This would be our last day in the beautiful wilderness of Maine, so we planned a nice hike to Abol Falls. It was a perfect day with a temp of 73 degrees, sunny and clear, no humidity. We left the campground at 10:00 knowing that parking can sometimes be an issue, but we didn't think we would have problem on a Thursday. On the drive to the park, we got a very good view of Mt. Katahdin even with a few low-hanging dark clouds. Radar showed that it was raining to the north and on the mountain, but there was no threat of rain for us.
Many of the side roads going to the park display signs of all the residents who live on that particular road. Sometimes there are a lot of them.
When we arrived at the park gatehouse, we could see by the sign that the Abol parking lot was full.
Now what? Little did we know that it is one of the lots that is used when you are hiking to Mt. Katahdin and that the parking spaces are reserved. In talking with the ranger, we learned that there are 2 Abol Falls– Little Abol Falls in the center of the park that has the reserved parking lot and Abol Falls which is outside of the park. A few days ago, I had researched information about Abol Falls–how to find it, where to park, and how long the hike was. It was so confusing having two areas with the same name…..but it was good for us. We changed our mindset to follow the directions that I had found online for the Abol Falls outside the park. The directions were very specific and would help us to find it. We turned around at the gatehouse and didn't enter the park saving ourselves the $15 entrance fee. We stopped one last time at the Visitor's Center outside of the park to verify our information and began our search for Abol Falls.
Our search started by taking the gravel road–Golden Road–through the Katahdin Forest. We noticed that the rough dirt road had been recently graded and around one of the corners, we discovered the road grader working in the other direction. What a difference that makes!
Soon we arrived at Abol Bridge Campground. We were getting close to the falls according to our directions.
It was a busy place with campers, hikers, and rafters. Nearby was an outpost for North Woods Rafting Company. My directions said that we would have to drive across a one-lane bridge–13 feet wide.
It was too nerve-wracking for Bob to drive over the bridge, so I got behind the wheel to drive us across. That was the first time that I've driven since we left home on July 8.
On the other side, we stopped so we could walk back across the bridge and get a great view of Mt. Katahdin as my directions said. We did just that.
By now, we were much closer to the mountain and the clouds had cleared away so our view of Mt. Katahdin was spectacular. We were looking at the south face of the mountain where the Abol Slide (1816) was visible. The river was roaring by under the bridge.
close-up view of the Abol Slide
From here, my directions said to go 200 feet to an unmarked dirt road and follow that for 0.7 miles where we would find a pull-off spot to park. It was the right area according to the map and the road had no name.
We drove the 0.7 miles and located a pull-off. My directions also said that we would have to cross the road to find the path to the river. Sure enough! It's right where they said it would be. We walked the short path to the river where we found Abol Falls. (I guess I would call it more of a cascade than a falls, but it was still worth the trip.)
I was totally amazed at how easy it was to find the falls by following those simple directions. We hung out there for awhile on the rocky beach–testing out the water and listening to the roar of the rapids. The water temp was not cold at all and very refreshing to my feet.
We enjoyed hanging out on this private beach and watching the swiftly moving river.
I sat down to dry off my feet and put on my sandals. When I turned around…..Look! A moose!
We left there, after we spent some time walking along the beach and drove down the road a little farther. The road paralleled the Penobscot River. My directions said to go 0.1 mile farther for the best view of the falls and so we did. However, it happened to be from this person's property.
We checked around the property to make sure that nobody was home. Then I quickly walked across the property and over to the water to get my picture of the falls. My directions mentioned that the people had an amazing view of the falls with Mt. Katahdin in the background. They surely did!
In walking back to the truck, I noticed these moose skulls on an outdoor table, and these moose antlers hanging on his shed. A hunter must live here or they found these skulls hiking in the woods.
We drove a little farther along the river out of our own curiosity and found an area that had some campsites nearby. How nice to have a campsite by the river and have the sound of the water to lull you to sleep. We turned around and headed back to the main road stopping suddenly when we spotted some rafters coming down the river. We looked at each other and said, "Let's go back and watch them run the rapids." So we spun the truck around and headed back to our first stop at the Abol Falls beach. We parked the truck and rushed down the path to the water in time to see 6 yellow rafts with 6-10 paddlers in each, shoot over the rapids one at a time.
Their hooting and hollering told us that they were having a good time. We reminisced about rafting on the Snake River in the Tetons many years ago ourselves. What a fun time we had! From there, we drove back to the main dirt road (Golden Road) and decided to continue following the road along the West Branch of the Penobscot River. We came upon a place where cars were parked along the side of the road, so we were curious as to what people were doing. We parked the truck and found a path leading to the river.
We walked down the path and discovered a larger falls. It was the Nesowadnedunk Falls–about a 15 foot drop with some serious rapids. Bob commented about how he didn't see how anyone could run those rapids in a raft with the big boulders.
What we did see were 3 young men who were getting ready to tube down the river below the boulders. They hopped into their tubes and floated farther downstream towards the smaller rapids. That looked like fun!
We drove down the road a few more miles where we saw a bus dropping off some people, a guy with a kayak getting ready to put it in the water, and a truck carrying rafts. Hmmm! That peaked our curiosity. We drove about 8 miles farther along this dirt road looking for whatever we could discover. We decided to turn around where the river widened and the road pulled away from the river. There was a campground there, Horserace Brook, with some beautiful campsites along the river, so we decided to pull in and eat our picnic lunch. (This campground could accommodate RV's if you had a generator and carried lots of water or didn't mind doing some "dry camping" without water and electricity. The sites were huge and there was a travel trailer in one of the sites.)
We parked and ate facing the water with a view of the river. It was a perfect place!
On the way back, through the trees, we could see a bunch of green rafts in the river at the falls that we had already stopped at, so we stopped again and walked the path down to the river. What an amazing sight we saw! The kayaker had paddled across the river to the other side, where he was perched on a rock overlooking the river taking pictures. He must have been working for the rafting company. While we stood and watched from the rocks on the banks of the river, one raft paddled up against the big boulders and while holding the raft there, the paddlers climbed out of the raft and stood on the boulders. Then together they all pulled the raft up and over the boulders. Once it was up, they all climbed back in and ran the rapids! Amazing! We would have never thought it could be done, but we saw it for ourselves. There were 3 other rafts in the water at the base of the rapids by the boulders waiting. Then one by one, each raft paddled up to the lower boulders where a few paddlers got out and had their pictures taken standing on the boulder.
After all the picture taking was done, the rafters shot the rapids again and paddled down the river where they were planning to stop someplace downstream and eat lunch according to the bus driver. It was so much fun to watch and we thought it couldn't be done! Bob was talking to the bus driver about the rafting group while I was snapping all the pictures. I noticed that the bus driver had on this cool shirt–Three Rivers–The Home of Serious Fun!
Finally, we waited and watched the photographer hop into his kayak and shoot the rapids to head to shore. It was a blast to watch!
We left there and drove back to the bridge where I took the wheel again to get us back over the bridge. Bob said that from a distance the bridge looked a lot sturdier than it did from first glance up close.
We switched back and Bob finished the drive home. The first time we had driven part of Golden Road was earlier in the week when we were looking for moose. There was nobody on the road then. Today there was a flurry of activity and traffic using the road made it very dusty.
Back at the campground, Bob got a haircut from his favorite barber…me… and then washed the truck!
I worked on writing my blog sitting outside with Auggie. It was the perfect day weather-wise and the best day yet spent in Maine. What started out as a bust of our original plans, turned out to be a great adventure and a lot of fun! I had the BEST time discovering new places. We left for town around 5:00 to go for pizza. We followed the recommendation that Bob got from the guy at the Advanced Auto store on Wednesday and ate at the Scootic In Restaurant. It was a good recommendation and the pizza was great! It always pays to ask the locals.
We left there and treated ourselves to a couple of hot fudge sundaes at McDonalds. Then, off to look for moose for the last time. We still had no luck, but that's how it goes. We had a great time here in Millinocket, Maine and would love to come back again to explore more of the great wilderness. Tomorrow we head south for a 2-day stop near Bangor and then off to the coastal cities of Bar Harbor and Boothbay Harbor. We have been there before, but are spending a little more time in each place this time. There is a lot more of Maine to explore and lots of lobster to eat.