Before there was any time for fear, which was unusually squashed by my mounting anticipation, we were cradling white cascading rapids gorged by gaping blue-green mouths of freshwater, ready to swallow you in. ALL AHEAD, yelled the guide, and we paddled through the spitting water, blinking and laughing hysterically and paddling with majestic force.
This little intro is a tease of the story to come. First, there was a six hour drive, multiple winds of energy which involved giddiness, silliness, singing, laughing uncontrollably to tears, silence, boredom, frustration, claustrophobia, reading, closing our eyes, peeing, eating too many Cape Cod Chips and finally arriving in Maine to the Northern Outdoors Lodge, Restaurant and Brewery (which is, in fact, in the middle of nowhere, with no service, except for, according to Kaitlyn, recently acquiring Wifi capabilities). The lodge is gorgeous and my immediate thoughts were: this would be a great venue for a wedding. Especially with the moose and deer taxidermy hanging on the glistening wooden walls and ceiling, an area extending out to a patio and covered deck, hot tub, pool, corn hole and tables…a bar…
After settling in at our campsite down the road from the lodge; a dirt road with no signage leading to a wooded area of campsites and a bathroom building, we ventured up to the lodge’s restaurant and brewery for dinner. I don’t know what is cuter than a resort that offers such adventures as atving, snowmobiling, white water rafting and then also private log cabins, camping, fishing areas, and is also a restaurant and nono-brewery. LIKE, YES PLEASE, I want to work there?! (Side note: I recognized a guy from my sailing class at KSC works there. He was one of the rafting guides and I always thought, although not my type, very good looking and probably smart since he’s the only one who raised his hand all semester in that class, that he would match very well with Heather, my college roommate, who already has a boyfriend but nonetheless.)
Here I have featured some photos of their extremely pleasing menu. My jaw dropped when I saw all the burger toppings (Please note: one of the listed toppings is deep fried mac n cheese. Also listed, candied citrus.)…and the burger challenge. Which I considered. But caved into the Lob Gobbler special instead: a lobster wrap with mango salsa, avocado, lettuce and a chipotle aioli sauce with sweet potato fries.
Their beer was also delicious. Kait and I dabbled in the pale ales. Her brew was called “Deer in the Headlights.” She is really branching out from her preferred Bud Light to some locally made IPA’s. I’m so proud.
Kait ordered a $26 dollar steak. But being the simple girl she is (cough* boring cough*) who usually orders a plain burger with ketchup and makes peanut butter sandwiches on white bread when she’s at my house, she admitted she enjoyed the no-frills steak on the barbi we ate the following day at the river more than this particularly expensive steak. But it’s so beautiful, it’s like art, don’t you think?
Our canvas tent had four cots. Kait’s brother and his girlfriend stayed in a two person tent across the pine needle path.
Second night, after rafting: Burgers on the grill. We forgot a spatula so Kait had to use two small fishing knives to flip the burgers. We also dined on hot dogs and s’mores, of course. It was very quiet, we seemed to be the only ones camping in the area, which was strange for such a nice weekend.
So more about rafting. We woke up on Saturday morning to be ready to go at the lodge for 8 a.m. A crowd gathered in the main room at the lodge and after applying sunscreen, I observed all the people we would be sharing this day with. There was a group of 16 guys who appeared to all be family, rowdy and hungover, a bachelorette party, and various other groups of friends and families with small children. Once we were given a brief lecture on what to wear and safety precautions and how to hold a paddle, we ran down a hill at the back of the lodge, geared up in life jackets, helmets, and paddles in hand we boarded the green school buses to meet our maker: Mother Nature. When you’re already boarded onto the bus and ready to go, that’s when they decide is a good time to pass around the waiver forms. The ride was about 35 minutes and a guide on the bus told us some history about the town, the dam and the hydroelectric power and the agreement between the dam people and the rafting businesses. He also informed us that Moxie soda has it’s peculiar flavor because sediment from the bottom of Lake Moxie, which we drove past, is filtered into the soda. Okay. Our bus bumbled on dirt roads hugged by swamps and thick green trees most of the ride, and at one point, the bus in front of us came to a sharp halt and our bus driver slammed on the breaks hard and everyone yelled MOOSE! Kait and I looked to our right and a young moose turned and, mid-eating swamp lettuce, the “Swamp donkey” as Mainers call moose, ran up a dirt mound and back into the woods. They are such magnificent creatures! I still can’t believe our luck in seeing one. I was just thinking the week before how I could possibly cross seeing a moose off my bucket list. Also, seeing a moose is all TJ, Kait’s boyfriend, really wanted out of the whole trip….Afterwards he talked about getting a moose tattoo and nicknaming his future child moose and probably dreamt of becoming a moose in his afterlife that night.
Once we got to the drop-off spot, we watched the guides get all their gear on and do little introduction skits for the camera guy (who makes a video of the whole day and puts it together before we get back from rafting). We then met our guides, ours was Ryan, a taller, more muscular version of someone Kait and I went to high school with (same features, same face, but not as metrosexual). As a group, we carried our ginormous 8 person raft down the steps and into the water. For the next three or four hours we rafted down the Kennebec, one of the most exhilarating and incredible experiences of my life. Going over rapids, flying into the air and crashing down sideways with a sharp jolt that kicks the adrenaline inside you as you are almost flung outside the perimeter of the raft, laughing uncontrollably out of happiness or nervousness or some kind of almighty feeling. The picture below is of us going over the 9 foot drop called Magic Falls. Right before we hit it, Ryan yelled HOLD ON, and we all held our poles in the air and reached for the rope inside the raft and went catapulting into a hurricane of refreshingly dreamy water.
Halfway through the river, we reached calmer water and stopped on a small beach to eat lunch. The guides fired up these black, industrial looking grills and made salmon, steak, chicken, and pounds of fried rice. before it was ready, we also ate things trail mix called GORP (Good Old Fashioned Raisins and Peanuts) which consisted of shredded coconut, m&ms, peanuts, raisins, and granola. After lunch, we got to jump out of the raft and float down the river with current. It was so peaceful, floating there in the fresh, cool water, no effort, staring up at the mountains of trees and pale blue sky. It’s in that experience you truly find appreciation in the down and dirty depths of Maine. The endless roads of empty land and small white houses, no Dunkin Donuts nearby, our phones left behind at the campsite on airplane mode. Not that I don’t feel this close to nature in New Hampshire, because hell I do. But this was, of course, on another level. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.