How I Spent My Summer Vacation

September 23, 2009

Laura Aden Packer, Arts Program Director

Kennebago River Moose

Common Loon Borestone Mountain

Roots A-Walk-in-the-Woods

My husband, Mark and I returned not too long ago from a glorious two-week vacation in northwestern Maine, where we stayed on a beautiful, pristine body of water with the unlikely name of Mooselookmeguntic Lake. Or perhaps the name is not so improbable as there are more MOOSE per square mile inhabiting this part of the state than human beings. And these animals are both majestic and “giguntic”.

Actually, I have no idea how this lake got its name, but this place is a gateway to an astonishingly beautiful, and vast country of 4,000 foot mountains, enormous lakes, raging rivers and abundant wildlife. The last (or first) section of the Appalachian Trail (AT) winds through the unbroken forests of pine, maple and birch in this area, and encountering “through hikers” (those who attempt to hike the whole length of the trail from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Baxter State Park, Maine) is as likely as seeing those gangly, four-legged creatures.

Maine comprises over 33,200 square miles – almost as big as all the other New England States combined, and most of it is uninhabited. I think most Maine vacationers hug the rugged coast and never venture farther west than Route 1, a few miles way. But oh-my-goodness, if you love the outdoors, want to see a million stars at night, want to hike up a mountain and never encounter another biped all day, sip water from a spring, kayak on expansive, pristine lakes, and breathe crisp, clean air, this is THE place. Maybe it’s one of the last places in the northeast where one can experience what it means to be in a “wilderness.” There are over half a million acres of state and national forests in Maine.  Black bear, deer, fox, bald eagles, trout and salmon abound.  Ahh, Maine. I miss you.

Another ubiquitous animal to habituate this area is the common loon. But take my word for it, there is nothing common about the song of this large, beautiful aquatic bird (click on the “wail” call here) . It produces an eerie and haunting call, mostly at night just as you’re drifting off to sleep, and it can be heard for miles across the open water. I keep a stuffed animal version of the loon in my office that replicates this sound. Other Dodge staffers unabashedly pilfer it from my desk just to give it a squeeze.

When we come to this part of Maine, which Mark has been doing since he was six years old, it’s impossible not to wonder what New Jersey, and all of the mid-Atlantic and northeast region, must have looked like hundreds of years ago.

It also reminds us of the stewardship and awesome responsibility that is required of all of us to preserve what remains of the magnificent forests, woodlands and open space in our own State. My colleague, Michelle, and my best bud, Dee, both tell me there’s a beautiful little stretch of the AT that crosses through northwestern New Jersey. We’re thinking of planning a nice fall hike…any takers?

And I never miss an opportunity to recommend that everyone read one of my absolutely favorite books of all time,  “A Walk in the Woods,” Bill Bryson’s hysterical, laugh-out-loud classic about hiking the Appalachian Trail. For more information on the Appalachian Trail, visit the Appalachian Mountain Club’s website.

First Row
Kennebago River (which we have to kayak down at least twice during our vacation…just awesome); a “giguntic” moose (photo by Betty George)

Second Row
Loon (photo by Chris LaCroix); Borestone Mountain (maintained by the Maine Audubon Society) (one of our favorite mountains to climb)

Third Row
Tree Roots in the Kennebago River (cool, huh?) ; A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson