About partway through my paddling trip in Maine, I realized the extent to which I had no idea about how to travel in the state. The experience was unlike any other boating adventure I had done so far, and had I not been with locals, I probably would have gotten lost on some back road, run over by a moose, or carried off by a behemoth-like fly. It was a huge learning experience for me, and this post hopefully offers some knowledge and tips I’d like to pass on to those wanting to make the awesome trip themselves.
First and foremost, have good clearance on your vehicle. Most of the roads boaters use
to travel to Maine rivers are either abandoned or still in-use logging roads. FUN FACT: Maine’s main industry is wood/timber products. A lot of these roads are unpaved, full of holes and covered by fairly large rocks. So watch out and drive slowly if you don’t know what you’re doing or hold on for dear life if your driver is from Maine.
Probably want to use multiple cars. The shuttles are not the biggest problem in the world, but remember, it’s Maine. Depending on the river, you might not see another soul on the road or in the area so don’t expect a lift (except maybe the Kennebec). Also, bring a GPS or gazetteer because the roads can be confusing, long and without service for your phone’s navigational system.
MOOSE! During the summer, a teen moose bull is a pretty common sight while driving
the roads in the early evenings. I could barely contain my excitement at seeing these massive, awkward creatures with sprouts of horns on their heads. FUN FACT: Moose are the largest of the deer species. They are deer! Second fun fact: Hitting one with your car is like smashing into a concrete wall that subsequently crashes unbroken on top of you, reducing your car to something akin to Jenga-Game-Over and at best landing you in the hospital–all in the cover of night. So while I was searching excitedly for moose, my driver drove carefully down the unlit back roads. So the major tip here is be wary when driving in moose country!
The next wildlife that you will experience most of are the infamous blackflies…or
mooseflies…or horseflies…or mosquitoes. Really, when one fly season ends, it’s only to be picked up by another. Their seasons also often overlap a little. As I was getting eaten alive during the Kennebec hike from hell, my co-adventurer tried in his optimism to point out that while mosquito bites itch for a long time, at least the horsefly bites hurt bad for a day and are then gone. I pointed to the downside of his positive thinking by asking, “So what if you get both?”
The big tip for these winged devils? Deal with them. Nothing short of 30 percent DEET or higher is really going to push them back (don’t get on any gaskets/plastic), and they can penetrate through clothes. Some people in previous trips have donned the head nets, which seems to have offered them some relief, but other than that, I’m not sure what else to say. Maybe those with more experience could share tips? I’d love to hear them!
While moose and flies are the two main animals I mention, Maine has many more. It’spossible to see anything from small red squirrels swimming across rivers to bald eagles gliding overhead to black bears roaming the boreal forests. In fact, expect to enjoy the rivers a lot simply for their beauty when boating Maine.
Now, as one would expect from a state comprised mainly of dense wilderness, most of the towns you’ll come across are PO-DUNK. That said, these will be some of nicest folk you’ll meet with really good food. Be sure to stop by Pittston Farm for some homemade ice cream after a day on Canada Falls or the Seboomic.
Maine instills in one the sense of wandering away from the world of men back into wild antiquity. Its beauty calms the city-stricken soul and reduces the human condition to its proper size within the ego: that of a single moment in eternity. At the risk of sounding too philosophical, I can at least say that Maine offers a great time to be had by any who choose to boat there. Be prepared for the roads and wildlife and courteous to the locals who kindly put up with Southerners (FUN FACT: Did you know that according to New Englanders, anyone living south of them is considered a Southerner?), and you’ll be sure to enjoy one of my new favorite states in the U.S. See you on the river!