I followed the moose in my truck for about ten minutes. I had seen a doe about five miles back, and she had ducked into the woods pretty quickly when my truck came around the corner. Not so with the moose—it stood there staring at me for a good five minutes as I idled my truck before starting a slow lope down the road.
I figured it would duck into the woods pretty quickly, so I maintained my distance. Instead, it stayed on the road for a mile before finally deciding to head off into the thick forest on the shoulder.
It was the second moose I had seen this year. The first was at Nahmakanta, earlier in the summer. Even when you live in Maine, moose sightings are pretty rare.
I had recently finished bagging the list of Maine's 4,000+ foot peaks, and while the treks are fantastic, I was craving something more rustic. I'd come to Deboullie in search of some remote North Maine Woods shit—the type of place where one can bathe naked and bask uninterrupted in the unsettling bliss of utter isolation.
In Deboullie, I came pretty close.
Deboullie Public Reserved Land comprises about 22,000 acres in the northern armpit of Maine. The AMC Maine Mountain Guide calls it one of Maine's most remote properties. After making my way to the little town of Portage, I drove 23 miles down logging roads—some of them in bad shape, only wide enough for one vehicle—to get to the trailhead. My eyes were set on a multi-day loop going up over Deboullie Mountain and down around Deboullie and Gardner Ponds. Backcountry campsites lay sparsely along the trail.
The trail in to the Deboullie Mountain trailhead was mostly flat with an interesting little talus field.
About a mile in, you reach the Deboullie Mountain trailhead. It's only .7 miles to the 2,000ish-foot peak, but it's immediately steep and becomes even more steep the further you go. It's legitimately grueling. My thighs were burning as I reached the top and spied the summit tower.
Halfway up the ladder, another group made the summit and asked how the climb was. With the structure starting to sway under the wind, I told them I was taking my life in my hands and tried to dissuade them from following suit.
After leaving the summit, things got a little more hairy. The trail back down to the ponds was obviously not well-used. It was difficult to find at first (note: do not make the mistake of following the much more clearly marked Black Mountain Loop trail). Not only was it steep, it was full of washouts and blowdowns.
After a struggle to the bottom, we made it to a beautiful open campsite on the shore of Gardner Pond. This trail, too, was difficult to find, but after picking through brush and blowdowns we were rewarded with a primitive (but cleared) site with a fire ring.
At this point I didn't have much time, but I figured if we ran the trail we could make it around Gardner just before sundown to make camp and do dinner.
I was wrong. Really wrong. From the campsite, the trail got much worse. It wasn't just a couple of blowdowns blocking our path. It was consistent blockage, turning the trek into something like a blazed bushwhack.
So we hustled back, made camp, and settled in for the night. The solitude was spectacular. As dusk settled, hawks dove into the water to catch prey as loons started their call.
The next morning, we woke up early and prepared to finish the loop—about 6.5 miles, I figured. No problem. Plenty of time.
Again, I was wrong. After about a mile and a half of bushwhacking, I lost the dog. It was terrible. He just disappeared after scurrying through some blowdowns. After an hour of wandering around the North Maine Woods yelling at the top of my lungs, I decided to return to camp to regroup. And there he was—just sitting there.
At this point, too much daylight had been wasted so we headed back out and made the long trek back home.
Deboullie Public Reserved Land is some rustic, remote shit. Beautiful place to catch solitude. Terrible place to lose your dog.