Sunday, August 17, 2013
The population of Maine’s coastal towns tends to swell during summer especially at summer’s peak in mid-August. The towns and villages take on the urban busyness of real cities, and their charm dwindles. I spent so many summer days in Freeport and Old Orchard Beach, my Inner Compass was no longer reliable. I was determined to find a forest.
Most of the White Mountain National Forest is in New Hampshire, but the map of Maine shows a small green patch of it. And I headed for it.
Outside of the metropolitan area, the towns are few—justcrossroads with a couple of businesses. En route to the forest, I learned that Coos County has 27 towns
—17 have fewer than a 1000 residents.
The two-lane roads snake through up and down thecountryside with miles and miles where it is unsafe to pass. I imagine a few oaths were sworn at the lumbering old motorhome that averaged 45 mph on the flats and a lot less on the hills. I do try to keep a watchful eyeand if my trail of ducklings reaches three, I look for a place to pull over and wave them on by. Sometimes, by the time the safe and convenient pullover appearsthere are 20 vehicles behind.
The first night took me 100 miles to the town of Bethel, ME, which billboards itself as the most charming mountain town in Maine. It could be truelots of shops selling local crafts, camping outfitters, and restaurants. Not a single fast food franchise or neon sign.
My parking karma sharpens as I am back in the mode of foraging for parking places. I don’t know that I ever mentioned specifically that I eschew commercial campgrounds. It has become a game for me to find a suitable place to stay and nicer than an RV motel.
On Saturday Bethel’s large grassy downtown park transforms into a flea market with more emphasis on antiques than a typical city flea market.
I headed west and crossed into New Hampshire and found a ranger station near Gorham, NH. The ranger sketched in some roadsnot on the maps where it was permissible to pull off the road and park. In National Forest parlance this known as dispersed camping or dry camping, which simply means there are no services.
And so late Sunday afternoon I was driving through a thick forest on a narrow road, which was paved only for a few miles, when it became a wide one-lane twisty road. There were few signs and they were of a sort my non-RVing pals would never see: “Road not maintained in winter” “Don’t hit a moose, it could save your life” “Bear country, stow food in metal containers” “Jefferson Notch, elev 3009, the highest point in New Hampshire accessible by a public road”
And so, nine miles down the hardpan road, I came upon my Sunday night parking place, a 30’ driveway hacked from the thicket, next to a brook busily heading elsewhere.
The spot could not have been more obviously mine if it had a Reserved for AL sign.
Not since Appalachicola NF have I found a place so peaceful, so escapist, and so nourishing as I did at N44 16.347, W071 22.225, Elev 2281, Jefferson Notch Rd. Twin Mountain, NH.