July is a great month to escape the crowds on the coast and take a vacation in the North Maine Woods. One of our favorite areas to explore is the region north of Moosehead Lake and east of the headwaters of the St. John River.

The rustic Maine Forest Service campsite at the northwestern end of Caucomgomoc Lake sees little use and is a great jumping-off point for exploration of the remote ponds and lakes in the area. This large area of the North Woods, managed by the North Maine Woods Association, is a fee area.

The northern end of Caucomgomoc features two separate mile-long arms. The western arm reaches up into tiny Avery Pond; the easterly arm comprises the larger Rowe Pond. One thing for certain is you will see wildlife before, during and after your outing. Once in the canoe, you’ll enjoy wildlife sightings in front, back, above and below the canoe.

Freshly cut beaver sticks floated in the water as we glided north past waterside alders and the rotting remains of an old logging road bridge into Avery. Reflections of puffy clouds and a circular wall of evergreens floated in the mirror-calm amphitheater of water. Low hills peaked up from the forest around us. The white flowers of arrowhead poked up out of the marshy shallows. A huge hawk took off from a treetop on our left, while a merganser duck and its seven chicks noisily paddled away from us.

Near the north end of the pond, 10 Canada geese erupted out of the grasses and headed out toward the lake. Goose down clung to the reeds of marsh grasses, while the shiny green seedpods of blue flag iris gleamed in the midday sun.

On our way out of Avery, a yearling moose peered at us from the alders, while a solitary sandpiper darted off a log to our right. For a one-mile circumnavigation, Avery is a treasure trove of wildlife. The same can be said for the larger Rowe.

As we skirted around the Caucomgomoc shoreline in search of the narrow, easy-to-paddle right by opening up into Rowe, we stopped by a small islet to enjoy the antics of a group of cedar waxwings. They are very social birds and not wary at all of canoeists. They continually flew back and forth from the tops of two small dead cedars out over the inlet in search of insects.

On the eastern side of the entrance up into Rowe sits a primitive backcountry campsite perfect for a night out of stargazing and after supper, paddling and swimming. The pond is full of islands of all sizes, some mere granite ledges with a few spindly trees, others dense with forest. We paddled right under many bald eagles perched on long limbs leaning out over the water. On the western shoreline a gigantic overturned root system rose above us, its bleached white veins embedded with rocks of all shapes, sizes and colors.

The view as you head back out into the open lake for the 2.5-mile paddle back to the campsite is outstanding. Forty miles to the southeast sit the unique profiles of Doubletop Mountain and Moose Bosom in the southwestern corner of Baxter State Park. A number of scalloped coves invite exploration on the way back.

Consult the Delorme Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (maps 49 and 55) for help in getting to the Caucomgomoc Lake campsite via the Golden-Ragmuff-Loon Lake roads. The drive from the Portland area will take about six hours. Quality backcountry tires and moderate clearance are a must to meet the challenges of the gravel logging roads.

The gate entry fees for Maine citizens are $6 daily plus $8 additional for camping per night. Day use and camping are free for youngsters up to age 15. Call North Maine Woods at 435-6213 or check out their website for further details about road conditions and logging operation updates.

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: [email protected]