Herald Journal Columns
Oct. 31, 2005 Herald Journal

How to hit a moose with your car, and other Maine stories

By DALE KOVAR
Linda and I recently enjoyed a trip to Maine for our 25th anniversary.

When we eliminated hurricane country as choices, it was down to the either the backwoods of Maine or the concrete jungle of New York City. Maine won, with the Big Apple still on the list for some other time.

We were sort of adventuresome, at least for us, booking places to the stay for only the first three nights and last two nights, leaving the middle unreserved and open for whereever we might go.

Our stay started at Spencer Pond Camps, well up into the woods.

If you like peaceful, simple outdoors, this is the place for you. There’s no electricity or plumbing – just propane and kerosene for the lights and refrigerator. Water is hand-pumped, and each cabin has its own private outhouse.

The nearest neighbor is 14 miles away. Other than loading and unloading, cars are parked in a lot a quarter-mile away, so disruptions are kept to a minimum.

After flying into Bangor four hours later than planned (darn airports!), and getting the groceries we would need for a few days, we drove three hours through rain and darkness, being careful to avoid any moose on the road, to reach Spencer Pond. It was very welcoming to find our hosts had the wood stove fired up so our cabin was warm and comfortable when we arrived.

Being late in the season, we mostly hiked the surrounding woods, in search of Bullwinkle. We figure we put on at least 20 miles through the trails, including getting most of the way to the top of a 3,000-foot mountain.

Surprisingly, our cell phone worked most of the time there. We had warned the kids we would be out of contact range for three days at first. But instead, we were able to call a doctor back in Minnesota and get a prescription refilled while we were halfway up the mountain.

We never did see a moose though, only droppings.

A tour guide later in the week explained that Maine insurance companies actually teach people how to hit a moose with your car, if necessary.

Moose tend to just come wandering out on the roads, oblivious to traffic, so sometimes an accident is just unavoidable, he said.

If you hit a moose broadside, it will flip up onto your roof and 1,300 pounds will come down right on top you. Many moose-vehicle accidents are fatal for that very reason.

Therefore, if a collision can’t be avoided, you want to try to hit the moose in the hind quarter and spin him around rather than flipping him onto your vehicle.

The same principle applies to hitting deer, he added. Deer won’t crush you, but they’ll break through the windshield and then kick you to death.

On with the week.

So even though we had no trouble finding Spencer Pond in the rain and dark, we left in broad daylight and got lost. After two attempts to leave and returning to the driveway, I broke down and did something out of character – asked directions.

Turns out we were right the first time, and were within 50 feet of the sign we had been looking for that would tell us we were correctly reversing the route.

From there, we headed to the coast and a day at Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor, and then worked our way down the coast through many of the “drinking villages with a fishing problem,” as their T-shirts described them.

At Acadia, we hiked some more, and got our first close-up contact with the ocean at Sand Beach.

Later, Reid State Park offered even better crashing waves along a one-mile beach.

(Autumn travel tip: if the hotel sign as "heated pool," make sure it's an indoor heated pool before you check in.)

Throughout our trip, we were amazed at the courtesy and helpfulness of just about every Maine person we came in contact with.

The best example is when we were stopped alongside the road, looking at a map, and a lady in a van pulled up next to us.

“Where’re you headed?”

“Jefferson.”

“This is Jefferson (just around the corner) . . . what are you looking for?”

“State park.”

“Follow me, I’m going right by there.”

And so, she literally drove us to the front gate, flashed her lights, and was on her way.

After checking in at Sea Escape Cottages on Bailey Island for the last two nights, our host told us how to enjoy a great Maine lobster meal.

Our timing was good, because as we were beachcombing that day, we noticed a couple guys still working at the red building along the ocean marked Glen’s Lobsters.

We went and asked if they had any lobsters for sale, and a few minutes later, we were on our way with three live ones in a bag.

Getting lobsters direct from the fishermen cost about $8 apiece. At the restaurants, a twin lobster meal was as much as $50 a plate.

To cook lobster, our host explained, you steam them in ocean water.

You know it’s an adventure, though, when your supper kicks the cover off the pan while you’re cooking it.

And when we were through with an excellent meal, the shells were thrown back to the ocean, as instructed.

We only had part of a day left at the end for Portland, where we saw the major sites by bus tour.

It was especially interesting to learn that the two 9/11 hijackers who flew planes into the World Trade Center towers started in Portland. Our guide mentioned it briefly, and then we looked it up later at home.

Upon leaving, we checked in at the Portland airport at the same place as Atta and Al-Omari before their attacks.

They got on an early-morning flight from Portland to Boston, and then boarded separate flights out of Boston that they hijacked and flew into the towers.

Overall, we found Maine to be much like northern Minnesota, but on a bigger scale.

We commented several times about being reminded of other places we have vacationed. The rocky shorelines often looked a lot like Lake Superior.

But the leaves were larger and more brilliant colors, and the enormity of the ocean dwarfed even a great lake.

Odds are we probably won’t get to go back to Maine again, but if you get the opportunity, we recommend you take it.

For more info ...

www.spencerpondcamps.com

www.seaescapecottages.com

www.nps.gov/acad/ (Acadia National Park)

www.visitmaine.com

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