Moosehead Maine: Part One

The mountains are calling, and I must go…
//John Muir

After many years of -not- going to Moosehead every year, I am happy to say that we have now gone up three years in a row! This year was also by far the best weather we have had since going up with the cousins in 2013. Every day was perfect, sunny, warm, and beautiful! Unfortunately, Nick was enduring his first week of a nine week stint at the Massachusetts Fire Academy, or "Fire Camp" as he likes to call it. He started his new position as a firefighter in May and it is requirement to go through the nine week training program at the facility. He doesn't live close enough to commute, so unfortunately he also has to live out there from Monday-Friday every week. All this being said, there was no way he was going to be able to come up to Moosehead with us during the week, as we were leaving Wednesday night after work. As a silver lining, though, he was going to be able to come Friday through Sunday as the academy is only about 4.5hrs from where we stay in Moosehead, so I was really excited that he would at least get to be up there for a couple of days! It's not the same without him. Also, fun fact: the tagline of my blog was thought of by Nick, and is a play on words from the John Muir quote that I used for this post!

We had a "first-timer" with us this year! My brothers best friend Kevin was able to get the days off of work, so he was coming up with us and we were really excited. Kev is practically part of our family, and we have ALWAYS talked about Moosehead in front of him and/or have said that he has to go some day, and now was finally the time! So come Wednesday evening, my brother, his girlfriend Lindsay, Kevin and myself loaded up my brothers Altima and hit the road around 5:30pm. We knew it was going to be a late night of driving as it's about 7.5 hours from home, but we wanted to just get it out of the way and be able to wake up Thursday morning and just be there ready to have fun and relax. After a much need coffee pitstop, we were en route North! Anyone ever play the license plate game? We actually ended up getting a ton of plates, I think between 25-30. It's amazing how many different states you can see even just driving through New England. Thank you tractor trailer trucks!
And to top of off, we saw THREE Moose on our way up! These are terrible pictures but it was pitch dark and late at night. We knew this was a sign that it was going to be a great trip because in the last two times we went we only saw one Moose combined. We saw two adult females and a baby! It was so adorable. They were off to the side of the road and then right as we got close they darted right in front of our car and started running down the road in front of us. Luckily we had seen their glowing eyes beforehand so we slowed down and were able to react with plenty of time to them running out. Just goes to show how easily those moose accidents can happen that we always here about and are repeatedly warned of. Hitting a moose is no joke!
Finally! After a long, but easy, drive and 7 hours of listening to Michael ask "what-if?" questions, we were there! "What if our car stalled right now and we broke down?" "What if a serial killer came out of the woods and started running towards us with a chainsaw?" "Kev what if we just killed you right now and dumped you in the woods?" "How much money would it take for us to get all the way there and then have to drive right home?" "What if we saw those two escaped convicts in orange jumpsuits run across the road ahead of us?"….. I could keep going. Per tradition, we had a celebratory drink upon arrival, just this time it was at about 1:30am! Cheers to being in Moosehead.
We got to stay in the Blue Camp this year, which is our favorite spot on my grandparents property. It's a small, more secluded cabin right down by the water but it's so cute and cozy and just the epitome of lakeside cabin living! All of the furniture is the same as it's been since forever, as well as most of the appliances and decor. It's so charming and it just has that cabin smell that brings back instant nostalgia and childhood memories. A mixture of wood, mothballs, fire, and musty cabin air. In other words, heaven!
Here is the view of the lake from the Blue Camp's front porch. So beautiful and picturesque. It instantly calms you and puts you in a good mood. 
Some of the trees have been cut back to allow for this perfectly framed view of the glassy blue water.
We got ready for the day and tested out Lindsay's new "Selfie-stick" for good measure. Yep, it works.

This trip was proving to be a total wildlife score pretty quickly. We stepped outside the first morning to this beautiful giant Luna Moth on the front steps, just slowly flapping it's wings. It was huge and fluorescent green. We made sure to tell Kevin not to worry, it was only in his bed on the front porch for HALF of the night. He was loving Moosehead already!
We made our way up to the main cabin to say hi to our grandparents! Since we had arrived late at night, we did not see them until the morning. It was really nice to finally be there and get to spend some time with them as we do not get to see them too often. They live up there year round so we only see them if we go up to visit or if they come down to CT. Check out how amazingly beautiful their view is! As nice as the view from the Blue Camp is, this takes the cake!
On the forecast was a picture-perfect sky, so our only plans were to have a relaxing and fun day down at the dock. The past two years we have barely even been able to be in swimsuits, so this year we wanted nothing more than to soak up every ounce of the warm and sun shiny weather. We made a quick drive into town to pick up some groceries and beer, and then it was right on down to the dock. It's amazing how fast you can settle into vacation-mode. Just the day before we were all slaving away at our respective jobs and within 24 hours- total bliss and relaxation in one of the most remote parts of the country.
I am a total boat girl! Just don't confuse that with cruise girl! Boats- yes! Cruises- no! We love the Boston Whaler at my Grandparents, they have had it since the 70's and it still runs like a charm! So fun to take out and just whip around the lake. They have a larger boat for farther trips, as well as a sailboat, but we love the Whaler for cruising around the cove and getting some wind in your hair. 
The boys dropped Lindsay and I off at the neighbors and we were able to borrow their paddle boards for a few hours. My grandfathers best friend lives a couple properties down, and they are also from CT and have kids our age who we have known very well since childhood. We love being up there at the same time as them, it makes for twice as many "toys" to play with. The lake was super calm, so we had a really nice paddle and didn't have to get wet at all. The lake was still pretty darn chilly, seeing as the last of the ice left in May, and it was only the last week of June at this point.
The neighbors also have a floating raft that you can see in this photo- great for swimming to and laying out on. It's pretty much endless fun and activities up there. We are all spoiled to say the least.

Linds looking adorable on her paddle board!

We were daring and brought her iPhone out with us to get these pictures. It had a waterproof case on it, but not a sink-proof one, so we had to be extra careful! Sometimes the risks are worth the shots though :-)

How many men does it take to back a Whaler into a boathouse? Two. It takes two. Note other fun finds in this pic: rope swing, canoe, rafts, kayaks, sky chair, windsurfer. All the activities!
A view of the deck from the water and peeking through up to the main house. Can you spot the guard dog German Shepard?! No one is getting by Lexi!

Moosehead Lake is gorgeous! It's about 40 miles long, and is the largest lake in maine. It's not your typical round or oval lake either. It has tons of inlets, coves, and rivers stemming from every direction. I love that my Grandparents live in a small cove, it's very private and secluded and they are friends with just about everyone else who lives in the vicinity. 
iPhone panormas for the win.

Paddle boarding is a good way to get a little workout in while your on vacation, because it's fun, but also takes some arm strength and endurance. We were at it for a good hour paddle all around the cove.
The beautiful sun-kissed Lindsay!

Heading to Candada…. must escape Sallie Mae.

A view from the lake back towards the boat house. The boathouse is still in pretty good shape considering some of the harsh winters and storms it has been through. It has been repaired many times, but it's totally worth it because it is always the epicenter of activity during the summer. 

I decided to take a little break and let Mike and Linds go for a romantic paddle boarding date. 
Selfie-game strong.

Hey Mike!
Kev was holding this Corona over his head lined up with the sun with his wrist tilted back and his thumb blocking the pressure of the beer so that it wouldn't flow out. I made sure it only took me ten long, slow minutes to take the photo, to the point where his whole arm was shaking and sweat was dripping from his brow while the sun was beating in his eyes. You're welcome.
Lovebirds on paddle boards. Mike and Lindsay are their names, PDA is not their game. But, I caught it when they weren't paying attention.

Next it was both of the boys' turn to take a spin on the lake. Kev was getting some serious MPH's. Paddle board lake speed record: broken. I think I could have water skied behind him. 

Lindsay once again getting artsy. Might have to hire her as my assistant for weddings next year once Pam retires.
Leave it to Michael to need to bring a drink on the paddle board. Just when you thought mayyybe he was going to attempt to burn some calories… nope. He made sure to be simultaneously taking some in at the same time.

Chug chug chug chug.
Mike and Lindsay have been dating so long, Linds is more of a sister than a friend. All four of us have the exact same humor too, so we really have a great time together. It's constant laughing and inside jokes. 

I spy with my little eye… a flipper! Fun fact: I have a webbed toe and was innately cheating at competitive swimming all those years. Part frog actually. See if you can spot it.
If you haven't realized yet, the entire vacation was actually a Corona commercial and photo shoot. They hired us to take Corona from "the beach beer" to "the lake lager" as they try to expand their market. Just kidding. But Corona, if you're reading, I'm your gal.
Whats better than sitting in a Sky Chair on a hot summer day overlooking the lake sipping a cold beer when you should be at work?? Nothing, thats what. Trick question.

If you read the blog posts from last years Moosehead trip, you may remember the beaver incident of 2014. Well, the beaver is back. We were all just sitting minding our own business and Mike happened to hear a rustling in the brush. He looked over past the boat house and sure enough, the same beaver was back in the same spot! It had no idea we were there and was just chilling on the rocks. Moose, Deer, Luna Moths, and now Beavers and we have only been here half a day!
I was literally this close and it had NO idea. None. Are beavers deaf? They must be.

After a little bit, he dove in and swam away.  I was able to catch a picture of him in action under water. Just wish I had the GoPro with me!
Maine is famous for having spectaular Lupine flowers all around, and we had come during prime Lupine season. They are one of my favorite flowers and I just love them! Especially because they are wild and grow in such abundance and stunning colors. 
I call this one "The Three Sisters" after my Mom and her two sisters. 
Andddd now back to your regularly scheduled Corona Commercial.
It was the perfect day by the lake, and so very welcomed from the not-so great June weather we had been having back home up this point. 

CAUGHT: Kevin being gourmet. Punishment: six semesters straight of Ralph Grays accounting class.

We were definitely feeling the coronas, so naturally it was time to play around with the selfie-stick on the dock. 

"Having a day", as I like to say. 
We just HAD to send this next photo to Nick. Last year, we were all down at the dock in the pitch black late at night to send off some wish lanterns. There is approximately 75ft of solid dock railing to lean on, put beers on, or what have you. There is also one small 18-inch gap so that you can get onto a boat if it pulls up to the dock. Where is the one spot that Nick leans? You guessed it. Right into the drink. Luckily he is very strong and agile, so he was able to catch himself at the last minute without getting too wet. Do you think we will ever let him live it down? Probably not. But, hopefully it made him smile at Fire Camp and got him excited to come up the next day. 

Kevin braved the chilly waters and made a dive into the lake! Picture perfect. 
Once the sun started to set, we packed it up at the dock and decided to head into "town" for dinner as my grandparents had had other plans for the night. We went to a hole-in-the-wall spot called Flatlanders Restaurant in Greenville, famous for their "broasted" chicken invention. I think it is a combination between broiled and roasted- broasted. Whatever it is, it's darn good. The portions are huge, country style, and you better believe we didn't have a scrap left to show for it. We were all so hungry from a day in the sun and absolutely demolished our meals. 
After dinner, since we were already down in Greenville, we had to make a quick pit stop at the ever amazing and extremely gorgeous Blair Hill Inn to show Kevin a glimpse of their sunset view. It did not disappoint. It wasn't in the budget to eat there this year (see: $550 bill from last years Moosehead post), but it was still well worth it to watch the sunset from their front lawn. If you are ever in the Moosehead Lake region, you MUST dine at Blair Hill Inn. Worth every benjamin.
After dinner and the sunset, we made a quick pit stop for Ice Cream at the Dairy Bar before heading back to "camp". 
Once we were back, we spent some time up at the main house with Papa and Kathy, and got to see more of the lingering sunset and summer light. It was right around the longest day of the year, so it was still very well light out past 8:30/9pm.
I'll never get over this view!

We went down to the Blue Camp to change into some sweatshirts and sweat pants, and to get some supplies (read:beers) to have a fire down at the dock. The light was still lingering and I was able to get some cool "blue" shots.

The moon was small, but was peaking through the trees and casting just a tiny bit of light on the lake.

Papa found this perfectly good fire pit at the dump a couple years ago! It's awesome, and perfect size for the dock. One mans trash is another mans treasure, case and point. 

There is plenty of dry wood to get the fire raging. We put the boys on fire tending duty and I got to roasting some mallows for smores.
The definition of the perfect mallow! Golden brown, bubbling, and totally melted inside. I caught it on my graham cracker just before it fell off the stick.
We couldn't have asked for a better first day at the lake! Ending the night by a toasty fire under blankets and laughing our butt's off asking the most ridiculous "Would-you-rather" questions.
We woke up Friday morning with one plan and one plan only: climb Mt. Kineo. This is a right of passage and initiation to Moosehead, so we had to have Kevin do it and experience it. Mike and I have climbed it more times than we can remember, and Lindsay has done it once or twice before on previous trips. The lake was calm again, so we loaded up the Whaler and headed on over to the mountain. Mt. Kineo is on a large peninsula that is only accessible by one small piece of land on the other side of the lake. So pretty much, the only way to get there in any reasonable amount of time is by boat. There is a shuttle from the town we stay in, but if you have your own boat its easy enough to get over there yourself and not have to wait for the shuttle.

The first views of Kineo, just outside of the cove.

Pretty cool to have a mountain smack dab in the middle of a lake.

We docked the boat and started the trek over to the Summit Trail. There is a big rock right before starting the trail where we always take photos, so why stray from tradition? 
Could not stop laughing at this twig that was getting in EVERY one of our selfies. 

This is the start of the trail, and also the start of a one mile incline! Much of the initial summit is literal on-your-hands-and-knees climbing. The mountain itself isn't huge, but the way it is formed has you getting really high, really fast! Within about 20 minutes you are almost 800ft up.
One of the first spots on the trail to stop and admire the view!

You can get a sense for how high we are by checking out how small that boat looks. 
Also, this is where you start to realize just how huge the lake is!

You can see some of the trail that leads up to the summit path down below.
Verrrrry high. Not a good place to lose your footing! You can bet there were plenty of "What-if's?" coming from Michael! "What if you got near the edge and your foot slipped on a loose rock?" "What if someone brought you up here as a trick and pushed you off?" "What if you had to climb this at night with no flash light?" "What if you jumped out and hung onto that branch like Tony from Heavyweights?" and on and on and on….

CAUGHT: Mike being gourmet. Punishment: three hours of absolutely NO "What-if" questions!!

We kept on our ascent, getting higher and higher and sweatier and sweatier with each step. You appreciate a hot summer day every day except the day you climb a mountain!
This is another really pretty lookout spot. You can see all of Kineo island and part of the famous golf course down below. This was also once home to a grand hotel where presidents, queens and the like would stay prior to it burning down many years ago. The mountain is made of Rhyolite, a really good material for making fire, which made this a popular home for Native Americans. Many artifacts and arrowheads have been found on the property.

Sweaty Selfies.

How pretty is this place!? I hope it stays as unspoiled as it is. They recently rebranded this entire region of Moosehead Lake as the "America's Crown Jewel". I hope it doesn't lead to it becoming a big tourist destination! It has to stay desolate so that we can retreat and hide here if there is ever a zombie-apocalyse or something.
We met a nice young couple on the hike up, and they offered to take some photos of us if we did the same for them. They were from Detriot and were on a long road trip through Canada and Maine.

Thanks for the photos guys!

We finally got to the highest point, which is another great vista for photos. We met another older couple and we all started chatting and laughing together. Lindsay had the idea that we should all take a selfie together with her selfie-stick. They all obliged and it was too funny! A real stranger-selfie. Funny how you can meet some really cool people in the most unusual of places. We got their phone numbers and were able to text the picture to them all as a memento.
Once you hit the summit, you hike about another half mile into the woods towards the center of the mountain. There is a big steel fire tower that you wouldn't otherwise know about unless someone told you. The couple we met would have totally missed it and gone down the other trail if we hadn't told them about it. It boasts the best views in all of Moosehead Lake. 360 degrees of lake and forest. You have to be willing and able to make the scary 7 story climb, however! Whatever you do, just don't look down.
We wondered how often they "test" the structure to make sure it's still safe!? Who knows? Definitely a risk you have to be willing to take. Mike had plenty of "What-ifs" to go along with the climb as well.
"What-if….?" I can hear him now.
The reward! The most beautiful views. I took a photo and then rotated and took another photo until I made it all the way around in a circle.

A panorama of one side of the view.
Photos of us to prove we were up there! You can feel the structure swaying and blowing in the strong winds. It's definitely not for anyone with the least bit fear of heights.
The couple we met thought I was a police officer. Wonder why?
They took some more photos of us from the top and we took some of them as well. 

We did it! All downhill from here.

Me with pseudo brother, and then with pseudo sister.
And then with real brother!

I think we covered all the combinations! Don't you?
They said don't look down…. I looked down. Ahhhh!
CAUGHT: Linds being a tourist with a selfie-stick. Punishment: you have to stay with my brother forever :-)

We made our way down from the tower and then took the Bridle Trail down the back side of the mountain. Longer, but less steep and a little easier on the ole knees.
Unless of course, you roll you ankle like I did. Once more ounce of pressure, and it would have totally snapped. I caught my weight at the very last split second before doom. Luckily it was just sore for the next couple days, and not sprained or twisted.

There used to be a little cottage at the end of the trail, but it was burned down! So sad.
The trail markers. We went up the Indian trail to the summit, then to the fire tower, and back down the Bridle trail. All in all in was a little over 2 miles and about an hour and a half with the stop at the fire tower. It's a really good hike that won't take up the entirety of your day but is still challenging and beautiful.
Back on flat land! Woo-hoo! It was tiring, but worth it! Every year, we say we aren't going to climb it again. And then here we are, finishing the trail once again.

Some pretty wild flowers blooming along the trail.
Here is the Kineo shuttle I mentioned that we could have taken over from town.
Mt. Kineo is also home to an amazingly beautiful golf course. It is the second oldest course in New England and is 9 holes and 36 par. Mike and I spent many a long day out here tagging along with our Dad and Uncles back in the day when Mom had had enough of us and wanted some relaxation on her vacation! Driving the golf cart was always the best treat as a kid!

There is also a golf lodge that sells some souvenirs and has food and drinks and golf necessities.
Back to our sweet Whaler! We most definitely parked at the wrong dock, but oh well.

This dock would be a good spot for a wedding photo! Just have to make sure no one falls in- we've all seen those YouTube wedding photo fail videos before! Ten years and 250 weddings in with pam and we have yet to have a bride fall off a dock, but we still have a few more to go before she retires this fall, so there's still a chance!

A very happy bunch on the boat ride back to the compound. Trail Mix to the face!
Sweaty, frizzy hair is proof that we just climbed a mountain.

Some nice candids by Lindsay!

And with that I am going to cut off Part One of our Moosehead trip! We have been here a day and a half already, and have another half day/full day/ half day left to go! I started to get really excited at this point because Nick would be on his way up later that evening. I was missing my man and couldn't wait for him to arrive. The forecast was looking beautiful and I know he was ready to relax after a long and tiring first week at the Fire Academy. Stay tuned!

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