SKOWHEGAN — Lynda Leonas approached the Skowhegan Outdoors office just after 8 a.m. Sunday, bundled up for the chilly weather but excited for the winter hike ahead.

The Lewiston resident was among three Mainers who joined Skowhegan Outdoors for a snowshoeing excursion to Moxie Falls in West Forks.

Leonas began regularly attending the free outdoor experiences provided by the organization in March 2020, just before the coronavirus pandemic took hold. A member of the Maine Arts Education Association, Leonas and her colleagues often meet for the programs because of its central location.

“It’s a very nice reprieve, because we’re still in school teaching and it’s a hybrid,” Leonas said. “It’s been one of those years where we look for those outlets to keep busy and for healthy activities.”

The Moxie Falls trail is 2 miles long. The first half is mostly flat through a wooded area. Halfway down, visitors cross a wooded road where the trail soon becomes a bit steeper. A set of wooden stairs and boardwalks lead to access of the falls. Moxie Falls itself is a nearly 100-foot waterfall, one of Maine’s highest and most accessible.

The group gathered at the Main Street Skowhegan office before traveling by caravan to the trailhead. Skowhegan Outdoors recreation facilitators, who are AmeriCorps volunteers, provided tips and expertise during the outing, which carried through the afternoon. The trip, like all Skowhegan Outdoors events, was free and attendees were required to follow COVID-19 protocols.

Jennifer Calder of Hampden said she participated in one of Skowhegan Outdoors’ programs over the summer.

“I think the great thing about Maine is you don’t always have to do inside stuff year-round,” Calder said. “We have wonderful things to do outside. I like that these guys actually organize, and you don’t just have to go by yourself.”

Sage Walker, a native Pennsylvanian and AmeriCorps volunteer who now lives in Harmony, said he has lived in Topsham, Newry and Bridgton, and joined the Skowhegan Outdoors team because of the opportunities it offers to the community.

“The thing that stood out to me first was that it’s free community programming, and that’s just very rare to find,” Walker said. “And I was interested in living closer to the north woods because I like to play up there.”

Walker and fellow AmeriCorps volunteers Emily Schachtman and Isabelle Hildesheim said they began their year-long commitment to the program the first week of 2021. Schachtman, a New Jersey native, served previously on an AmeriCorps group with Habitat for Humanity of Philadelphia.

Hildesheim, who scouted out the Moxie Falls trip, is living in Maine for the first time. She has worked for outdoors adventures programs at Roanoke College in Virginia.

“Everyone seems super nice and just excited to get outside with us,” Hildesheim said. “I think they’re excited to get outside in an environment that they feel is safe.”

And that they do.

Skowhegan resident David Richards said he had participated in a handful of Skowhegan Outdoors trips and hiked Moxie Falls before. Richards said he is a member of a handful of hiking groups across the region, and appreciates opportunities for camaraderie. He also values the safety the groups provide, given hiking has an element of danger.

“I like all hikes,” Richards said, “but what’s nice about that hike (Moxie Falls) is you have a natural gem — the waterfall — once you get there.”

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