The NRCM staff took a two-day field trip September 12-13 to experience firsthand the lands belonging to Elliotsville Plantation, Inc. (EPI), east of Baxter State Park, that are being proposed for a new national park and recreation area. In typical NRCM fashion, we braved the ominous stormy forecast, arriving midmorning at Lunksoos Camp. Mark and Sue Adams, the new camp caretakers and hosts extraordinaire, greeted us warmly.
First up: a canoe trip. Maine Quest Adventures from Medway provided our canoes and shuttle up to Bowlin Camps where we began the four-hour paddle down the East Branch of the Penobscot River. In the lightly falling rain, the experience was magical. Great Blue Herons lifted from the marshes. Belted Kingfishers darted to stay ahead of us. At a bend in the river, a stately Bald Eagle watched from the top of a pine. A flock of mergansers scuttled along the bank. The water bubbled over rocks in places, providing a little navigational fun.
Lucas St. Clair paddled solo along with us, pointing out EPI boundaries, stands of silver maples, and the names of rolling mountains in the distance. Evident in all of his stories are his love and respect for the land, the local people he has listened to over the last two years, and his mom, Roxanne Quimby, who had the dedication and vision to begin this project a decade ago.
On the second morning, the Adams’ provided us with a tour of the newly graded loop road in a high clearance rental van. We bumped along in places that had been eroded by the pouring rain the night before and appreciated the handiwork of local contractors who have nicely excavated some steep inclines. As we stopped at the newly posted mile markers along the way, we saw stunning views of Mount Katahdin and Millinocket Lake appearing through a blanket of white clouds. In all directions, the red and orange leaves of fall were just starting to appear across the miles of unbroken forests. We crossed numerous rushing streams over small bridges built to fully allow salmon and other fish to make their way to spawn. We walked quietly down short paths to remote marshes and ponds, keeping our eyes peeled for moose, and almost missed the one that walked down the road past us as we cheerfully and noisily ate our lunch.
On our way back, we gassed up in Medway and bought some snacks for the long drive home. I thought about what it would mean if several thousand additional people started doing the same every year, stopping also in Millinocket, Patten, Staceyville, Smyrna, and other towns to spend money at shops, restaurants, lodging, galleries, and the museum, and on canoe rentals and shuttles, Maine Guides, and equipment purchases. An economic study last winter showed how a 150,000-acre national park and recreation area could help the local and regional economy. It makes sense.
This is the beginning of a new chapter and a new discussion. I hope many people will go to see this special place for themselves and be reminded of just how spectacular Maine’s northern woods and waters are. I look forward to more trips, in all seasons, and to taking part in the discussion.
All photos by Judy Berk