Friday, August 24, 2012

The Quest for Moose is Abandoned!

Abbott, Maine    High: 79  Low: 59

We went for the third day, hunting for moose....This time we decided to get deep into the heart of Baxter State Park. The local literature says, "If you haven't had your fill of moose by the time you get to  Lily Bay State Park, (just north of Greenville) head over to Kokadjo and try Lazy Tom's bog...." Etc., etc., etc. We tried those tried and true moose view sites to no avail. It's time for more serious, in depth moose hunting strategies! We're game...heh, heh, heh....

We decided to go further, all the way to Baxter State Park. People talk about spotting moose in and around Baxter a lot. It's an hour and a half drive from Abbot at Balsam Woods Campground, where we are staying, to Baxter State Park. We took highway 6/15 to highway 11 north to Millinocket, and continued to 159 north into the state park. The roads are not the best, but they are a LOT better than coming into Baxter on the west side. Speed limits of often lower than 55, slow the trip way down, but that's ok, we're retired, we like scenic drives.

On the way, we saw some beautiful scenery....stopped at a little roadside park for lunch with one picnic table and a beautiful view of Maine's mountains in the distance.
We drove on....We saw this little bridge out of the corner of our eye and stopped...It was a narrow suspension bridge, built especially for snowmobilers so they wouldn't have to cross on the regular highway roads over this particular river.
And on we drove....

We spot this really cool rock, with Mount Katahdin, the highest mountain in Maine at 5,268 feet, in the distance. It was painted on both sides, with more painted boulders behind it. Very cool!
And on we drove, we're getting closer! We finally reach Baxter State Park, and here is the first thing we saw......And no, it was NOT a moose! This is a warning sign about the road that goes through the park. It's narrow, barely enough room for two vehicles passing each other, and it's NOT paved. They say it's graded regularly during the summer, but heavy rains can wash out the road at any time.
Here are a few things you need to know about Baxter State Park, which we did NOT find out from the ranger entry station after paying 14.00 non-resident fee to get into the park. You know how parks usually have a Park Loop Road, or the main road that traverses through the park with pull outs and vistas and scenic views? Guess that's maine-ly national parks. Because this one has almost zero pullouts, trails are poorly marked, and to add insult to injury, the governor of Maine who bequeathed the land for this state park specified the roads were NEVER to be paved, that it was to stay WILD forever!

Two vehicles can barely pass each other on the narrow, gravel road, there are MANY blind curves, people do NOT follow the 20 mph speed limit, and heaven forbid you should come across a grader (we did) which takes up 3/4 of the road! There is no place to safely pull out to see the many ponds in most cases, the few parking lots we encountered were spaces for three, maybe four cars, and you have to hike in to see the ponds or views for the most part.

This is a HIKER'S destination...people come to hike Mount Katahdin, which is spectacular, and to hike the trails that connect to the Appalachian Trail which starts or stops at Mount Katahdin depending on which direction you are going. The park has lots of rules. No vehicles over 9 feet high, 7 feet wide, or 22 feet long are allowed. There are no flush toilets, there is no electricity or RV hookups. Cell phones are unreliable. No pets. Motocycles are prohibited. No shower facilities. No convenience stores. No gas stations. No water spigots. You carry everything in and carry everything out, including personal hygiene items. No trash receptacles.  OK, got it. Wish we had read about this park ahead of time. Wish the park attendant had told us it was a 12 mile drive back to the pond where moose can be seen on occasion if we HAD gotten a moose pass. More about that later.

When we checked into the ranger station and paid our fee, we asked about moose. They give out MOOSE PASSES, good for three hours at a time to watch at the Sandy Stream Pond. They didn't have any available, but the ranger told us a couple other ponds to try. Maybe later, she'd have some, she said. So we traveled deep into the park on another road. The road never opened up, what ponds we could see, we were barely able to get off the road onto a narrow side patch of gravel to get out and look for moose. There are no paths down to the ponds except for one or two that we saw.

We kept driving....
And driving and stopping.....

And driving some more.....
No moose...It was getting late in the day.. We stopped back at the ranger station. Still no moose passes available to go to the Sandy Stream Pond. She let us go back anyway. Twelve miles later, we dead ended in a parking lot. No pond. Lots of tenters and hikers. We asked where the pond was. It was a hike of about 3/4 of a mile back into the buggy woods. Nope. Not going to do that. Sparky was already bitten in a bunch of places. Not worth it. There was one more place to revisit while there was a half hour of daylight left. We decided to go back to a really boggy marsh as the sun was setting. It was near the beautiful Abol River Campground. Sparky got some photos of a fly fisherman at the Abol River Bridge......
and the fantastic view at the bridge....
and a log truck barreling down on the bridge....

You gotta watch out for these log trucks, they own the roads up here. Seriously, they do. Many of the roads up here are privately owned by the logging companies, and they are in terrible shape from all the heavy duty truck hauling..They don't always stay on their side of the road, either! (Ask us how we know!)

The last bog we visited....It looks like the perfect place for moose to dine, too!

No moose....Time to go home, kids!

We tried....We looked high and low today.

We thought about getting up at 4:00 AM (Sparky, only for about two minutes) to try the early morning time since all our efforts have been at dusk, but we figured we probably wouldn't see any then, either! So, with a little bit of disappointment in our hearts, but some great photos of some of nature's bountiful beauty, we headed home for the night.....


  1. Those logging trucks are scary! Sorry you didn't see a moose. I would like to know the ratio of moose warning signs on the roadways to the actual number of moose in Maine!

  2. Your pictures are spectacular! Thanks for telling us about that park. I think we'll pass when we go next year. Buggy woods and me don't get along very well.

  3. It may have been a bust for moose but, wow, you got some incredible pictures. I love the one of the fisherman casting. Doesn't sound like a park that would be much fun to visit. Especially since I'm not a hiker and I really, really don't do bugs well.

  4. Oh goodness. . .I guess we all have days like that. . .don't give up. . .there's gotta be Moose in Maine. . .I mean seriously. . .it's like bears in Yellowstone. . .you just know they are there!

    You still got some great pics. . .hang in there!


  5. Yup, I know they are there. They see Sparky coming with her camera, and they are like, I'm outta here!"

  6. We have always found Moose when we are not looking for them. Stop looking and maybe you will see one.
    Good luck

  7. Some really gorgeous pictures of the park Jeannie. Thanks!! I have always wanted to hike the AT so I have a secret love affair with Baxter and am actually glad that there is some place where only those who want to hoof it can go and no dogs to scare off the wildlife. I wouldn't want every place to be like that but I am happy that there are some places where wildness can exist without so much of the foot print of man. Great description of the strengths and weaknesses of Baxter. I am sorry you didn't see your moose. You could try the Tetons, that's where we saw them. Not too bad a drive for your truckerman. :-)

  8. I'm sorry you didn't find your moose.... kinda makes me feel guilty about my morning drives. But... next time you go moose hunting, try up here in Aroostook County... the moose count is down a bit this summer, but there are still plenty up here to see. And... who knows? You might come across one yet....

  9. Funny thing about Maine moose. We also saw lots of watch out for moose signs, but I finally decided that it was just a tourist scam:) In three weeks of looking not one moose!