Summer in the Maine woods: exploring our outdoors traditions

Maine has a storied tradition in the rugged outdoors. From Henry David Thoreau paddling down the Penobscot to President Theodore Roosevelt seeking adventure atop Mount Katahdin as a young man, generations of Americans have come to our state to experience all that it has to offer. And of course, summer in Maine is a particularly beautiful time to get outside. Whether it be with family, friends or neighbors — or even just someone you met on the trail — a walk in the woods or a paddle down the river is a great reminder of how special our state is and how lucky we are to live here.

To highlight some fun outdoor activities Maine has to offer, I hosted Carolann Ouellette of Maine Huts and Trails, and Lindsay Downing of Mt. Chase Lodge in Patten on the June edition of my Inside Maine Podcast. Carolann, a native of Jackman, is the former director of the Maine Office of Tourism and spoke with me about outdoor opportunities in the western mountain region, and Lindsay, born and raised in Patten, highlighted some of her personal favorite recreational activities in the Katahdin region.

Maine Huts and Trails opened in 2008 and is a nonprofit that cares for and maintains 80 miles of backcountry trails from Carrabassett Valley to the Forks on the Kennebec River. Nearby you can hike Mount Bigelow, Saddleback and Sugarloaf, or a personal favorite of mine Quill Hill in Rangeley. Maine Huts and Trails also offers a wonderful youth outdoor education program that helps teach Maine children about environmental stewardship and the Leave No Trace principles that keeps our forests clean and beautiful. Along the 80 mile-stretch are four huts run by Maine Huts and Trails: Stratton Brook, Flagstaff, Grand Falls and Poplar. These Huts run year round and support the Maine economy through their dedication to locally sourced ingredients.

Lindsay Downing owns and operates Mt. Chase Lodge on Shin Pond in Patten with her husband, Mike. Lindsay grew up at the sporting camp — which her parents ran from 1976 to 2015 — and spoke with me about a number of her favorite outdoor activities in Baxter State Park and in the new Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. With her lodge near the north end of Baxter, Lindsay suggests South Branch Pond for all ranges of outdoor seekers from young families to advanced campers. You can drive in, rent canoes and also embark from there for longer hikes. The East Branch of the Penobscot is also great for fishing, as are many of ponds in Baxter that you need to pack in to access. But for the sake of the avid fishermen who wish to keep secret their favorite fishing holes, I’ll leave the extra research up to you.

I was so glad to have Carolann and Lindsay on the podcast to underscore the amazing opportunities throughout our state. So take advantage of the incredible natural resources Maine has to offer, for families, and for fishing and hiking and hunting, and snowmobiling and skiing in the winter. This is a good time of year to get outside and just get a taste of it, and I think when you do you’ll want to go back.

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