On July 29th we left the RV rally fairgrounds in Essex Junction, Vermont and headed back to New Hampshire for a week in the White Mountains. Along the way we saw many signs on the highway warning of moose crossings, but we never saw any moose. We arrived at our campground in Glen, New Hampshire. This is a touristy town in the White Mountains advertising among other things snowmobile rentals and scenic train rides. The town is busy year round with summer tourists, fall foliage viewing and winter skiing.
We were in this area back in September, 2011 and took the cog railroad to Mt Washington so we passed on doing it. We did drive the scenic Kancamagus Highway, the first National Scenic Byway in the northeastern United States. The highway is named for Kancamagus, the grandson of Chief Passaconaway. The road was first begun in 1837 and much of the work was completed by the CCC. It was opened in 1959. Along the drive we passed many areas with people lounging on the rocks or swimming in the Swift River. Over time the Swift River has worn a narrow cleft in the rock forming a rocky gorge. We walked two short trails to the Rocky Gorge Falls and Sabbaday Falls, so named because it was discovered on a Sunday.
On August 5th we left Glen and headed to Maine. A few days before we left, Bill discovered there was an amateur radio gathering, called a Hamfest, in Milo along our route. I had thought many times about taking the exam to get my amateur radio license with the FCC, but never took the time to prepare. When I learned they would be doing testing in Milo, I decided to go for it. I got busy studying using the test preparation materials available online. It wasn’t easy for me because I do not have any background in electronics or radios. I studied hard and had lots of questions for Bill. The morning of the test I was pretty nervous. Three examiners are required to be present during the written exam. It turns out one of the examiners attended medical school at UVA many years ago. What a small world. I passed the exam and was pretty proud of myself! As Bill said, I am now radioactive!
After enjoying the Hamfest festivities we continued on to tiny Millinocket, Maine for five days. This was a pretty remote area of Maine and our most northern point for 2016. The roads in this part of Maine are pretty bad from frost heaves which causes the roads to buckle. We bounced our way along over bumps and dips, swaying from side to side. When we finally arrived at our campsite, our exhaust pipe cap had worked its way loose and the ladder attached on the back of the RV had shifted!
While in this area we wanted to visit Baxter State Park. The park is unique because it isn’t really a state park. It was a gift to the people of Maine by former Maine Governor Percival P. Baxter in 1931 on the condition it remain a wilderness. The park is made up of 209,644 acres, including Katahdin, Maine’s highest mountain. Baxter Park is Maine’s largest public trust and is administered by a special authority and is independently funded.
According to Baxter, the land and animals are primary and people secondary. Therefore visitors are responsible for their own safety and there are no facilities available except for the occasional pit toilet. There are signs throughout the park warning to treat the water before drinking. When we entered the park and paid the entrance fee (Maine residents are free), the worker took our names and emergency contact information. We were given a card to turn in when we left so they would know we left safely. When we asked about the possibility of seeing moose we were told it was the wrong time of year. In the summer they are further up in the mountains where it is cooler.
We wanted to take a hike in the park but it was hard to find a hike that was not too difficult. Keeping with the land and animals first theme, the trails throughout the park have not been altered to make hiking easier. The most famous trail in the park is the Katahdin Trail to the mountain peak. It is also the beginning/end of the 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail. I had read that the most difficult sections of the Appalachian Trail are in New Hampshire and Maine. In fact Maine and New Hampshire are the two most forested states in the country. It is recommended that hikers not start the trail in Maine. Less than 1,300 people have ever finished the famous Appalachian Trail if they started in Maine, which makes up 280 miles of the Trail.
We knew that trail was too intense so we decided on the trail to Small Niagara and Big Niagara falls. At the beginning of the trail was a sheet where you signed in and later signed out, just in case. The trail was less than three miles round trip, but it kicked my butt. It wasn’t as hard for Bill but I think he was glad when it was over too. We had to watch our footing constantly as we clambered over huge tree roots and rocks. In the beginning we balanced ourselves on narrow boards placed over marshy areas to protect the fragile plants. The worst part of the hike was at the Small Niagara Falls and later at Big Niagara where some tricky footing was required to get down to see the falls. At Big Niagara we watched a woman hiking alone fall on her face before we could assist with a helping hand. Bill helped her up and she was fine.
Back at the car we had a late lunch and continued our drive through the park before leaving at the far entrance. Unfortunately we never saw a moose. Besides being the wrong time of year I also read that the moose population has significantly declined in recent years due to calves dying from an illness caused by ticks.
Geographically, Maine is larger than the other five New England states combined.
- The state animal is the moose and there are more moose per square mile than any other state.
- Maine has over 32,000 miles of rivers and streams and over 6,000 lakes and ponds.
- Maine has over 542,629 acres of state and national parks.
- Maine produces 99% of all wild blueberries in the country, making it the largest producer of blueberries in the country.
Next stop: Eastport, Maine