I’ve been unsuccessfully trying to visit Maine now for the better part of two years. My three main draws being: the scenery, adventure sports, and most importantly the chance the devour several fresh Maine lobster rolls.
One problem with Maine is that it is a pretty sizable drive from Pennsylvania, yet close enough that flying seems like it’d be a waste of time and money (and I’ve checked, it would be a waste of money). Maine is:
- 11 hours from Lancaster
- 10 hours from Scranton
- 10.5 hours from Philly
No matter where I left from, it’s a little bit of a hike. However if you have the option to take a three day weekend, and a chance to split up the travel, it’s not a bad trip. The two cities that have appealed to me most are Portland, and the lesser known Millinocket, which I’m going to devote this weekend trip idea post to.
I first discovered Millinocket when I found the Jump&Raft website in Men’s Journal (if you don’t subscribe to this magazine, I suggest it. It has interesting stories and great, realistic travel ideas…I also found Mines and Meadows here). My buddies and I were all set to go on a Jump and Raft weekend when Irene came and spoiled that. We ended up doing Pittsburgh (and Mines and Meadows) instead. Off topic, but I can’t believe I haven’t done a Pittsburgh post yet. It’s one of my new favorite cities, and I’ll be spending much more time there as my brother is off to Pitt Law School this fall.
Ever since, I’ve been somewhat obsessed with going to Millinocket; I just haven’t had the time yet, and frankly Ireland has taken precedent over all other travel plans and bank accounts at the moment. Millinocket was a former mill town, as the name suggests, which recently has become something of a haven for adventure sports. This may have something to do with it’s proximity to Maine’s tallest mountain, Mt. Katahdin, and Maine’s largest lake, Moose Lake (way to be stereotypical, right?). I don’t watch, but for those Discovery Channel buffs, it is also the filming locale of American Loggers. Be prepared, it’s out there. Aside from a few bars and the fun stuff, I doubt there’s much to do. Do all your shopping beforehand.
If I were to do Millinocket, I’d leave on a Thursday night and make a pit-stop to soften the trip up a bit. Ten hours is easily doable, but this would give you the chance to explore either Boston (Millinocket is five hours away) or Portland (3 hours). Personally, I’d pick Portland. It’s supposedly a young, fun city with an excess of seafood and breweries. I love Boston, but was just there for St. Patrick’s Day. An early start Friday would ensure that you had all of Friday and Saturday to explore, and let’s face it, Sunday’s are perfectly built for miserable, long (and often times hungover) car rides.
Millinocket seems to be an equal opportunity seasonal attraction. Granted, it’s very much known for water based river attractions, however it’s home to Antique Snowmobile Museum, and has x-country ski trails, snowmobiling and snowshoeing rentals. As much as I love snow and winter sports, there’s little to no way I’d venture this far north during the winter. I went to Lake Placid last year in February and while I feel in love with the town, the cold was brutal. I say this as someone who grew up in the mountains of NEPA and is well acquainted with brutal cold. Millinocket is further north than Lake Placid (and Montreal for that matter), so I can only imagine the temperatures.
Things to do in Millinocket:
*Now, there’s alot to do in Millinocket, and various places to stay/eat. I’m not putting together a comprehensive list, but rather the places/things to do that I have looked into and find appealing.
Jump&Raft: The Jump and Raft facilities are located a short distance outside Millinocket at the Penobscot River Outpost. This adventure resort really could be an all inclusive one stop locale if you don’t feel like exploring the rest of the area (I’d probably do one of their all inclusive packages, but make several non inclusive trips off the property). The Jump and Raft package includes a full day of whitewater rafting on the Penobscot River and a tandem sky dive from 11,000 feet. You can purchase the raft and jump or an entire weekend package including food and lodging from prices starting at about $309 dollars.
You can also purchase simply whitewater rafting, or skydiving experiences if that’s what you wish. The website is very comprehensive and a number of packages are available. Some other activities include whitewater kayaking, guided hiking, or snowmobiling.
Lodging at the resort also varies. You can camp, stay in cabins, or the most appealing to me, the yurts: Mongolian style tent-like structures complete with showers, and plexiglass ceiling to give you the allusion of sleeping outdoors.
The Penobscot Outpost is also home to the Boatman’s Bar and grill, which hosts nightly bonfires, weekly themed parties (toga!, lobster bakes), and has a deck with a hottub.
Moose Safari: The Millinocket region is one of the most conducive areas in Maine for Moose to thrive. Several different outfitters hold “moose safaris” to spot the creatures up close. The New England Adventure Center holds such tours on the water. The adventure center also hosts guided hiking, fishing, x-country skiing, and cabin lodging. The Penobscot Adventure Center is one camp accessed through the NEAC and includes volleyball courts, hottubs, and more than three miles of hiking trails on the premises.
While a boat trip with Moose sightings sounds fun, I actually preferred the sound of the Moose Photo Tour, where you’re guarenteed Moose sightings or your money back. This tour is held in a van, and is smaller and more flexible. They typically see 6-20 Moose per outing. Where else but Maine could you go on a Moose safari?
River Boarding: I first discovered the sport of riverboarding when reading another travel blog , which I urge you to check out. Essentially, this relatively new sport can best be described as boogey boarding down a whitewater river using an oversized boogey board, wetsuit, and flippers for propulsion. Maine whitewater riverboarding pioneered this sport. The Penobscot Adventure center has packages for either riverboarding, or riverboarding/whitewater rafting.
Penobscot Adventures: The Penobscot Adventure Center also offers an all inclusive three day whitewater rafting and hiking package that looks pretty cool. One of the key selling points for me is hiking in caves that have ice, even in the summer. This adventure center also boasts inflatable kayaking, other rafting excursions, and camping.
Cross Country Skiing: As I mentioned earlier, I don’t know that I’d venture up to Millinocket in the winter months because of the extreme cold. That being said, I’m sure the scenery is gorgeous and there is always enough snow, something PA has struggled with past winter. I always like to advocate cross country skiing, as it’s such an underrated, yet such a great sport to be involved in. The Kathadin Nordic Center has all sorts of trail/rental information, and many of the adventure centers have their own excursions.
Katahdin & Baxter State Parks: are located within minutes of Millinocket.
Gulf Hagus: The Gulf Hagus is about 45 minutes from Millinocket and known as “Grand Canyon of the East.” The gorge stretches 3 miles, is filled with waterfalls and is a popular hiking destination. Most agree that this should only be rafted or kayaked by experts, so few adventure centers offer tours.