Moose Watching in Jackman, Maine

By Jessica Takach

If you often find yourself thinking, hey, I would really like to get away from it all, then this is just the place for you. But only if you really mean it, because you are really, really away from it all when you drive down the muddy, pot hole-ridden logging road to the Last Resort on Long Pond in Jackman, Maine. This is also a great base camp to do some fun day trips from.

Jackman is the last town before you cross over into Canada, on your way to Quebec City. It is a quiet town with a few restaurants, a hardware store, and a bar or two. That is about it. But you aren’t here for the town anyway; you’re here for the wilderness. But these few shops and buildings will be the last of civilization you will see, so if you need a gallon of milk now would be a good time to remember it.

My fiancĂ©, father and I made the journey to stay at the aptly named Last Resort on Long Pond in late June. I didn’t know what to expect, other than rumors of wild bunnies and lots of moose. Word to the wise: Do not visit in June unless you have a very high tolerance for mosquitoes. Bring a lot of bug spray. You would be much better off later in July if you are squirming at the idea. Here is a picture of our fire pit where we grilled corn, steaks, and “tin foil dinners” (hamburger, cut up potatoes, carrots, onions and seasoning all wrapped up in tin foil and then thrown on top of the fire until its done — tasty and EASY!).Luckily there are a few fish-shaped signs posted to trees as you slowly make your way down the dirt road, otherwise you may lose heart and turn around. The fish cheerfully exclaim, “You’re almost there!” or “You Can Get There From Here.” You by no means need a four wheel drive vehicle if you are coming in late June (earlier in the season, in May, it is nearly impassable) but be prepared to be bounced around a lot.

When you finally arrive–and thank goodness there is something at the end of this awful road and it’s not some sort of awful trick–you see a rugged red log cabin that serves as the main lodge, and the new shower house to the right. At this point, it is as though you have stepped into the past. The cabins were originally built in the early 1900s to serve as hunting lodges. The lodge has a pool table (25 cents a game) as well as many wildlife guides, books to borrow, games, and even penny candy that actually costs, yes, a penny. This was the deciding factor that really made me love the place. There is a TV and DVD player which can be used from the hours of 6 PM to 10 PM, when the generator is running. I suppose that is a good point to mention: there is no electricity in the cabins except for the evenings when the generator powers the lights. But you have gas lamps in your cabin and besides, you will really find yourself out on the lake most of the day anyway. Just take a look at that picture above. It is taken from the sandy beach at the end of the lake.

Tim or Ellen, the very pleasant owners of the Last Resort, will meet you and take you to your cabin. There is a gas-operated refrigerator and stove for cooking in each cabin, as well as a fire pit and picnic table outside. Most cabins have screened in porches which is a nice addition. You will need to bring your own food, but that is part of the fun. It is like camping, but you have a solid roof over your head, a fridge and stove, and surprisingly not-too-scary port-a-potties at each cabin. Sheets and pillows are supplied.

What also stunned me was that upon stepping out of the car and looking across the lake, I saw a moose. And another. And another. If you have always wanted to see a moose, this is the place to come, because literally within minutes you will see some. They stand on the other side of the lake munching on seaweed. Granted, they are pretty far away, but you can see them. If you hop in a canoe and quietly canoe over, they will look up at you from their meals rather perplexed, like this guy:

Once you have checked into your cabin, you can take a boat ride or paddle a canoe across the lake to get a better view of the moose. The Last Resort provides canoes and small motor boats at very reasonable prices (for instance, $3/hour for a canoe. Pretty reasonable compared to other “resorts” I have been to, where $25/half hour sounds like a bargain). Like I said, they will look at you for a while, not sure what to make of the canoe and these strange humans staring at them. They will continue grazing. Eventually, they will bolt off like this one did. This was an enormous moose, and the noise of his galloping was very loud. Be cautious and don’t get too close, especially if they have a baby with them.

Relax, read a book, if you have your fishing license grab your reel and try to catch a brook trout. There is a brook next to the Last Resort which is full of these tasty fish, but they are quite hard to be caught. But many a good fly fisherman has been well fed. There are many hiking trails around the Last Resort as well, and Tim and Ellen will likely provide a map which sketches out the local hiking trails. Also, keep an eye out for wild blueberries! There are bushes of them sprinkled around the cabins, as well as in open fields you may come across in your hikes.

Day Trips
If you want a break from your cabin and the moose, there are a couple of options. If you want a foreign city experience, Canada is really not too far away at all. Quebec is probably about an hour and a half away, so it would be easy to make a day of it, and it is a beautiful historic city which is worthy of its own travel guide.

Another trip that would be easy to embark on from this direction is Moosehead Lake. If you drive East from Jackman you will be there in approximately an hour or so. It is an enormous lake, and lots of hiking abounds in that region due to Baxter State Park.

So if you are one of those people that wants to get away from it all and really means it, look this place up. Even if you don’t really mean it, it has the modern amenities that make life more comfortable, like showers and pool tables and toilets, all things which don’t exist when you are truly roughing it. But it also has the aspects that make it more rustic and really “out there” (like only one telephone and TV). Cell phones do not work in the town of Jackman, but don’t be alarmed. It is O.K. That’s what you came here for. Actually, most cell phones come in crystal clear on the lake, which is a new development thanks to a new cell tower in the region. In fact, you might just want to turn your phone off and pretend it doesn’t get any signal, lean back in your chair on your porch and moose-watch between the pages of a good book.

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