Standing atop the old stone tower on the summit of Douglas Mountain this week, I was struck by the number of options before me. To the northwest I could spot a handful of Maine’s western mountains, along with the ghost of Mount Washington in the distance. To the east, late-season kayakers paddled on Sebago Lake. Beyond Sebago, cars streamed to Portland and Maine’s coast.

Sometimes we can forget the bounty of options to explore the outdoors in our own backyard.

In the year that my father John and I have been writing for the MaineToday Media, I’ve been thrilled to reconnect with the Maine I explored growing up: the rocky midcoast of my youth, the hulking northwestern mountains and ski resorts of my college years, and the friendly islands and bike paths of my post-collegiate years in southern Maine. More than any other place, Maine’s mountains, ocean, rivers and woodlands make for a playground that is not only varied but open year-round.

The allure isn’t new. More than a century ago, it attracted Thoreau to “Ktaadn” and the northern forests, detailed in “The Maine Woods” in a way that still feels current. Still today, Maine attracts over a million tourists every year. Though most are only summer visitors and some never leave our small cities and towns, many come to explore our backyard.

After a full four seasons — and we had four real Maine seasons in the last 12 months, maybe more — I’ve come away with a new appreciation of the different things Maine men and women do outside. We’ve covered nature preserves and motorcycle routes, ski areas and mountain climbers, short day hikes and longer hauls covering over a dozen miles. We’ve even had the chance to interview some of the conservationists and mapmakers that make the Maine outdoors so accessible.

I grew up with prematurely cynical friends, vowing to leave Maine as soon as possible because there was “nothing to do.” For outdoors lovers, the problem is there are too many things to do, too many places to play, exercise and explore. The 32 state parks, 18 ski areas and thousands of miles of trails to hike and bike offer more options than a staff of 100 outdoors writers could cover in a year.

Though snow has already fallen, it’s not time to start hibernating. Rock gyms around Maine are open for four-season climbers. Maine’s superlative snowmobile network will soon be covered in snow. Many lakes and ponds are weeks from freezing, opening miles and miles of area for ice skaters. It takes more preparation and hot coffee to get out during the winter, but that’s no excuse.

Next week, we will switch back to ski coverage. The schussers are ready, and many New England mountains have started turning the lifts. We hope you’ll continue to join us.

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