At 3,584 acres, Great Moose Lake in Hartland is an ample body of water with lots of beautiful spots to explore. The lake is situated about an hour’s drive west of Bangor in Somerset County. Plan a visit when the weather forecast calls for light winds.

There are two put-in options, a rustic local one on the north shore and the large, paved state boat launch on the south shore that we utilized for our canoe. The water was mirror calm the four hours we were there. This made the crossing from the boat launch over to the northern shoreline an easy one.

Most of the cottages are along the southern shoreline. We paddled west along the shore crossing over to the northern shoreline at a point where a long forested peninsula protrudes south into the lake. Loon calls echoed over the water. Aptly named Round Island formed a perfect green circle mirrored in the calm water as we approached the peninsula.

The southern shoreline is lined with large boulders, some round, some pyramidal. A kingfisher flew from boulder top to boulder top ahead of us. It seemed unusual to see it on rocks rather than going from tree to tree. The lake is shallow, which allows boulders to protrude in a variety of spots and flat underwater ledges to suddenly appear just below your canoe.

The lake is shallow, which allows boulders to protrude in a variety of spots and flat underwater ledges to suddenly appear just below your canoe.

At the end of the peninsula a large sloping ledge at Passaconaway Point called us over for a swim. We paddled up to a small ledge, got out, pulled the canoe up onto the ledge and scampered over some rocks to the larger granite ledge. The low morning sun sat right in front of us. The water was still summer warm. We splashed about and then stood for awhile on underwater boulders with water up to our necks, gazing about and feeling very lucky to have such a beautiful September morning.

We were curious where the northern boat launch was so we went exploring. We gazed to our left and spied a blue heron silhouetted against an old beaver lodge. It was looking right at the boat launch. Mission accomplished. It was just what a local launch site should look like: a narrow dirt lane leading down to a patch of reeds. We walked up the lane admiring the handy work of a few small cottages. We wondered how many Red Sox games had been listened to here over the years on a crackling radio with bugs hitting screens and bats darting about the timeless summer twilight sky. It was as if the lane had taken us back to the 1950s.

Beyond the boat launch, a couple of long reed-covered, glacial deposits lead 100 yards out into the lake. It was hard to tell if we could find enough water through the dense mats of pickerelweed to be able to stay along the shore, or if we would have to paddle out around the arms. After a bit of poking about in the shallows and having to backtrack a few times we made the wise decision to paddle out around the two arms and then come back in to shore. While making that decision, we spied 40 Canada geese feeding in the shallows, their black heads poking up above the browning grasses.

We were looking for the mouth of the Sebasticook River that meanders down from the north through Mainstream and Lake Como. A few hundred yards up the river sits a classic community of old cottages. Talk about going back in time – this is the spot. We marveled at the simple architectural beauty of the two big white cottages, Sleepy Hollow and Castle Harmony, from our canoe. Yes, indeed, classic: towering pines, a carefully mowed lawn sloping down to water’s edge, the weathered wooden frame of a tennis court, and big white boathouse to the right. The usual questions surfaced: who, when, why here?

Still amazingly calm we paddled east past two private sandy beaches to a group of tiny rocky islets near Packard Point all the while gazing up at the long forested slope of the Pinnacles to the east peering down over the lake. From here it was a short paddle over to the boat launch to begin the trek home.

Consult the Delorme Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (maps #21 and #31) for help in getting to the boat launch. For the southern option, follow the Great Moose Drive road north for three miles from Route 151 in Hartland.

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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