Sailing Northward…Baxter Bound

Good Fall Morning to all! It’s great to be back home, back by the sea and yet it was great to be in Maine’s North Woods away from it all! Annie & I have just finished our 4 day camping trip with 19 middle school students to Baxter State Park. One of the many amazing moments of the trip was making the connection of land and sea…

My first day of the trip was filled with canoeing on Ambajejus Lake to learn about Maine’s logging industry of the past. The Boom House Museum, set out on an island on the lake used to house 11 fellows who’s job was to gather the cut logs as they came down the river to the lake into a large circle, or rather a “boom” that was held together by chained logs. It’s very similar to how fisherman work a seine’s fishing net to gather herring. Once the boom was filled, a towboat would then hitch up to it and tow it down the river system of northern Maine to Millinocket or Bangor to the sawmills. In Bangor sawn boards were then loaded on schooners and taken to sea via the Penobscot River and delivered all over the world. It was so interesting to be in the middle of the state of Maine, camping alongside the Penobscot River and learning about the logs being driven down the river and having spent the whole summer sailing on the schooner at the other end of the river (at Fort Point). It was a cool connection to make.

We were even fortunate enough to spend time with a fellow who was a deckhand on the towboats and worked the last river drive in 1971. He now care takes the Boom House and builds birch bark canoes, which were awesome! They are still heavily logging Northern Maine, only to be witnessed by the droves of logging trucks barreling down the roads, loaded way too high & driving way too fast! Long gone are the river drives & booms being towed.

Another day was spent hiking up Sentinel Mountain, which Mt. Katahdin looks down upon. We were in search of moose and only came upon their great gift to the earth…

One of the class teachers had hiked this very mountain trail about 15-20 years prior and told the class his tale of meeting a thru hiker on the Appalachian Trail which passes thru the area. The hiker had started in Georgia and was completing the trek with just his dog, his Seeing Eye dog at that. This gentleman had somehow managed to make the journey all while being blind. It totally amazed us all at hearing this tale and so we made a point along our journey upward at taking turns being the blind hiker and being the seeing eye dog. How that gentleman did it was more than we could fathom! Our hike up the brightly fall colored trail ended in a cloud of mist with a brief glimpse of the valley below. Katahdin came out and greeted us as we descended…an awesome sight worthy of a long pause in the hike.

The woods were peaceful, the lake graceful and being there with a group of exceptional students was the icing on the cake. It was a sweet ending for the long summer for Annie & I. And as Thoreau once said, “We need the tonic of wildness…we can never have enough of nature…”.
Have a great day. Be well. Do good.


  1. It is a small world. The blind hiker you mentioned is Bill Irwin, and his dog’s name was Orient. He published a book called “Blind Courage” of which he gave me a signed copy in May of 1993. It was amazing to hear him speak of his trip. Last I heard of him he was living in North Carolina and publishing a newsletter called the “Orient Express” I do know his beloved dog Orient passed away only a few years after the trip. I highly recommend the book, I have seen it in some specialty stores that cater to the hiker. (If you cannot find it let me know, I would be glad to share mine).

    I found the small sections of the Appalachian trail I have hiked difficult with both eyes open. Please do not ask Ed about a place called “Charlie’s Bunion”. It would dash any hope (as though I really had any) of ever climbing to the crosstrees of the Mary Day.

  2. Follow up to my previous comment. A quick google search led me to Bill Irwin’s website. Apparently he now lives in Sebec, in a state called Maine and is doing well.

  3. Jen,

    Thanks for the fabulous pictures and the narrative. I hope you and Annie had as good a time on the trip as you seemed to be having planning it back in mid-September.

    I read a book some time ago about Bill Irwin, a blind hiker who, along with his dog, Orient, completed the Appalachian trail. The title is Blind Courage written by Bill and David McCasland. Bill was the first blind person to complete the trail. Reading the book convinced me that hiking the trail is a very arduous endeavor for a sighted person and an amazing and inspiring accomplishment for someone who is blind.

  4. Sounds like you and Annie had a great trip! I hiked Katahdin last Saturday (Oct. 13) and thought of you guys, but I think you were hope by then. Hope all is well,

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