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Paddle the west branch of the Penobscot River


Talk to any avid paddlers and they get a little misty-eyed discussing the west branch of the Penobscot River in Maine’s North Woods. The river has achieved legendary status thanks to the writings of naturalist-philosopher Henry David Thoreau. He would paddle the Penobscot twice, in 1853 and 1857, led by his trusty guide, Joe Polis, whom he referred to as “Indian Joe,” a reference to his Penobscot Indian lineage. Were it not for Thoreau’s good friend Horace Greeley, who published Thoreau’s poignant observations posthumously in 1864 in a book titled simply “The Maine Woods,” some of the earliest American musings on conservation would have been lost. The best way to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the publication is to follow in Thoreau’s wake. Kevin Slater, a registered Maine guide, learned these waterways and the skill to carve his own canoes from his Native American mentor, whom he refers to as “the old-timer.” Spend four days on the water in July, with the potential to spot moose, bear, loons, and osprey. In the backdrop is mighty Mount Katahdin, the end point of the Appalachian Trail. “It was vast, Titanic, such as man never inhabits,” Thoreau noted in “The Maine Woods.” No doubt you’ll agree.

MAHOOSUC GUIDE SERVICE July 27-31, $775 per person including guide, camping, food,

Steve Jermanok can be reached at