A new guide shows you how to climb Moosehead Lake’s famed mountain in the footsteps of Thoreau.
By John Gibson
Photographed by Alan Lavallee
“Thus aroused, I too brought fresh fuel to the fire, and then rambled along the sandy shore in moonlight, hoping to meet a moose come down to drink, or else a wolf. The little rill tinkled the louder, and peopled all the wilderness for me; and the glassy smoothness of the sleeping lake, laving the shores of a new world, with the dark, fantastic rocks rising here and there from its surface, made a scene not easily described. It has left such an impression on my memory as will not soon be effaced.”
—The Maine Woods by Henry David Thoreau
Previous trips to Maine’s North Woods had whetted Thoreau’s appetite for more. On July 20, 1857, he and Edward Hoar traveled by train from Concord, Massachusetts, to Portland, Maine, then went to Bangor on the packet. They were met there by George Thatcher, who took them to Old Town, where they engaged Joseph Polis, a Penobscot elder, to be their guide. Polis agreed to a salary of $1.50 per day plus 50 cents a week for the use of his canoe. This would be Thoreau’s last journey to Maine’s great North Woods, an exploration of distant places beyond all settlement and a fitting sequel to his 1846 climb on Katahdin.