All Things Maine
All Things Maine

Monday, November 14, 2005

Visit 'The Maine Woods'

Some of the finest descriptions ever written of Maine's interior may be found in Henry David Thoreau's The Maine Woods—available in an excellent online version.

The book recounts episodes from three trips Thoreau made to the Maine wilderness in the 1840s and 1850s, which supplied names for the book's three sections: Ktaadn, Chesuncook, and Allegash & East Branch. His search for wilderness, or "wildness," was often frustrated by the intrusion of civilization, but his love of the region is evident. Some believe that his dying words—"Moose" and "Indian"—signaled a final return to the Maine woods.
From this elevation, just on the skirts of the clouds, we could overlook the country, west and south, for a hundred miles. There it was, the State of Maine, which we had seen on the map, but not much like that,—immeasurable forest for the sun to shine on, that eastern stuff we hear of in Massachusetts. No clearing, no house. It did not look as if a solitary traveller had cut so much as a walking-stick there. [from Ktaadn, Part 5]
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At 8:14 AM, November 15, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like to add, that, if one references maps, such as the Delorme Gazateer (sp?) you can almost see every river bend, island, marsh, lake, etc., as Thoreau described, in his journeys.

I'm aware of several documented campsites that Thoreau visited in the region.

Has anyone ever considered an archaeological expedition, to uncover more?

At 2:13 PM, November 15, 2005, Blogger Chris said...

I'm not sure if an archaeological expedition has been undertaken or considered. I wonder if Thoreau was a "leave nothing but footprints" kind of a guy--or if that mentality even existed back then. He certainly left more than footprints at Walden Pond.

Speaking of maps, Kent C. Ryden's Landscape With Figures: Nature & Culture in New England discusses at length Thoreau's interest in cartography, and the maps of Maine he consulted.

In addition to the indispensable Delorme atlas you mention, I would also recommend Historic USGS Maps of New England & New York as a good way of tracking Thoreau's routes.


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