Madawaska: Land of Potatoes, Moose, and and Beautiful Trees

Madawaska Maine is a rural area.  It is as far north as you can go in the contiguous United States. Most of the people there speak French Canadian as well as English. It is very different from any place I have been before. Here are some of my impressions from our time there.

Potatoes: We got to Madawaska right in the heart of potato harvest season. The local high school and the middle school are closed for two weeks during potato harvest so the students can work sorting the potatoes. According to one farmer: “You have probably had lots of Maine potatoes and not realized it. Maine potatoes are often packaged as Idaho potatoes because Idaho has the more famous potato brand.” I don’t know if that is true or not…but each of his 3 barns was completely filled with approximately 25,000 potatoes. So I am inclined to believe he knew his business.

Moose: Northern Maine is filled with lakes, bogs, marshes, and streams – which we learned is prime moose territory. Maine has approximately 75,000 moose, and issued 2,700 moose hunting licenses this year in a lottery. The hunting season began a few days after we arrived. These licenses are tightly controlled, and each hunter is required to bring his or her moose in to be tagged by a game warden after it is shot. I was curious how effective the licensing system was, so we stopped by one of the tagging stations to get a better understanding of the process. As part of the tagging, each moose must be weighed, the size of its rack is measured, and one of its molars is removed from the mouth. The game warden can tell how old a moose is by looking at the striations on its molar – kind of like determining the age of a tree by looking at the rings on a log. My overall impression from visiting the tagging station was that moose are ridiculously massive, hulking, and ungainly animals. The biggest moose that had been tagged so far in the season was over 1,000 pounds and the biggest rack that had been tagged was 60″ from tip to tip. My other takeaway was that the tagging and lottery seem to be a well managed operation. The lottery and licensing process can generate millions of dollars in application fees which goes back to the state of Maine to further protect land and fund game wardens. While I will not be hunting a moose any time soon, the tight controls on the licenses seem to make this an effective way to raise money for the state.

Trees: When we got to Madawaska the leaves on the trees were mostly still green. But over the course of a few days they changed dramatically. It was like watching someone paint the landscape with auburns, gold, amber, rust, saffron, and dark ruby. My favorite were the intensely red maple leaves. I am from Colorado – and while the aspens can be stunning when they change color, most of our trees are coniferous do not change or drop their leaves. Northern Maine is filled with wild spaces, and those spaces have with a wide variety of trees. The change starts at the top of the tree and works downward over the course of several days.     

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