My wife and I just got back from a three-day road trip into the north woods of Maine. It felt more like the Arctic up there than anything I've seen to date in Maine, including around our place on a lake in Camden. Not ungodly cold (yet), but cold enough, lots of deep snow everywhere, beautiful forests of tall pine and bone-white birch. And just that Arctic feeling - something about the people and the towns and what I could see of the culture. Presque Isle and Fort Kent, right on the Canadian border, reminded me of Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories - basically frontier towns, though they are incorporated cities. Allagash is barely a bump in the road, but the area has its own charm and is the northern terminus for the Allagash Wilderness Waterway. In warmer weather, Edith, a very nice lady in her golden years with whom we visited while she was tagging furs at Allagash Outfitters (do not think Cabela's here), will drive you a few miles upriver so you can come down back down in your canoe.
Ice fishing is in full throttle on the lakes up there now. We've seen a few hardy souls on the lake in front of our house, and probably will see more as the winter goes on, but what I've seen around midcoast looks like the minor leagues now that I have something to compare. Up there it's the NFL. Lots of ice shacks, and numerous holes containing sticks, some with little flags fluttering around at the top. And gray, savory smoke billowing up from grills set up on the ice. (They're rarely eating fish. A lot of what they do is catch-and-release. Many hot dogs though.) Oh, and a little beer-drinking going on too.
I've never spent much time thinking about ice-fishing, and when I did, I figured it was just something some marginal old throwbacks did in on the outskirts of civilization where there wasn't that much else to do. There may be some truth to the latter, but I saw people of all ages out there on the ice. And then, by coincidence, the night after we got back, Maine public TV ran a superb documentary entitled "Hardwater." By the end of the show, I was thinking maybe I need to go out and buy an augur and a trap or two myself. Hmmm. Wonder if they sell ice shacks at the Home Depot up here.
This is the trailer for "Hardwater." Some nice banjo music in the film.
Sunday, January 20, 2013 @7:04:39 AM
Well-written, Don. Northern Maine reminds me very much of north-western Minnesota, where I lived for 8 years back in the 80's. I recall with fondness driving out on a frozen lake in a Chevy Suburban containing 4 couples, where we celebrated New Years Eve in a fish house! After moving to Maine I spent 12 years traveling to Presque Isle on business three times a year, and always enjoyed the friendliness and slower pace of life up there in "The County"
Sunday, January 20, 2013 @8:55:12 AM
I love your descriptions of Presque Isle and Fort Kent. The French heritage folks were fun. I spent 8 years in Presque Isle after moving from Florida. I loved parts of it, but the summers were a bit too short after the winters. It is a great place though, and the pace is nice. By the way, I still have a great restored Victorian home in Presque Isle for sale if anyone's interested. Seriously.
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