All my weekend adventures start the same way — probably like every other outdoor enthusiast’s, especially in the middle of summer.
During my workweek leading to the big event, I make a plan. I start on Tuesday. After work I pore over maps and guide books, using everything I can get my hands on: paper maps, atlas and Internet.
I don’t waste much time deciding on someplace to hike a trail or fish for brook trout. Sometimes it’s both; I hike to get to a place to fish. Either way I’m sure to be covering a few miles before I’m done on Sunday. If I plan it right maybe I’ll climb a mountain.
Packing involves carrying whatever few pieces of equipment I brought in the house from the previous weekend back to the truck containing the rest of the gear. Choosing what to pack is fairly easy. The problem is I wait until the last minute to do it.
I take everything that has anything to do with hiking or camping out of the house. Then it’s a quick check around the premises to round up stray equipment and I’m ready. I’m always ready by Thursday so that on Friday I can head out after work.
That’s how it was last weekend, when I left my place in Ellsworth, truck stuffed, destination decided. I was heading to Katahdin Iron Works-Jo-Mary Multiple Use Area north of Brownville to meet a longtime fishing buddy from Glenburn, Tom Walton. On Wednesday I booked Pleasant River campsite No. 6 on the Pleasant River for two nights. As I pulled in Friday evening I found Walton waiting there.
Since I’d eaten some general store fried chicken fingers on the road, all I had to do was unpack and set up my tent, roll out the sleeping bag and stow the cooler. Walton and I spent the evening catching up on family news and previous adventure stories, while we tipped back a little liquid libation by the campfire. We heard the yelps and cries of a couple or more coyotes nearby that sounded as if they were on the scent of something, then the sounds drifted off into night.
Saturday morning on the way to our access for the day, we saw a doe and two spotted fawns through a cutaway view of the river. The coyotes might have been on their scent, we figured. We got on the river early, Walton fishing with worms, me slinging flies. We usually fish that way. We figure the ones I miss he will catch — or the other way around. Either way, one of us could catch a few fish for supper.
The Pleasant River is the same river that flows through the slate canyon known as Gulf Hagas, a National Scenic Area. The river wriggles through the huge gorge like a serpent. There’s a trail, the Rim Trail, that’s a rough 8.2 miles long, round trip. It takes hikers along the rim to spectacular views of the canyon.
It was a bright, clear, perfect summer day in the way only a summer day in Maine can be. Walton and I traveled the banks up river and down, near where the Appalachian Trail forces hikers to ford its waters. We were in and out of the river wet-wading all morning; ate lunch on its banks, and by midafternoon we’d caught enough trout for the two of us to have for supper. We headed back to the campsite to cook them.
Walton could stay only one night, so after supper he packed up his tent and gear and headed home. I made a fire shortly before sunset to fight off the no-see-ums. After watching the last of dancing flames shrink into coals, I turned in. My plan for morning didn’t include fishing. At dawn I planned to travel to Big Spencer Moun-tain, north of Greenville and east of Moosehead. A hike to the top of the 3,224-foot mountain would be a great ending to a summer weekend.
After breakfast of oatmeal and coffee I broke camp and headed to the mountain. I started my hike around 10 a.m. and soon caught up with a couple, Sherry and Steve Hasty from southern Maine. They were staying at their camp on nearby Ragged Lake, with other family members who were ahead of them on the trail. I hiked with the couple until we reached the summit.
The hike past the old fire warden’s camp got steep and ascended over bare ledges that had four wooden ladders to make the climb easier. Finally we topped out and met the others in the family group. The Hastys had two daughters, their husbands, and two granddaughters, along with two dogs on the hike. They all seemed to en-joy the expansive views.
The views from the top are somewhat limited by the fir-covered mountain, but a platform has been built to allow helicopter service to a radio repeater operation on the summit. The platform rises a few feet above the trees to allow great panoramas of Moosehead Lake’s Spencer Bay, Lobster Lake, all of Chesuncook Lake to the northwest, and most awesome, Katahdin to the north. Ragged Lake lies directly in foreground.
The most notable feature of the landscape in the view is the immensity of the forest itself. Hundreds of thousands of acres lie between the lakes and mountains in the region and many of those acres are visible from the top.
We snacked and looked around awhile more. The day was heating up, but on the open platform, a slight breeze kept us cool. Then, the Hasty family hoisted packs, said goodbye and were off down the mountain.
On my way down an hour or so later I saw a few more people on their way up, couples and family groups. The day was another fine example of summer weather, although it had turned a little more hazy and humid. Still, the forest was shady and cool.
On Saturday, fishing with Tom Walton, he said something that was typical Walton, known for speaking only a few meaningful words at a time: “This is what we wait all winter for,” he said, at one point or another. It stuck with me all weekend. What we wait all winter for, indeed, Tommy.
For information on Katahdin Iron Works-Jo-Mary Multiple Use Forest including fees, rules and regulations call North Maine Woods at 435-6213 or go to www.northmainewoods.org. The area is on map 42 in DeLorme’s Maine Atlas and Gazetteer. For information on Big Spencer Mountain, in the Maine Bureau of Public Lands Big Spencer division, call 287-3821 or go to www.maine.gov/doc/parks. The mountain is on map 49 in the Maine Atlas and Gazetteer.