Sunday, October 10, 2010

Katahdin, Moosehead, Penquis

Woodlands and water have been luring visitors to inland Maine for more than a century. The seemingly endless forests were viewed by timber barons as a source of seemingly endless wealth. They felled the trees to build cities in New England first, and later for lumber-starved Europe, floating the logs downriver to ports such as Bangor. These entrepreneurs were followed by wealthy summer visitors who came to hunt, fish and relax. To serve their needs, industrious Mainers created sporting camps, usually comprised of a main lodge and cabins set on a remote lake. On larger, more accessible lakes, such as Moosehead, resort hotels were built. These in turn attracted more city folk, lured by the promise of clean, cool air and water. And then there were the early naturalists, men such as Henry David Thoreau, who came to see the raw beauty f nature and document it.
Today’s visitors come for many of the same reasons: to escape the heat, stresses and crowds of the city; to rediscover the beauty of nature by hiking, walking and canoeing; and to fish and hunt. The rivers dammed by power companies now provide reliable whitewater for rafting, canoeing and kayaking. The roads built for timber harvesting allow travelers access to remote ponds and stream for fishing and to hiking and camping areas. And many sporting camps have redefined themselves to cater to families. Today, just as a century ago, water, woods and mountains are the big attractions.
Greenville is the gateway to Moosehead Lake. Cruise the lake on the S/S Katahdin, a restored steam vessel and floating museum. Hike to the summit of Mount Kineo for awesome views over the lake. Moose Mania, held every spring, is the best time to see a moose. Local outfitters offer moose safaris by plane, pontoon boat, canoe and even dogsled.
Recreational opportunities abound in this region, from hiking Mount Katahdin, Maine’s tallest peak, to whitewater rafting the Penobscot River. Hike, snowshoe or ski into Gulf Hagas, nicknamed the “Grand Canyon of the East”. Nearby sites such as the Hermitage, an old-growth stand of white pine, and Katahdin Iron Works, the ruins of an 1843 blast furnace and kiln, also invite exploration. Go fly fishing or snowmobiling, cross-country skiing or mountain biking. Visit Baxter State Park, a gift to the people of Maine from Governor Percival Baxter. The Appalachian Trail ends (or starts, depending on your point of view) at Katahdin’s mile-high summit.
Be sure to allow time to visit the historic sites, such as the Maine Forest and Logging Museum, in Bradley, the 1876 Robyville Bridge, the only completely shingled covered bridge in the state, in Corinth, and the remote Ambejejus Boom House. Museums, shopping, fine dining and much more can be found in Bangor, the region’s largest city.

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