A relaxing vacation spot in New England: Moosehead Lake?

Development fever, the expansion of leisure time, and the buildup of our transportation infrastructure has turned formerly peaceful New England vacation spots into hectic places that are only relaxing if you like to sit in a traffic jam on your way to the 7-11.  Cape Cod has more traffic than Cambridge during the summer.  The islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard are heavily built up.  The lake district of New Hampshire, about 2 hours north of Boston, is similarly clogged.  I spent Sunday and Monday seeing what Maine was like.  The goal: see if there were some nice places to relax for a week or two, within a 5-mile drive from a public airport.

The coastline between Boston and Bar Harbor is extremely crowded with nearly every scrap of land containing a house.  The area around Bar Harbor is very impressive from the air due to a series of brand-new oceanfront mansions that are the size of small hotels.  Even if you had infinite money, which you’d need, these aren’t that desirable for a pilot because they are rather a long drive, esp. considering summer traffic, from any airport.

Beyond Bar Harbor the development thins out but sadly so do the airports.  Diamond Star N505WT touched down for the night at Eastport, Maine (KEPM), which is the last town on the coast before you reach New Brunswick, Canada.  Eastport is very scenic but not totally relaxing due to (a) houses packed fairly close together due to the fact that Eastport is basically a little island, (b) the place wants to be a working fishing town but mostly the fish have all been killed and therefore the town has a dispirited unemployed atmosphere.

On the way back toward Boston I headed inland.  Eastern Maine is logging, logging, logging, paper mills, and more logging.  Mostly, though, it is desolate.  You can fly for 15 minutes without seeing any vehicles, houses, or people–just trees, lakes, and deserted logging roads.  Northwestern Maine seemed to have some more recreational potential.  Boat docks and private airstrips began to appear around lakeshores.  I landed at Greenville (3b1, big enough to bring a light jet in), a stone’s throw from Moosehead Lake, the largest lake in New England.

A 5-minute ride on the folding Giant Halfway bike brought me into downtown Greenville, the only real town for miles in any direction.  This turned out to be a very pleasant spot with several good restaurants and cafes.  I sat down in http://www.theblackfrog.com and learned the following about the place:

  • “it is like Lake Winnipesaukee was 30 years ago”
  • the people who live here year-round are sort of like Alaskans, i.e., folks who didn’t like the crowding and regulation of life in the “mainland”
  • there is infinite mountain biking available on the dirt logging roads and snowmobile trails
  • you can drive to Boston in 4.5 hours
  • you can moor a boat anywhere in the lake and stay overnight; it costs about $400 per season to keep a very large boat in a marina here
  • you can rent land from the city-owned airport and build a hangar no problem
  • the lake water temperature is in the low 70s at the height of summer
  • the season is shorter by a couple of weeks than in New Hampshire
  • there is a very outdated ski resort nearby
  • the town hosts the world’s largest seaplane fly-in the 2nd weekend of September

  • Houses are fairly cheap ($100k to live, $200-250k to live fairly large, e.g., on the waterfront with a little boat dock).

In a slow airplane it is a 1.5-hour flight from Moosehead/Greenville to Boston or Montreal and less than 1 hour to Quebec City.

Is this where we should be renting and/or buying houses or setting up a houseboat?  Anyone spent some time up in Moosehead or have a better idea for a cool summer escape?


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Ancient Egyptian MP3ers

The latest book in the travel kit is Simon Singh’s Fermat’s Enigma, which talks about the mathematical knowledge that was in the library at Alexandria.  It seems that the modern MP3 craze has ancient roots:  “Even tourists to Alexandria could not escape the voracious appetite of the Library.  Upon entering the city, their books were confiscated and taken to the scribes.  The books were copied so that while the original was donated to the Library, a duplicate could graciously be given to the original owner.”

[The need for a good backup strategy also is highlighted by the travails of the old Library.  In 47 BC part of the collection caught fire accidentally because Julius Caesar was out in the adjacent harbor burning Cleopatra’s ships.  In AD 389 more books were destroyed because they were housed in the Temple of Serapis, a building that fell victim to a Christian assault on pagan monuments.  Singh writes about the final destruction, which occurred after the Arab conquest of Egypt:  “Then in 642 a Moslem attack succeeded where the Christians had failed.  When asked what should be done with the Library, the victorious Caliph Omar commanded that those books that were contrary to the Koran should be destroyed.  Furthermore, those books that conformed to the Koran were superfluous and they too must be destroyed.  The manuscripts were used to stoke the furnaces which heated the public baths and Greek mathematics went up in smoke.”]

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