It’s easy to forget that soon enough we will all be mowing the lawn, cursing the black flies and dreading another round of sultry, humid weather. Relentless winters like this one make it difficult to believe that we could ever again crave the stark, intoxicating simplicity of a snow-covered landscape.
When the winter hangover gets truly ugly – there is only one thing to do. Bite off a big piece of the best winter experience you can find and chew methodically for a few days.
The Holeb Public Reserve Land Unit is 20,000 acres of public woods and water located west of Jackman. During the summer months it is home to one of the state’s most popular canoe trips. The Bow Trip along the Moose River (headwaters of the Kennebec) provides a three-day canoe camping adventure mild enough for the kids and wild enough for the adults.
The Holeb Unit has become one of my go-to places for winter solitude. It requires a long drive on winter-narrow logging roads. Then we need to bushwhack on snowshoes from the road to the river – which remains the heart of the place, even in the wintertime.
The bushwhack from the road spends most of the first day and nearly all of our energy. It’s a long circuitous route due to large expanses of rough country and impenetrable brush.
But the only other tracks here are those of the moose and the coy-wolves that spend their time haunting the big winter-weary animals.
Exhausted — we build a fire, cook a meal and fall asleep in a friends log cabin that dates back to the early 1890’s. After the lights are out — the ticking of the big over-heated barrel stove is the only sound that disturbs the usual silence of the past 120 winters.
Day two should be a recovery day — but I can’t resist a long tour downstream that loops around a mountain near Holeb Falls. I leave my companions at the cabin and set off through a flurry of light snow. After leaving the river I am ascending along a brook interrupted regularly by beaver ponds. Huge blue granite ledges slice through the otherwise boggy terrain.