48HRS – Online
Photographs + stories by Maine magazine staff:
Driving north on I-95 from Portland is a solitary experience. But it’s nothing compared to the final 90 minutes from Pittsfield into Greenville. We’re alone on this quiet Tuesday night journey until jolted awake by flashing warning lights triggered by our approach. These last six miles are purportedly very high risk for moose hits and the Department of Transportation means business. We arrive without incident in Greenville and the Moosehead Lake Region.
10:00 p.m. @ Kineo View Motor Lodge
The hotel sign at the end of the long, dirt, thread marked Overlook Road says “NO VACANCY.” Taped to the locked office window is an envelope with our key inside. There are only two vehicles in the parking lot. We’re exhausted and slip quickly into the sparse corner room. A list of rules says “10 p.m. Quiet Time.” We’re happy to oblige.
6:30 a.m. @ Scenic Moosehead Lake Region
We awake to discover that the lodge sits atop a high ridge with distant views of Moosehead Lake and a stunning 180-degree view of mountain peaks. The sunrise from the room is spectacular.
7:00 a.m. @ Auntie M’s Family Restaurant
Located across the street from the southernmost tip of Moosehead Lake, Auntie M’s offers comfort food served with a pleasant smile. In the front, a low counter with stools provides seating for the only other diners. The conversation at the counter gets livelier when Buster arrives, and, in a deeper-than-deep raspy voice, regales everyone with a boisterous account of his recent hospital stay. Laughter rocks the walls.
8:00 a.m. @ C.A. Dean Memorial Hospital
Lisa is working here for a few days on temporary assignment as a family physician. A helipad in the back reminds us that this hospital is the first stop for backwoods injuries and tragedies.
8:30 a.m. @ Mud Season
This is mudseason. The (literal) signs are everywhere. “Closed for Mud Season” says the sign at the Stress Free Moose Pub and Cafe. “Mud Season Hours” are posted at Kelly’s Landing, the oft-recommended dining establishment on the edge of town and the west corner of Moosehead Lake. And the streets are eerily quiet except for the occasional pickup truck or more frequent tractor-trailer loaded with logs. I’m excited to be in town when there are no tourists. People are reliably friendly here and, since it’s mud season, they have time to talk.
9:00 a.m. @ Greeenville Downtown Tour
I can cover the entirety of the downtown area in a slow 10-minute drive. There’s the Katahdin cruise ship built in 1914 by Bath Iron Works. In a bygone era, Katahdin was one of dozens of steamboats employed to get visitors to and from the camps and resorts that ringed the lake. Converted to diesel and then put into service as a towboat for the lumber industry, Katahdin is the only functioning steamship on the lake. Katahdin is a National Historic Landmark.
The now abandoned (1960) Canadian Pacific Railway passenger station at Greenville Junction is another very visible sign of the past. Part of the International Railway of Maine, it was built in 1889 during the lumber industry boom that was creating huge fortunes out of the northern Maine woods.
Plum Creek, a national lumber lands management company, has a sleek new building on the end of the lake. Plum Creek ignited passions throughout Maine when they announced plans to transform a million acres of undeveloped land around the Moosehead Lake area. Passions have settled down since a major legal battle was resolved—apparently to most people’s satisfaction. Four-hundred thousand acres were conserved through that process and $1 million set aside to improve public access and use on that land. I was told that Plum Creek has no immediate plans to develop any of the land.
Shaw Block Est. 1893 is the huge white building on the corner of Main Street and Pritham Avenue. It houses Higgins Real Estate (in case you’re looking to check out property values) and the Indian Store at Kamp Kamp. This remarkable sprawling store, operated by Randy Coulton and Cheri Goodspeed, has the largest single display of mounted deer and moose heads that I’ve ever seen. The largest, a moose, is selling for a few thousand dollars. Stop here and browse the antiques, camp supplies, toys, and housewares: this is a one-stop shop.
Moosehead Lake has a rich seaplane history that I notice as soon as you reach the water. There is Jack’s Air Service near the Black Frog, but it Currier’s Flying Service that grabs my attention. A prop plane sits parked in a large hanger behind a huge plastic barrier. Another storefront proclaims September as the date of the International Seaplane Fly-In.
Northwoods Outfitters is located at the center of Main and Pritham, across from the Shaw Block. It was the site of Sanders Store, established 1857 to outfit northern Maine sportsmen, and reportedly the largest outfitter of its kind in New England. The Sanders family operated the business for over 150 years until being forced to close in the 1980s. Since then, owner Mike Boutin has revived the business under a new name and offers guide service, ATV and snowmobile rentals, and everything you need to enter the Maine woods from clothing, to backpacks, and maps.
12:00 p.m. @ Hannafords
Lunch is going to be a challenge. Almost every eating establishment is closed. We check out Jamo’s where we’ve been told we can get a dagwood but opt to visit the Shaw’s Supermarket that we saw on the way into town. This will be the first 48 Hours trip where we go to a supermarket but the choices are good enough and we eat a relatively healthy lunch in our room at the Mt. Kineo.
5:00 p.m. Lily Bay State Park
The late afternoon light is going to be great for photos so we head north on the east side of the lake bound for Lily Bay State Park. As we crest the hill just a few miles from town center, the vista to our left is remarkable. From this elevated position, we can see lake, islands, and distant mountains. If I say it’s stunningly gorgeous, you just won’t believe me. See it for yourself. The Sloper House (formerly the Sloper Farm) is a yellow beauty perched perfectly on the edge of this heaven. Across the road is the Blair Hill Inn, a four-diamond hotel and dining establishment operated by the McLaughlin’s. We’ve made the trip to take a look at Lily Bay State Park but it’s closed (mud season). This state park includes 925 acres (most of it donated decades ago by Scott Paper Company) and is apparently the largest in New England. With campsites, hiking trails, beaches, and boat ramps, this will be worth returning to after they open.
6:00 p.m. Rockwood, Mount Kineo and the Birches
After returning to the town center, we venture north again, this time on the west side of the lake. The road is excellently maintained but we can’t see the water. Occasional camp roads can be seen to our right but we’re not going to risk entering private property. But we do end up in Rockwood and pull down to the water there. Mount Kineo, its cliffs rising 700 feet straight up from the water, sits proudly across the lake. This is a legendary location. Indians mined the hornstone, the largest known formation of this rock in the U.S., for arrowheads and hatchets. During the turn of the century various incarnations of resorts stood at the base of Mount Kineo. In 1911, it was the largest inland resort of its kind with accommodations for 500 guests. No resorts stand on the property today.
8:00 a.m. @ HardDrive Cafe at Northwoods Outfitters
The raised platform in the front corner of Northwoods has become my away office and the place to pick up my first cup of coffee of the day. The internet connection here isn’t wi-fi—you’re given a hardline to tap into. I could write several articles based upon the local chatter I overhear.
11:00 a.m. @ Greenville Inn
While Lisa is working I check into the Greenville Inn. Lumber baron William Shaw completed this home in 1895 and it has been meticulously maintained by a succession of owners since then. Today, the Johannemann family operates the inn and Jeff can tell you all you need to know about the present pulse of the region. We will spend our last night in Greenville in the former master bedroom suite with distant views of the lake.
5:00 p.m. @ West Cove Lounge
I’ve driven by the West Cove Lounge on several occasions. Today, like every other day, the parking lot is full of pickup trucks—only pickup trucks. We walk in tentatively to a number of pool tables to the left and a basic horseshoe bar to the right. Almost all the bar stools are taken but we find two together on the far side. Other patrons immediately strike up a conversation.
6:00 p.m. @ Kelly’s Landing
Although Kelly’s is on “mudseason hours,” they are open to tonight for Mexican night. Wait staff are wearing sombreros and ponchos as they serve up tacos and fajitas. I’m sure that their lakeside location must make them a popular summertime destination.