Maine’s Katahdin Region: A Hidden Gem

By Marcie Brown

If you would enjoy having a great time while lending your support to a visitor-friendly town, Millinocket beckons. It is home to stunning Baxter State Park, which in turn hosts the formidable Mt. Katahdin, named by the Penobscot Indians. Katahdin translates to “The Greatest Mountain,” Maine’s highest peak at 5,270 feet.

NorthLightgallery7_lorezIf you walk along the main street in downtown Millinocket, you might wonder where everyone has gone. Even the library closed in August 2015, though it may reopen in the near future.

But wait, there is light! Still open is the Appalachian Trail Cafe. It features a ceiling autographed by successful Mt. Katahdin climbers who made it all the way to the summit, which is no small accomplishment. They have wonderful pie and other baked goods, all made on the premises and yes, you can judge a pie by its cover.

There are other businesses that have persevered during the difficult economic downturn Millinocket suffered with the closing of its paper mills in 2008 and 2014; The North Light Gallery, the Good Samaritan Thrift Store, and Moose Prints (check out their stunning wildlife photographs), all on Central Street. Anita Mueller and her partner, Mark Picard, conduct photography workshops during moose and foliage seasons. Sign up here: (www.markpicard.com/maine-photography-workshops). Marsha Marsha Donahue’s North Light Gallery (www.artnorthlight.com) is a stellar example of how entrancing local art, when meticulously displayed, can be. Her watercolors are exemplary.

Over recent years, Marsha has been highly instrumental in an effort to boost the town’s economy, most notably as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Millinocket Downtown Revitalization Committee.

Another local gem is the Young House Bed & Breakfast (www.theyounghousebandb.com), a perfectly maintained, beautifully-preserved inn with five comfortable guest rooms, each with a private bath, cable TV and DVD player, free wireless, hairdryer and air conditioner.

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Innkeepers Bethany and Hamilton Ash have clearly found their calling. The breakfast menu is three pages long and the Young House Special Eggs Benedict takes the prize. This sumptuous meal starts with a bowl of fresh fruit, yogurt and granola, but the coup de gras is the main course with freshly-sauteed spinach and savory bacon atop eggs over easy, delivered on English muffins and blanketed by a smooth, lemony Hollandaise sauce. The crispy potatoes served alongside this masterpiece ensure that there won’t be room for lunch.

Dinner at River Drivers Restaurant & Pub (www.neoc.com/river-drivers-restaurant-maine) provides a perfect finish to the day with its lovely view of the lake, great service and wonderful food. Their lobster bisque has a thin, intensely flavorful broth with ample chunks of fresh lobster. ‘The Lookout’ salad features a broiled filet of salmon, sirloin or chicken breast, with heirloom tomatoes, goat cheese and mixed greens dressed with a tasty poppy seed vinaigrette. To find the restaurant, program your GPS to go to Baxter State Park and then look for River Driver signs as you get closer.

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There are so many fun things to do in the area that you’ll need the extra energy provided by a good night’s rest at the inn. From climbing Mt. Katahdin, whitewater rafting, camping, kayaking, swimming and hiking to calmer pastimes such as fishing, joining a moose tour, excellent photo ops or taking in the scenery with a cocktail, there is something for every member of the family to enjoy. The residents have spirit, too, as shown when they demonstrated nightly to protest the silencing of the daily fire horn tradition, which began in the 1940s. After two weeks of residents driving their cars through town, horns blasting, the ritual was reinstated, substituting one set of horns for another: the original.

All that fun, with the bonus of knowing that you have helped a town in need of support, makes heading for Millinocket a very rewarding and worthwhile trip!


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