Sunday, April 6, 2014

A Maine Gazetteer: Mt. Kineo and Moosehead Lake

For now most of the far north is protected by distance, by lack of improved roads.  Seaplanes are too costly for daily living (and too slow for the rich, who are used to commuting by jet). But how long before Moosehead and all the others look like Sebago?
I don’t think I could bear it. My wife and I climbed Mt. Kineo on a glorious day in September. The path parallels the shore for a while before climbing up; seeing that water close at hand, clear as a diamond, and from on high, blue as a sapphire, spoke of a purity and healing power as strong as anything I’ve experienced. The lake is like a great eye at the edge of wilderness, carrying light into the woods. The Native Americans thought the place was sacred, for Kineo boasts about a thousand feet, 700 above the water, the rest below, of pure vertical hornstone, a rare flint that Native Americans from all around New England used for arrow heads. But white people don’t hold much for sacredness.
Development at Mt. Kineo started in the mid-19th century. Rusticators could take a train from New York or Boston all the way to Greenville at the southern end of Moosehead (Thoreau did in 1853), and catch a ferry for Mt. Kineo House, of which there have been several versions over the years. One was the biggest hotel in the country at the time.  But the Indians or perhaps the lake had their revenge; each Mt. Kineo House burned to the ground, leaving the modern rusticator’s way of life of today, lived on a golf course and on the porches and docks and yachts of a few big houses.



Moosehead affected me as much as any place in Maine, more perhaps, and not just for its stunning natural beauty. It is huge and was perhaps therefore unassailable. It was remote and is no longer. The train is gone but the cars pour in, and the Plum Creeks with them, and that great eye shining in the wilderness is now like a rip in fabric, and the waterways that Thoreau canoed in his clear-eyed innocence are open for business and the shores laid bare for suburbia. At least Mt. Kineo has been saved (if you ignore the golf course and the big houses on the south side): to prevent it from further development the State, along with the Nature Conservancy, bought it in 1990. There seems to be no other way to preserve our treasures.

Excerpted from Saving Maine: A Personal Gazetteer
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