To know a place – A series from the Executive Director of Destination Moosehead Lake

What does it take to know a place? That could mean something as simply knowing where it exists on the map, or maybe having been there just once for some folks. Some places you can get to know rather quickly while others possess a vast number of layers and require years to fully appreciate. I know that Moosehead Lake is the latter – one of the great places! I’ve come to know a few great places over the years, but I must admit I am no expert here yet. 

I do know the process of getting to know the great places is one of the most exciting rides one can take. My hope in this series is that it will help others have a sense of the magic that takes place here from the perspective of someone who is new. As Director of DML, I believe it is imperative to shake hands, listen, observe, and learn as much as I can these first few months to be able to represent the area in a way the residents here see fitting. The golden rule of travel in my mind – always respect the locals. That applies to the flora and fauna too.

But first, who is this guy, how did he get here, and why does he keep saying y’all? My name is Steve Yocom and I’ve spent the last 10 years on the opposite end of Appalachia in Haywood County, NC. I have been working in the outdoor industry, as well as in the tourism sectors of the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains. Work eventually took me all over North America. While working for Backpacker Magazine, I landed in the Moosehead Lake region. My calendar had Moosehead marked for two weeks, which was the last stop on a chaotic 9 month film tour. I loved it so much that I ended up staying a few months. 

While there are obviously some vast differences between the southern and northern ends of the Appalachian range, at the same time it all felt kind of familiar, with some added bonuses I’d not experienced in the mountains before. There is a special kind of peace to be found here. I’d argue, sitting by a fire under the stars, listening to the loons calling could actually be a form of therapy. The dark skies, the endless number of ways to enjoy the land, as well as a community filled with really wonderful people combine to make this place special. Those two months really stayed with me and are exactly the reason I am back!

May 1st I moved to Rockwood, Maine with my love Adren and our 3 German shepherds. So far all the signs indicate we made the right move. Our friends at the Birches Resort gave us a place to land. There are trails in the backyard and Moosehead Lake is in the front yard. It is stellar! John and Tania have created a really wonderful place to unwind here. Not long after we arrived, we received the most incredible greeting, an unexpected Northern Lights display, something I will never forget. 

Rockwood is on the west side of the Lake, centrally located , I imagine that’s why some call it the heart of the lake. It’s your last stop going north on the lake for supplies. Rockwood is nice and quiet but there’s still plenty of fun to be had. Its trail networks, water access and many lakeside camps and lodges are lots of folks favorite place for vacation. The RBG seems to be the local gathering place for a drink!  I am quite a fan of The Lakeside restaurant at the Birches, I’m also told Maynards has great food, another addition to my to-do list. Rockwood is also the gateway to Mount Kineo, a mountain that has historic ties from over 10,000 years ago. Due to its massive rhyolite deposits, Native Americans came to make tools from this very mountain and its sought-after stone. A wild part of this lesson? Through native trade networks, tools made from Mount Kineo have been found all over our country. 

One of the important things I believe when it comes to getting to know a place is fully understanding the lay of the land. Knowing what peaks make up its unique horizon, and where the drainages run off their slopes. To know a place you must understand how it all connects. In order to do this properly, in my mind, you’ve got to immerse yourself in it.

A highlighter and a map, my state of the art way of recording this endeavor began. We spent an evening over on Kineo, taking a private shuttle from The Birches Resort, we were dropped off and wished “Good luck, it’s going to be a cold one!”. Most folks day hike Kineo but we chose to use its lakeside campsite and stay a little longer. The Indian and Bridle trails were enjoyable, steep, but filled with great views and a gorgeous forest. The old tower at the top will test your comfort with heights! The views were worth every bit of it though! It really puts in perspective how large the lake is from up here. I note the peaks and make plans for which is next. It was a bit chilly but something to be noted for travelers coming here in May is that the solitude was unmatched and there wasn’t a sign of any bugs yet! I’ll trade that for a little mud, no complaints here!

We continue to explore Moosehead Lake as the region comes alive for spring. Trillium, Bloodroot, Daffodils and Iris kicked the party off. Fiddlehead season was a sight to behold too, the locals have some clever ways of cooking them up! My favorite part about spring? Moose Mainea they call it. For good reason, what better way to kick off the spring visitor season than it being the best time of year to see Moose? They are out and about after all that new spring food! Driving to Greenville every morning feels like I am embarking on some sort of Wildlife safari. How many people can say they get excited for their morning commute? 

It’s a good thing the days are long up here. There is so much to do and see. The amount of access to water is another favorite aspect to this new home of ours.. My partner and I spend some evenings fishing and paddling our local rivers, The Moose and West outlet of the Kennebec. Absolutely gorgeous watersheds filled with many recreational opportunities. 

But most of all the thing that moves me most about being here is the people. We have had such a warm welcome.” Do you need anything? Do either of you need a job? Want to try Moose? Want to get out on the lake? “ We missed the dinner time cut-off one evening and a local, Tom ran out back and grabbed us some lobster. Before you knew it someone from the kitchen brought us some warm butter. Another day I helped two gentlemen load their boat into a pond and they offered to take me fishing! If this is how things go around Moosehead Lake, I’m certain I’m in the right place. I believe everyone is just really happy to be here, and it shows!

In my position, it’s imperative to get to know the people and businesses that make up the area. By doing so I can help tell their story and connect travelers with the best options to make up a great vacation. I have thoroughly enjoyed this process of my new job the most. I’ve attached some photos from my time getting to know a few. I think each one deserves its own individual blog post on our website. Stay tuned for more about the unique businesses and owners that make up our area. I’d love to know what it is that you look forward to getting to know when you travel to a new place! What activities you’d like to see us cover in the region? What do you wish you knew prior to coming to Moosehead Lake? 

– Steve

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