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[dropcap letter=”W”]hen we started researching our story on the proposed Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, the nearly 90,000-acre parcel of wooded foothills east of Katahdin, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to bring the kids along for some fun exploration of the Maine woods.
Here’s the truth: I want to love camping. I really do. So about once a year, fueled by a hopeful amnesia, we give it a go. But I should have known by the sheer amount of bug-netting products I purchased before our trip in mid-June that it wasn’t going to be the getaway of my dreams. We were heading into the blackfly capital of the world at the height of blackfly season.
By 9 o’clock on the first evening, with both children still awake, Noah looked at me and asked whether character building was the point of this trip. I am embarrassed to admit we were staying in a cabin with a kitchen, yet we managed to fumble our way through a day of bug bites, repeated sunscreen applications, and the whining of hungry and cranky children (and adults). We’d driven the rough and dusty 16-mile Katahdin Loop Road to a soundtrack of crying and screaming, and our attempt at a short hike had ended with requests from both kids to be carried. And we had spotted several large dock spiders in our sleeping quarters.
The highlight of our trip came the next evening, when we launched a canoe on the East Branch of the Penobscot River at dusk. We didn’t see a moose, but as we paddled by moonlight, we saw a family of ducks, a beaver, and some magical fireflies. Shortly after our return to shore, the kids fell asleep, our 1-year-old still in his lifejacket. And Noah and I enjoyed one glorious hour of quiet — the kind of quintessential, relaxing camping experience that is apparently reserved only for those without two children under 5.
Although I’m obviously not good at camping, I do love the way I feel after spending a couple of days in the Maine woods — I am calm, grounded, and more in synch with the world and the people around me.
In this issue, you’ll find dozens of destinations for your next Maine road trip. Here’s my advice: leave your Pinterest-fueled aspirations of perfection at home. Instead, bring your sense of humor, an appetite for adventure, and plenty of bug spray. — Kathleen Fleury[/item]