Wednesday, December 11, 2013
As those of us who revel in the various recreational summer diversions that Maine has to offer know all too well, the toughest decisions we face are which diversion to choose on a sunny August day.
Our decision can be made a little easier if the winds on the bay suggest that it might not be the perfect day to take the kayak out for a spin, or if it's so hot that assaulting a 4,000-footer might not be the best bet. A slight overcast urges us to take out the fly rod, whereas a cloudless day keeps the fish off the surface.
I'll always save a few days to take the motorcycle out on one of a half dozen favorite rides, each of which is a full day on the bike covering around 250 miles -- the tolerance level for me and my wife on the old Beemer.
With a stop about every hour, our trips fill the day, and our choices include some of Maine's best scenery and captivating highways and byways.
Our route for the day takes into consideration the forecast, as our trip Down East around the Schoodic peninsula is less alluring if fog is expected to hang around, and a trip to Greenville and Jackman and back down the Kennebec River might not be the best idea if afternoon thunderstorms are predicted. Needless to say, we're long past the days when we didn't mind donning rain gear and riding on wet roads.
But a couple weeks ago, we set off on a perfect day on what, by a tiny margin, might be our favorite ride. And I hasten to add that although it's a trip we most enjoy on the bike, it's almost as scenic by car. So here's my suggestion if you want to hop on your bike or pack the family in the car for a great outing.
The ride I'm referring to took us west from our midcoast farm through Augusta, charming little Wayne village, across Route 4 in North Turner and to Route 26 in West Paris. Then it's on through Bryant Pond and Locke Mills, where we swing into Mt. Abram to check on any summer upgrades to the ski area, and then on to Bethel.
Turning north on Route 2 for about five miles, we turn left on Route 26 in Newry and head up into Grafton Notch along the Bear River.
Our first welcome rest stop is at Screw Auger Falls, where the water plunges about 30 feet over a granite ledge. It's a popular stop for tourists, and often the parking lot's full, with many of the cars bearing Quebec license plates as Route 26 is the route of choice for Canadians heading to or from Maine's southern beaches.
If it's too crowded, we head along to take our first rest at nearby Spruce Meadows picnic area, also within Grafton Notch State Park.
Then it's off through the notch and Upton village before descending into New Hampshire and the scenic road around the south end of Lake Umbagog. Another elevation gain reveals breathtaking views of both the White Mountains to the south and west and the Longfellows to the east, with Mt. Washington prominent on the horizon.
A steep descent brings us to Errol, N.H., where we often watch whitewater kayakers plying the short stretch down the rushing Androscoggin from the dam on Umbagog under the bridge on Route 26.
An hour in Errol can be time well spent, as there are shops, restaurants, and the famed L.L. Cote store -- northern New Hampshire's answer to L.L. Bean for hunting, fishing and camping gear, along with snowmobiles, ATVs, lumber, building supplies and gasoline.
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