Packing up the Chewonki-green van and a mini-bus with too many mirrors, we started our journey to the Northern Maine woods. Stopping only to eat our sandwich dinners at a Maine-famous truck stop, we arrived to Big Eddy under a starlit canopy. Entering, we attentively listened to the stories from Todd, our co-leader, of the folklore of the “Golden Road.”
“Since it is a private dirt road, the loggers have huge trucks that lead to the mill. The trucks are wider than normal—and if they are running tonight, I am going to really pay attention.”
Perhaps it was a plea to turn down the music, which was blasting since Wiscasset, but the confidence in his voice spoke otherwise. As we approached the Golden Road, we all studied cautiously out of our windows for these fabled monster vehicles. Luckily, they weren’t running, or for all I know, don’t exist.
Setting up a tent in the dark only allowed the morning to be more spectacular. We woke up to the sound of the rushing Penobscot. Groggily staggering out my tent, I noticed that I could see my breath in the cool air and then, the river. It became real at that moment, and it was stunning—small white caps running over rocks, the water enveloped by a canopy of trees of all varieties. We ate a quick bagel breakfast and made our way to the vans to hike up Doubletop.
Getting to our trail entry was nothing short of a miracle. The foliage swallowed the roadway and our minibus’ mirrors and windows took a beating of branches, leaves, and sap. On a few occasions, we needed to send the green van as a guinea pig to ensure that the width of the minibus could make the trip.
I don’t remember much about the hike until we reached a stream in the middle of a valley. Then, vertical. We climbed onward and upward, the air becoming increasingly cooler and the trees become more dense and coniferous. With about .3 miles to the summit, I told the rest of the group to go on as I relieved some urinary pressure.
Although the collective group truly created the experience, those .3 miles were silently captivating—I heard nothing but the sound of my own breathing, I saw no one. I had a solid ten minutes of nothingness, of purely walking at my own pace, stopping when I was moved to respite, letting thoughts come and go as if they were the pines and lichen that I passed. When I finally reached the top, it was bittersweet; the summit spontaneously appeared as though I had opened a door to a new room that I had never previously entered and the vista: beautiful. But with it, I surrendered my serenity alone, and the journey that we took had finally reached its climax—in the immense beauty of the surrounding mountain ranges of northern Maine.