Tag Archives: Appalachian Trial

Northernmost Maine? I-95 won’t get you there | NPR

Northernmost Maine? I-95 won’t get you there | NPR

I’m not sure how I missed this part of the NPR package on Interstate 95 the other day (Paying a local price for I-95’s global promise | NPR), especially since it includes information on where I grew up. I was born in Fort Kent, traveled to Caribou to eat and shop, and drove those roads in my late teens and early 20s.

Extending Interstate 95 to Fort Kent or Madawaska would be good for the region to get goods and services that far north and products back south, but the comments point out that there are other pressing needs as well.

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Paying a local price for I-95’s global promise | NPR

Paying a local price for I-95’s global promise | NPR

This NPR story caught my eye because Interstate 95 is the closest interstate highway to where I grew up in Aroostook County.

State Route 11 was the only paved road in and out of Portage, but as an adult I’ve lived in cities bisected by several interstate, U.S. and state highways.

Route 11 still is the only paved way in and out of Portage and I’m pretty sure no one living there is interested in adding any commuter lanes or interchanges or bypasses. My mother used to lament about the “traffic” on the road when we lived on Route 11 leading into Portage. There were too many logging trucks going too fast for her.

The northern terminus of I-95 is at Houlton, Aroostook County’s county seat and a border crossing into Canada. The oldest and longest of the interstates, I-95 runs from Houlton to southern Florida.

Whenever we wanted to visit points south we would drive south on frost-damaged state Route 11 – also known as the Aroostook Scenic Highway – through Ashland. Farther south we would turn east at Knowles Corner onto state Route 212 to Symrna Mills and onto southbound I-95. Or we would bypassed the Knowles Corner turnoff and continued on Route 11 through to Patten and then to I-95.

I’ve driven a lot of interstate highways in the past 30 or more years and I-95 through Maine’s North Woods must be among the most remote interstates in the continental United States. It was not uncommon to drive from Houlton, Symrna Mills or Patten and not see another vehicle for miles and miles of forest-lined concrete highway. It was difficult sometimes not to nod off just a bit and it is not unusual to come across a moose or black bear standing in the middle of the lanes.

Mount Katahdin

Mount Katahdin

From doorstep to Bangor was about a three-hour drive, with about two-thirds of that on I-95. There is a section that opens up just a bit and allows a scenic view of Mount Katahdin, the highest mountain in Maine and the official end of the Appalachian Trial. (Some believe the Appalachian Mountains actually continue to Mars Hill, Maine, and there was a report earlier this summer that a section of the mountain range was left behind in Europe when the tectonic plates shifted. Also, a few days ago I posted photos of Mount Katahdin taken by a high school classmate, Kelly McInnis. https://lettersfromaway.wordpress.com/2010/08/25/camping-in-maine-in-the-shadow-of-mount-katahdin/)

I-95 goes through or near such Maine communities as Old Town, Orono, Bangor, Waterville and Gardiner, where the road splits into I-95, which swung out to Lewiston, and I-295, which was a straighter shot to Portland, Kittery and the rest of New England and the World. It would take about six hours to drive from my home in Portage to Gorham, Maine, where the residential campus of the University of Southern Maine is located and where I attended college for a time.

The NPR story has a couple of nice features: a list of little known facts, an interactive map showing the construction of the highway over the decades, and a list of places along I-95 to visit.

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Camping in Maine in the shadow of Mount Katahdin

Every so often I am reminded that I know some pretty talented people and some of them I’ve known a very long time.

Kelly McInnis was a high school classmate of mine at Ashland Community High School, MSAD No. 32. It was a consolidated high school with students coming from several different area communities. Portage Lake, where I grew up, was one of those communities.

Kelly, who still lives and works in The County, has a practiced eye when it comes to shooting photos. I seem to recall a photo of her from our high school yearbook, her red hair tied back and her wearing a baseball undershirt, the kind with the black three-quarter sleeves. In the photo, if I recall this correctly, she’s holding a 35-mm camera with which many of the other photos in the yearbook were shot.

But that was … holy, cow, about 30 years ago, so my memory may have faded a bit.

Anyway, Kelly shares here photos on Facebook and he graciously allows me to post them on “Letters From Away.”

Here’s Kelly McInnis’ campsite at Jo-Mary Lake Campground in the shadow of Mount Katahdin, the official end of the Appalachian Trail and the highest point in Maine. Photo by Kelly McInnis

Here’s Kelly McInnis’ campsite at Jo-Mary Lake Campground in the shadow of Mount Katahdin, the official end of the Appalachian Trail and the highest point in Maine. Photo by Kelly McInnis

Kelly was camping recently at Jo-Mary Lake Campground. The North Maine Woods Inc. at www.northmainewoods.org describes the amenities of the campground like this:

70 campsites along the shore of Jo-Mary Lake accommodate tents or camper trailers and most have a view of Mt. Katahdin. Boat launch, showers, flush toilets, dumping station, Laundromat, ice, fire wood and propane available. Sand beach provides excellent swimming. Five mile long Jo-Mary Lake provides fishing for landlocked salmon, brook trout, white perch and lake trout.

Sounds pretty plush for camping, but Kelly swears she roughed it by sleeping in a tent.

And there is Mount Katahdin, about 50 miles north of the Jo-Mary Lake Campground, according to the North Maine Woods Inc. website. Photo by Kelly McInnis

And there is Mount Katahdin, about 50 miles north of the Jo-Mary Lake Campground, according to the North Maine Woods Inc. website. Photo by Kelly McInnis

The campground is within the KI Jo-Mary Multiple Use Forest within 5 miles of the Appalachian Trial, with Baxter State Park and Mount Katahdin, the highest point in Maine, just 50 miles to the north. I don’t recall ever going to this campground, but I would now if I had a chance. It appears to be a wonderful spot.

By the way, I believe Mount Katahdin is still considered the official northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, even though as a youth I heard Mars Hill was considered by some to be the end of the trail, as it were.

But earlier this summer I read a wire story about how a portion of the Appalachian Mountains actually may have been left behind on the European continent when the tectonic plates shifted.

Anyway, a couple of Kelly’s photos show Mount Katahdin in the background.

Here’s another shot of Mount Katahdin in the background and rock piles in the foreground. Kelly wasn’t sure who might have made the rock piles, perhaps bored children, she said. I think aliens from another planet may have had a hand – if they had hands, that is – in the creation of what I like to call Ancient Rock Towers of Maine’s North Woods. Photo by Kelly McInnis

Here’s another shot of Mount Katahdin in the background and rock piles in the foreground. Kelly wasn’t sure who might have made the rock piles, perhaps bored children, she said. I think aliens from another planet may have had a hand – if they had hands, that is – in the creation of what I like to call Ancient Rock Towers of Maine’s North Woods. Photo by Kelly McInnis

Kelly didn’t know what the piled rocks were in some of the photos. Perhaps they are the product of a bored pack of children? Perhaps something more natural and mystical, such as the work of local native people? Perhaps something more mysterious still, such as the work of aliens from another planet? I think I’ll just call them the Ancient Rock Towers of Maine’s North Woods. I’m sure that will start showing up in search engines any day now.

Here’s another shot of the Ancient Rock Towers of Maine’s North Woods. Photo by Kelly McInnis

Here’s another shot of the Ancient Rock Towers of Maine’s North Woods. Photo by Kelly McInnis

Another photo appears to be shot at the edge of a stream or other water source and shows the beginning of foliage changing. It has been a rather dry summer in Maine and some of the leaves are changing sooner than they normally would, as documented by Kelly’s photos and, well, my Mom. She said the same thing when I called her Sunday.

Kelly took this shot to show the beginning of the changing foliage. Maine has gone through a very dry summer and some of the leaves are changing sooner than they might have otherwise. It also shows a pretty typical opening in Maine’s North Woods – slightly boggy and surrounded by thick woods. Photo by Kelly McInnis

Kelly took this shot to show the beginning of the changing foliage. Maine has gone through a very dry summer and some of the leaves are changing sooner than they might have otherwise. It also shows a pretty typical opening in Maine’s North Woods – slightly boggy and surrounded by thick woods. Photo by Kelly McInnis

And there is a whimsical shot of a dedicated Maine fisherman.

Hey, buddy, whatcha usin’ for bait. Kelly’s response to that he was using the worm from the tequila bottle. Actually, the creation of the fisherman and the shooting of it with the camera both show a bit of dry Maine whimsy. Photo by Kelly McInnis

Hey, buddy, whatcha usin’ for bait. Kelly’s response to that he was using the worm from the tequila bottle. Actually, the creation of the fisherman and the shooting of it with the camera both show a bit of dry Maine whimsy. Photo by Kelly McInnis

These photos were printed with Kelly’s permission.