After Montreal I spent some time driving around eastern Quebec -- driving is the correct term for my activity. I went to le Parc National de la Mauricie, Lac St.-Jean, and the Saguenay Fjord, all of which were extremely beautiful. But the constant rain, the expense, and the communication barrier got to me and, although at times stunned by how gorgeous it all was, I ended up sad. Finally I just said fuck it and drove straight down to Maine by way of a very nice ferry across the St. Lawrence.
That could well have been one of the best decisions of my trip, because ever since entering Maine (and drinking those fateful cups of coffee), I've been flying high. Maine is just about as lovely as you can imagine: huge expanses of forest on hummocked granite speckled with the occasional town. And the towns here are nothing to get worked up about. Ninety percent of them have been no more than three houses and a gas station/mini-mart. And why have people been telling me that Mainers are unfriendly to outsiders? Is this the same kind of disinformation that people relate about Seattle? Every place I go people are friendly, talkative, and more than happy to see me. This is like paradise, especially after my time in rural Quebec!
My first stop after Presque Isle was Baxter State Park, a huge, mountainous region smack dab in the middle of Maine. The campground was full, but -- get this -- the ranger suggested a quarry down the road aways! Said quarry was just as nice as most campgrounds and had four or five other groups in it -- one a bunch of friendly deadheads up from Boston. The next day I woke up to clear skies and decided to try and climb Mt. Katahdin, the highest point in Maine. Well, as you might expect for a 5,000 ft. mountain, the weather on top was not quite the same as that on the bottom. The report at the ranger station simply said: "Wicked cold". Only one trail, the Saddle Trail, was open to the top, and I started up with plenty of layers in my pack. The trail was a 2,000 ft. scramble in 50 foot visibility up a talus slope of enormous boulders covered with snow and sheets of clear ice. In places the ice crystals growing into the wind were 6 inches long -- if only I'd been able to pause and admire them. Fortunately, the exertion of climbing the 60 degree slope kept me alive. But I was starting to notice things, like: where are all the other people who were on the trail before? If this is the easiest of the trails, then what are the others like? And: this really isn't very much like a saddle, is it? It wasn't until I reached the top, though, that I confirmed my fear: I'd taken the wrong trail, one of the closed ones called, humorously enough, "Cathedral". Oh, well. I made it, and only occasionally became numb. I took the Saddle Trail back down (it was, in fact, much easier), and laughed whenever someone said, "Oh, you went to the top!" I guess my frozen beard was a little incongruous in the sunlight. At one point I remember encountering a group at a crossroads. One guy said to me in confusion, "Which way is up?" Me, finger pointing skywards, smirking. I got back to my truck completely exhausted and slept through til sunrise.
The next day I drove leisurely (there's no other way in Maine) down towards Quoddy Head, the easternmost point of land in the US. I stayed that night in a campground which I am now going to formally recommend to all those passing through Maine: Cobscook Bay State Park. Contrary to the tradition of most state parks, this one is actually nice -- in fact, it's probably the nicest campground I've ever seen. My site, #32, was barely within shouting distance of any other site and looked out over a small, rocky inlet of the bay. The perfectly still water rose and fell 24 feet twice each day and reflected a number of beautiful rocky islands and a lovely half moon. And here's something you don't often find: across the road was an old fire lookout tower, completely unlocked and open to any bimbo who desired to climb it. Call me a bimbo, but the view from the top was outstanding. It made me think for a moment about being a fire watcher and spending weeks at a time gazing at the forest without seeing a single soul. A little like what I'm doing at times, but thank god my scenery keeps changing. I kind of liked the image of my truck as a mobile fire lookout, though.
I spent two nights at Cobscook, the second night discovering an old graveyard with only three stones -- all from the Civil War! -- then drove here to Bangor. Tomorrow morning I pick Jackie up at the airport and we'll go down to Acadia National Park for four or five days. Then on to Boston by way of the White Mountains. So: adios, and take care, everybody!
No Simple Highway:
Last modified: Mon Dec 10 16:04:59 2001
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