Katahdin Woods & Waters
We’ve been researching where to grouse hunt this fall up north and stumbled upon Katahdin Woods and Waters. The largest section is adjacent to and east of Baxter State Park with smaller parcels east of the East Branch Penobscot River. No hunting on the large parcel next to Baxter.
This new recreation area is the controversial land of Roxanne Quimby which is now being managed by her son, Lucas St. Clair, & their Elliotsville Plantation Inc. They would like to create a new National Park and this does not settle well with the locals. Read more about it here. The Maine Sunday Telegram started a series today (with cool video!) about this area that you can read here.
I decided to drive up and check this area out. I took the fuel efficient Honda Civic along with my mountain bike figuring if the roads go to hell I can just jump on my bike. It’s a long drive from Winslow. 160 miles and took 4 hours to get to mile 15.5 of the Katahdin Loop Road. (It would probably be 1/2 hour shorter taking the Swift Brook Road access versus the Sherman Lumber Company Road.)
Driving down Seboeis Road past Lunksoos Camp (where recreation managers are based) there are beautiful views of the East Branch Penobscot River. The bridge crossing at Whetstone Falls is beautiful and worthy of a picnic and careful swim at the little beach. I stopped briefly to use the brand new outhouse at Sand Bank Campground. Nice new kiosk with map, fire ring, place to camp, and boat launch to explore adjacent pretty wetland.
My plan was to check out part of the loop road and the trails marked as “mountain biking trail”. From ~mile 15.5 of the Katahdin Loop Road I took the trail towards Wassataquoik Gate. I bombed down the hill knowing my biggest threat was a moose or bear or some animal coming into the trail. I was briefly on the Katahdin Esker with a sharp drop down to the river. Further down the river this looks like it becomes more pronounced and would be fun to explore. Wassataquoik Ford had a bridge and was a pretty area. I proceeded to Orin Falls which is an amazing area of HUGE boulders with a strong flow on the east side of the stream bed. The water was very low but must absolutely rip in the spring. From the map, more falls are upstream and this area would be cool to explore. The trail/old logging road extends further upriver but becomes more overgrown. I didn’t explore the area but turned around and took logging road on the right towards Barnard Mountain. (Much of the trail I rode is part of the International Appalachian Trail.)
It’s a huge uphill climb from the intersection to Orin Falls up to Barnard Mountain. A ton of fresh moose tracks all over the road and various scat was numerous also. As I proceeded up the hill the cover was typical post-logging overgrowth. Thick bushes, lots of various blackberry/raspberry brambles. At one point I smelled that musky animal smell and looked carefully around. Nothing. Then up the road a black bear ran down the road and into the bushes. Cool! Finally I got to the access trail to Barnard Mountain. It was rough & I didn’t want to hike in bike shoes or risk a massive wipe out on my bike in the middle of nowhere, so I skipped it. I bet it would be an awesome view though!
I kept on riding, had another ripping downhill hoping not to hit anything large and furry. Crossed Katahdin Stream on a steel girder then hit the Loop Road again. I decided to ride down the loop road to a “viewpoint”. (There’s also a “crash site” on the map which I would like to know more about.) I went to and past Mile 10 and never saw a “viewpoint”. I went back to Mile 10 and saw some peek-a-boo views of Katahdin. I think with leaf off it would be an amazing view. I then rode back to my car. Saw a car on the way and lots of large bear scat. The “trail” portion of my ride was essential logging roads at different stages of overgrowth. I was glad to have a full suspension mountain bike to bomb the stoney downhills with confidence but this ride could be done with a hard tail or even rigid mountain bike with decent width tires.
Other cool adventures would be to mountain bike up the Old Telos Tote Road along the East Branch Penobscot River and hike up Lunksoos Mountain and others in that area or start at Haskell Gate and bike down to the various falls on the river. There’s a ton to explore in this new recreation area. It’s remote, beautiful, and free.