48HRS – Online
Photographs + stories by Maine magazine staff:
I’ve lived in Maine for less than a year. Maine is still new to me, and I to Maine. But I’ve found that my favorite experiences are always new ones, so when Sophie asked me to drive three hours upstate and inland for a 48 Hours trip, I was thrilled (albeit a little nervous, considering the inclement weather and my status as a brand new employee). But as I’m sure you know, Maine is gorgeous. Even in the pouring rain. Even when viewed from a freezing river that’s tossing you about like popcorn in a pan. Even when the wildlife is large and scary, and you feel your stomach drop and adrenaline swoop. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
7:00 p.m. on Route 16
Our trip is waterlogged from the very start. As I drive north, dragging my boyfriend Garrett along for the ride, I admire the fantastic strangeness of Maine. We pass a store that was once called “Lew’s Guns,” but now is labeled “Ew Guns.” On our left, I see a sign for Gulf Hagas, which I have been told is the “Grand Canyon of the east.” We drive on, passing few buildings and fewer cars. It’s quiet, except for the rain.
8:00 p.m. @ River Driver’s
After bouncing along a dirt road, we pull into the parking lot at River Driver’s Restaurant and the New England Outdoor Center. This is where we will be staying (and where we will soon be eating). After checking in, we sit down for a meal. I order the lobster and artichoke dip to start, and the haddock chowder as my entree. With chunks of smoky, roasted potatoes and flakes of white fish, the soup is creamy, hearty, and perfect.
9:45 p.m. @ Coveside Cabins at New England Outdoor Center
Exhausted from the drive and sleepy from the meal, we greet our cabin with relief. Deja, our normally timid dog, runs through the rooms inspecting every corner with her long nose. The lodge is rustic, yet elegant. There are comfy leather couches, a full kitchen, and far more space than two people need. The high ceilings and huge windows make it feel even larger than it is.
8:00 a.m. in the woods, somewhere
I decide to start the day with a run. I follow a snowmobile trail that leads off into the wilderness. It’s still raining heavily, and the wind is making the trees move violently against the sky. I stop to take photos, but everything is moving too fast. During a calm moment, I stop and grab a picture of flowering trillium.
9:30 a.m. @ Coveside Cabins
I’m back at the cabin drying off from my run when the power goes out. Garrett heads to the main building to investigate. Apparently, a tree has fallen on a power line. We have no light, no heat, and no running water. If our lodge was less luxurious, I might consider this “roughing it.”
10:15 a.m. @ The Appalachian Trail Cafe
Since the weather is holding steady at 50 degrees and aggressively damp, I find myself craving comfort food. The AT Cafe serves up the antidote to my chill: a spicy omelet with jalapenos, juicy tomatoes, and a side of home fries. But the highlight of the meal is the homemade English muffin, which is so buttery I can feel my blood slowing.
12:00 p.m. on Millinocket Lake Rd.
After dropping Garrett off at the lodge, I leave to explore Millinocket. I don’t get very far before being distracted by fiddleheads, which grow thickly in the marshy grass. I stop and collect a few handfuls.
12:15 p.m. @ The Katahdin General Store
Alongside the usual schlocky souvenirs, this rugged shop sells fishing rods, durable sneakers, hunting gear, fireworks, nonperishable foods, and even a basket of fresh fiddleheads ($2.99 per pound). The owner, Bruce, notices me admiring his trophies. “That’s the first deer I ever shot,” he tells me. “And that one,” he says, pointing to a deer head on the opposite wall, “I shot the day after my mother died.” He asks me if I like hunting, and I tell him honestly that I don’t know, but I do like antlers. He takes me into the back room to show me a collection of trophies, and it’s here that I learn my first moose fact of the trip: both deer and moose shed their antlers annually, and often in the same areas. These places, where bones abound, are called “deer sheds.”
1:30 p.m. @ Moose Print Gallery
As the name implies, this small gallery is filled with images of wildlife, all captured by photographer Mark Picard. I realize that I’ve seen his art all over town, from the AT Cafe to the River Driver’s restaurant. Mark describes the history behind a few of his more striking images, and then drops a little moose knowledge. He hefts a massive moose rack, and tells me that moose can grow antlers at the impressive rate of an inch per day.
2:00 p.m. @ North Light Gallery + Donny’s Used Goods
Considering the general scarcity of businesses in Millinocket, I’m surprised to see another art gallery. But that seems to be the standard in this neck of the woods—if you don’t sell guns, you probably sell art. The North Lights Gallery is unique in that it sells art only from central and inland Maine. While many of the pieces are lovely, Pam Redick’s work is easily my favorite. The couple that owns this space also manages an antique store next door. I stop in to look for milk glass vases and vintage treasures.
3:00 p.m. @ Coveside Cabins
The power is still out at the cabins. Garrett has turned on the gas fireplace, and we sit in front of it drinking melting ice cubes and cold beer. The power won’t return for a few hours, so we make the best of it and read aloud in front of the fire.
7:00 p.m. @ Fredericka’s
Dinner starts off on an unusual note with gooey, cinnamon-filled buns. I order the scallops with Israeli cous cous. Garrett gets a seafood casserole, which comes with savory roasted mushrooms and garlicky mashed potatoes. Though my scallops are good, I can’t stop eating off his plate.
7:45 a.m. @ The Penobscot Outdoor Center
The sky continues to spit water, but we stick to our schedule and head out for a whitewater rafting trip down the Penobscot River. I feel like a manatee in my thick, slick wetsuit.
10:00 a.m. on the Penobscot River
“I can’t guarantee that no one will get hurt, but I can promise you that I will do my best,” our guide tells us seriously, before we go tipping over a rushing waterfall. I’ve never been whitewater rafting before, and it’s exhilarating. The river is swollen with rain, and we see the world through a curtain of water. My hands go numb holding the paddles, but I finally understand why people love rollercoasters and skydiving and all those adrenaline heavy hobbies.
1:00 p.m. on the Golden Road
Our guide leads us to land for a lunch break. Talk soon turns to moose, and I am informed that they are excellent swimmers, thanks to their hollow hair. Moose fact number three.
3:00 p.m. @ North Woods Trading Post
Garrett and I decide to skip the afternoon rafting trip and head into Baxter State Park for a hike. On our way to the park, we stop at the North Woods Trading post for whoopie pies and homemade cinnamon buns.
4:00 p.m. @ Baxter State Park
It is far too late in the day to hike Katahdin and it’s far too wet for the more treacherous trails to be safe. Instead, we decide to jog around Sandy Pond. Garrett leads the way, and we run up a trail that bears a certain resemblance to the Penobscot River. Our shoes are soaked through, but it doesn’t matter. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything more beautiful than these woods. Wildflowers poke out of the undergrowth, and moss blankets every visible surface. After a few minutes of running, we reach Sandy Pond. Across the water, we see Katahdin. The colossal peak looms black in the fading light. Obscured by mist, it looks like something from a dream; surreal and serene, it looks at once both intimidatingly close and impossibly distant.
6:15 p.m. on the trail
As we leave the park, starving and soaked, we see something ahead of us in the road. Garrett stops the car and I hold my breath, as though my exhalations might scare away the moose. Before this trip, I didn’t truly understand Maine’s fascination with the antlered animal. But I get it now. He dips his velvety head as though nodding at our car, and continues across the road. I let out my breath, and we drive home.