Sunday, November 9, 2014

Northern Maine: There's Lots of Trees

Part of this blog is about travel, and though that should be focused mainly on the UK in the future, I'm not quite there yet. Since being back in the US I've actually gotten to move around a bit. First I became reacquainted with Portland, and then I spent some time in Connecticut, Hermione and I got to spend a weekend in New York city and Boston and now I've spent the last few weeks up in northern Maine.

As someone who grew up here I took a lot of what Maine is for granted, but it's really unique in quite a few ways. For one, this is really one of the few areas in the developed world that is just so vast and untouched. I had always considered Bangor to pretty much be the last post of civilization when heading north, and one will notice looking on a map that Bangor is barely a third of the way up the state. From there it's another couple hours up I-95 to Houlton which is on the Canadian border. Houlton, where I've spent the last couple weeks, still isn't even really at the top of the state, there is still hours of travel time to get to the far north. in fact looking at a map it seems that nearly half the state, essentially everything to the north-west of I-95 is just a rather massive very sparsely populated mass of trees. In a minimalist kind of way, that mass of nothing but trees can be breathtakingly beautiful.

Just to the Right of the Sun is Mt. Katahdin, Maine's Highest Peak 
One thing about northern Maine is that it's cold. It was only November 2nd and I was wading in 3 foot snow drifts. Now this was record setting early snow fall, but the amount of snow they get up this way and the length of the winters in not to be underestimated. This also brings opportunities for those who enjoy winter sports, and I spent a good chunk of tie this last week wearing snow shoes, the only way to avoid sinking up to my crotch in fresh snow. Aside from snowshoeing through the wilderness one could also do some cross country skiing, snowmobiling, or if quite intrepid some winter camping. One can combine any previously stated mode of transport with winter camping, trekking through the wilderness. I've tried this, and though the sites can be quite amazing I'm really not a big enough fan of the cold to put up with it.

Snowshoes are a needed form of transport when you would otherwise sink over your knees in snow,

Fresh November snows cover the pines in Maine's north woods
Though I didn't get a chance to snap any photos there's also abundant wildlife up this way and even working up in an area with blasting and many large trucks constantly passing through I still managed to see a fair share of animals. I managed to spot a mother moose with a young one, a number of deer, rabbit, hawks, bald eagles, and a number of other bird species and plenty of signs of black bear. Traveling to places like Baxter State Park or Moosehead lake almost guarantee some good animal watching if you know where and when to go. There is also some great chances for hunting if you're into that kind of thing, and deer season just opened last weekend up that way and plenty of hunters were seen out on the trails.

Other options for getting around include riding jeeps, ATVs nad other vehicles down the massive network of old logging rads and ski-mobile trails that crisscross the north woods. Although the truck I was in can get down some fairly tough terrain we swapped over to the above pictured Rhino for when the roads were a bit too small, and a bit too uneven. Although this thing can get over just about anything it did meet it's match and on a mud and snow covered hill and I spent a bunch of time trying to get the back tire out of a two foot deep mud hole. Despite this, getting deep out into the middle of nowhere in a vehicle that can handle the conditions (well most of the time) can be fun and gives you a chance to see some things most people never get out and see,

The towns you stop in aren't going to offer the best food, the accommodations might be over priced and underwhelming, but the people are mostly friendly, good and honest folk that make even the small towns decent enough stop over points while you stage your travel out to other points of interest. All in all Maine's north is a rather unique setting and its rugged landscapes and wildlife make it worth getting up to see.

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