The 'Outdoors' Is County Attraction by Bill Graves
Of the entire warm weather season of outdoor activities, camping during the fall can be the most enjoyable event for individuals and families. In the era of luxury camps on wheels of every shape and size, it's nice to be a true sportsman and to enjoy a weekend of traditional camping where a few outdoor skills are utilized. There's still a good deal of self satisfaction in selecting a proper campsite, erecting a tent, building a safe, effective cooking fire and putting on a first class campfire meal.
If you haven't been afield for awhile, September and October are perfect months to make the initial outing for a number of reasons. Since it's harvest season and the busiest time of year for many area residents, far fewer people will be in the woods for a few weeks. Those who do have enough free time to spend a few days in the outdoors these months won't be crowded. There are far fewer insects to contend with and the days are comfortable with the perfect coolness during the night for a soothing, languid sleep.
Some campers will want to plan their trip during September to take full advantage of some fine fall fishing during the final days of this year's season. Glazier Lake near Fort Kent is a boundary line water half in the U.S. and half in Canada. Surrounded by heavily wooded ridges this azure jewel is full of lake trout, salmon, trout and whitefish. There are several camping sites, a fine boat launch area and fair roads as well as beauty and seclusion.
Cartop a canoe into Square Lake and spend a couple of days catching salmon and trout or just communing with nature along the shore of this lightly populated lake. Loons will sing you to sleep and soaring eagles and ospreys will entertain you with their own style of fishing. There are two maintained campsites with picnic table, fireplaces and toilet facilities at hand, and at least a dozen other open spots to pitch a tent. At least two prime sites are along the Cross-Square thoroughfare, and a trio of others are on the Goddard Cove end of Square Lake.
Don't overlook Number Nine Lake for an overnight camp-out and some trout fishing. The drive in is through some great country to scout partridge and deer for the fast approaching hunting season. Other waterways near several regional towns that offer close at hand hunting and fishing include the Aroostook River, the upper reaches of Presque Isle Stream, the Prestile Stream, the Little Madawaska River and the Meduxnekeag. Many sections of these streams are easily reached and fished while wading, and although a boat or canoe can offer an advantage on a few runs, it's not a necessity.
For sportsman who enjoy the challenge of hunting upland game, deer, moose, and even bear, and want the added ambiance of doing so from a tent camp, October is the prime month an Aroostook is the place. Although archery hunters can stalk all the big game animals during October, firearms season open only in November. Nonetheless, weather during much of November still allows comfortable tenting, and many hunters with the correct camping and sleeping gear to accommodate cold and snow use tents throughout the entire month.
At the very tip top of the state between Allagash and Escourt Station are some of the most secluded hunting spots in Aroostook. There are literally hundreds of campsites near small rivers, ponds or bubbling brooks and the deer hunting is fair and the grouse hunting is excellent. If you choose not to be quite so far from civilization and opt for prepared campsites with a few amenities try the Northern Maine Woods beyond 6 mile gate in Ashland or the Portage checkpoint. For a normal fall you can select a specific site for as long as you wish to tent out and the bird and game hunting is great.
For those campers that aren't interested in fishing, hunting or boating, but just want to relax, watch the leaves change and take picture of wild game, the Northern Maine Woods camping spots are still perfect. For canoeing and camping, there is no more scenic time of the year to float the Allagash Waterway than during the fall. Camera buffs will love the autumn panoramas, and the clear crisp night under the stars are breathtaking.
Even if your first camping venture of the fall is to a nearby commercial campground where a small fee rents a space to pop up a tent near showers, and a concession stand, it's a start. Just the self satisfaction of setting up a campsite and putting together a meal brings everyone in the family closer to their heritage. Perhaps the next trip will be a bit further from home in a more woody atmosphere.
Delorme's The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer gives in depth listings of various types of campsites, commercial and otherwise, and the maps note every location the state agencies maintain for visitors to utilize. There are thousands of spots just waiting for you to set up a tent and bask in the ambiance of Aroostook autumn.
Newcomers to camping won't need to spend a lot of money getting started. With each outing you will determine what is really needed and what is excess baggage, and since cars and canoes won't reach many areas, nothing is carried in that isn't crucial.
Basics should include a ground cloth and tent to fit the number of people attending. A foam pad and sleeping bag with proper insulation to match the current weather, and proper clothing are individual selections. Food to meet daily needs, (don't depend on fishing and hunting to feed you), cooking utensils, lights or lanterns and a stove if campfires aren't allowed for some reason. The obvious needs for a group include a heavy knife, and ax or hatchet, a first aid kit, matches and a compass. Each camper can take along personal toiletries and medicine, a camera, binoculars and perhaps a book, but remember how much extra items weigh if you're going to hike far to the campsite.
Even if camping is not one of your regular outdoor activities, a trip into a languid lake with crisp fall air and changing leaves will be well worth the effort. Just the special flavor of a meal cooked over an open fire is a taste treat you won't soon forget. One night trips are easy to do with so many state maintained camping spots close to everyone, and they make a great family trip. Longer, more secluded outings are for those with a bit of explorer in their soul, or in need of solitude, and there are plenty of remote sites available for these campers as well. If you're going afield to fish, hunt, take pictures, or simply to tent out and cleanse the mind and soul of the daily grind. Aroostook in the fall has a spot for you.