Monday, September 10, 2012

Sea Planes and Plane Crashes in Maine

This is what you will see in Greenville Maine on the weekend after Labor Day.  Most Generally.

Nice, huh?  Well, this year it was a little different.  I went up there to see all the planes flying, and unfortunately, we were struck with a storm the likes of a hurricane.  I'm sure that they were able to hold some of the activities on Sunday, but I had to get home and go back to work.  Bummer.

Now, do not let my one somewhat depressing experience diminish what I am about to write about.  The town is Greenville, Maine.  It's not on the coast.  This place is off of I-95 about 50 miles toward the west part of the state and it's north in the woods.  It's on the way to Canada to the west.  It sits on Route 15, which is one of only two paved roads in the area.  It's remote.  It's one of my favorite places in the world.  So one little festival won't ruin this place for me.  

This is Moosehead Lake.  This is the way life should be, just like Maine's slogan.  The lake is nearly 40 miles long and the width varies due to it's sprawling bays and coves.
And this is Mooshead Lake.  This is how it looks from the air.  One of the most fun things to do in Greenville is to fly.  That's why they have the Sea Plane Fly In every September.  They've been doing it for 39 years, and people bring their sea planes from all over to compete in contests and show off their planes.  On a regular day, there are pilots around that will be happy to take you up to see the world from a different view.  It's the best way to see the north woods, since a lot of places aren't exactly accessible by car.
This is the Katahdin.  This boat has been around since the early 1900's.  It comes from the time of timber barons, when the wealthy used to vacation in the area and spend the entire summer at resort hotels.  There were several of these behemoth vessels to guide the logs across the 40 miles of lake for the timber companies.  The rest of the boats actually burned.  I know, they were on the lake.  The Katahdin is the only surviving boat and is now a wonderful way to enjoy an afternoon and see the lake.
This is the dock area of the Black Frog.  These guys do it all.  They have docks to tie up to, they have rooms to rent out, and they have great food.  The waitresses are friendly, and the humor of the place will keep you coming back.
My other favorite place is Auntie M's.  This is where you have breakfast if you're smart.  They have things that I've never seen on a breakfast menu before, and they also have fun and great service.  If you want to know some of the history of the area, and don't want to visit one of the three museums in town, this is where you go.  They'll tell you all about the historic photos on the walls.  This is also where the current timber corporations truckers get their bag lunches on their way to work.

But, the food and the festivals, the boats and the planes are not the only reasons to go to Greenville.  
That's right, he's my signature photo and he comes from Moosehead Lake.  The locals will tell you that there are more moose than people in the area.  If you want to rustic up your house with some moose stuff, there are several stores in town that would love to help, from the Indian Store to Moosehead Traders.  The best part about shopping in Greenville?  There are no Walmarts.  There is no McDonalds--the one they had went under and is now a wilderness guide service.  Everything in this town from the stores to the restaurants is home grown.  There are no chains.  It's refreshing.

There are several wilderness guide services in town as well.  They'll take you fishing for landlocked salmon.  They'll take you white water rafting on the Penobscot River.  They'll take you canoeing and kayaking all over the place.  They'll take you looking for moose. They'll take you backpacking, camping, hiking on the Appalachian Trail.  Oh yeah, it runs right through the area.
Beautiful, huh?  But, if you don't want to walk, take an ATV.  This is a huge sport in the area, and you can rent and ride or take a guided tour.  It's one of the things that Greenville does better than most, and everyone should give it a whirl.  If you feel like coming up in the winter for a thrill, this is also a huge snow machining area.  The same companies that do the ATV's will be happy to help you with snow machines in the winter.

Now, there's more to Greenville than just the outdoors.  This is quintessential small town.  They sell the work of local artists, they have pancake breakfasts at the local Masons Lodge, they have town banquets for special occasions, they make broasted chicken and banana bread french toast.  They have car races on the icy lake in the winter, they get their supplies at the local trading post,  and they will make you feel welcome everywhere you go.  There are many residents of Greenville that weren't born there.  They moved there because they loved it.  They come from all over, and they will tell you that it's a great place to live.

Now, if you're brave enough to come up in January, you will be able to take part in something that doesn't happen anywhere else in the world.  Back in the 1960's an unusual event happened that changed Greenville forever.  A B-52 Bomber Airplane crashed up on Elephant Mountain, just outside of town.  It was winter, and the townspeople had to make a path to get to the airplane to search for survivors.  they found two, which was pretty good, all things considered.  After this crash, the Strategic Air Command came and salvaged everything that they deemed necessary from the plane, and they left the rest up there.  Every January, the town has a memorial ride up to the the crash site.  I know it sounds weird, but it's a truly unusual adventure.  Now, if you're like me, I don't want to go to Maine in the winter.  So, the rest of the year, you can drive up to the site and see the wreckage.
You leave town on Lily Bay Road, it's the other paved road.  Just outside of town you'll find Prong Pond Road.  This is a dirt road, and you'll see this sign.  Follow the signs for a while.  It's a drive, for sure.
Eventually, you'll come to this.  There you enter the trail into the woods, where you will find this.

And even this.
It's a memorial, and it's one of the strangest tourist attractions I've ever seen.  It's also worth all the trouble to find it and get there.
The beauty of this place amazes me, from the bogs where people go to see moose,

 to Mount Kineo Island where the locals go to play golf and build amazing homes,

to a downtown that screams small town America.  There is no place like Greenville.  It will puzzle you with it's random port-a-johns, and it's stop signs that are made to keep you in a field somewhere, but it will make you want to learn it's secrets.  It will make you want to drop everything and move there.  It's the friendliest and strangest place on Earth, and you'll never want to leave.

So, pick up a phone or get on the web and make a reservation at one of the many lodges, camps, or motels in the area.  Don't worry about big impersonal hotels either.  They're all small, where the people who run the place will remember you, and will help you have the best vacation ever.





1 comment:

  1. You could include a link to Moosehead Memories my ongoing project on Social Media, started with Facebook. It's an introduction to the area for those who've never been and also a walk down memory lane for those like myself who relocated but still miss it everyday!
    Lisa Devin
    Moosehead Memories on Facebook & Social Media


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