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How ATVs Are Reviving a Forgotten Region of Appalachia

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West Virginia has the highest average elevation of any state east of the Mississippi. That’s not due to the mountains—its tallest peak is still lower than Denver—but the hills that roll out like endless moguls.

More than a century ago, towns rose up in the valleys, built from coal fortunes. In the late 1800s, the city of Bramwell used to boast more millionaires per capita than any place in the country. Its bank was once so flush with cash that its janitor would transport bags of money down the street in a wheelbarrow. Nearby, the city of Bluefield was built next to the world’s richest coal deposit, which became a mini metropolis and earned it the nickname Little New York.

But things have changed. Most of those towns are empty and crumbling now. In Bluefield, the population has dropped by half, to under 10,000, and a quarter of its residents live in poverty. In Bramwell, a few rehabbed mansions share the streets with a largely barren business district and derelict homes that stand as a reminder of what was. In the 1980s, coal companies employed more than 40,000 West Virginians, a number that has since dropped to fewer than 14,000, despite promises from politicians to bring jobs back.

But for the first time in a generation, after many have accepted the fact that coal money isn’t going to come back, optimism has returned to these valley towns. Even with the nation’s economy imploding from the pandemic, some West Virginians finally see a way they could turn things around: ATV tourism.

It’s possible thanks to more than 700 miles of doubletrack trails cut through those endless hills. In the past 20 years, motorcycle and ATV riders have arrived in increasing numbers, and last year the state sold more than 56,000 permits for the Hatfield-McCoy Trails, a professionally managed network amid beautiful old-growth forests. This enterprise helped fuel a West Virginia tourism industry that has experienced a nearly 10 percent growth in two years. Today 45,000 West Virginians work in tourism-related jobs—more than the coal industry employed a generation ago.


It’s perhaps a bit ironic that the Hatfield-McCoy Trails got their start in large part from a man who had no interest in using them.

In 1989, John English didn’t ride ATVs, even though he was director of state government affairs for the national Motorcycle Industry Council. He met up for lunch one day with Leff Moore, now deceased, who was executive director of the West Virginia Recreational Vehicle Association. Moore started talking about the former coal-mine roads. English, now 75, recalled, “A little light came on, and we both started thinking, Gee, how could we maybe take advantage of that?”

A handful of corporations own a large chunk of West Virginia, especially in the southern part of the state, where as much as half of all land is possessed by a few companies. The two men realized that if they could convince the companies of those trails’ tourism potential, they could conceivably develop a network unlike any other in the world.

The companies had sliced trails through virgin hemlock forests more than a century ago to get workers to the mines, often using school buses with jacked-up suspensions and off-road tires. Dave Preston, 63, still recalls bouncing along on gravel roads on his way to work. He’s a third-generation coal miner from Matewan, the West Virginian town memorialized in the 1987 Chris Cooper movie by the same name that documented bloody conflicts between miners and the companies that mistreated them. In 1974, at just 18, Preston went to work in the mines.

“Well, you’re from coal country. It was in your blood. It’s dangerous work. It’s hard work. But it paid good,” Preston said. “The money in the mine was so good, you had school teachers quitting to go work in them.”

Miners would make upward of six figures a year, Preston remembered. But he was laid off in 1983, with the local coal mines nearly exhausted, and he picked up a job at an auto-rebuild shop. “It wasn’t a real good time,” he said. “Nobody likes being unemployed. I kept a job, but it was like a quarter of the money.”

While the pandemic has hit tourism hard, the West Virginia trails have seen a 25 percent increase in the number of people buying permits over last year.
While the pandemic has hit tourism hard, the West Virginia trails have seen a 25 percent increase in the number of people buying permits over last year. (Photo: Eric Barton)

In his downtime, Preston and other former miners began taking their ATVs out to explore the trails they used to ride to work. The affinity for the machines, he said, is something West Virginians have in their blood. You’ll often see people shuttling their kids to school or pulling up to a McDonald’s drive-through on one.

But the problem with the former coal roads becoming recreational trails, English realized back in 1989, was that none of them connected. Mostly, they ended at the mines and offered few scenic destinations.

So in the 1990s, English and the other trail founders set out to change things. They convinced the state legislature to allocate $1.5 million to create an authority that would oversee trail maintenance, sell permits, and take on liability in case anybody got injured. Then they brought in a team from the Bureau of Land Management to suss out how to connect everything into what would become a thousand contiguous miles of trails and draw up the first maps of the network.

Named after the families who once attracted international attention for a blood feud that started over a stolen hog, the Hatfield-McCoy Trails opened in 2000. Nobody had any idea what to expect next, said Jeffrey T. Lusk, executive director of the Hatfield-McCoy Regional Recreation Authority. “We were so concerned,” Lusk said. “We were thinking, Oh my goodness, when we turn this on, is anybody going to come use them?”

That first year, the state sold 5,000 permits (which cost $26.50 for residents and $50 for out-of-state visitors), far more than anyone expected. “In those first few months, we knew we had something. We had something people wanted to do,” Lusk said.

It wouldn’t take long for interest in the trails to turn into a business opportunity for a state that needed it badly.


Cameron Ellis grew up on top of a cleared hillside near the town of Gilbert, West Virginia. His father, grandfather, and great-grandfather had all mined coal in the hill. It dried up before Ellis came along. As a little kid, he knew the family’s land only for what it had once been.

Ellis, 29, was in elementary school when the trails opened, and his family was among the first to see the potential. They added ten primitive campsites to their property in 2002. With no facilities, the campers showered at the town’s community center.

Those first guests were all one demographic: young men traveling in groups. That changed, however, after a shift in the ATV industry that became a big reason for the success of the Hatfield-McCoy Trails. In the early 2000s, ATVs were essentially four-wheel motorcycles, with controls on the handlebars and an open cab. Then the industry switched to a vehicle known as a side-by-side; largely enclosed, it has a car-like steering wheel and pedals. The demographic of the people arriving to the Ellis’s campground soon included families, with dad and mom and the kids all piling into four-seat machines.

The family’s Twin Hollow Campground and Cabins now features 20 primitive tent sites, 43 full-hookup campsites, 11 mountaintop cabins with kitchens and baths, ATV rentals, and a barbecue restaurant. It has welcomed guests from every state in the nation and numerous foreign countries.

“It was nothing but primitive when we first started,” Ellis said, “and we’ve built up to everything we’ve had now. Even just ten years ago, you wouldn’t have thought it would grow into something so large. It’s a lifeline into southern West Virginia now.”

Today the trails are the number-one draw in Mercer County, said Jamie Null, executive director of the local tourism board. Her organization, Visit Mercer County, even bought its own ATV three years ago, outfitting it in green and white and emblazoning it with the county’s name across the door. Null grew up in Princeton, West Virginia, in a family that wasn’t very outdoorsy. But now she takes journalists and politicians on trips across the county in her Polaris General four-seater (and she bought one for her own family). She sees a lot of optimism in the ATV-rental businesses and in hotels like Buffalo Trail Cabins outside Bluefield, which promotes itself as “designed to meet the needs of ATV riders.” 

“As far as me having a crystal ball and saying this could save a town, who can do that?” Null says. “But we have to look at the bigger picture and look at how we can revitalize our towns.”

In the past five years, the trail system has added two new sections, increasing Hatfield-McCoy from 550 to 730 miles and connecting more towns that might benefit from that same kind of economic growth, said Lusk. Last year the trails saw a 12 percent uptick, with 56,258 permits sold, mostly to visitors from out of state.

“It’s a lifeline into southern West Virginia now,” said Cameron Ellis.

Like all tourism-focused industries nowadays, Lusk is undoubtedly concerned with how COVID-19 will affect things, especially considering a good deal of his business happens in early spring. On March 21, the West Virginia governor closed the trails, but that didn’t last long; two months later, the state reopened them, and since then, riders have returned in numbers surpassing 2019 figures. During the closure, the state initiated the Hatfield-McCoy Emergency Relief Lending Program, and Lusk says that, so far, no trail-related businesses have been forced to close.

The biggest challenge currently is a lack of supporting infrastructure. If the trails are to grow, the state needs more hotels, restaurants, and shops to cater to riders. “These towns have the opportunity to reinvent themselves,” Lusk said.


The trails have undoubtedly changed things for Dave Preston, the former coal miner. In 1991, he went back to work underground and continued in the mines until 2013, when they laid him off again. It was then that he heard about a job as an ATV guide. He grew up in a family that “knew how to eat off the land,” and taking tourists out into the woods now is something that makes him proud, able to show off the countryside where he was raised. “It’s my cup of tea,” he said. “I grew up in the outdoors.”

While some might look down on motor-powered ATV recreation on public lands, Preston explains that the vehicles are the only way to access terrain that few would otherwise see. The trails are officially multi-use, but they are far too muddy in the winter and spring and too dusty in the summer for other modes of transportation. Even fat-tire bikes would get bogged down in the ruts or struggle on the inclines, and all of it would be laborious for hikers or horses.

On a trip into the woods of Mercer County earlier this year, Preston bombed through mud pits and maneuvered knobby wheels through ruts running with mud. His machine seemed unstoppable, and it easily forged up steep inclines, charged over exposed rocks, and blasted down hillsides.

He took a couple zooms through a mud pit for photos. Then he made a precipitous descent, followed the trail on a 90-degree turn, and stopped next to a near vertical hillside. Tucked between the roots of trees, he pointed out a cave the size of a kitchen window. A century ago, miners had drilled there to reach a small cut of coal. Preston picked up a chunk of black rock they left behind; a streak of soot remained on his fingers after he tossed it back.

On the way out, the trail passed by a graveyard miles from anything, just perched atop a bald nob. Preston explained that his ancestors used to bury their dead out here in unofficial graves found along these trails, markers to a civilization that’s moved on.

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67 days ago
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The 7 Best Practices of a Good Editorial Experience

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The success of a CMS project ultimately depends upon the content it contains. No matter how “on-time” or “under-budget” a project might be, editors have to be able to create and manage content, and they need to be able to do it without feeling the need to pull their own hair out.

If editors on your team do not like the editorial experience, disillusionment will begin to set in, and that disillusionment can cascade throughout your organization. Remember, your editors are likely the most prolific users of your website. If they don’t like it, your CMS implementation is headed for the scrapheap.

How do you balance ease-of-use with the constraints of your design system? Are there common things that can be done that ensure editors have a good experience? And how do we define “good?”

What is “good?”

For this article, we’ll use the following standard: A good editorial experience is one that allows an editor to add content in accordance with the organization’s goals with minimal frustration. If there are strict standards and safeguards in place, an editor still feels empowered and does not feel the desire to circumvent these safeguards.

We are not shooting for a perfect editorial experience. That will never exist. This is still software we are talking about. It has to conform to a lot of requirements, and many of those requirements will conflict. But we want to be careful to ensure that we don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good, and the standard above allows for some compromises and tradeoffs.

You will also notice that this standard means that what is “good” can differ from organization to organization. Content goals vary, the preferences of editorial teams vary, and so we need to allow for some subjectivity.

But there are still some baseline commonalities we can recognize.

We want to be careful to ensure that we don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good.

Common best practices

What are some best practices that apply to any CMS and organization? These are good anchors to start with because, if you have these, it’s harder to get distracted by shiny new tools and approaches.

1. Consistency

Jumping from editing one content type to another should carry some familiarity. As much as possible should be the same from form to form, down to colors and font sizes. This gives editors less they have to think about, which results in less confusion.

Different fields and options might exist, but give editors some anchor points, so they don’t get lost. For example, have common fields, like Title and Author, appear in the same place on all forms that have them.

Do not have multiple ways to include images or videos. Do not have one text field that allows direct embedding of an img tag but another that only allows a special embed code. This is a recipe for frustration. Choose one way to do it, and stick with it, and if it needs to change, apply the change consistently.

2. Clear, relevant labeling

Fields should be labeled, and additional helper text should provide relevant context. This seems obvious, but sometimes it is so obvious that you can forget to pay attention to it. Often this text is written and placed by developers, and so they bring their own bias and context, and what they put in is, at best, unhelpful and sometimes downright confusing.

Helper text should make sense to editors and use the language they are familiar with. It should explain things in a way so they can predict the results of their actions.

Bad helper text: “This is an image field.”

Good helper text: “An image that will be displayed at the top of the article and be shown when the article is in a list. The minimum size is 1000x600.”

Bad helper text: “The categories this article belongs to.”

Good helper text: “Add links to one or more category pages. If you input 'apples, oranges,’ links to 'mysite/apples' and 'mysite/oranges' will automatically be displayed on the article, and this article will be included in the lists on those pages.

Keep things contextual, not just factual. Editors usually don’t care about technical details, but they do care about the hierarchy of the page and the effects on the site that they can see.

This is a place where usability tests can really help. Run them to find places where people are getting confused and craft text that addresses their questions and uncertainty. Make an intentional effort.

3. Make the right things easy and the wrong things hard

Your experience should be designed to encourage your editors to do the right things.

One common example: should all images embedded within content have “alt” text? (The answer to that is yes). Make “alt” text required for every image so the content cannot be saved unless it is filled in. For background images, they should have empty alt text so screen readers will skip over them, so just don’t show an alt text field for those and let your CMS handle putting in the empty attribute.

Should each update to content create a new revision so changes can be rolled back? If so, that should be easy to do. Make it hard for someone to mess this up: don’t even show them the option.

Don’t make onerous formatting requirements that editors have to ensure themselves. Make proper formatting easy.

Have you ever been frustrated by an online form that requires you to enter a phone number with exact spacing and parentheses and offers no help? It's like trying to put a puzzle together, but all the pieces are flipped to the side with no picture, and that’s an extra cognitive load your editors don’t need.

4. Clear, obvious error handling

If an editor does something wrong, don’t be coy. Don’t leave them guessing. State the error clearly and be specific, making the message hard to miss. Ideally, the error will show up next to the problem in question, though this isn’t always possible to do. Clarity is the most important.

Bad error message: “An error has occurred.”

Better error message: “The ‘summary’ field allows a maximum of 160 characters.”

Error messages should make it obvious that something went wrong, and some colors communicate “wrong” more than others. Therefore, don’t highlight errors in green. Also, take into consideration editors who might be color blind or have other visual impairments, so do not rely on color alone to signify an error.

5. Simplify to necessity

Plan and design for the 80%. Do not have lots of fields and options that most editors will never use. Do your best to slim down the experience to only what is necessary. Do not, in other words, present your editors with a form that includes everything, even the kitchen sink.

What about the other 20%?

Once you have figured out what that 20% actually is, a process driven by your business goals and not by what people think they want, accommodate the need.

For example, only a small number of your articles might have a Featured Video, so most editors will not use it. That field should not clutter their experience. But video is still important, so certain editors should be able to find it and use it with no trouble.

This can be accomplished via permission management. If only some editors need the field, you can hide the field from others by denying them access. 

If all editors need access, just sporadically, the Featured Video field could be moved under a tab labeled “Advanced” or to a sidebar labeled “Add Video.” The fields are there, but they do not distract from the main editorial path.

Long, confusing forms sometimes result from a single content type being responsible for lots of different contexts and page designs. An “article” might be used for a blog post, a news release, a video post with a transcript, and a podcast. This requires lots of fields to take into account the different uses. 

But this heightens the risk of confusion and burnout.

Sometimes, simplifying will mean revisiting your content model and having distinct content types for each audience and/or presentation. 

Having sensible defaults also helps simplify things. Default to what the 80% needs, but make it easy for the 20% to change that default.

6. Easy wayfinding

Good navigation and architecture aren’t helpful only for your site visitors. Your editors would also appreciate not feeling lost when they need to edit a specific page or content block.

Pay attention to the organization on the administration side. Are your editors forced to use your normal site search, the one for visitors, to find the content they need? Maybe that’s fine. If it isn’t, though, have you provided a good alternative?

Some of this depends on how big your editorial team is and how they work. If a team is responsible for a few categories, make it easy to filter by their categories. If you have a system of revision approval, make sure the process is clear and that the next steps are easy to figure out.

Inline editing can be helpful here, but it can also be overrated and difficult to integrate with certain workflows. As long as an editor has a clear path to get where they need to go, that is often enough.

7. Avoid busywork

Don’t enforce things “just because.” Don’t require editors to fill out fields that are not really required for any business logic.

For example, some systems have a revision log field that is required whenever content is updated. This can be helpful for large teams, but sometimes, the only person who ever reads those revision logs is the ghost who lives in the server. AKA “no one.” 

Don’t make your editors fill out stuff that nobody cares about. There might be legal requirements for you to store information, and in that case, someone obviously needs to care about it. The question then becomes: how do I make the process better?

Likewise, do not make every piece of content go through a five-step approval process if only one person needs to give approval. Do what is necessary to ensure standards are met, but having faith and trust in your team is better than arbitrary safeguards.

Path through grass going around barrier

Drupal-specific tools to help

Drupal has a lot of functionality, out of the box, that will help you deliver a good editorial experience, like places for form element helper text, requiring alt text on images, good form validation, and the ability to set default values. 

Drupal core also gives you the ability to have different “form displays” for each content type, though taking advantage of them requires a bit more work.

Text formats and WYSIWYG

Drupal comes with a robust text format system, and editors can have access to different formats based on their permission level. Take advantage of these. Do not leave extra buttons on the WYSIWYG editor that no one uses. Keep it simple.

The Drupal text format settings toolbar

Contextual links

Drupal includes drop-down links for privileged users at various places on a site, allowing editors to easily jump to the edit form of a block or content type. Additional links can be defined with custom modules.

If you are creating listings with Views, Drupal provides a way to add contextual links to each result that is shown. This can be an easy win.

Drupal contextual links in action

Shortcuts

Drupal comes with a shortcut menu that each editor can easily access. You can set up permissions in a way for editors to choose their own shortcut set, giving them some say in their own experience. Set up some sensible defaults for the most common tasks, and let them tweak. 

This is simple in concept but can go a long way in improving the overall experience.

Drupal shortcuts menu

Inline Form Errors

This module is included in Core but is disabled by default. When enabled, error messages are placed next to the relevant form elements themselves instead of just as a summary at the top of the form.

Contrib extras to help you craft a good editorial experience

There are other tools and groups of modules you should pay attention to when building an editorial experience in Drupal. Using them does not guarantee a good experience, but they can make it easier to achieve one.

  • Field Group - Perfect for simplifying your forms and hiding less-used fields. A great tool for catering toward the 80%. If you end up grouping fields according to a specific pattern(field type, whether a field is required, frequency of use,) stay consistent from content type to content type.
  • Field Permissions - Another way to limit and simplify your forms, but with more explicitness. Useful for larger teams with a hierarchy of editors where access to some fields need to be enforced beyond just moving them around visually.
  • Entity Browser - A widget for entity reference fields, this allows more user-friendly selection beyond simple autocomplete. If set up correctly, it also allows inline creation of other entities before they are referenced. This can drastically improve the usability for editors. However, it depends on good practices and discipline for field naming and descriptions, so you cannot ignore the basics.
  • Embed - You can also set up easy embedding for custom elements and structured data, tying them to a button on the WYSIWYG.
  • Entity Embed - Integrates with Embed to trigger Entity Browsers to enable embedding in text fields.  It’s easy to go overboard with this module and cause more confusion, so be intentional about what you use it for.
  • Inline Entity Form - Another widget for entity reference fields. Good for creating content to reference. If you don’t need to re-use content and don’t need to search for content to reference, this can work better than Entity Browser in some situations.
  • Allowed Formats - Drupal core allows you to limit text formats by user role, but Allowed Formats will enable you to do it per field. It is very common for a text field to allow only links, for example, enabling you to have the appropriate format selected and all others hidden. This is a great way to make the wrong things harder.
  • Entityqueue - Sometimes, editors need to be able to explicitly define the order of content on a page and not depend upon things like a published date or other metadata. This makes it easy for them to reference content and order it how they wish.
  • Automatic Entity Label - Used for content that is only referenced by other content, so editors do not have to worry about creating labels. This can help avoid some busywork.
  • Override Node Options - Limit access to default fields on nodes. This fills in some gaps from Field Permissions.
  • Chosen and Select2 - If you have long select lists, either of these can make them more usable.
  • Linkit - If your editors link to lots of internal content and files, this module makes it easier to perform those tasks.
  • Require on Publish - Sometimes there are fields that editors do not want to fill out until content is actually published, and they just want to save their work or view a preview. This has provided a huge boost in usability for some editorial teams.

When editors are happy…

There is no such thing as a perfect editorial experience, but you can provide a good one that will keep your editors happy and help them avoid frustration. Don’t ignore the most prolific users of your website.

If your editors are happy, it is much more likely that your business objectives will be met, there will be less turnover and burnout, and your CMS has a better chance of sticking around for a while.

At Lullabot, we have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of CMS experiences. Part of our work in design and strategy is to figure out how to empower your editors and not leave them behind. And we would love to help you. Reach out if you have any questions

 

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kvarley
70 days ago
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Long Links

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This is the fifth “Long Links” episode, a monthly curation of good long-form essays from around the Internet that nobody who (unlike me) has an actual job has time to read all of. A glance through this might turn up one or two pieces that would reward even a busy person’s time.

[Geeks only.] Microservices — architecture nihilism in minimalism’s clothes, by Vasco Figueira, comes with a provocative title and really a whole lot of different angles on the problem. I certainly don’t agree with all of his conclusions, but some of the angles are new to me and I suspect would be to others as well. At AWS it’s sort of written in the stars that all of the services have microservices inside: control plane vs data plane, stateless vs stateful, serverless vs serverful, etc. Good stuff.

The Niskanen Center presents itself as the natural home of that highly-endangered species, the American centrist. Faster Growth, Fairer Growth their manifesto and is really long, verging on book-length — no, even I haven’t read all of it. The parts I have read are sensible, logical, and sound to me like what rational Republicans would probably say (there aren’t any of those, current Republicans are just the embodiment of Trump, no more and no less). Obviously, I would come down considerably to the left of this viewpoint — for example, there’s nothing about applying criminal sanctions to business miscreants, nor about directly strengthening working-class power. On top of which, I don’t believe that GDP growth is the best, or even a very useful, measure of the goodness of an economy. But still, if the Republicans ever manage to get clear of the Trump toxins, these are the pathways they should be investigating.

And now for something completely different: Grapefruit Is One of the Weirdest Fruits on the Planet. There’s lots to learn about the citrus-fruit family tree, where the name “grapefruit” came from, and the bizarre way this delicious package of flavor interacts with your digestive system and (potentially dangerously) with whatever prescription you might be on.

Yanis Varoufakis was a wildly controversial Greek Minister of Finance, when Greece started digging out from its entirely-insupportable public-debt load. He tried defying the European financial establishment and got squashed like a bug. He’s an interesting guy, and Capitalism isn’t working. Here’s an alternative is an interesting piece. Here are the first two paragraphs:

When Margaret Thatcher coined “Tina” – her 1980s dictum that “There is no alternative” – I was incensed because, deep down, I felt she had a point: the left had neither a credible nor a desirable alternative to capitalism.

Leftists excel at pinpointing what is wrong with capitalism. We wax lyrical about the possibility of some “other” world in which one contributes according to one’s capacities and obtains according to one’s needs. But, when pushed to describe a fully fledged alternative to contemporary capitalism, for many decades we have oscillated between the ugly (a Soviet-like barracks socialism) and the tired (a social democracy that financialised globalisation has rendered infeasible).

That certainly grabbed my attention. This piece doesn’t actually lay out his alternative, it lays out a few very interesting highlights, and plugs his book Another Now. Which worked; it’s now in my to-read queue.

Back in 2018, Benedict Evans asked Is Tesla disruptive?, a question which is increasingly material as Tesla’s valuation balloons to increasingly intergalactic levels. His answer is mostly in the negative. I find this easy to believe, because I drive a modern electric car (a Jaguar I-Pace) which shipped in late 2018 and which I wouldn’t trade for any currently-shipping Tesla. So maybe I’m prejudiced. But I sure wouldn’t be buying any Tesla shares right now.

You’ll be reading this right around the week of the 2020 American election. Suppose it pans out as the election modelers predict, with a well-deserved defeat for Trump specifically and Republicans in general. A question then arises, captured nicely in the title of Brian Beutler’s recent piece on Crooked (a site I haven’t previously encountered): What to Do About GOP Bad Faith After Trump. A large proportion of viewers of US politics have come to conclusion that American conservatism is without truth, without honor, and without decency, and if there is any concern for justice, must be made to pay a price. Beutler doesn’t offer a lot of what-to-do specifics, he simply makes the case that a possible future Democratic majority should stop treating Republicans as good-faith adversaries or decent people, because they are neither.

Just because you can’t pretend that 2020 Republicans as principled or intelligent conservatives doesn’t mean that such things can’t exist. Government Of, By, and For the Elite is a discussion between J.D. Vance and Chris Arnade, Arnade’s politics don’t fall into any neat bucket but Vance is definitely conservative, and while he does suck at the teat of the right-wing noise machine, is not self-evidently corrupt and malevolent. I’m not going to try to summarize their discussion but here’s a nice out-take from Vance, describing the whole US political establishment as “a uni-party that governs culturally a little bit to the left of the American people and economically very much to the right of the American people.”

Now let’s take a quick hop across the Pacific for Victor H. Mair’s How to Forget Your Mother Tongue and Remember Your National Language, which is mostly about the fact that Taiwanese, spoken at home by many in that nation, has no written form. While I’m not equipped to understand many of his points about Han ideographics, I am interested in the intersection between language and culture and I think this would be interesting to most who share those interests. Being Putonghua-literate would increase the chances of finding this fascinating.

As a long-time skeptic concerning Bitcoin in particular and blockchain in general, I always like a good anti-blockchain rant, because, to my amazement, there still seem to be people out there who see it as The Future Of Everything. Jesse Frederik’s Blockchain, the amazing solution for almost nothing is a useful refresher course on the claims of the blockchainers and why they’re almost certainly wrong. On top of which, it’s readable and entertaining.

Back to the Niskanen center, where we find Philip K. Verleger’s The Energy Transition: How Fast?, which dives deep on a single argument advanced by defenders of the high-carbon status quo in the energy economy: That the transition to renewables is going to be slow because of the heavy existing investments in fossil-fuel infrastructure. This argument is ridiculous (uh, “sunk costs”, anyone?) and Verleger dunks on it in elegant, evidence-based style.

One of the central problems of our era is the profusion of falsehood, with the Internet serving as a global-scale lie amplifier. I think anything that promises to mitigate this awfulness, even a little bit, deserves serious attention. Amy Yee’s To Recognize Misinformation in Media, Teach a Generation While It’s Young makes a strong case that spotting lies is a skill that can be taught to young people. Let’s do that! She links to Exploring Media Literacy Education as a Tool for Mitigating Truth Decay, a useful RAND report on the subject.

From back in July in New York magazine, David Shor’s Unified Theory of American Politics is a hell of a read. Mr Shor has a whole lot of smart things to say about how American voters vote and what, specifically, the Democratic party should be and do.

Wired addresses another subject close to my heart in Ad Tech Could Be the Next Internet Bubble. Subtitle: “The scariest thing about microtargeted ads is that they just don’t work.” If you care at all about the Internet economy, that should be enough to grab 100% of your attention. The article focuses on a book by Tim Hwang, Subprime Attention Crisis: Advertising and the Time Bomb at the Heart of the Internet (Amazon affiliate link, feel free to buy elsewhere). Think I’m gonna have to read that.

Let’s finish on an upbeat note. Stephen O’Grady is a really smart industry analyst, whose analysis work seems to have followed me around over the years, which is to say the stuff he’s mostly written about at any one time seemed to be the area I was working in. I’ve hoisted a few beers with him and enjoyed a lot of his writing. Much to everyone’s surprise, he has now published This is the Way, fifty pieces of advice on what a good life is and how to live it. It’s exquisite. Go read it.

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kvarley
80 days ago
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A Local's Guide to Maine's Katahdin Region

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Even if you’ve never set foot in New England, you probably know Katahdin by its reputation: Maine’s highest peak, the storied terminus of the Appalachian Trail, the spot where Thoreau had his melodramatic wilderness epiphany. You might not know that a hiker can’t simply show up at a trailhead there and start hoofing it up the mountain. Or that Katahdin isn’t found, as some reasonably assume, at Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, designated amid some controversy in 2016. (It’s next door.) You almost certainly wouldn’t recognize the names of the other neighboring parks and preserves—each administered by a different outfit and governed by different rules—that together make the Katahdin region arguably the East Coast’s finest wilderness-recreation bloc.

And so, a primer. The patchwork management of Maine’s wild and woolly north woods can be confusing for a first-time visitor. Here’s what a would-be Thoreau needs to know.

Baxter State Park

baxter-state-park-maine_h
(Photo: Cody Barry)

What’s there: Mile-high Katahdin, for one. More than a half-dozen intersecting trails reach its summit, Baxter Peak, with most of them falling in the alpine zone for miles and requiring some scrambling or climbing on iron rungs. AT thru-hikers start or finish their trek on the mountain’s western slope, but the showstopper is the eastern approach called the Knife Edge, a boulder-strewn ridge walk of just over a mile where the mountain’s spine is sometimes all of three feet wide with a 2,000-foot drop on either side. Less exhilarating but equally sublime is Chimney Pond, tucked into a cirque on the mountain’s north side, near a cluster of coveted backcountry lean-tos

But there’s more to Baxter than Katahdin. The 330-square-mile wilderness park encompasses more than 40 mountain peaks, backcountry ponds full of native brook trout, and a handful of idyllic cabins and campgrounds—all accessed by one gravel road and some 220 miles of trail. One of Maine’s most underrated hikes is the Traveler Mountain Loop, near the park’s north entrance, which stays above treeline for more than half of its 11 miles. The trail ends at Traveler’s 3,551-foot summit, and it has much of Katahdin’s grandeur and a fraction of its foot traffic.

Who runs it: The state, with limitations. Maine’s governor in the early twenties, Percival Baxter, wanted the state to acquire and protect Katahdin and its surroundings. His initiative failed, but after leaving office he spent 30 years buying the land and deeding it to the people of Maine. So while Baxter is a state park in name, it exists outside of Maine’s park system, legally bound by deeds forbidding anything that might intrude on its unique character.

Getting in: Entrance is free if you’re in a car with Maine plates; otherwise it’s $15. Things get tricky if you want to hike Katahdin. Unless you’re waking up inside the park (campsites and cabins book up months in advance), you’ll need a day-use parking reservation—a DUPR, or “dooper,” in Baxter parlance—to claim a space at a Katahdin trailhead. Non-residents can get a DUPR online for $5 starting two weeks before a planned trip. On the morning of your DUPR, you must be at the park’s south entrance by 7 A.M.—at 7:01, your space goes up for grabs to the DUPR-less hopefuls who often hover outside the gate. Once the park admits enough cars to fill the trailhead lots, Katahdin has reached capacity and you’re looking for an alternate hike.

Know before you go: Baxter has no cell service and no facilities with Wi-Fi. (Or electricity, for that matter.) The entrance gates are within a few miles of campgrounds with stores, but you’ll find nothing for sale inside the park, so come prepared. Pets are forbidden, and kids under six can’t go above treeline—rangers will enforce both rules. Some trails have rather conservative cutoff times, and rangers may turn you around if you’re caught hitting the trail too late in the day. Baxter is a bit of a rule-happy park, and so it pays to read up before heading in. 

What’s nearby: The recovering mill town of Millinocket, an AT trail town where you can gear up at Ole Man’s Gear Shop and eat amazing donuts at the Appalachian Trail Café while admiring thru-hikers’ signatures on the ceiling panels. Lodging in town is mostly budget motels, with a few campgrounds and lodges clustered outside the park entrance, including the sprawling New England Outdoor Center

Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument

Maine North Woods
(Photo: zrfphoto/iStock)

What’s there: Katahdin’s forested foothills, several of them bald-topped, their summits accessed along 30 miles of the International Appalachian Trail. Mountain bikers come for a few dozen miles of old forest roads, and paddlers watch for moose along the East Branch of the Penobscot. The monument also has some of the planet’s best stargazing, as recently certified by the International Dark-Sky Association

Who runs it: The National Park Service, after President Obama’s Interior Department accepted a gift of 87,500 acres from Roxanne Quimby, the Mainer cofounder of Burt’s Bees. 

Getting in: As of yet, the monument has no entrance stations, so there’s no fee. Camping is free, too, available on a first-come, first-serve basis in a handful of primitive sites and lean-tos scattered throughout the park. Katahdin Woods and Waters abuts Baxter to the east, but it’s a wilderness border—you can't enter one park from the other by car. 

Know before you go: As a new NPS unit, the monument is still light on frontcountry attractions, other than a 17-mile scenic driving loop with overlooks and interpretive displays that will tax any lower-clearance vehicle. (As will all the monument’s roads.) There’s no road connecting the monument’s north entrance to its south entrance, and it’s a 90-minute drive between the two on roads outside the park, so seeing the whole place requires some trip planning. There is next to no ranger presence, and, as in Baxter, cell service is nil. Leashed dogs are welcome.

What’s nearby: A rural stretch of Maine, without much for amenities. You can get surprisingly good barbecue at Flatlanders in Patten, then check out a replica 19th-century logging camp at the Patten Lumbermen’s Museum. Near the monument’s north entrance, Mount Chase Lodge is a mellow old sporting camp that serves incredible family-style meals (currently available for takeout only).

Penobscot River Trails

penobscot-river-trails-maine_h
(Photo: Courtesy Penobscot River Trails)

What’s there: Some 16 miles of crushed-stone bike paths (that serve as ski trails in the winter) along the East Branch of the Penobscot River, just south of the national monument. The private park opened just last year, and it’s maybe the most manicured trail system in New England, where bikers still have to watch out for ambling moose and black bears. 

Who runs it: The Butler Conservation Fund, a philanthropic foundation set up by retired finance titan Gilbert Butler, who bought the former timberland and funded construction of the trails and a pair of warming huts that look like small national-park lodges.

Getting in: Park in a lot right off the paved state highway, sign in at a visitor center that may or may not be staffed, and hit the trail. There is no fee. 

Know before you go: Ordinarily, Penobscot River Trails has a fleet of mountain bikes and kayaks (and in the winter, skis and snowshoes) to rent by donation, although the rental program is on hold during the pandemic. No dogs, ebikes, or camping allowed. 

What’s nearby: Not much! Medway, the next town south, has camping, a tackle store, and the rare lobster roll 100 miles inland at Noah’s Ark Food and Ice Cream Cart

Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness Area

debsconeag-lakes-wilderness-area_h
(Photo: Ian Patterson)

What’s there: Some 46,000 nearly roadless acres of lakes and ponds, most of them connected by well-maintained portage trails and dotted with lakefront campsites. Also 15 miles of the Appalachian Trail, some stands of old-growth forest, backcountry ice caves, and so, so many loons.

Who runs it: The Nature Conservancy, which acquired the property in 2002 from Great Northern Paper Company, once Maine’s largest landowner.

Getting in: In contrast to Baxter, Debsconeag is sparsely regulated, with no permits, reservations, or fees. (No dogs are allowed, though.) Campsites are first come, first served and accessible via a handful of trailheads and three carry-in boat launches at the edges of the preserve.

Know before you go: As elsewhere, don’t count on cell service. Mountain bikes are verboten. You’ll want a vehicle with decent clearance to access the boat launches.

What’s nearby: The AT leaves the northeast corner of the Deb right next to the Abol Bridge Campground and Store, a clutch outpost for last-minute tent stakes, fishing flies, and beer, as well as a staging area for northbound thru-hikers about to launch their final push towards Katahdin. It’s also a base camp for whitewater rafting trips on the West Branch of the Penobscot, which separates Debsconeag from neighboring Baxter. 

Beyond the Katahdin Region: the North Maine Woods

Maine North Woods
(Photo: zrfphoto/iStock)

Wait, isn’t it all the north Maine woods? Well yes, but head north or west along the rutted logging roads that spider out from the Katahdin region and sooner or later you’ll reach a gated checkpoint. This is run by North Maine Woods, Inc., which administers recreational access to some 3.5 million acres of forests, mountains, lakes, and streams in the state’s undeveloped northeast corner. Most of the land is owned by commercial timber interests, but there are hundreds of remote campsites, plus a few sporting lodges and housekeeping cabins catering to anglers, hunters, and paddlers. Among other things, North Maine Woods regulates access to the 92-mile Allagash Wilderness Waterway, one of New England’s all-time classic river trips. The Allagash has its own fee structure, but out-of-state visitors elsewhere in the North Maine Woods can expect to pay a $16 entrance fee plus another $15 for each night of camping.

This story was produced in partnership with Down East magazine.

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