If you’ve been keeping up, you’ve located all of your paddling gear and made it ready for another season on the water.
There’s probably still some work to be done on your boat(s), but it’s probably dark or rainy or cold or something non-conducive to that chore. Besides, it’s time to dream a little, to borrow a phrase from the Maine State Lottery. Get out those brochures you squirreled away last summer and make some plans for the one that’s right around the corner.
Timing is everything if you’re not into fog, which you’ll likely run into early in the summer. August is often a great time for hanging around saltwater that has risen in temperature to 62 degrees or a little more.
But your adventures don’t have to be tied to the ocean. We have tons of lakes and ponds — some 3,500 great ponds (greater than 10 acres in size according to the Water Research Institute at the University of Maine). Let your sense of adventure dictate what part of the state you’d like to explore.
Maybe you prefer the throw-the-dart-at-the-map approach. Once you decide on an area, check the Maine Campground Owners Association (www.campmaine.com) for places in the area of your choice. You’ll see they divide the state into eight regions, and there’s an interactive campground locator to help you out. Most of the state’s private campgrounds are contained in the guide that is also available in a paper version at information booths around the state.
Or you could decide on a state park. Online, start by clicking on www.maine.gov/doc/parks/programs/index.html and go from there to see what the 30 state parks have to offer. Eleven of them have camping sites, and you can make reservations while you’re online. You also could check out the same list in The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (municipal, state and national parks and recreation areas on Page 7).
If you’re more into saltwater, you might want to pick up a membership (starting at $45) to the Maine Island Trail Association, learn a lot about island stewardship and think about paddling part of the 375-mile chain of more than 180 coastal islands and sites along the coast of Maine. Nearly 60 of these trail sites are public by the way. The rest are private. Your membership entitles you to camp on them as well.
The islands owned by the state include Little Chebeague, Crow-Casco, Jewell, Bar-Casco, Strawberry Creek, Indian Point, Basin, Little Snow, Perkins, Goat, Bird, Erratic, Fort, Little Marsh, Thief, Crow-Muscongus, Strawberry, Havener Ledge, East Barred, Little Thorofare, Little Hen, Hay, Ram, Weir, Doliver, Wheat, Harbor, Steves, Hells Half Acre, Little Sheep, Potato, Apple, Little Hog, Sellers, Hen, John, The Hub, Little Crow, Dry, Mink, Daniels, Indian River, Stevens, The Sands and Little Water.
Your visit to the islands doesn’t have to be an overnight one. You might plan on spending a night on an island, then one or two ashore taking advantage of the amenities you won’t find on the islands — and that includes toilet facilities. Remember, if you camp on an island, you’re going to pack out everything.
There is one gem of a state park that is also an island — Warren Island State Park. It’s just off Islesboro across from the ferry terminal at Grindle Point. If you want to try an island outing, yet haven’t the experience of open water crossings, take your kayak or canoe on your car and launch from the beach next to the terminal. There’s long-term parking just up the road. The paddle across to Warren is less than half a mile, but it can be rough in the wind.
Warren has three lean-tos and seven other campsites as well as a larger area in the center of the island where groups may camp. There is fresh water and firewood available.
So there’s a beginning. Let your fingers explore the keyboard and get your plans made so you can ask for time off when you need it — and make reservations as soon as possible.
P.S. While you’re exploring the Internet, check out Leave No Trace. There are seven basic principles of LNT ethics, and I’ll just give you their titles. You do the homework and study up on them. Then incorporate them into your camping and outdoor practices. Here are the seven: Plan ahead and prepare; travel and camp on durable surfaces; dispose of waste properly; leave what you find; minimize campfire impacts; respect wildlife; and be considerate of other visitors. Go to www.LNT.org for more information.