Web and Book design,
Copyright, Kellscraft Studio
(Return to Web Text-ures)
THE LAKES AND STREAMS OF MAINE
THE Indian names of lakes, streams, and mountains in Maine are not as difficult as they seem, being pronounced as they are written. At our first knowledge of these names, they furnish not a little humorous comment. At length, however, their pleasing syllables become poetic, and stand for the sweet, wild districts where they nestle or flow, as waters, or dominate the landscape in noble elevations.
Though the number of the Maine lakes is legion, their total area is only sufficient to render them charming. A lake of great extent loses the beauty of winding waters, broken by many peninsulas. There seems to be a very decisive line of opinion drawn between those who regard these lakes as sources of power, and those who regard them as lures for the traveler. If the state insists, as it easily may, that any lands flooded shall previously be carefully cleared of timber, there is no reason why the beauty of Maine should not be conserved, together with its waters. In no case should the flooding of a timbered country be permitted. It can work no hardship to insist on the clearing of timber. The product ought to come near balancing the cost. Every one of us ought to stand strongly against the unnecessary ugliness of dead timbers, forlorn monuments of carelessness or greed, amid the slack waters formed by dams.
The mountains about the Rangeley Lakes are not so lofty, yet afford, in conjunction with the lakes, scenes of noble splendor. One compares the Rangeleys with the English lake country. That country also we have pictured and admired. We feel that the Rangeley region is not a little superior in its beauty as well as in its extent. The Rangeley forests are more interesting. These regions must be considered as a unit with New Hampshire scenery. To the west of Umbagog one is often disappointed by the absence of pine trees near the margins of our Maine lakes. Whenever we do find good forest specimens they are likely to be in a tangle, so that we may view them only in a general way. Here and there we find birches have been left growing on the very shores, for which they have a strong affection. The mountains of Maine and New Hampshire seen from Upper Kezar Lake in Lovell are to be commended as affording a lake setting of grandeur.
About Lake Meddybemps in Washington County, the hills, while of much beauty, do not rise to the dignity of mountains. The fine mountain shores about Camden and Mount Desert are unique in this northeastern American coast in that mountain and sea come together. The inlets between the mountains and Mount Desert some one called the only fiords in America. The statement seems to us very much forced. Certainly on the Pacific Coast in Puget Sound there are fiords greatly surpassing in grandeur any of those in Norway, but it is not necessary to look so far away. The waterways about Wiscasset appeal to us as true fiords. There are other inlets on the Maine coast where swiftly-descending hills meet deep water. However that may be, we should not overlook one region at the expense of another. As one sails up the Penobscot and sees below one, opposite Bucksport, Mount Waldo and Treak Hill, the latter rises directly from the water's edge. He finds at the entrance of Marsh Bay a slope sufficiently high and rapid to be defined as a fiord. In fact the sail through the Penobscot in daytime or on the borders of morning or evening unrolls grandeurs never to be forgotten by those who love the hills. They are much higher and bolder than those seen on the Kennebec, which gains its attractions through the intimate and tender green slopes. The great part of the district in Maine, from somewhat west of Augusta, well on for one hundred and fifty miles due east, is a country just escaping the dignity of mountains. It is spattered over with fine hills very often wooded. If one would patiently and slowly thread the farm roads through this region he would be in a state of continual joy as one graceful contour after another unfolded itself.
To return to
features of the shore and mountains, let us say that the outlook from
Cliff on the north side of Megunticook is of surpassing beauty, such
should be at a loss to match it in our country. While the terrifying
majestic elevations of the Cascade Range are lacking, there is here on
Cliff an intimate outlining of lakes below, and, looking southeasterly
to the sea,
all together affording the highest satisfaction. We were happy in our
visit to this spot. The view is well known and everywhere used in
advertising literature. It is apparent, however, that visitors to this
are not as numerous as they should be. The trail is easy for a mountain
and is a climb of only twenty-five minutes even allowing for intervals
The approach is from a farm house on the lake side, which must be
sought out by
inquiry since no signs appear. Ascending the main peak and looking
wholly different view is unfolded. At our feet lies Camden Harbor, and
easterly are the elevations of Mount Desert and northeasterly flows
Penobscot River. There is a healthful, and what we hope not a too
rivalry between Camden and Mount Desert. Each has its peculiar
they are sufficiently different to set off one another. The loftiness
Camden Range is as impressive, viewed from the sea or from the lakes,
as any of
our eastern mountain scenery.
FROM MAIDEN'S CLIFF - CAMDEN
AROUND THE BLOSSOMS - WOOLWICH
A BELFAST COVE
KENNEBEC BIRCHES - HALLOWELL
A WISCASSET WATER NOOK
A GRACIOUS HEDGEROW
A MAINE FARM ENTRANCE - WOOLWICH ROAD
COTTAGE ORCHARD - BATH-WISCASSET ROAD
A HONEYMOON RETREAT - DRESDEN
A WELL SWEEP BACKGROUND - LISBON
A BLOSSOMY CURTAIN - ROCKPORT
SACO BOWS - FRYEBURG
THE OLD BARN GABLE - LOVELL
At Mount Desert, in the setting aside of a portion of the island known as Lafayette National Park, and the beginning of a road to the greatest elevation on the island, we have a very satisfactory undertaking and accomplishment. Happily it has not been too late in America to secure under national control a great many of our country's landscape glories. The beauty of Somes Sound and of the fine cliffs and headlands of the various parts of Mount Desert has been rather fully disclosed in our travel literature. The island scene on Mount Desert that most pleased us was a foreground of a field of daisies beyond which lay a lake and Mount Green. On the Southwest Harbor shore we also found a daisy field sloping sharply down to the beach, with evergreens beyond. On the east shore of the island is the impressive cliff which is named Cathedral Rock, from the fact that an arch opens behind its foremost buttress. In the sea there is an endless charm as one wanders along the beach at low tide. We were obliged to climb down a rugged way since we happily came upon these cliffs at high tide. As a rule the tide evades us. They tell us that there are two high tides in a day, but our experience seems to contradict astronomy. These fine cliffs, with the water breaking upon them, are of course more impressive than when one walks upon the beach. The caves formed by the erosion of softer rocks are called The Ovens, and are curious massive cavities in the cliffs. Mount Desert has the peculiar distinction of being at once the summer home of leaders in the financial and intellectual world. It would perhaps be a betrayal of Mount Desert to state that its summer mildness is hurt by occasional fogs. But who in the reeking and torrid July in the great city would not welcome a cool fog? The contours of Mount Desert are in general not so bold as those about Camden, but a mountain island ever holds its own fascination. This portion of Maine is without doubt destined to become completely occupied by seasonal dwellers. If they prove to have the wisdom not to tame the scenery it will be a most happy outcome. For ourselves we can never see the appropriateness of city lawns among the cliffs, rapids, and mountain streams.
The vista of Mount Desert, as it spreads itself before a traveler on the road from Ellsworth eastward, and especially in Sullivan, suggests somewhat a scene in the Greek Isles only that our elevations are beautifully wooded. The mountain districts of Maine are almost always rich in lakes, and this affords more than half their charm. There is almost no end to the cottage sites to be found made up of a hill slope, below which lies a lake. We observe usually that cottages are huddled on the very bank of a lake, and not seldom where the highway dust is wafted against them. The joy of a lake is as much in looking down upon it as in sailing over it. Since nature has provided so many admirable hill curvatures in Maine it is high time that their excellence should be recognized.
It often happens that an entrancing feature of lake scenery consists of the large and small islands that dot the larger lakes of Maine, from the mere breaking of the surf by a bold rock to the extent of many acres finely wooded. These islands, or at least several score of them in the Maine lakes, are still calling to the seeker for independence, quiet, and beauty. As seen from above, these islands appear, especially in a quiet day, inexpressibly beautiful. We almost fear that the universal use of motor-cars may prevent the development of homes upon these islands. Human nature, however, is not easily modified, and whatever means of locomotion there is in store for us, we may safely believe that an island home will always be attractive. Perhaps in the general development, the islands will come into their own again, especially since the invention of the amphibious airplane.
BACK DOOR BLOSSOMS - DRESDEN
A COTTAGE SQUARE - LOVELL
CRYSTAL COVE - GRAY
A COUNTRY PARSONAGE - MANCHESTER
AN ABANDONED ORCHARD - MANCHESTER
ENTERING THE FOREST - NEAR WALDOBORO
THE PATH - CAMDEN
OLD MAINE MILLS
MAINE is the paradise of miniature mills. There is a little valley, beloved of our boyhood, where a tannery and a saw mill followed one another on a stream with an interval only sufficient for the little reservoirs between. One can scarcely take a half-hour's run on Maine roads without encountering one or more such mills or sites where they once stood. They were seldom operated the year through, but only at the time of high water. This time coinciding with that in which farm labor was least demanding, the mill was a convenient outlet for energy. The winter was spent in the forest preparing the logs, the early spring in sawing. These little water powers have lapsed into disuse, owing to the modern specializing in the matter of labor, so that one man does one thing all the time, and loses the pleasure and the development connected with variation of labors. What will become of the little old dams is a question that nature is answering for herself. Occasionally, in a rampant freshet, she gives them a shoulder thrust, and the freed waters of the stream babble over their little cascade as they have done for ages. An occasional structure of great strength still impounds a placid pond, on the margins of which the rushes grow.
At the old Coombs. Mills in Augusta, on a gently shelving shore, baptisms used to occur. This mill has survived, and become more important than of yore. We do not connect the sanctifying of the waters with its prosperity. we are far from believing that the righteous are always well looked after on this planet.
Another mill has been for long a source of tan-bark banking, used to protect the farm houses in winter. Here and there an old mill-dam has been utilized for esthetic purposes, to decorate the grounds of a summer place. One and another of the better of these ancient reservoirs has been purchased by power companies, to be drawn upon in seasons of drought. Some of the old dams have sunken to puddles, owing to the cutting away of timber. Largely, such mill ponds are anybody's property, in the sense that they are unused and await the coming of someone to set them to work again or to beautify their banks.
In the olden time the mill was often the only lively spot in a country town, when the farmers were bringing in their logs or drawing away their sawed product. The delicious odors of the boards as they came from the saw, or the fragrance of the yellow meal that sifted down into the receiving tray, linger yet in our nostrils.
It was a period of small enterprises and slow wheels. There was no Minneapolis hum at the old mill-dam. At North Berwick, Ebenezer Hobb had an old water mill which was famed for the fine quality of the meal it turned out, but in another respect it was like the mills of the gods; it ground slowly, so slowly that the meal drizzled down in a minute stream. A farmer from afar came one day with four bushels of corn to grind. Ebenezer got busy. He descended to the lower regions, and jiggled around with the water gate. He came up and jiggled with other controls. At last the old wheel began to growl, like a rheumatic brute. After a short eternity the farmer inquired,
"How you getting along, Ebenezer?"
"Oh, we're doing pretty well. What's your hurry?"
Another interminable interval, then the farmer breaks out,
"Ebenezer, I've got an ox at home that will eat that meal faster than you can grind it."
At that Ebenezer flared up, and retorted,
"I'd like to know how long he could eat it?"
"He could eat
that meal," said the farmer, "till he starved to death!"
CANOEING IN MAINE
IT is natural to suppose that Maine, a State of waters, would develop the finest form of the canoe. This supposition is borne out by the fact. The Indian canoe of birch bark, a rather fragile affair, has been supplanted by a canoe with close set, thin, cedar ribs, and cedar strakes, all covered by canvas. Such a canoe, twenty feet long, weighs about ninety pounds, and is ample for three people with their dunnage. More can be accommodated if necessary, but three is the right number for comfort. This canoe is not too heavy at the carries for two men, the third toting dunnage in a pack.
The shape of this canoe is closely modeled on the lines of the Indian canoe of bark, with a round bottom rather flattened, and with the ends coming together in a quick, sharp, graceful curve. The shape is the embodiment of an Indian dream. we may think that the horns of the moon and the curves of the graceful birch tree, and the crescent beaches of the Maine lakes gave the suggestion. The result at least is perfection. The canoe combines more than any other human creation the practical and the ideal, reminding us of "the perfect woman, nobly planned." Fur lightness, for grace, for mobility, for its perfect adaptation to its purpose, no device of man has ever equaled the canoe. It is the home of the woodsman for the greater part of the year. Even at night he draws it on shore and, upturning it, has a roof above him. It is his home and companion. More than any other inanimate thing, it is lovable and beloved. We stroke its curves as we pet a fine horse. It is not without good reason that the canoe has appealed, in picture, song, and story, to the minds of those who discovered it full-grown and beautiful, in the hands of the adept Indian, who evolved it. To be at once a thing of perfect beauty and perfect adaptability to use, is true of few human creations. Its very lightness and elasticity preserve it from harm, where a clumsier craft would be smashed. Its very resilience and fragility make it durable. Like the human character it has the power to rebound after a blow, and to bob up serenely, ready for the next bump. Henry Ward Beecher once made a very telling simile, regarding the resilience of the ferry slips. An analogy based on the canoe would have supplied him with a far more apt and telling illustration.
It is highly significant that the old guide gains an affection for his canoe, and thinks it, despite all the battering it has received, better than a new one. Here and there a strake has been broken. Again and again the canvas has been punctured. Never mind. After a few deft repairs, and one more coat of new skin, otherwise orange shellac, the voyageur launches forth again, happier than before, because his own feeling and skill have entered into the craft that bears him. It is a monument to his ability as a boatman, and every scar is a kind of notch-stick history of his experiences in the rapids, from season to season. Like a child, none too perfect, it is the best for him because it is his. In winter he renews it, in the other three seasons he paddles it. It is at once his living and his life. It combines poetry and practicality, so that, even if he reads with difficulty, and has not heard of Keats, his life is nevertheless an idyll.
Maine is especially happy, indeed preeminent, in the range that may be covered in a canoe, with an occasional short carry just sufficient to emphasize the rest and comfort of launching again. A seat in the bottom of a canoe is a post of observation, more joyous and more profitable than the throne of a king. The world passes in review before one. The fish leap about one. The birds twitter as one passes. The marks on the stones show the range between high and low water. The mosses on the trees and the direction of the branches indicate the prevailing winds. The keen and experienced guide reads a long history and indulges in sure prophecy, as the canoe glides along. It is a story not read in history, but none the less worth while and delightful.
The canoe has more to do with the development of history in America than has the battleship. The canoe might well be taken as the symbol and seal of Parkman's wonderful histories. For the canoe was the pioneer of European civilization in the west, even more than the prairie schooner or the Conestoga wagon.
When we see a canoe, we live again our childhood with Cooper. This slight, airy affair, begun by the Indian, and finished by the even subtler skill of the white man, is on its way again to the forefront of American life. There are doubtless more canoes now than in the days of the Indians, and their number is constantly and deservedly increasing. Contrary to the supposition of the unknowing, the canoe is a safe craft. One may, indeed, overset it, but the finest forms and implements used by man require delicacy of control, and when so controlled they are safer than more clumsy implements. It takes little practice to gain as great assurance of safety in a canoe as upon the land. One is far more likely to catch his foot in a root than to catch his keel on a rock. The use of a canoe encourages a certain litheness, combined with a daintiness of touch, which reacts upon the mind of the person who acquires these faculties, and gives a sense of power. One feels almost the assurance of a bird in the sky. A construction which is at once a vehicle and a home, which may be used to sleep in or under, to float in quiet water or to dash through cascades, is an achievement into which doubtless many centuries have entered.
The waters of Maine are competed for by the lumbermen, so that until we get into the real backwoods, we do not have the streams to ourselves with the canoes. But even so, it is highly entertaining and sometimes amusing to observe the adroitness of the paddler in overcoming obstacles. Mr. Thornton Burgess, the notable naturalist and writer for children, was telling the author of his experience with an Indian paddler as they approached a boom. Mr. Burgess asked what his guide would do about that. The reply was, "When I holler, you paddle like ——." When they neared the boom, each put his strength to his paddle, and the canoe gracefully mounted the obstacle like a hurdler. The writer, in canoeing on the Penobscot, was carried through a mass of pulp wood, over which the paddler, working alone, easily shot. On one occasion, when we thought there was no lumber near, we felt a rumbling. When we asked Roberts what it was, he said, "Oh, we are just on rollers." We bumped about for a long time among sticks, some of them quite formidable, but with not half the annoyance caused by the mosquitoes. Upsets in rapids do occur, but they are so rare that every one hears about them, and the guide is always chagrined, as it is a point of honor with him to avoid such mishap. He fears the laugh of his fellows more than anything else. The guides acquire an almost uncanny skill in riding the rough water, and in knowing where they are safe. Of course well-known rapids are shot by them so often that they feel as much at home as in a parlor — probably more so.
The delights of the night camp serve to perfect the experiences of a canoe trip, like a luscious bit of ham between sandwich slices. All the joys in life being emphasized by contrast, the evening is never so delightful as when it closes an active day, nor is the day ever so delightful as when we leave the morning camp. All foods are tasty, though it should be understood that the best is not considered too good to take along. Canoeing with a camera has marked advantages over gunning. One is more likely to bring home spoils, and those spoils are more attractive than the eyes of a dead beast. Further, in spite of the number of cameras, it is rare that one is used in the woods. The catch with a camera is more likely to be original than any catch of fish or game.
Though many indulge in rhapsodies regarding the delights of the forest, most human beings love a crowd. Indeed, when among solitudes we often feel a bit selfish that we should have several square miles to our individual selves. A new train of reflections is suggested. The uninhabited parts of the earth are still very extensive. Its surface, if we ignore the water, which we decidedly are not doing at the present time, still affords some fifty acres to a family! Practically, however, if a man wants room, there are so many ready to resign it to him that he may easily acquire several square miles for the price of a diamond of moderate size. A certain gentleman has been adversely criticised because he acquired an island many miles in extent. Since no one else wanted it, we see no reason to object to his ambition. Some may enjoy canoeing where there are many canoes. Give us the wild! Let us move over the mirrored surfaces where the call of the moose or the loon is the only break in the celestial silence.
There are stretches of hundreds of miles in extent in Maine, like the Allagash River trip, during which one scarcely sees a human being. Yet the sense of loneliness never descends on a true canoeist.
The canoe, in fact, is the only available means of seeing Maine over a great part of its extent. Some years ago, we contributed an article on the fitting up of an old street car with a canoe slung in the clerestory. By negotiation the car was taken in tow to interesting points, and there derailed, and the canoe made use of. Since that time the motor car has made much more elastic a similar plan. By carrying a canoe thus on a specially constructed body, one may live on a motor car with day trips by canoe. We commend this suggestion to those who would like to do it first and report. It is an adventure that we propose entering upon at the first opportunity. When the newness of motoring passes, Americans may return to the water as the more pleasing and the safer recreation. The water is much softer to fall upon than are stone roads.
Canoeing for man and wife, or for a tourist and his guide, offers such a variety of attractions that it must increase, if, indeed, the spirit of freedom still stirs in the blood of Americans. Three-quarters of the state of Maine is an area as perfect as any in existence for this incomparably attractive recreation. Aroostook, Piscataquis, Somerset, and Penobscot counties in the north, Washington county in the east, Kennebec in the center, and Cumberland and Oxford in the West, possibly in the order in which we have named them, offer the widest series of attractions. To us the streams and the small lakes are not only most beautiful, but in other respects most alluring. We would, however, not convey an impression that a long or a strange trip is safe without a guide. The very independence and freedom of spirit which induces men to make canoe journeys, also sometimes induces them to venture too far and to depend wholly on their own wisdom. This is just as dangerous as it is to buy antiques without advice, or after advice.
On a canoe journey, one should frankly dispense with the usual paraphernalia of civilization, and dress precisely as a woodsman does. This remark is especially pertinent to footwear, including heavy, home-knit socks. Otherwise what might be a delightful journey may be very annoying. Those who must keep all the finical aids of the city will not enjoy a canoe journey. Beyond the comfort of a shave, and a dip in the summer streams, one should think of nothing personal.
MAINE IN SPRING - WISCASSET
GREAT ELMS OF RANDOLPH
A CAMDEN ELM ROW
SEAWARD - NORTH EDGECOMB
UNDER THE OAK BOUGH - EAST BOOTHBAY
OVER THE FIELD ROAD - DRESDEN
SWEET WATER CASCADE - WALDOBORO
A great surprise awaited the writer, who found that in the open he could tramp three times the distance that he could walk in town. Dwelling beneath the sky is the only true elixir of youth. A trip of this sort derives additional attraction from a knowledge, at least in a moderate degree, of the trees and shrubs and flowers. The little creatures of the wood, and the game one occasionally comes upon, increase our pleasure.
however, we have to make, humiliating though it be. Always in country
we take a stock of blank paper, to enroll the thoughts that rush upon
Always all the paper is brought back as blank as at the beginning. The
thoughts are drowned or blown away! They seem very important at the
while a black fly is crawling through one's hair, or the glory of a
cloud is overhead, how can one stop to write? Except to a few geniuses
Thoreau, whose memory was perhaps phenomenal, the woods are not
literary achievement. Even artists in oil, if the truth is to be blazed
frequently whisk away, when there is a knock at the door, the
the scenes they are "painting from nature."