Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Venturing Inland to Maine’s Moosehead Lake

There are a few times in your travels when you find someplace you never want to leave.  It’s the kind of place where you pull in and it just feels right.  Soon, you are at the registration desk extending your stay…and again…and again.  When you finally do pull away from that dreamy place you are hit with a huge wind of sadness and unconsciously let out a big sigh of discontent before vowing to return someday. 

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The Birches Resort in Rockwood, Maine was for us that slice of paradise described above.  Our friends Debbie and Pat found the place and were our camping buddies for the week which made our stay all the more enjoyable.  The Birches is perched on Moosehead Lake about 30 minutes north of Greenville in the area collectively called the Maine Highlands.  Greenville is a pretty small town (we’re talking population 1,600) with a few restaurants, a fly fishing shop, a great grocery/outdoor/camping/clothing store and a scattering of interesting attractions (namely a flying moose and 1914 passenger ship offering lake excursions).  The Maine Highlands is known for its outdoor activities and attracts enthusiasts from all over the state and country.  So as much as you may want to sit around The Birches and relax in an Adirondack chair overlooking the lake you will be lured with all there is to do – mountain biking, wilderness Jeep safaris, fly fishing school, kayaking and canoeing, float plane adventures, white water rafting, hunting, snowmobiling, and much more. 

The Birches has a magnificent historic lodge dating back to the 1930’s that is warm and comforting.  The air is filled with smells of wood burning fires, fresh coffee, and salty bacon and sounds of crackling fireplaces, distant quacking waterfowl, and stories from the past.  The sunrises are magnificent, the food comforting, the people genuine, and the atmosphere rustically relaxing.  There are only a handful of campsites (for RV’s and tents) and a bunch of cabins all with great views.  Don’t be expecting to have all your creature comforts of television, wifi, and phone service because they are nonexistent or sketchy at your site.  However, the lodge provides all those services where you can enjoy them by the fire or at the bar.  There is also a full-service restaurant serving three meals a day with delicious comfort food like Thanksgiving turkey dinner, slow roasted prime rib, and French onion soup.

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Our visit coincided with that magical time of the year when chlorophyll has drained from the leaves leaving the eye captivated with the most mesmerizing collage of reds, yellows, and oranges it has ever seen.  There are no pictures, among the hundreds I took, that could do the peak fall colors surrounding Moosehead Lake justice.  Unfortunately, rain dominated the weather forecast during our visit so we had to make the best of the sun when it shown.   When we heard the sun might emerge for part of the day, we decided to take the ferry over to Mt. Kineo for a hike around the island where the mountain top delivered spectacular views of Maine’s fall splendor.  With dogs and lunch in tow we enjoyed a beautiful day of water, woods, wonderful scenery shared with great friends. Mt. Kineo is an 800 foot mountain comprised of rhyolite a material used by the Native Americans to make tools and arrowheads.  Mt. Kineo also attracted notable outdoorsmen like Henry David Thoreau and Theodore Roosevelt. It is no wonder people have been attracted to this area for so long.

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Just down the road from the ferry is one of the area’s most popular attraction – a flying moose.  Legend has it that a 20181009_140553young Native American boy befriended a dying orphaned moose calf.  The boy nursed the calf back to health and they became inseparable friends.  One day the boy and moose were returning from a long expedition in the high country when the mighty Manosak River was raging and a landslide swept them into the turbulent waters.  They were quickly approaching the Devil Waterfalls when just in time the boy grabbed the moose’s antlers and climbed on his back.  The boy pleaded to the spirits of the forest to help them.  The spirits remembered the act of kindness the boy showed to the young moose when he was near death and granted them the power to safely float above the water and descend safely.  Two witnesses said that the moose’s decent was as if it had wings.

In downtown Greenville you will find the Moosehead Marine Museum which delves into the area’s past reminiscing about the logging industry, sporting camps, aviation, and the historic cruise boat the Katahdin. The Katahdin has graced Moosehead Lake since 1914 when the steam ship carried passengers and goods across Moosehead Lake. Today, she has been lovingly restored and her updated diesel engines offer regularly scheduled narrated cruises on the lake.  The three-cruise is a leisurely and informative way to experience the lake.  The boat has two levels with indoor and outdoor seating and plenty of lap blankets for when the weather turns chilly, a cafe, and great views.  We could not have picked a prettier time of the year to be there. Just too bad the skies were grey.

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You may think that Moosehead Lake was named so because of all the moose hanging around. But not true. The Lake got its name from its shape. When Moosehead Lake is viewed from Mount Kineo (on its east-central shore) it supposedly resembles the head of a moose or a crouching moose. On the subject of moose. Yes, there are plenty in the area. In fact, we donned blaze orange on our hikes in the woods because moose hunting season was in full swing. While Betsy and I never saw a moose Pat and Debbie saw a handful during their excursions in the area, including calves.

Just down from the Birches is the Kennebec River which is known for its amazing fishery. The Kennebec’s headwaters are Moosehead Lake which flows some 150 miles to the Atlantic Ocean. I spent my fair share of hours wading the river and casting into the pools and riffles despite the cold and dreary weather. For me, just being in the water with a fly rod was success enough. Of course, landing a beautiful spawning male brook trout would have made things a little more exciting.

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It is always hard for us to leave the Maine coast but this year we carved out time to visit Moosehead Lake and were sure glad we did.  We were all truly sad to leave the Birches and the Moosehead Lake Region. Of all the years we have been coming to Maine this was our first experience there and truly a great one.  Especially, since we got to share it with our friends Pat and Debbie and their black lab, Beau.  So now you know about one of our favorite camping spots.  Shh, don’t tell anyone!  (And P.S. The Birches does have workcampers!)

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