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Backpacker Magazine – March 2010

Rip & Go: Big Moose Mountain - Maine Public Reserved Lands Little Moose Unit, ME

Hike to an historic fire tower and camp beside secluded ponds.

by: Chris Keene

Big Moose Lake (Tim Seaver)
Big Moose Lake (Tim Seaver)
ExOfficio's Buzz Off Baja shirt (Courtesy Photo)
ExOfficio's Buzz Off Baja shirt (Courtesy Photo)

Take it With You
Download a printable PDF of this entire weekend.

Key Gear
Bug Protection

Come July, the tourists pick up. But you can have the trails (and campsites) all to yourself—if you head out in early June. The only caveat is that this is also when the area’s notorious black flies make their debut. Solution? Pack some DEET and dress like a Mainer. Dark clothing attracts the winged bloodsuckers, so wear lighter, khaki-hued shirt and pants.Try ExOfficio’s long-sleeve Buzz Off Baja shirt ($80, It’s impregnated with permethrin, a man-made version of a natural insect repellent found in certain chrysanthemum plants. ExOfficio says it will last through 70 washes, and when used in tandem with insect repellent, the author, a life-long Mainer, has been pleasantly surprised with the results.

See This
Big Moose Fire tower

The only way to spot a forest fire in 1905? Go look for one in the forest, on foot. Not very efficient, or safe. Two Greenville locals, concerned with protecting the area’s most important asset—trees—suggested putting a watchman on a mountaintop—specifically, Big Moose. Big Moose’s fire tower, essentially just planks nailed to a tree, was the first in the country. With map and alidade, the watchmen would pinpoint the smoke, then run down through the trees to give the alert.

Camp Chat
In 2000, the Maine Indian Tribal-State Commission and the Maine State Legislature confabbed to pass a law eliminating the word “squaw” from the names of state landmarks, reasoning that its use is offensive to native peoples. Most sites were renamed “moose”–like Big and Little Moose Mountains. There’s even a peak in Baxter State Park now named Moose Bosom. Discuss: Do you agree with the name changes? And is there a better name than Moose Bosom in any wilderness?

Locals Know
Sure, the solitude, wildlife, and surrounding pine-blanketed mountains make Moosehead Lake special—but they aren’t the only attraction. Before or after your hike, go for a ride on the 250-ton S.S. Katahdin, a steamship that’s been plying the lake’s waters for nearly a century. The 115-foot long, 26-foot-wide boat is the last of a fleet of eight; each one towed 6,000 cords of wood per trip across Moosehead. Three years after “Ol’ Kate’s” final log drive in 1975, she became a National Historic Landmark and has since been serving as a passenger ship. She runs daily at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday from the end of June through early October. Fall foliage season is primo. $32,

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Reader Rating: -


Nathan L
Sep 07, 2010

Did this Labor Day wknd 2010. Some comments: the descent into the Notch Ponds is quite difficult with packs on, and in general there is a lot of slow terrain on these trails. We made it from trailhead to Little Notch in 6.5 hours.

The 11-mile day is totally doable, but we woke up at 8am, and had to cut it short without bagging the peak. Recommend getting up early on Day 2, and also ditching heavy packs at Big/Little Moose Pond trailsplit.

Labor Day Weekend in Maine, and we were the *only* overnighters; only saw 2 other dayhikers in three days. What an amazing trip. The lakes at night were unbelievably beautiful.

No moose sightings, though- but lots and lots of moose poop.


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