When presented with a plan to adventure I hardly ever refuse. However, when presented with a remote camping adventure I had to think long and hard about my decision. I'm more of a road trip to a brewery or beach kind of girl, a campsite in the middle of nowhere with no creature comforts made me nervous, very very nervous! But, I decided that a trip to Chesuncook Lake, Maine's third-largest lake, was one that I should take and I'm so glad I did! I am also very glad I could take the Byer of Maine TriLite Cot along for the ride.
When I had originally mentioned I was going to ring a cot with me on this remote adventure my friends were annoyed. They teased me for needing to keep myself off the ground, several inside jokes were made and I defended myself by assuring them it wouldn't take up hardly any space in the tent or the boat. They didn't believe me and I couldn't wait to prove them wrong.
We started our journey by heading north on I95 to Millinocket, the gateway to Baxter State Park, Mount Katahdin, and the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.
Settled in 1829 by Thomas and Betsy Fowler, Millinocket is an Abenaki word for "the land of many islands". The settlement began to grow in the late 1800s as the Bangor and Aroostook Railroad finished its line from Bangor to Houlton. Millinocket became known as the "Magic City" as it grew at a rapid pace thanks to Great Northern Paper Company locating its mill in the Northern Forest settlement. Great Northern Paper became the largest mill in the world. Millinocket began to prosper and continued to do so throughout most of the 20th century. In 1980, Georgia Pacific took over operations of the mill. Unfortunately, the mill switched hands several times in the late 2000s, layoffs, and eventually, closure of the mill in 2008 (reference: https://millinocket.org/visitors/history/) Millinocket is now a hub for the outdoor recreation industry. You have to go through Millinocket to reach the Northern Maine Wilderness. The little town of Millinocket has shifted its focus from paper to the outdoors thanks to Baxter State Park, the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, and the West Branch of the Penobscot River. Millinocket has become a four-season destination for outdoor adventure seekers.
Once we arrived in Millinocket we made a quick pit stop at the Katahdin General Store, on our way to the Golden Road. It should be noted that this is the last place you are likely to have cell phone service, or pretty close. Also, the last place to really pick up any last-minute supplies you may need. For example, we needed ice...we did not get ice, and we wish we had! We could have stayed another day if we had cooling capabilities for our food supply, lesson learned! We did, however, get some more fishing poles, an obvious necessity!
The Golden Road is a logging road that spans from Millinocket to the Canadian Border. Now the Golden Road is infamous in Maine. Some folks view it as dangerous because of its remote location, lack of cell phone service, and gas stations. Others view it as the gateway to great adventures. I am in the latter camp. Maine Magazine had a great article back in October 2021, written by Sandy Lang that speaks at length about the lore of the Golden Road. I highly recommend reading it! I also recommend exploring the Golden Road on your next visit to Maine. This was my first time. The views are to die for and there are some really great places to stop and explore or grab a bite to eat.
We drove the Golden Road for about 20 miles until we spotted our turn. Also not, a Maine Gazetteer is helpful for this trip up the Golden Road as your phone navigation will not work. We did not have a GPS with us, I'm willing to bet that would be ok but to be safe make sure you know where you are headed. After a mile or so we started to see some civilization in the form of remote caps. We had arrived at the Ripogenus Recreation area. Ripogenus Lake is connected to Chesuncook Lake. Caribou Lake is also a body of water connected to Chesuncook.
We launched our 14-foot aluminum fishing boat with a 6 horsepower motor into the lake, loaded up our supplies, and headed north up to the Sandy Point Campsites, there are 2 and these are the closest campsites to the launch. The Trilite Cot is so small and lite it was never an issue when it came to fitting in the boat. We were originally going to paddle but we are grateful to have borrowed our friends fishing boat as the water current was quite a challenge when we arrived on Friday morning. Keep in mind, it is a large lake with a strong current, its not impossible to paddle but it is most defiantly easier to motor. We did learn that there was another launch somewhere on the lake that would have made it easier to paddle south but we never found where that was. Anyhow, it took us about 30 minutes to reach the Sandy Pont campsites. The first site, Sunrise Cove, is nestled up in the trees right off the beach. You have a great view of the lake but still have some shelter from the sun. It was very cozy! The firepit was set up, there were two picnic tables and the site was set up to allow us to hang a tarp above the site in case of rain, thankfully that was not an issue! We were certainly blessed by sunshine during our stay.
We set up camp and enjoyed the beach Friday afternoon. The nap I took on the beach under a shady tree, on my cot, was an absolute dream! Also, everyone was very jealous!
We decided to go fishing in the evening, leaving our site at about 5:00. We trolled the waters knowing that Chesuncook has an abundance of landlocked salmon. Unfortunately, we had no success. Also, not knowing the waters that well we were unsure of where the good fishing spots were. We caught a few Chub Fish off an island we found but nothing of note. We decided to head back to our campsite just as the sun was going down. The sunset was one of the most beautiful of the summer.
Thankfully, we brought salmon to cook over the fire instead of banking on catching one. We had a cast-iron frying pan and stockpot to cook dinner. Salmon, potatoes, and corn on the cob were just what this girl needed! Also, it was my first open fire cooking experience. I kind of loved it. The wind Friday night was just RIPPING across the lake which made our fire hard to contain, it was getting pulled right into the woods. Thankfully, we had an extra tarp. We strung it up between the trees to block the wind from the lake, it was the perfect solution!
My favorite part of the whole experience was the incredible views of the starry sky. After dinner, we headed down to the beach to experience the night sky. I have never seen stars like this. It's so hard to describe but being in such a remote place with no light pollution was magical. It was almost as if you could reach out and touch them. I would've laid on the beach all night. It makes you feel very tiny in this great big world. It was so beautiful!
We went to bed that evening and everyone who had complained about the cot previously wished I had also brought one for them. I was cozy all night and enjoyed sleeping just slightly above all the tree roots poking into the tent floor. Brining the TriLIte Cot was the best decision I made all weekend!
The next morning we were up early and ready to try our hand at some fishing again. This time we spotted a cove directly across the lake from our site. This was the honey hole! Almost every case ended with a fish and it was just what we were all looking for. Except, the fish were not salmon. I really was looking forward to some salmon! Also, fun fact, I caught my first ever significantly sized fish. Typically my specialty is sunfish, weeds, and rocks. I was pretty excited!
Given our lack of ice, after a bacon and egg breakfast, we decided to pack up and head back to the boat landing. We were headed back down the Golden Road by 11 am and arrived back home around 1:30 pm.
This was my first remote camping experience. I am a campground camper...in a camper or travel trailer and I never would have thought I would enjoy this as much as I did! I loved every single second and am already planning the next trip! I would highly recommend this experience!