Poker Rally supports trail riding

Robert Fogg snowmobile

(Photo courtesy of Muddy River Sno-Seekers)

 

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — Compared to any given weekend this winter, on Saturday there might have been the same number of riders out on the local snowmobile trails that interlace between Casco and Naples.

The difference was the people on their sleds were raising money for the trails beneath their tracks.

Two snowmobile clubs — the Muddy River Sno-Seekers in Naples and the Crooked River Snowmobile Club in Casco — joined forces and held a poker rally to raise money for trail maintenance.

Participants all agreed the trails were surprisingly good despite the two days of rain a few weeks ago. However, everyone that rode in the rally said several more inches of snow would make good trails great, and most sledding enthusiasts were looking forward to the next snowstorm.

Also, club members were on the same page when it came to supporting the cost of trail maintenance through fundraising, and most cannot wait until the next poker rally slated for Saturday, Feb. 22.

“Any snow would make everybody happy,” said Scott Richard, a member of the Sno-Seekers based in Naples.

“The riding wasn’t too awfully bad,” he said, adding that about 20 people showed up for last weekend’s poker rally.

“There was enough snow to ride. We really need another good storm,” Richard said.

Although a little more specific with his details of the perfect storm needed for the snowmobile trail system, Casco resident Gary Drew agreed.

“It’s in really good shape. If we could get another five inches of snow, and then, another five inches — that would be nice,” he said.

January’s poker rally “went alright. There weren’t that many people who came through. I think, because we had all that rain that people don’t realize that the riding is still good,” Drew said.

“We just need a little more snow to make it ideal,” he said.

“The temps were good, it had warmed up some,” he said, adding that allowed people to hang out and enjoy the barbecued meal and hot drinks sold by the Casco club.

Before Saturday’s ride, there had been a “couple inches of snow, which filled in the icy holes a bit,” Drew said.

“We sent the groomers out and loosened up (the ice on) the trail,” he said.

Where the trails were too icy or too bare of snowcover, the snowmobile trail was rerouted slightly to make for safer riding, he said.

“The trails aren’t in that bad of shape,” Drew said.

However, man and machine hours went into keeping those trails up to par, especially after ice storms in both December and January.

“We had the first ice storm in December. We were out quite a bit, clearing limbs and trees to make trails passable,” Drew said.

Then, the same thing happened in January — right after the New Year, he said.

Ray Grant, another member of the Casco club, described the ice storm’s effect on the trails.

“Right around New Year’s, they were really good. Then, we got all that rain and it ate up the snow,” he said.

“We spent hours recutting the bushes back. The hemlock and saplings were lying across the trail, and it was completely blocked,” Grant said.

The Casco club maintains about 40 miles of trails.

According to Drew, “We have these Poker Runs to raise money for the snowmobile clubs.”

“It’s just to support the snowmobile clubs. All of the trail work is voluntary. But, the groomers cost money to repair and to run; and it doesn’t take long to wear them out,” he said.

The fundraising efforts — along with club dues — “helps to keep them (the trails) groomed and cleaned and passable for everyone,” he said.

“That way they have nice riding,” he said.

On Saturday, about a dozen people from Massachusetts participated in the fundraiser ride.

The clubs charge for each poker hand, and people stop at five locations to get their cards. Participants can purchase as many hands as they wish.

Drew said the club provides cash prizes in the spirit of giving back to the people involved.

However, this time the person with the winning hand gave back to the club.

“Yeah, I actually won the hand and donated it back to the club, I kept my registration fee, so I broke even,” said Robert Fogg, with the Naples club.

“The trails were surprisingly good. They weren’t great. I thought they would be terrible, but they were actually decent,” he said.

“The temperatures weren’t bad. Of course, we were dressed for the occasion,” he said.

Fogg said he and his wife participate in the poker rallies “partly because you know the money will help further groom and maintain trails.”

“Of course, we enjoy the camaraderie that goes along with a group ride,” he said.

“If you missed it, you can get on board next time,” he said, referring to the Feb. 22 rally.

Sno-Seekers president Bernie Flood said the poker rally has two purposes: “To support the club and also get out on snowmobiles.”

“They feel more confident in the trail system when a snowmobile club has a poker rally. They know that we wouldn’t do it if the trails were unsafe or in poor condition,” she said.

The upcoming rally will have its end point at the Naples’ clubhouse.

“You can start at either Casco or Naples because it goes around in a loop. It will end at the Naples’ clubhouse. We will offer food for sale,” she said.

We will end it in Naples next month.

Naples Richards encouraged people who ride the area trail system to get involved in the next poker rally.

“Anything we can do to raise money helps,” he said.

“Also, it’s about the sport, and a chance to get out for a day and have some fun,” Richard said.

Drew, with the Crooked River club, had high aspirations for February’s event.

“If we could get 100 people to come to the next one — that would be great. We just need Mother Nature to cooperate with us,” he said.

 

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