Friday, October 7, 2017 (written by Kathi)
One of the amazing things about GW is that the “crazy” things (crazy to others, but rarely to us) we find to do are ALWAYS amazing, we expected today to be no different. So even the though the alarm rang at the ungodly hour of , we arose full of excitement, knowing that there was no way a “moose safari” – whatever the heck that turned out to actually be – would not be a great experience.
When we arrived at the main house we met Rich’s wife Maryanne, and their younger daughter Amanda. This is a family who completely commits to the early-to-bed, early-to-rise philosophy. Rich had gone to bed immediately upon leaving us last night at about , and now here were he and his wife, and their 9-year-old who was up at on a school holiday! We enjoyed coffee and some of Maryanne’s delicious homemade blueberry muffins before saying good by to mom and daughter (no sign of Anna Rose – maybe she was still sleeping like civilized people?) and piling into Rich’s very well used huge Denali SUV. And then we were off!
Throughout the course of the day we learned that Rich offers a few versions of his moose safaris. You can go by boat, through a truck/hike combo, or primarily by truck with minimal hiking. In full health, Lori and I would definitely have opted for the truck/hike combo, but I was not yet medically released to run, jump or climb ladders, so walking through rock and root infested undergrowth for miles was unfortunately a definite no. I wasn’t even supposed to be out of my boot for more than three hours, so I was already bending my sainted doctor’s rules. So we were forced to opt for the truck option. Rich tore out of his driveway and rocketed down and along a never-ending web of gravelly, pitted country roads, all the time telling us lot of history of the area and giving us information about the local geography, flora, and fauna. He often did this while looking over at me in the front seat next to him, making Lori quite nervous from her backseat perspective. It seemed that driving on the right side of the road is often a suggestion here, rather than the rule. By the end of the day though, this wasn’t nearly as disconcerting, especially as we came to understand how good of a guide Rich was, and how successfully weaving and dodging the often-huge craters left by the logging trucks took a particular skill. He wasn’t an aggressive driver, just familiar with his surroundings, and after a while our concern eased (and by “our” I really mean Lori’s, as she is the timid driver and passenger half of this team.) I have to confess that I resemble that remark!! (says Lori)
After about 45 minutes of driving, Rich said, “ So I want to take you first to one of the moosiest roads I know.” Throughout the day, Rich displayed an amazing vocabulary of “moose”-based adjectives. Several times we were told to look carefully through the trees lining the road, as we were in a very “moosey” area. Other areas were “moosish” or “moose-like”, or showed “moosey signs”. It was another glorious day with bright blue skies but with a definite nip in the air, especially under tree cover.
When we called Rich a year ago (we found this place during last year’s trip after the puzzle had declared our 2017 destination) he was very clear that while he was great at what he did, he had no control over Mother Nature or the Maine hunting laws, and that after September, the moose were quite a bit more scarce. Hunting seasons began before we got here, and right now moose – along with turkey, migratory birds, and bear – are on the menu. When we were unsuccessful at seeing moose in the usually most likely spots, Rich asked if my ankle could handle some light walking. He said that moose, which are truly dumb animals, suddenly gain a bunch of IQ points when people are shooting at them, and tend to not stroll down the roads or sip from bodies of water near populated areas in October or November. I insisted I could be a very careful walker, and Rich started a deeper hunt, taking us down rutted, abandoned roads that were often almost completely overgrown. He stopped by small trails he knew of that led to moosey spots like marshes or ponds. If he wasn’t sure that I and my ankle should venture out, he would go ahead and check a place out then come back to report to us.
This is one of the most beautiful places on God’s earth, for sure, and especially in October. Lori had visited Acadia National Park 30 years ago, but I had never before set foot in the state. I had huge expectations of what Maine should look like in the fall, and I was so excited about coming here that I was somewhat concerned my expectations were too high, as they had been when we visited Vermont and New Hampshire for GW7 in 2004, when it was dreary and rainy with almost no leaf color to be found because all of them had fallen off already. This time though, I needn’t have worried. As always, God blessed us and this trip. Color was everywhere around us, from the deep evergreen of the pines, the yellow of the ash and birch trees, and the brown of some of the oaks, to the brilliant oranges, reds and scarlets of other oaks and the maples. Glorious color that we could not only see, but feel and smell. Colors that made you want to stop and not move for fear of forgetting that you saw it. And the air smelled wonderful, like a potpourri of lavender and pine and water and lack of pollution.
As we were driving and walking through this unbelievably gorgeous and seemingly almost unpopulated place hunger finally got the best of us, and Rich said out next stop was an “enchanted lunch spot” that he knew of. He drove into one of the parks and turned down a long road crisscrossed with anti-erosion barriers, until we arrived at the edge of the West Branch River, a tributary of the Penobscot River. Rich pulled into a clearing, and in what seemed to take him only 5 minutes, unpacked the truck and set up two chairs and table for us, and a propane grill. He gave us each a big thick wool blanket to block the nippy air, and proceeded to make us a delicious lunch of cheeseburgers, cucumber slices, chips, and Maryanne’s stupefyingly good chocolate chip brownies. We ate while sitting under a canopy of multicolored trees and surrounded by woods, looking out at the quickly rushing water of the river. As always, simple food tastes awesome when eaten outside, and we enjoyed every bite.
We had stopped for lunch quite late, so by the time we were all packed up and back in the truck, it was approaching . At this point, I cannot hope to guess how many miles we had traveled in and around the countryside in Rich’s Denali, but except for lunch and a half hour stop to find good Wi-Fi at one point so that we could help Lori’s daughter edit a paper, we had been driving nonstop looking for the elusive moose. It was time now for a concerted effort as dusk approached, which is a high moose-spotting time of day. Rich first took us to a very moosey spot with water on either side of the road where we waited for a while, and then we headed back over to the first road on which we had started the day, and where Rich said was the absolutely best opportunity to see moose from a vehicle. If this were a novel or a movie, it would be at this point that I told you, “and when the last light was fading from the sky, just as we rounded the last curve, we saw him. He stood in all his majesty on the side of the road, his breathtaking rack of antlers silhouetted against the rising moon, looking for all the world as if he had stood there waiting for us the entire day…” Didn’t happen. Our moose safari – with regards to actually seeing a moose – was a bust. And while we were disappointed, we were certainly not devastated. Now Rich – he was somewhat devastated, poor guy. It turns out than in over 100 moose safaris, he has never failed to find a moose. He was so apologetic, but good grief, the guy did his best and more. And my bum foot was the real culprit here, as we really needed to have been able to hike in to ponds and lakes to be able to successfully spot one during hunting season.
|The closest we came to a moose; a footprint in the mud.|
By the time we stopped by a local pizza joint to grab dinner and then made the 45 minute drive back to Twin Maple Farm, it was and all three of us were absolutely exhausted. Lori and I drove back to the lodge from the house, ate our dinner and were headed for bed when we remembered that we had not tossed the states at all on this trip, and it was the end of the second day! Lori put the remaining puzzle pieces in a bowl and tossed them high in the air. MANY states fell face down, and in fact, after the very first elimination round, we were already down to only six possible destinations for next year: North Dakota, Alabama, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Colorado. It was a truly awesome day, full of God’s natural beauty and splendor. We had a great guide and a truly wonderful experience. Our moose is out there somewhere, we’ll just have to meet him another day.