Updated: Oct 25, 2021
I have been invited on a couple of Moose Hunts in year's past, however, my vacation time had already been spoken for. This was the first year I could finally commit to saying I could go to hunting camp for a day or two which was so exciting to me! I lined up a sitter for Brock and starting planning my trip to camp! The guys headed up on Saturday, while I was going to make my way to camp early Tuesday morning to be there for lunch time that day. This whole trip was an adventure in itself filled with some firsts, failures, misfortunes, but most importantly, lessons learned.
The Golden Road 101:
This was the first time I had traveled on the Golden Road by myself for more than 10 miles. The only other time I had really spent anytime on the Golden Road was when I had visited Abol Bridge last year. If you are unfamiliar, the Golden road is a section of mostly dirt logging road in Maine that stretches about 90 miles from Millinocket to the Canadian Border. There are no towns, no cell phone service and the speed limit is 45mph which most of the time you will travel at speeds less than that to avoid catastrophe such as a blown tire.
My first recommendation is to purchase a Delorme Maine Atlas and Gazetteer for around $25. I picked mine up at Bear's One Stop in Newport, however, if you are basically an "online shopper" and not impatient like me, you can pick one up here: Delorme Atlas & Gazetteer (Please use this link and I will get credit for it)
I started my journey by heading towards the Kokadjo entrance of the Golden Road as that was the shortest way to get to the the Caribou checkpoint gate from my location. I drove to Greenville to stop at Indian Hill Trading post to fuel up before heading onto the Golden Road. (I highly recommend this course of action as you never know how much fuel you could be using while up on the Golden Road.) I have made the trip to the Greenville area many times so I was fully comfortable with getting to that point. I will say, that I did make the mistake in wanting a "security blanket" and typing the camp name into my GPS once I was at Indian Hill Trading post. The problem with this, or so I found, was that many of the side roads are considered private so even though they are good roads, they are shut down without notice whenever they would like. So, I highly recommend just sticking to your hard copy of your map and using the main road to each check point and here's why;
While I was sitting at Indian Hill Trading post, I plugged in the camp name and saw that I was about 2 hours from the destination. It showed a slight short cut so I went with that as using GPS usually doesn't let me down. I got about 20 miles down the dirt road and came to a section that was blocked off. I pulled out the map, located where I was and found a couple of options that looked decent for a detour. Both of those ended up being dead ends because of logging operations. The next course of action was to just back track my entire short cut and start over. I made it to an intersection and was checking out to reconfirm I was headed the right way. I met up with an incredibly nice person, who I believe her coat name said Jessica and labeled as part of the forest services who was headed back where I needed to be. I followed her back out and she confirmed and sent me in the correct direction towards the Caribou check point gate as I was headed for the 490 road.
So at the split at Kokadjo I headed towards the Silas Hill Road until it put me out onto the Golden Road. Hung a left until I made it about 6 miles away from the Caribou Check Point when someone flagged me down coming from the opposite direction. He stopped to inform me that they had started a culvert replacement that day and they were letting traffic through intermittently. I decided that I was so close to the gate, and already behind schedule without being able to contact anyone in my party waiting for me, that I was just going to wait at the construction point until I could go through. The chances of me going out around and making it to camp any quicker were slim to none. I am glad I decided to just sit and wait as I only had to wait in the construction zone with a lot of nice people for about an hour before they let us through to get to the Caribou Check point gate. (I was also able to convince someone waiting to not head back and use a detour he used to use towards Spencer Mountain because that is where I had just come from). 🚧⛰
Once you make it to the Caribou Check point, you stop, check in and pay fees (depending on how long you plan to stay). Day use is $11/day for a Maine resident. And I was finally on the right track towards Russell Pond Camps! (Yay! 🥳) Once you turn onto 490 Road, you get a small patch of reception. I received a text from Matt asking if I had service. I had enough time to respond.. but I didn't get to see what he wrote back until I made it to Camp. I had spent around 7 hours getting to camp for a trip that was supposed to take around 4, so once I got to camp, seeing the sign at the end of the driveway and seeing Matt's dad seemed like quite the blessing! 🎉🎊
If you know an approximate location and still want a small security blanket, you can put that location or coordinates into the map on your phone. As long as you keep that open, you can use it to see how close you are to your final destination.
Of course, my luck, the boys (Matt and his son, Matthew) tagged out that morning while I was on my trip there and were currently headed to bring the moose to the meat cutter. Paul, Matt's dad took me to the top of Russell Mountain in the truck so I could call them. I now also plan on getting a Garmin InReach for hiking and instances like this so I still have communication options. I have not decided between the Regular In Reach or the Mini just yet but here they are: Garmin InReach Explorer+ (Currently on Backorder until December) Garmin InReach Mini
Once I got to talk to them and get somewhat of an ETA of when they would be back to camp (which was late), Paul took me on my first bird hunting excursion. Matt had me file for an apprentice license before he left town so I could bird hunt with them during the time at camp. An apprentice license is about $26 for a Maine resident, which you can obtain right through the state of Maine's Inland Fishery and Wildlife website. I do plan on taking the Hunter's safety course this month as well just in case I do want to go out alone. Currently, the course is all done online, only $20 and you have 30 days to finish it! First night out bird hunting, we didn't see a single bird, so we went back to camp to make a chop suey dinner and have good conversation! Camp consisted of everything I had envisioned. The guides ran a generator at certain times of the day for access to electricity and toilets that flushed, a few bunk beds, a fireplace for heat but most importantly, a beautiful view!
The next morning we got up somewhat early, made breakfast and I made my way down towards Russell Pond, which we could see from our camp, to enjoy the view. Then we set out to try to hunt some birds. The only bird we saw in the 3-4 hours that we were out and around the 5-6 miles that we walked, was one that flew off because other hunters were trying to get it. I did get to see a couple of large Bull Moose through the binoculars while we were out which was really cool!
Once we got back to camp I got to see an estimated 500-700lb cow that someone had gotten that morning. We got to talk to those hunters for a little while and then we headed back to camp to pack up and head out towards the Millinocket side of the Golden Road.
We got just beyond the Abol Bridge (Which gives you a beautiful view of "Mama K", Mount Katahdin, and we had a tire blow out on a trailer. Of course, with our string of misfortunate events, the spares that were packed were mounted on wheels that didn't actually fit the lugs on the trailer. The guys tried to limp it to a better location but that attempt failed. Matt drove to Millinocket to purchase another wheel and tire but only found a tire that would work. He made it back to us and they could not get the new tire mounted on the wheel as the sidewall was so flimsy and would not seat to the wheel. They decided to dismount of the the tires off the mismatched trailer wheels and mount it on the only good wheel we had. After failed attempts, Matt finally got the tire seated on the wheel. Unfortunately, there ended up being a small hole and the trailer still did not make it very far. The boys had to wait for a new wheel and tire to be driven up from Bangor. Overall, I had a good time with family, I learned new things and have a few new stories to tell.
Moral of the story, you can never be too prepared to travel the golden road. You never know what may or may not happen!
Safe travels, and thank you to all of the kind people I met while I was driving solo on the Golden Road. ✌🏻