Wednesday, September 24, 2014
A Week in Maine – Day 3, Gulf Hagas, National Natural Landmark
The focus of our week, Gulf Hagas is a 3-mile gorge cut by the Pleasant River, 130 feet deep and sprinkled with waterfalls. Access is again controlled by timber companies (does anyone else think that $38 a day for four people is a bit excessive? And since the access is for an area that is owned and managed by the National Park Service?), and the road to the parking lot is long and wash-boarded, and we didn’t hike the entire 10-mile round trip, and the Gulf is certainly not “The Grand Canyon of the East,” but it’s pretty wonderful nonetheless. After a short jaunt from the parking lot, we joined the Appalachian Trail and were immediately faced with a crossing of the Pleasant River, not by bridge of course but by a 100 foot wade on foot. This was accomplished with little difficulty by two of our party and with considerable difficulty by the other two: one whose terribly sensitive feet didn’t do well on the stones of the river bed, and the other whose propensity for environmentally induced headaches was manifest almost immediately upon stepping into the very cold water. We sat recovering on the other side for a while; two through-hikers splashed along without even removing shoes or rolling trousers.
Soon enough we forsook the AT for the Gulf Hagas trails. There was another river crossing – this time a dry one involving stone-hopping – near Screw Auger Falls, a tasty picnic on big rocks overlooking the falls, a spectacular ass-over-teakettle dunking in the river when one of our party tried to cool off his head and leaned over too far, and a couple of dramatic overlooks on the gorge.
Perhaps the best part of the trail was called the Hermitage, a 35-acre stand of old-growth white pines, some apparently 150 feet tall and 150 years old. I embraced a couple of them (both physically and spiritually) and my six-foot wing span could not get even half-way around. A magical place.
The Pleasant River ford was considerably easier on the way back. One of the older party borrowed sandals; the other a strong back for a piggy carry.
One final evening opportunity for moose views: the road to Millinocket is supposed to be rife with quadrupeds in the evening, but we were too tired for the hour-long drive, and ate dinner in Milo at Hobnobbers, which boasts a surprisingly good and sophisticated menu and a visit in 2010 from Anthony Bourdain (because his cameraman was from Milo). Once again, no moose seen, on menu or road.