Into the Wilderness… Sort of

1972 Camping at the Grand Canyon

On our honeymoon, starting 50 years ago this month (yes, 50!), my husband and I camped in our VW van named Lurch across the country for six weeks. Climbing the Rockies, our VW did indeed lurch and complain, but made it. For this major anniversary, we decided to do something more than our usual dinner out, to recreate the honeymoon in an “old people” and shorter way.

We live in the Midcoast area of Maine, on a tidal river and near the ocean. It’s hilly but has no real mountains. For this gal who grew up in West Virginia, that occasionally makes me homesick. When we were still teaching, for Columbus Day weekend we used to go Lurch camping with previous dogs to various mountainous parts of western and northern Maine, a foliage trip. After the VW rusted out, we continued the outings, but rented cabins instead. But we never had time then to go as far north as Mount Katahdin.

So last weekend, we rented a cabin at Mount Chase Lodge on Upper Shin Pond. (Thanks to Mike and Lindsay for a great stay and delicious dinners overlooking the pond.) Except for a few small towns and businesses catering to hikers, ATV riders, and boaters, Katahdin Woods & Waters and the adjacent Baxter State Park are wilderness.

Our cabin at Mt. Chase Lodge. Grill is there to keep the dog on the deck.

So we explored parts of the recently designated Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument next to Baxter State Park, location of Mount Katahdin. We’d be near the mountain, but at this stage of our lives, including senior dog Sasha, we weren’t about to climb any part of it. My husband and some buddies did so years ago, and his tale of the rugged ascent—and descent (in the rain)—made me vow the extent of my hiking would be something like Beech Hill in Rockport. The almost four-hour drive, partly on I-95, took us into the mountains of northern Maine.

Map of Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument in dark green

We parked on Ash Hill in Patten to eat our packed lunch and take photos of Mount Katahdin in the distance. Brief commercial for Mount Katahdin: The name is derived from an Abenaki Indian word meaning “main mountain.” This, the highest point in Maine at 5,268 feet, consists of various rugged summits, and marks the northern end of the Appalachian Trail. Main mountain indeed, its impressive height and breadth dominate the landscape.

Mt. Katahdin in distance

Then we visited the Patten Lumbermen’s Museum. The friendly manager showed us a

Patten Lumbermen’s Museum

video of the way logging northern Maine was done as recently as 1976—without machinery. In the winters, men lived in logging camps and felled and sawed trees with hand saws. Logs were hauled by teams of draft horses and then floated down the Penobscot River when the ice thawed. A harsh life for cents a day, paid at the end of the season. You can imagine how some of these men released from the harshness of a Maine winter in the woods spent their wages. Telling the story of logging were several buildings containing horse-drawn logging sleds and tools for cutting and hauling lumber. My husband was fascinated by the tools, primitive tractors, and the Lombard log hauler, a giant machine powered by steam and later gasoline. Alas, I failed to photograph the various tools and machinery. But here are more of the lumbermen themselves.

Maine logging camp

Loggers on the river

But on to our cabin in the woods and KW&W. On Saturday and Sunday, we drove to trailheads and walked some trails. I can’t say it was actual hiking because it was mostly flat

Easy hike with Sasha

or easy hills. But my Fitbit told me it was worthwhile steps! Sasha would’ve kept going  despite her age, but we saw her flagging that first day and left her at the cabin the second. She’s sweet but too heavy to carry. The views were lovely, as were those at the pond and the lodge. We picnicked along one of the many streams. Back at Mount Chase Lodge, we launched one of their several canoes and paddled Upper Shin Pond.


I’ll leave you with more photos. They tell the story better than words.

Duck and 4 ducklings on Upper Shin Pond

Pic from our canoe ride on Upper Shin Pond

Mount Chase Lodge taken from the pond













Hiking with mountain view







About susanvaughan

Susan Vaughan loves writing romantic suspense because it throws the hero and heroine together under extraordinary circumstances and pits them against a clever villain. Her books have won the Golden Leaf, More Than Magic, and Write Touch Readers’ Award and been a finalist for the Booksellers’ Best and Daphne du Maurier awards. A former teacher, she’s a West Virginia native, but she and her husband have lived in the Mid-Coast area of Maine for many years. Her latest release is GENUINE FAKE, a stand-alone book in the Devlin Security Force series. Find her at or on Facebook as Susan H. Vaughan or on Twitter @SHVaughan.
This entry was posted in Susan's posts and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Into the Wilderness… Sort of

  1. Rosrmary says:

    How wonderful a trip. My sister and I lived in Patten as children and my dad had been a lumberjack and then ran the mill there in town. We knew the Rogers who started the museum. She and I went back there a few years ago and so much was still the same. I actually wrote my high school history paper about Maine lumbering, and still have my Dads PV stick for rolling logs. Thanks for the memories.

    • susanvaughan says:

      Rosemary, thanks so much for the comment. How terrific to have that connection to the historic past in that area. If I’d lived there, I’d have done that history paper too.

  2. John Clark says:

    Great country up there. Beth and I were up in that part of Maine over Memorial Day weekend, saw tons of birds and rescued two turtles, never saw anything bigger. On the way home, I joked that we’d see a moose when we got home. The next morning, there were moose tracks through our backyard garden.

  3. maggierobinsonwriter says:

    Happy Anniversary! My husband climbed Katahdin as a Boy Scout and said never again, LOL. So glad you had a beautiful trip!

  4. Brenda Buchanan says:

    Lovely! Thanks for bringing us along, Susan. And Happy Anniversary!

  5. Happy Anniversary! And thanks for taking us along. I still cherish dreams of climbing Katahdin but I think perhaps they are now only dreams!


  6. Autumn Jordon says:

    Happy belated anniversary. I’ve traveled through Maine to Mars Hills in December a number of years ago. Loved it and the people. I’d love to see Maine green. One Day.

    I csn see from patio the bake oven portion of the Appalachian Trail here in PA. I love my mountains and miss them when visiting flatlands, so I know what you mean. Like the beach, but love my mountains.

    Thanks for sharing pics and story.

  7. susanvaughan says:

    Thanks for the anniversary wishes, but it’s not belated. The actual date is tomorrow, but we couldn’t book the cabin for this weekend. Green, my yes, Maine is so green now despite a partial drought. I love my WV mountains like you love yours. Glad you enjoyed the blog.

  8. jselbo says:

    Wow – that has been on my list. – now moving higher

Leave a Reply