Who do you see in Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument?

On a couple of recent weekdays, BDN staffers headed to Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument to gather information for several stories, including many that will appear this week, marking the one-year anniversary of the monument’s official designation.

Aislinn Sarnacki of the BDN takes a photo of Richard Carlow of Gainesville, Fla., and his sister, Nadia Wotton, with their camera in Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument recently. (BDN photo by John Holyoke)

Among the stories we’ll tell is this short offering: Who do you see in Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument?

The short answer to that question: Plenty of people … most of whom are in their cars, driving to other spots in the monument. On a Wednesday two weeks ago, we crossed paths with 15 vehicles going the opposite direction — against the regular flow of traffic — around the monument’s Katahdin Loop Road. It’s impossible to know how many were just ahead of us, or just behind, on the 16-mile loop.

Among those we saw the next day was Lucas St. Clair, who was showing a group around. St. Clair is the son of Roxanne Quimby, whose donation of land — more than 87,000 acres in all — made the monument a reality.

We also met a few others that we got a chance to speak with at stops around the monument.  Being a weekday, we weren’t surprised that the monument wasn’t overly busy. But here are a few of the people we met there, and who were generous enough to stop and chat for a bit.

Roger Merchant of Glenburn pauses to share some historic photos in Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument recently. (BDN photo by Aislinn Sarnacki)

We ran across Roger Merchant of Glenburn at Orin Falls, a three-mile hike (or in his case, a three-mile bike) from the trailhead, which is just past Mile 15 of the loop road. Merchant is a retired University of Maine associate professor, and is a forestry naturalist and educator.

The 73-year-old Merchant rode his fat-tire bike to the falls after a couple busy days documenting historic remains of dams deep in the forest. He said he began spending time on what is now monument land about 50 years ago.

“Probably the same thing [brings me back] now as [the things that impressed me] the first time I saw it,” Merchant said. “I was managing woodlands in Township 3, Range 7, which is just adjacent, where the old Sherman Lumber Road and bridge cross the lower Wassataquoik [Stream].”

The area left a lasting impression.

“The first time I went up there, I pulled out onto that bridge, and I don’t know what it was [that struck me],” Merchant said. “It was just something about looking up that stream, seeing the boulders. I just said, ‘Wow. This is really different.'”

Merchant had plenty of chances to spend more time in the area over the coming years, and always enjoyed it. Sometimes, he stopped by the productive Wassataquoik with his fishing rod in hand.

“I used to cruise timber, inspect the operations, go down there and catch dinner,” he said. “Delicious.”

Merchant said he’d been up in the monument six or seven times already this year, and was wrapping up two days in the woods, with plans to camp out that evening, before heading home.

“You know, there’s just something about this place that speaks to my soul,” Merchant said. “It feeds it.”

Over at Sandbank Stream, we ran across Richard Carlow of Gainesville, Fla., and his sister, Nadia Wotton, of Lincoln, Maine. The pair were wrapping up their picnic lunch, and were enjoying a day in the monument.

Though Carlow was excited to spend time in the monument that he’d recently heard of, he wasn’t aware of just how new the federal designation was. And he hadn’t heard that the Quimby family had donated the land — he figured a timber company must have done so.

Either way, the duo were having fun exploring, but were struggling to find interesting things because they didn’t have the most recent interpretive map of the monument loop road.

“We thought we were going to see that waterfall [at Orin Falls] but we went and went [down the road and never got to the trailhead],” Carlow said. “I said, ‘I don’t know how far this [road] goes,’ so we turned around and came back.”

We gave the pair one of our interpretive maps before we left, and they said they’d be back.

“We’ll come back some morning, get an early start,” Wotton said.

That way, they told us, they’d be more apt to see some animals.

“We didn’t see any animals yet [today],” Carlow said. “I don’t think you would in the daytime. It’d probably have to be dusk, or dawn. I’ve been looking in the streams and the ponds, though. I’m looking for some beaver. I did see a beaver dam, but not any beaver.”

The pair were having a good time in the monument, though, and were pleasantly surprised that one thing they’d been reading didn’t prove true.

“In a brochure that we have it says that log trucks have the right of way, and you have to be careful,” Carlow said.

The duo took the brochure to heart, and drove carefully, expecting to spend much of the day dodging logging trucks. That didn’t happen.

“We’ve only seen one log truck in our whole trip so far,” Carlow said.




John Holyoke

About John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. Today, he's the Outdoors editor for the BDN, a job that allows him to meet up with Maine outdoors enthusiasts in their natural habitat. The stories he gathers provide fodder for his columns, and this blog.