Navigating the North

An aerial tour of the North Maine Woods gives one couple a new perspective

The sun sets over “Old Mustardsides,” a 1960 Cessna 172A, at Ragmuff airstrip, west of Baxter State Park.

When you’re looking at a map of Maine, it’s clear that few people travel through the northwestern part of the state. No major roads cross through, and between Dover-Foxcroft and Allagash, the natural wilderness dominates the landscape. L.L.Bean senior videographer Lincoln Benedict and his wife, Jess Marion, toured the state in their 1960 Cessna 172A (affectionately known as “Old Mustardsides”), landing and camping at back-country runways scattered along the way. As the couple flew northwest and began to cross the vast wilderness, they discovered logging roads bustling with activity, giant dust plumes following trucks for miles. “It was a different perspective on the North Maine Woods than I thought we’d have,” Benedict says. As their aerial excursion continued for a few days, they touched down and camped out at the Ragmuff airstrip west of Baxter State Park and the Fort Kent Municipal Airport. Many of the country’s old and remote airstrips are maintained by the Recreational Aviation Foundation, which works to preserve existing runways and create new public-use recreational airstrips. The duo spent their time taking in the scenery, relaxing, and running on the old logging roads. Like many places in northern Maine, the appeal is the remoteness, Benedict says. “It’s this unique experience in that you wouldn’t go there unless you were flying.”

A typical morning scene at the Fort Kent Municipal Airport, which is supported by the Recreational Aviation Foundation.
Looking down at the Fort Kent countryside on approach to the airport.
On a later visit with a different plane, the stars at Ragmuff airstrip.
A little less than a mile from the Fort Kent Municipal airport lies Fish River Falls, easily accessible by a hiking trail.
East of Ragmuff is the West Branch of the Penobscot. You can often see canoers paddling the river in summertime.

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