Moosehead Lake: Part Two

I don't use commands, 
I just give suggestions.

Part two of our Moosehead adventure will outline all of Friday and then a bit of Saturday morning. We had a fun filled day planned for Friday from pretty much sun up to sun down. We woke up bright and early at 6am as we had an awesome White Water Rafting trip planned down the Kennebec River and had to be at North Country Rivers in Bingham, ME by 8:30am sharp. We got the trip from a Groupon and for the price we paid it was definitely money well spent, we all had an absolute blast and the weather was perfect. It was nice and sunny but not overly hot, and with our wetsuits I was the perfect temperature throughout the whole trip. We got to the lodge on time and they have you sign your life away and whatnot, and then they give a quick synopsis of the timeline and what the day will look like.

Then they have everyone go out back to start getting all of the gear. You get a wetsuit, a splash top, booties, a life jacket, helmet, and your paddle. Everything was pretty damp, and pretty smelly. But instantly after putting it on it becomes your own personal sauna. It was a little chilly that early in the morning before the sun rose, so I appreciated it.
All suited up and ready to go! Props to Nick for forgoing the full wetsuit and just doing the half, especially since he is usually the one who is the most cold.
Once we were ready we all got in a circle and did some cult bonding stuff and then they started to yell out the groups and who would be your guide. The guy who checked us in earlier, Justin, seemed to be the head of the gang and we were so excited when he yelled out that he would be our guide. We were a group of 4 so we were paired with another group of 4 to make a full boat of 8 plus Justin as our guide. The other 4 ended up being really nice as well, a British couple who vacations in the Cape for the summer along with two of their friends who live in the cape. We hopped on the bus for the 40 minute ride up the river to literally the most middle-of-nowhere spot I have ever been in my life. I've never felt so isolated and was really hoping we were being taken to a river and not a sacrificial ceremony in the middle of the woods. But alas, we finally made it to the Dam where the boats are set off. It is actually a really high security area ever since 9/11 and visitors are no longer allowed to tour or go near the dam. We got to our raft and all of the other groups were listening to a speech from their guide and sitting on the raft learning the "commands" for the day. After a few minutes of us just standing their one of the other people in our group asked Justin if we were going to learn the commands as well. Justin, being the coolest person ever on Earth, replied something along the lines of "I don't use commands, I just give suggestions." From that moment on we were sold and all of us officially want to be Justin when we grow up. As we got down the ledge carrying our raft Justin leaned down and picked a little white Daisy flower and stuck it in his life jacket just before we all hopped on. The coolness ensued. I hadn't been rafting since I was a little kid and even then I think we only did the calm water parts so I was somewhat nervous, or as we say "geekin'", about what was about to happen. After we survived the first major rapid the initial fear wore off, and we all realized how awesome it was and I was pretty worry-free the rest of the day. Lindsay bought a disposable underwater camera so these are the photos from that!

The river had class 2 through class 4 rapids, and then pockets of calm water in between. We really didn't have to do as much paddling as we expected, but we all followed Justin's "suggestion's" to a T. They included "all- ahead", "stop", "all-back", "watch the bump", and "left/right side ahead/back".
Having a blast on the river!
Coming up to another set of rapids. Justin was the lead guide so our boat was always first which was awesome. He also did cool things that other guides didn't do such as getting us caught in "surfs" which were little current pockets over rocks where if you did just the right thing it would get you 'stuck' in place even though the current was ripping. Really fun.
Gordon, the camera/video man was on his own kayak. Dying to see the footage from that day. When we first arrived to the lodge in the morning all groggy and tired he just ran up to us with the video camera and started yelling out questions like "ARE YOU GUYS PUMPED?!" "WHAT ARE YOU FEELING?!" "READY TO RAFT?!"... I would honestly pay to see the footage because the looks on our faces were priceless.... literally frozen. I felt like that scene with Will Ferrel in Taladega Nights where he doesn't know what to say or do with his hands and keeps lifting them up towards his face. Anyways, Gordon was pretty cool too, but not as cool as Justin.
Passing by some waterfalls which Justin so nicely pointed out to us. We also saw an Osprey flying overhead at one point and Justin just keeps looking ahead and goes "second largest predatory bird in the world".

After we got a long stretch of calm waters Justin said we could take our helmets off. One of the other women asked if we could get out of the boat. Justin said "You're an adult, you can make your own decisions." Meaning yes. It was SO FUN to jump out of the raft and just float down the river. We were floating really fast and you just stay right with the boat without even trying, it's pretty cool. The water was warm and really fresh. Justin said it was okay to drink it in small doses, so I did.
SO much fun! Floating was awesome. Hardly any of the other boats did it too, which made it even better.

I ended up ordering a couple of photos from North Country as they had certain checkpoints where photographers were alongside of the river to get action shots. Here we are about to take on some rapids, Justin looking epically cool in the back. On one of the class 4's we almost dumped it and I got a huge nasal enema. I swear water went in my nose and came out my eye, the others aren't so sure. We all got soaked and fell onto each other and into the middle of the boat and we look back and there's Justin, unscathed, sitting on the back with the little white daisy he picked blowing in the wind. Just stop.
Our whole group! Such a fun day. One of the guys in the other 4some had a Gropro on his helmet for the whole ride, I wish we were smart and remembered their names or asked for an email address so we could see the footage. Oh well! All in all I definitely recommend North Country if you ever want to go rafting in Maine. They also do the Dead River and Penobscot River, which we want to try next time. But whatever you do, demand that you get Justin.
The whole rafting ordeal was about 9 hours in total from leaving our house in Rockwood to the time we got back. We had to haul on the way back because Friday night we had special dinner reservations at 7:30 at  The Blair Hill Inn in Greenville, ME. It is a AAA Four-Diamond restaurant and inn overlooking Moosehead Lake on the East side. My Aunt used to work there when she lived up there and my Grandparents and everyone else recommended it as THE place to go for an amazing meal and experience. We got ready as quickly as possible and took a few photos on the deck at Papa's beforehand since we all looked fancy.

Linds brought her Polaroid camera so we were able to get a few shots with that as well that you will see throughout. They came out so cool! I love this one, looks like we are in the 70's.

 A couple more polaroids.
Love how these two photos look like a diptych! 
I know Mike and I had been to Blair Hill as kids but we were really too young to remember much so I was very excited to get to go as an adult. A beautiful white home that sits high on a hill with breath taking 180 degree views of the lake and mountains. The Innkeepers Dan and Ruth run it themselves and it is nothing short of fabulous. They suggested we get there early as to have a cocktail on the front porch and soak up the view and sunset as it faces West. We happily obliged and got there at about 6:45. 

The view before we even got inside! 

We headed inside to a warm greeting and were led to the bar area where we could order a cocktail and take it out to the porch. We each ordered a glass of wine and headed outside as the sun was starting to set. They had really nice shades that they set down to block the sun from your eyes without obstructing the view at all. It was so gorgeous and the warm sun felt so good after our day on the river. It was also cool to get to see the lake from a totally different perspective as we live on the West side and Blair Hill is on the East side.

My handsome man! Looking so dapper. 

Mike and Linds taking in the view.

The view is really hard to explain, just one of those things you have to see for yourself. The sprawling green lawn and trees leading the way down to the glistening lake with it's islands and mountains in the distance. All under a setting sun. 
Linds contemplating reality.

My turn!
And now Mike....

Another polaroid shot.
Linds and I both had a nice pinot grigio and the boys each had a cabernet. Why is wine so good?

Caught taking selfies.
The porch was a long wrap-around that had plenty of seating areas, chairs, and couches for different groups to sit on. We had plenty of space and it didn't feel like we were intruding on anyone else.
Watching the sun slowly set over the mountains.
I mean, come on! Absolutely beautiful.

Mike wanted to pick up the Nikon and take a few sunset pictures, he didn't do half bad considering it was on manual!

We were called in to dinner at the perfect time just as we were finishing the last sips of our wine and the sun was about to set below the mountains. We really felt like we were part of some exclusive club and that this was a hidden gem that we didn't want anyone else to know about.

We got a nice table for 4 in the main dining room and still were able to have a nice view out of the bay windows. The five course menu was carefully thought out and created just for that day. Each course had one or two choices so as a table we agreed to split it up so that we would try just about everything. The couple in the photo on the right were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary and were so adorable. They had big wedding champagne flutes and were even using a cloth napkin with their names embroidered on it from their actual wedding 50 years ago- he had saved it all that time just for this special occasion and it was so sweet. I had seen them on the porch earlier taking photos of each other, but none together, so once I found out what a big day it was for them I offered to take them back out on the porch for some pictures of the two of them together. It made them really happy and I was able to get some good shots on their camera of them smiling and smooching in the sunset. I told them what an inspiration they were and they told me that they still fall in love more and more each day. So sweet!
I want to personally apologize for these poor excuses for food photography but the lighting was dim due to the ambiance and I was only using an iPhone as to not disturb other guests with my big DSLR camera. Our waitress initially brought out an icy, sorbet-like palate cleanser of watermelon and blueberry that I also failed to take a photo of, but it made us feel extra fancy. The rest of the meal went as follows:

Wine- Gotta have it. Linds and I shared a bottle of Pinot and the boys shared a bottle of Cabernet.
Course 1- Appetizer
Choice 1 which Nick had: Grilled Summer Vegetable Stack with Green Ledges farm eggplant, zucchini, pan-fried mozzarella, tomato and basil oil. SO GOOD. It was so fresh tasting with just the right amount of crunch left in the veggies. The cheese was lightly fried and melted in your mouth.
Choice 2 which Mike, Linds and I had: Maine Crab Fritters with sweet corn salsa and red and yellow pepper sauces. Amazing. They were not doughy at all and the crab meat was flaky and fresh. The corn salsa and pepper sauces were a great combo with the crab and added a bit of spice and kick. Great consistency and texture throughout the whole dish. 
Course 2- Soup
Chilled Cantaloupe and peach. I had never had a chilled soup before, so I though it was really interesting. It was sweet and delicious. Others felt it was more dessert-like, but above that I think we really appreciated that it was something different that we would never normally have.
Course 3- Salad
Mixed Garden Greens with House-pickled Beets and Grilled Peaches, blue cheese and whole grain mustard-balsamic vinaigrette. So good! The beets were so crisp and tasted like no beets I had ever had before. The utmost freshness in all of these ingredients and the vinaigrette was the perfect balance and acidity.
Course 4- Entrees
Choice 1 that Linds and I had: Wood Grilled Hanger Steak, paneed farm fresh new potatoes and baby carrots, chimichurri drizzle. I am a steak girl and this was the perfect dish for that. Cooked to perfection as we each requested, the accompanying potatoes and "onion strings" on top were a great combination.
Choice 2 that Nick and Mike had: Fire Seared Wild Sockeye Salmon, bahn mi slaw and jasmine rice. It's not everyday that you can get wild sockeye, so the boys had to try it. The fish was cooked rare upon their request and they both loved it. Again, everything was so fresh and the rice and veggie slaw made for the perfect balance.
The third entree was the only thing that no one had, because we had already had lobster the night before and were going to have it the next night as well. It was a Wood Fire Grilled Maine Lobster Tail, black bean, tomato and corn salsa, roasted chili butter sauce. Just typing that out make me regret that none of us got it as I'm sure it was amazing, but we were all very happy with our choices nonetheless.

Cheers to a great meal! Another thing I want to comment on is the timing of the meals. Everything was brought out with such purpose and on schedule, with varying amount of time between each depending on what it was. The gap between dinner and dessert was the perfect amount as we got to digest a bit to make sure we had room. We never felt as if we were waiting for something, the second you started to want the next course it was in front of you in perfect presentation. Our waitress Bonnie was lovely, and turns out she knew and had worked with my Aunt there several years ago! Small world.
Course 5- Dessert
Choice 1 that Mike and I had: Foraged Maine Blueberry Tartlet, macerated peaches and lemon cream. This was one of my favorite desserts I have ever had. Flaky and sweet with just the right amount of lemon and berry. The pastry was so delicious and right up my alley as I am not much of a chocolate girl.
Choice 2 that Linds and Nick had: Chocolate and Pecan Torte, bourbon soaked cherris, vanilla creme anglaise and toasted pecans. I tried a bite and even though I am not a big chocolate person I could not deny that it was delicious! They both finished it to the point of scraping the plate so it is safe to say they loved it as well.
All in all it was a great meal and a great night with even better company. I am glad the four of us are so close and we had some really good conversation and laughs throughout the night. Family and friends are what it's all about, keep them close.

Huge thanks and appreciation to the Executive Chef, Gary Dethlefsen. When our waitress Bonnie found out who my Aunt and grandparents were she asked the Chef if he could come out to meet us, and we were so happy and thankful that he did so that we could personally thank him for an amazing meal and experience. Something I also want to mention that was absolutely above and beyond the call of duty was that after dinner I was looking through my pictures and realized I somehow did not get a photo of the crab fritter appetizer. Bonnie asked how everything went and Lindsay jokingly said it was all amazing except for the fact that I forgot the photo of the fritter for my blog. Bonnie came back about a minute later and said that the chef had agreed to turn on the frialator and make us another appetizer for the sole purpose of taking a picture of it on my iPhone! Five minutes later as we were sipping our coffees she brought it out and I was able to get the picture. Totally unnecessary but extremely appreciated and just all around 5 star service and concern for their guests. Here I am meeting Gary!

Writing a love note to the Blair Hill staff and letting them know of my blog so that they can eventually read the post.
Enjoying the last sips of the night! THANKS BLAIR HILL! Amazing, Five-Star ***** experience and meal. Worth every penny.

A snapshot of the lounge.

Until next time...

Saturday morning we got to sleep in a little bit in order to rest up from the non-stop day on Friday. But we awoke eager to spend the day at Papa's on the lake doing water sports and boating. The morning was a flash back to the olden days as the boys awoke to this note from Papa and us gals had plans to make a big breakfast. It was like a stereotypical women-in-the-kitchen and men-out-choppin-wood scenario from the 1800's kinda morning. 
Music to my ears, beauty to my eyes....
How about them apples? Cheesey LOBSTER scrambled eggs! Those who say I can't cook, take that.

After breakfast and wood-splitting we all got our bathing suits on and headed down to the dock. We all wanted to go skiing and tubing and wake boarding and Papa said he would happily drive the boat for us. 
Another crack at the zipline for Nick! He didn't break it at all this year and he was the only one out of all of us to even use it.

I volunteered to go first on the skis. I always get up on two skis and then drop one to slolem. I never quite mastered the art of getting up on one. Papa got a new speedboat this year that made it a lot easier to ski behind because it has more power than the Whaler.

 Hey y'all!

From two to one!

Love this one with Mt. Kineo in the background- nice shot Linds!

Nicks turn! He was determined to slolem this year, and he did, for a couple seconds! I think like 5 more attempts and he would have had it, but it gets tiring. I give him a lot of credit for trying so hard and he WILL get it one of these days!

Laughing because we were cheering him on to drop it and he didn't.

There he goes! Proof that he slolemed, even for just a couple seconds!

Wooo! Get it babe!
And thennnn faceplant. 

Then, Nick wanted to try wake boarding which he had never done before and he got up- first try! So awesome and really hard if you have never done it before but he is a snow border so I think that helped him with the sideways position and whatnot. Really proud of him, he looked like a pro!

Love my Papa! My Captain!

Waving to Grandma Kathy on the dock!

Linds had another valiant effort to get up on the skis but after four face plants in a row she had enough!  We 'joked' that she would face plant on the tube.... and she did. But we will spare those photos, it was hilarious though, we definitely jinxed her by saying it. The tube took on water and sunk so it wasn't really her fault anyways and it happened to Nick and I tubing later on as well. But after that it was smooth sailing and she had a good time on the tube!

Lexi looking on and barking anxiously!
Papa built the Kookaburra a long time ago in order to haul moorings out of the lake. He said that when the guys at his crane company were making it they had no idea what it was for and didn't understand. So he made a competition and they each made a marking and initialed where they thought the water line would come up to when they got it in the lake and the winner got a prize. Thought that was a cool story!

Stud-Martin in the flesh.

Last up it was Mike's turn for a ride on the tube, not without his classic poses and faces.

Our neighbor's, the Dutil's, own a trucking company called Manac and are from Canada.. Small little shack they've got there. Two guest houses, a pool, tennis court and heli-pad. 

I spy the blue camp!
Papa's sailboat, the Osprey. Nick really wants to sail so I think we will have to do that next time.
And I will leave you off with some good ole Maine logging road logs! Sadly, we didn't see any Moose this trip despite driving down a lot of back roads and logging trails. We only saw one last year too, it must not be Moose season!

Thanks for following along on our trip to Moosehead! One more post coming from the rest of Saturday and Sunday and that will round it out.