You could visit a different lake or pond in Maine every day for nearly a decade. The state’s two largest lakes get a lot of attention: Sebago was ringed years ago with second homes, and Moosehead is today a battlefield between environmentalists and a major landowner who has proposed a large-scale resort and vacation-home community. And the smallest ponds … well, they’re as common as pinecones, but there’s that lack-of-grandeur thing.
Happily, Maine is home to a tremendous collection of intermediate-size wild lakes–places big enough to get lost on, and blessed with historic land-ownership patterns that have kept large shore parcels unbuilt. Some of these lakes are eroding along the margins, but not all.
East and West Grand lakes, situated an hour’s drive apart near the Maine/New Brunswick border, have quietly benefited from conservation measures over the past decade, with more projects in the works. Indeed, about a million acres of contiguous forest in Canada and eastern Maine have been conserved in a patchwork of public and private lands where future development is prohibited. Several nonprofit land trusts have been quietly protecting these places, hoping to keep things as they are. The Woodie Wheaton and Downeast Lakes land trusts, for instance, are making great strides in ensuring that the shores of both East and West Grand and Spednic lakes remain wild. Talking to these folks recently, I recalled the restoration work being done at Walden Pond. The scale is different–Walden is trying to bring back shoreline by the foot, while here, conservation is being done by the mile–but the goals are much the same.
The shores in this region are still thick with dour spruce, aloof birch, and expansive white pines, which always seem to be celebrating something. The water is startlingly clear, though sometimes sepia-tinged from tannins, the product of rainwater passing through the great filter of the inscrutable hemlock groves along the shores. Paddling last summer around boulder-strewn Spednic Lake, a host of dragonflies perched on my boat; I figured with the long, bright hull and yellow blades feathering out, it must have looked like the mother ship. I passed ancient sporting camps, some appearing as if they’d at last conceded after decades of fighting the forest and were happily reverting to moss and mushrooms.
Gliding around some thickly forested islands on the Canadian side of Spednic Lake, distracted by a pair of bald eagles soaring overhead, I realized at one point that the islands around me were now indistinguishable, all clumps of spires and rounded crowns. For a moment I had no idea where I was. And that, of course, was the moment I realized that I’d found what I’d come looking for.
The Grand Lakes
Grand Lake Stream Area Chamber of Commerce grandlakestream.org