Tuesday, March 11, 2014
By MICHAEL PERRY
If one were to create a list of the 10 most visually stunning lakes in Maine to explore by canoe, Sebec Lake would have to be given serious consideration. It definitely would be in the top 10 for swimming.
A visit to Sebec Lake not only affords views of Borestone Mountain in the distance, but also many other interesting sites such as this cairn in the middle of the lake.
Photos by Michael Perry
Water rushes from the lower portion of Earley Falls into Sebec Lake.
For us it all started in the beachside parking lot of Peaks-Kenny State Park on the southwestern shoreline. Far across the water, rising resolutely out of the vastness of the Maine woods, sat the imposing dual humps of Borestone Mountain. We immediately knew what direction we would be heading -- north -- to keep that unique profile in sight as much as possible.
Sebec is a big lake -- shaped like a giant carrot on its side, 10 miles long west to east. Heed the weather forecasts and keep an eye out for quickly changing conditions while on the water. We ended up exploring the wider western end of the lake, paddling 12 miles over a five-hour period in calm conditions.
From the beach we headed up along the eastern side of South Cove gazing up at tall white pines mixed with the occasional red pine. Giant glacial boulders lined the shoreline, and every so often we'd glide right over the broad top of a huge submerged one. Slabs of granite were precariously perched at odd angles on pyramidal-shaped boulders. A spotted sandpiper flitted from boulder to log back to boulder just ahead of us. Seven loons gathered out at the end of South Cove Point to coax us onward. South Cove has a number of small bays perfect for exploring on a breezy day when it is best to stay close to shore.
A shiny white building caught our eye across the lake near Packard Landing. It looked like a misplaced lighthouse. We had to paddle over and check it out. Lighthouse, no -- castle, yes! Very few lakes in Maine have a summer dwelling quite like the Norwood Castle. Built in 1890 it was a romantic wedding gift of wealthy Foxcroft attorney Willis Parsons to his bride. Mr. Parsons would later become the first Commissioner of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
We followed the shoreline past a classic row of tightly wedged summer cottages, some dating back to the 1890s, with imagination-stirring names like Rock Haven, Sebecco Lodge and Dreamwood. Up at Packard Landing, one small cabin had a front facade completely done in birch bark.
We paddled up to check out Earley Falls, where Wilson Stream tumbles over two six-foot drops into the lake. With great care we pulled the canoe up onto a ledge to the left of the lower falls and clambered up onto the broad smooth hump of ledge above the falls. Gazing out over the inlet, we soaked up the late morning sun and munched on a few sweet blueberries from plants growing out of cracks in the ledge.
The upper falls are a few hundred yards upstream and are wider and even more impressive. The ledges around the falls have been severely sculpted by years of torrents and floods. A variety of small bowls and fissures will have you taking many pictures of nature's own pottery works.
Rounding Green Point to the east we paddled up into Bucks Cove before heading back to Peaks-Kenny. A long line of huge boulders appeared ahead of us stretching over to a small island. We carefully inched our way through, marveling at the power of the glacier that moved these massive boulders like grains of sand 15,000 years ago.
Consult the DeLorme Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (Map 32) for help in getting to Sebec Lake. It's about a three-hour drive from the Portland area, making for a long but doable day trip. Park entrance fees are $4 per adult. A great option is to stay in the park campground and explore in one direction one day and another the next day. Campsites are $16 -- maximum six people per site. Dexter, Dover-Foxcroft and Guilford feature a number of historic B&Bs as well.
NOTE: There is another boat launch option two miles east of the Park at Greeley's Landing if you want to explore the more populated eastern end of Sebec Lake.
Michael Perry is the former director of the L.L.Bean Outdoor Discovery Schools, and founder of Dreams Unlimited, specializing in inspiring outdoor slide programs for civic groups, businesses, and schools. Contact:
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Norwood Castle, built in the 1890s, is still owned and occupied by descendants of the original owner – Willis Parsons.