Wednesday, October 31, 2012

on the golden road

last may i woke up one morning on a campsite in the seboeis parcel near millincoket and i thought that it would be a good day to do two things: to drive up the golden road maybe over to canada, and to take a side trip and settle a question i had about whether or not it is possible to travel overland to kineo.

while i was at it, i decided to to a little geocaching, because that's how i travel when i am on the road. if you are interested in this story as it is told through geocache logs, you can see the beginning of this day here.

maybe you know a lot about the maine north woods, and maybe you don't. it is a wild place where anything can happen, if by "anything" you don't mean pizza delivery, wifi connections, or anything in general that can be associated with paved roads and populated areas.

while not a serious student of it, i know a little about logging history because i've been paying attention to it. one time when my college friends and i were playing a favorite collegiate game, i checked out a thick book on the cultural history of the tupper lake region lumber camps.

in college you maybe played quarters or beer pong, but one of the games my friends an i used to like was one in which we'd all meet at the library and then everybody had fifteen minutes in the stacks to find the weirdest books we could find and then we'd check out a pile of them and return to the dorms and read parts of them aloud.

we called it budget entertainment.

anyway, i started to have an awareness for the history of lumbering, and adirondack lumbering has some things in common with lumbering everywhere else.

so when i started to travel in maine and saw historical notes about the old river drives i had an idea of what i was looking at. up in northern maine they had the last river drives in the early 1970's, when transport by road became more practical.

the golden road was built then, finished in 1975. you can travel it if you want from millinocket to the canadian border out in a township whose designation is "T5 R20 WELS". the state of maine has some documents that describe it if you want to take the trouble to download them, but there's probably little point in it.

the road was built by and is owned and maintained by pelletier brothers and in season (mid-may to late november) it's a toll road once you get to the station just north of the greenville road intersection.

logging trucks have right of way. always. you are a visitor in their place of business.

but the thing has an epic, romantic, rugged feel about it, riding the golden road, and it maybe even still feels that way when you're a few hours into the trip.

you are on the golden road.

not really related to this narrative are some links to blogs of other people that i found while googling the golden road.

i went and looked it up in google maps so you can see it. it's embedded here, but it's really cool if you follow this link and look on the left for the button that says "3D" and you can see it played in google earth.

View Larger Map

i got off the golden road at the greenville road to go over to the east shore of moosehead lake, and then there was some business involving some very sad wandering around trying to get back on the golden road by simply going north toward it and after a number of hours i managed to catch up with it by the seboomook dam.

then there was a lot of driving and some more driving and then i got stuck behind a logging truck which is a thing that will happen out here and although the scenery is fantastic it's a lot less fantastic if you are behind a logging truck, because those things kick up a LOT of dust and even if you're amused at first by traveling through this new "golden light" it sort of wears on you.

so i turned left to go down a road that looked like it might take me roughly southwest, because i had decided to spend the night in a campsite in jackman that i knew about.

i did not head down this road willy-nilly, but with the help of an actual GPS-enabled map but one thing you should probably keep in mind is that the roads out here are logging roads. real logging roads are dynamic things. the tote roads and roads that go to camps pretty much stay in place, but other roads spring up and decline as they're used or not, so getting off the main road can be a little bit of a crapshoot.

it's the kind of driving where you have to think about what your plans are for if you get stranded out here. just so you know: my assessment of my plans and my decision to try the side roads includes the fact that i am carrying enough food, gear, and other supplies that i could live out here for a week if i had to.

and after a long time driving on some sketch looking roads, i came out on a road that had a sign that identified it as part of old kelly dam road, which is not really where i had been thinking i'd end up, but i found myself saying "HEY! i know where the f^@% i am!!", so that was good.

and i went to go look for the campsite and discovered the gate to be closed, so i decided to return to stratton for the night. my GPS says the trip will take about an hour which puts me in stratton in reasonable time, but the problem with the directions on my GPS is that it begins with "get on the holeb road".

i've been on the holeb road and i know all too well that while it does point in that general direction, there's a little thing about a big swamp, a river, and some mountains and there are some very good reasons why no roads actually go from here to there, and it's going to be a long ride almost to skowhegan before i can get onto a road that goes there.

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