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