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, exofficio.com). 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.
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.
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?
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, katahdincruises.com