Camping in Maine is a vacation of a lifetime for those willing to take the steps necessary to support themselves in the wild. I’m not talking about a “Campground” with 4 way hookups for your trailer or a pool for the kids. I’m talking about at best a primitive campsite deep in the woods with nothing but a “Privy” if your lucky, a covered table and a fire pit. It’s here that you will find what it means to be from Maine, it’s here you will find yourself.
When I drove through the Jo-Mary checkpoint several days ago, my excitement at being back in the woods was overwhelming. Unlike my last trip in July I now have most of what I feel are many of the essential tools for a safe and comfortable stay. This was to be a “Shakedown” run with the Jeep and trailer and my new Cascadia Vehicle Tent on top of the Jeep to find out what works and what needs improvement.
As I wrote on a prior post my first night was spent at Gauntlet Falls on the east branch of the Pleasant River. This site was flat and open, not 25 feet from the river. I arrived late in the day so I had little time to collect firewood. I settled down for the night, ate dinner and used what little wood was readily available on site. As is always the case with me in the woods, I was tired and went to sleep not long after sundown…about 7pm. By 5 am…OMG it’s cold!!!
First lesson of this trip was to never think you have enough blankets, or own a good enough sleeping bag when you come to the north woods. It’s been years since my last fall camping trip and I had forgotten how much the temps can swing each day. 70 degrees mid day, 32 in the early morning! And this was not the coldest night of this trip.
My second night of the trip I drove up a 1700 foot ridge and camped next to Jo-Mary mountain. The wind was screaming but I found a spot with protection from some trees, and I know the wind always dies down at sunset. I made a very small fire in a ring of rocks, had dinner and settled down for the night. Again, 5 am, COLD!!! 27 degrees and frost on the tent!!!
I had planned on this the night before and had all my gear stowed away so I could just get up in the morning, start the Jeep and warm it up. The tent stows in 5 minutes so as I did that, Vinny my dog had his breakfast and then warmed inside the Jeep. As I started down the hill, I took this shot through the windshield and had to stop for a moment just to admire again where I was before I left.
I spent this day driving into many other campsites and up “Tote” roads to see where they led. I have “Topo” software on my Ipad that is fairly accurate and I flagged many roads and spots for future reference. The fun thing about moving around every day is never knowing what’s around the bend, never knowing what sites you will see next.
This is the road into Johnston Brook, one of the most beautiful campsites I have ever seen. I was so taken by it I spent an hour there just walking around and taking pictures from many angles. Because this site is completely shaded I knew I could not stay here right now due to the temperatures. This was about 10 am and it was only 45 degrees here under the trees, to cool for Vinny and I to be comfortable all day. I will come back here next season during the hottest part of the year and relish the cooler temps and the abundance of water to lounge in!
I continued on, exploring many gravel paths and trails seldom used in many years. The beauty of my Jeep and trailer is also it’s shortcoming. Because it’s so small, the wheelbase so short, I can drive almost anywhere. Deep washouts and ruts hold no sway over my love of finding places seldom seen by others, such as this tiny clearing in the woods where I stopped for lunch. A small micro climate in the middle of the forest with some of the most interesting lichens and moss growing on sand and gravel.
The downside to my transportation is the small amount of storage, but this trip helped me formulate plans for increasing not only the amount, but also by utilizing what I now have in a more efficient manor. I have a clear picture now of what this winter’s task’s will be with regards to the trailer and the back of the Jeep.
As I drive on, more and more stunning vista’s present themselve’s to my camera, and I oblige them and snap the shutter.
As I continue down the dusty road I see fresh signs of logging and I cross paths with a few trucks. Unlike up north, the trailers are smaller and these trucks follow the same speed limits as we do so the passing is much less harrowing!
The brook and the cut that the bridge spans are something out of a fairy tale. A place inhabited by only the finest stewards of the land seldom seen in modern society. The water so clear as to not be seen yet for the ripple, the very stone carved by the motion of it’s passing. Almost completely untouched by man and painted by the brush of time immortal upon the landscape are the sights I behold.
My time in this place will be etched into my memory forever, a moment of zen in a world of unpleasant. The simplest food that evening tasted no less than any meal prepared for kings. For at that moment, in a place unencumbered by the failings of men, I was the king of my own world.
As I made my way out the next day, back to what society says we must be, I followed one more path up the Chairback Mountains. This final ride was punctuated by fantastic views, and 3 black bears that I was lucky enough to see but not photograph. Some people are scared to think of a bear encounter, but they are more scared of you than you are of them. I consider myself very lucky to have not disturbed them to much, but was able to enjoy the brief moment in time that we said hello.