Forty-eight years after the fact, we finally got to Woodstock – Woodstock, Maine, that is. We were going for the classic “two for the price of one” with October’s canoe outing: a great hike coupled with a circumnavigation of North Pond in the tiny town east of Bethel and less than an hour from Lewiston.

Think how many times you have driven on Route 26 up to Bethel and seen this pond on the right just before the Mount Abram ski area. The imposing vertical gray face of Buck’s Ledge peers down over the water just to the east of the pond. Every time by, we have vowed to explore the pond in our canoe.

The years have flown by, but we finally did last week.

We hiked up to Buck’s Ledge on the western flank of Moody Mountain before exploring the pond. The parking area is off Route 26 about 11/2 miles west of the sharp turn in Bryant Pond. Follow the gravel road and trail for 11/2 miles to the vast open cliffs overlooking North Pond. The fall colors were at peak and dazzling. Three miles to the southwest sat Mount Abram in wait for early snows. A line of granite ringed islands and islets bisected the pond below our feet. We couldn’t wait to scramble down the mountain and get in our canoe.

The shoreline has many small cottages interspersed with tall white pines, but it’s pretty quiet this time of year. The hills, ridges and mountains that surround the pond were all ablaze in a broad spectrum of brilliant yellows, reds and greens. All the while Buck’s Ledge eyed our progress around the shoreline.

On the northwestern side of the pond, two green hillside pastures slope up from Gore Road. We got out and walked along the road enjoying the classic Maine pastoral setting. A red barn with a nearby red Quonset hut-style storage building and white farmhouse provided the perfect hub for views in all directions. As we peered back out over the pond we caught the flash of a white tail and saw a bald eagle gliding down along the western shoreline.

Back in the canoe we compensated for a sudden increase in the south wind by hugging the convoluted shoreline for protection. To our east Buck’s Ledge morphed into a smaller version of Mount Kineo on Moosehead Lake as seen from Rockwood. The shape and southern orientation was classic glaciation at work at a time when the vast moving sheet of ice sculpted whalebacks all over the New England landscape.

The wind abated and we turned to our left to explore the granite archipelago of islands and ledges. The westernmost granite islet is a perfect spot to land and soak up the afternoon sun and enjoy the colorful views. Two large glacial erratic boulders are perched delicately on the parabolic slope. We took picture after picture from the ledge and then thigh deep in the water capturing artistic angles, shadows and lines. Each “last picture” was suddenly followed by ten more. A pair of loons casually drifted by surely critiquing our artistic endeavors.

We explored along the line of small islands, getting out many times for more photos of the curvature of rocks against the backdrop of Buck’s Ledge framed by small maples aglow in red and thin birches radiant in yellow.

Even though we had spent three hours exploring we had only paddled five miles, including a short foray under Johnny’s Bridge at the southwestern end of North Pond, then under Route 26, and under a railroad bridge into Round Pond before heading back.

Consult the DeLorme Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (map No. 10) for help in getting to North Pond. We put in at the tiny boat launch ramp located next to the Woodstock-Greenwood town line sign on Route 26, proudly proclaiming Greenwood as the birthplace of L.L. Bean.

There is room for a couple of vehicles, or you can find a spot on the grass across the road. Another option is to put in at the state picnic area a mile to the west.

As is our custom on these outings we took some time to do a little exploring by car before we got to Woodstock. It is a quick jaunt off Route 26 just north of South Paris for a drive up though the historic village of Paris Hill. The wide town green leads over to a large white mansion looking west to the White Mountains. This was the boyhood home of Hannibal Hamlin, vice president under Abraham Lincoln during Lincoln’s first term.

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.

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