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Reflections on Moosehead Lake

The stillness of the morning was broken as the aura of a sunrise colored the sky. There was the sound ducks beckoning one another to begin a new day. Even the most nocturnal of travel writers had become an early riser, wanting to share in the magic of dawn, where the only sights and sounds were those of nature.

Ducks emerged from the water’s edge. Others swooped in to join in the silent procession along an increasingly sunlit lake. They stopped to preen in a recess along the rocky shoreline. A latecomer splashed in, quacked his excuse -— perhaps an apology — and joined his companions. A seagull claimed his place at the end of the boardwalk.

All seemed oblivious of our presence as we stood quietly on the dock outside our cabin snapping photos of the morning ritual that surrounded us. The gently rippling water that lapped against the shore had taken on the rosy glow of the sun that was rising over the silhouette of Mt. Kineo. Birds chirped and what appeared to be a red-bellied woodpecker flitted about, testing the trees with his tap-tap-tap.

The Birches Resort at Moosehead Lake, Rockwood, Maine
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The Birches Resort at Moosehead Lake, Rockwood, Maine

We sipped our freshly brewed coffee on our porch, silently, simply experiencing the freedom, peacefulness, and rhythmic harmony of the wilderness.

The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness. John Muir

Sometimes we just need to get away from it all…away from the pace and cacophony of traffic, phones, emails, television…. In Maine’s northern woodlands, unplugged from the details and distractions of everyday life, we can reconnect to the essence and richness of nature.

Accommodations

We vacationed this summer at The Birches Resort on Maine’s Moosehead Lake.
Here “roughing it” is camping at your choice of comfort level.

main lodge, Moosehead Lake, Maine
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main lodge, The Birches Resort on Moosehead Lake, Rockwood, Maine

Lodging options range from remote wilderness yurts to rustic cabins or well-appointed private vacation homes with multiple bedrooms.

We opted for a lakeside log cabin a short stroll from the rustic hewn-beamed dining room of the Main Lodge. Our meals were served amidst animal trophies and massive stone fireplaces and with a superb view of Moosehead Lake.

Moosehead Lake, Maine
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The Birches Resort on Moosehead Lake, Rockwood, Maine

Cabins have colorful names like On Top of Old Smoky, Born Free, and Indian Summer. Our one bedroom cabin, Rambling Rose, was fully furnished, with a combination kitchen/dining room, bathroom with tub, and a living room with a wood stove and pullout sofa. Towels, linens and cookware and firewood were provided. There was a fire pit outside—fun for roasting tasty treats on a stick. We needed to bring along only snacks and ingredients for meals we chose to prepare on our own. Best of all, we had our own view of lake from our covered porch and pier.

If you forget something, the Moose River Store is about two miles away and carries groceries, fishing licenses, live bait and other supplies. There is no cell phone service, but there is a pay phone and Wi-Fi in the Main Lodge for those with laptop computers.

Outdoor adventures

The Birches is in the middle of Maine on the western shore of Moosehead Lake, the largest lake in the state. It is a family and pet-friendly recreational retreat that has been expanded to an all-season resort. Long a favorite for hunters and fishermen, wilderness trips and eco-tours have been offered conducted by registered and experienced professional guides for decades, and the resort holds an unblemished safety record.

In wilderness I sense the miracle of life, and behind it our scientific accomplishments fade to trivia. Charles Lindbergh

There is a full service marina with rental sailboats, motorboats, canoes, kayaks, and pontoon boats. Learn fly fishing. Explore routes taken by Native Americans along the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. Paddle The Maine Woods pathways of “stern yet gentle wilderness” taken by author and naturalist Henry David Thoreau in his birch bark canoe.

Rent gear for self-guided mountain bike or canoe adventures. Two nearby golf courses are nearby. There is a beach, large hot tub, sauna, and fitness center.

Whitewater rafting is available on the Kennebec, Dead or Penobscot Rivers 35 years of whitewater rafting experience in Maine, the most in the industry.

Hunting, fishing, and foliage draw visitors in spring or fall.

In winter there is ice fishing. Snowmobiles, snowshoes, and cross country skiing equipment can be rented. Moose antlers, which can weigh over 50 pounds, are shed in late December through February and become treasures hunted on snowmobiles and cross country skis.

Take a guided kayak tour to Baker Brook or along the Socatean Stream in search of moose and other wildlife. Opt for the moonlight excursion to hear the soulful sounds of the loons under the stars.

Ride the ferry from Rockland to Mt. Kineo, named for the legendary and taciturn chief, and hike up the Indian trail. Enjoy the spectacular view from atop the nation’s largest known mass of the rock so prized by Native Americans for its arrowhead flint.

We need the tonic of the wilderness…We can never have enough of nature…We need to witness our own limits transgressed, and some life pasturing freely where we never wander. Henry David Thoreau in Walden

What makes this place unique is the quality and variety of ways available to find elusive wildlife in their natural habitat. Tours are offered by land, sea, and air.

The Birches offers Wilderness Jeep Tours along dirt logging roads of a working Maine forest. Two cow moose grazing in a field watched us cautiously after sending a calf scurrying to the fringes of the wooded area. We were told bear sightings are rare and most likely around 4 am, but one ran across the road—too quickly for us to get a good photograph.

Moosehead Lake, Maine
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seaplane ride, Moosehead Lake, Maine

Seaplane rides offer a birds-eye view of Mt. Kineo and the seemingly endless wilderness of the Pine Tree State. The Birches owner John Willard is a pilot who began flying about 30 years ago. He is also a licensed forester and Maine wilderness guide.

His expansion of the family business begun by his father includes the addition of 11,000 acres, most of which he maintains as a wilderness preserve. He has received national acclaim for land conservation and eco-tourism.

The highlight of our trip was the Moose Safari and Scenic Cruise, offered May-October, on a pontoon boat. This Birches specialty explores areas where these long legged ruminants are likely to be found. We encountered one feeding along the water’s edge that kept an inquisitive yet watchful eye and continued to graze as shutters clicked away.

Moose Mainea

Maine wildlife includes the state bird, the Chickadee, as well as the blue heron, red-winged blackbird, osprey, deer, black bear, beaver, otter, bald eagle, falcon, and owl. Yet none defines the essence of Maine better than its state animal, named moose, or “eaters of twigs”, by the Algonquins. Maine has more moose than any other US state except Alaska. Mid-May to mid-June is a special season for family fun known as Moose Mainea, celebrated in nearby Greenville.

The moose is singularly grotesque and awkward to look at. Why should it stand so high at the shoulders? Why have so long a head? Why have no tail to speak of? – Henry David Thoreau, The Maine Woods

With its distinctive furry antlers, long legs and snout, the moose is the largest antlered animal in North America and the largest member of the deer family. Males can be up to ten feet long, 7 feet high to the shoulder, and weigh up to ¾ ton. Moose can see clearly for only about 25 feet, but their hearing is keen.

The best moose sightings are usually from late spring to mid-summer in boggy areas and streams. Moose like to munch on mineral-rich aquatic plants or around roads that have been salted in winter. In late August to mid-September cows may be spotted with a calf or two. Cows will raise their calves for a year or until another calf comes along.

Moose are usually not dangerous, and will generally just look up and continue grazing, but cows will kick and trample those thought to be a threat to a calf and males may be aggressive during mating season, late September to early October.

The call of the wild

In our civilized, overscheduled, and consumer-driven world, there is a need to rediscover the meaning of vacation—slowing down, getting off the beaten path, and experiencing the serenity and timelessness of the wild.

Two roads diverged in a wood


And I took the one less traveled by


And that has made all the difference. 



Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken

We need time to relax, reflect, and to enjoy simple pleasures. A recreational retreat into one of our country’s last remaining wilderness areas nurtures an appreciation of nature’s quiet beauty, of how things were, and for the importance of keeping it that way.

 

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