Spending my summers as an employee of the Maine Department of Conservation, Bureau of Parks and Lands, at Camden Hills State Park, I have the pleasure of talking with thousands of visitors “from away” and describing to them the things that make our beloved state so special.

The two questions I’m asked the most, by a wide margin, are “How far is it to Acadia?” and “Where can we see a moose?”

The answer to the first one is easy, as I tell them that it’s about a 75-mile drive from Camden through Belfast, Bucksport (where I suggest a visit to Fort Knox and a ride to the top of the observation tower on the Penobscot Narrows Bridge) and Ellsworth.

And I suggest to them that they look due east from the top of Mt. Battie in the park, and they’ll see the mountains on Mt. Desert Island a mere 25 miles away across Penobscot Bay.

It’s so close, in fact, that as a 10-year-old boy living in Camden during the dreadful fall of 1947, the flames from the fires on the burning island looked to me like they were right on my doorstep.

The moose question, however, is the most fun to answer, partly because of the options I can run through for them.

I’ll start by telling them there’s always the possibility they’ll catch sight of one almost anywhere in Maine, as they’ve been spotted from Fort Kent to Kittery. And I always remind them to keep an eye out, not just so they can see one, but to remember that most moose are bigger and taller than their cars and a collision with one can have fatal consequences … and not just for the moose.

I remember that when I was involved in the world of politics over 30 years ago and my firm worked on the campaign to defeat the referendum to eliminate the then-new limited moose hunting season in Maine, we were told by Maine’s professional game biologists that there were more moose per square mile in the area above the Canadian-Pacific rail line bisecting the state from Vanceboro to Jackman (which is where the early hunts took place) than anywhere else in the United States. And I suspect that’s still the case.

Getting down to the serious business of moose spotting, I share with them my own favorite routes researched over many years of roaming Maine’s highways and bi-ways and including multiple encounters both in a car and, on a couple of nerve-wracking occasions, a motorcycle.

Following the route of Benedict Arnold’s ill-fated assault on Quebec City in 1775, north up Route 201 along the Kennebec River is, as far as I’m concerned, the primo opportunity to spot moose. The section between Solon and the Canadian border has earned its name as “Moose Alley”, and I’ve seldom followed that route without spotting at least one.

And for history buffs, just imagining the hardships endured by Arnold and his 1,100 men (that was reduced to 500 by the time they reached Quebec City some two months later) nearly boggles the mind.

At a spot by the highway between Solon and Caratunk where the Kennebec River narrows, there’s a marker commemorating the “Great Carrying Place”, the precise location where the Arnold party left the Kennebec to both avoid some unnavigable sections of the Dead River toward which they were headed, and to shorten their journey by nearly 30 miles, as the Dead takes a circuitous route from what is now Flagstaff Lake to its confluence with the Kennebec.

To do so, they portaged their heavy bateaux about 12 miles, including a rise of nearly 1,000 feet to the Dead via the aptly dubbed Carry Ponds. Historians tell us that the combination of rough terrain, starvation, illness and even a hurricane resulted in the desertion of some 400 men at this point in the epic assault alone.

Add to that the ultimate failure of the mission to take Quebec City after navigating down the Chaudiere River from Lac Megantic in Canada, and Arnold’s later conviction for treason, and your moose-spotting on Route 201 carries with it some great lessons in history.

Another prime opportunity to spot moose is along the road between Jackman and Greenville following the appropriately named Moose River. Last fall, we even spotted a black bear and her cubs crossing the road near Big Moose Mountain.

I’ve also gotten many reports of sightings on the road north from Greenville by Lily Bay, and further into the wilderness surrounding Moosehead Lake.

To the west, Stratton is a great jumping-off place for spotting, by either following Route 27 north by the Chain of Ponds to Coburn Gore at the Canadian border, or Route 16 west to Rangeley. In fact, there’s a sand and salt storage lot just west of Stratton where you’ll often see folks gathered in the evening to take pictures of the impressive creatures.

Once in Rangeley, there are three excellent options. Head to Oquossoc on Route 4 and then take either Route 16 west to Errol, N.H., or Route 17 to Mexico, as moose are prevalent on both of those roads. And then there’s the popular moose-encountering section of Route 4 between Madrid and Phillips as you head back toward civilization.

These are my best suggestions. I’d love to hear yours, so I can pass along the best possible advice to our visitors.

John Christie is a former ski racer and ski area manager and owner, a ski historian and member of the Maine Ski Hall of Fame. He and his son, Josh, write ski columns on alternating weeks. John can be reached at:

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