Ray and Mary Gruber, in their home in Washburn. Credit: David DiMinno / The Star-Herald

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The 2,300 miles of snowmobile trails in northern Maine were so appealing to one Pennsylvania couple that they decided to move to Aroostook County, and others may follow.

Ray and Mary Gruber first came to Aroostook County as tourists, but the environment, friendly faces and superior snowmobile trails convinced them to live there permanently in November.

The Grubers’ annual trip to Maine with the Blue Mountain Snowmobile Club in Pennsylvania brought them to The County and their association with that club continues to attract new tourism to the area. They are  part of an influx of people who bought property and moved into Aroostook County during the pandemic, bringing with them visitors and business, helping the economy grow.

“I know that the president of the club is coming up in February, and is looking to stay the whole month,” Mary Gruber said. “He would like to buy a place up here, and we have been encouraging him to do so.”

The Grubers were born and raised in Manheim, Pennsylvania. The two met in high school, and settled in the same area after marrying in 1982.

Ray Gruber bought his first of many snowmobiles — an old John Deere —  in 1979. The Grubers joined the Red Rose Snowmobile Club in Manheim, and took snowmobiling trips all over New England. They traveled to Rockwood in Piscataquis County and to Eagle Lake starting in 1992.

They also took some summer vacations in Patten with their children.

They eventually joined the Blue Mountain Snowmobile Club, which took annual trips to Presque Isle.

During one of the Grubers’ visits, Dave Guerrette of Washburn approached them about buying a property in his town. They at first dismissed the idea but when Mary Gruber returned to work in Pennsylvania and had to reinterview for her job, she said it was time for a change.

With all of the positive memories and friends they had made in The County, and after speaking more with Guerrette and seeing the Washburn property, they decided to make the purchase and move to Aroostook.

“I’ve wanted to move here since the first time I went snowmobiling here,” Ray Gruber said. “I knew for some time that I wanted to live here. I fell in love with the state and with the people. The people here are always so helpful.”

This past year, while the couple were waiting for their house to finish being built, Presque Isle Council Chair Kevin Freeman opened up his home to the Grubers for a couple of days. Freeman said that if he were in Pennsylvania, the Grubers would have done the exact same for him.

“I met Ray and his wife Mary when they were staying at the Budget Inn across from the sled shop around two decades ago,” Freeman said. “Something about Ray and Mary was unique and they repeatedly came back into the store for other things, eventually buying a snowmobile from me.”

With the Grubers as year-round residents in Aroostook County, their old club — the Blue Mountain Snowmobile Club — has even more incentive to make its annual voyages to The County, eating in local restaurants, staying in hotels and helping to boost the economy.

“They [Blue Mountain club] will be coming up around Feb. 7,” Ray Gruber said. “They should be up for about 10-12 days staying at the Hospitality Inn.”

Mary Gruber works at the NorthEastland Hotel in Presque Isle, and Ray Gruber works at Dasco, but also has decided to volunteer to groom the trails that drew him to The County in the first place.

“I have felt God leading us here,” Mary Gruber said. “It just felt right, and to leave where we were forever, with the property I grew up on, felt right, and it has not taken long to call this place home.”

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David DiMinno

David grew up in New York, and moved to Maine to study political science at the University of Maine. In his spare time, he loves hiking, playing tennis and skiing.