Harvey-the-RV  - Roadtrip 2009

 Back to Maine, USA

1st - 6th August 2009

We approached the US border with the normal trepidation inspired by the men in uniform.    Traffic at the border crossing was light, perhaps a half dozen vehicles an hour, we were out in the wilds.  Harvey was drawn to one side and inspected for contraband and then we were taken into the office for immigration procedures.   We were quite a novelty, this border outpost normally dealt mostly with US and Canadian citizens.      

Apparently things would have been a lot easier if we still had the I-94 forms that we were instructed to hand to Canadian officials on leaving the US.  "Where will you be staying tonight?" we were asked.    We knew the spot on the map that we had in mind but pronunciation was a different matter.   Finally we came up with, "It's a wilderness campground, Mattersomething or other".   Luckily our official was local and immediately knew the spot we meant, the forms could be completed and we were issued with new I-94s.   Whilst we sat in the office there was a small scare.    "Should flames be coming out of that barbecue?" we asked.     Quick action was taken and the steaks lunch was saved, although possibly a little well done!

After a brief detour to civilization to re-provision with now far more affordable groceries since we'd crossed the border and we were off in search of the Mattawamkeag Wilderness Campground.

We knew it was seven miles off the paved road up a gravel track and we knew it was a wilderness but there were a few moments of doubt as we would our way painfully slowly towards the campground.      We nursed Harvey around the potholes, hoping the trip would be worth the effort.     At the entry to the campground we were greeted with a sign, "You made it".   Obviously many visitors have the same doubts as we'd experienced!

As soon as we'd set up camp, the fisherman was keen to check out the fishing possibilities at the river.    The excess of rain that summer meant that the river was flowing extremely quickly, the chances of catching fish pretty slim.     The mosquitoes were waiting for us and the Bug Bafflers were quickly deployed.

Frustrated Fisherman watches the fish zoom by

Weird and wonderful fungi in the forest

Next day we set off on foot to explore the riverbank, one of the few trails which hadn't been washed away.    Again we battled the bugs but enjoyed a scenic clamber along the river, seeing an amazing array of fungi growing in the damp woodland.     We finally arrived at the Slewgundy Heaters, the downstream rapids and opted to walk back along the roadway to evade the vampire bugs.     On our return we spotted a raptor happily tucking into his catch right at the side of the road.    He was as amazed to see us as we were to see him.

Slewgundy Heaters

Interrupted dinner

We'd hoped to visit Baxter State Park, a wilderness park in the north of Maine but feared that Harvey exceeded the permitted vehicle dimensions.    We made a stop in the Park headquarters in the town of Millinocket to check and a friendly ranger suggested an alternative, as we probably were in too large a vehicle to drive into the park.   She pointed out a private campground, right on the edge of the park.     Handing us photocopies of the detailed gazetteer, she pointed out hikes where we would be able to walk right into the park from the campground.   Even better, if you walked into the park, no fee was payable.     Quickly convinced, we set off up the logging-company maintained road to the Abol Bridge campground, where a spot was available for us right on the river. 

Harvey checks out Mount Kathadin

Ready for some white water?

By the time we arrived, it was too late for a long hike, so we strolled along the river trail until the man-eating bugs annoyed us too much.    We returned to the campground and decided to take a trip in the canoe, being so conveniently located to the water.     We paddled upstream through marshes, hoping for a glimpse of moose.    Under a small bridge we rode our first rapids, well our inflatable canoe squeezed between two rocks at high speed anyway.    On our return we were warned that the upstream dam would be releasing water that evening and the following morning and we should ensure our canoe was secured high above the waterline.    


After a pleasant evening sharing a campfire with our neighbours we turned in for the night and next morning awoke to find the water closer to our camp, our neighbours fire pit was completely submerged. 

We'd selected a combination of trails on the map which we estimated to total six or seven miles.    Perhaps if we'd looked a little more closely we would have realised that over 11 miles was the actual total distance but then we may have chickened out and missed a beautiful, rugged hike.     The first leg was wooded to the blueberry laden granite ledges which gave the trail it's name.

The view from our campfire made the fisherman twitch 

Blueberry Ledges

From the ledges onwards we were continually in doubt about whether we were on the right trail, sometimes about whether we were on a trail at all.     Phil rounded a bend to walk right into a flock of startled large game birds, possibly partridges, which promptly took off aimed directly at his head.     Surviving the attack, we pressed bravely on for several more miles through rough, moss-carpeted woodland, hoping not to run into the mother bear and baby recently reported to be menacing hikers on this route.    

Phil shortly after the bird attack!

At least we know where we are now!

Eventually we stumbled upon the campground which marked the half-way point of our hike.  Now we only had to locate the next trailhead, which proved tricky with the complete lack of signage.    We set off on the five mile return leg, still unsure for the first couple of miles, whether we were actually on the right trail.     Our sense of direction proved better than we feared and finally reassured, we were descending past a series of beautiful lakes, followed by a three mile gravel roadway stretch back to our campground.   Suddenly we began to worry about whether Harvey was parked far enough from the waterline for that day's release of water, perhaps we'd return to find him semi-submerged.    Luckily all was well on our return and after enjoying a much needed ice-cream, we both collapsed in a heap, exhausted.    Eleven miles was a long walk when most of the distance was scrambling over rough terrain.  

Next morning we were ready for some home comforts and decided to head west to the town of Skowhegen.   We had to retrace our steps via Millinocket.  We'd seen the state of the road over Abol Bridge, where deep ruts had been created by the heavy logging truck traffic and decided not to take our chances with the unpaved scenic route.   In Skowhegen we checked into a private campground with all mod-cons which we were able to enjoy for a couple of days whilst our weary bodies recovered from our hike.

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