First, a brief explanation: I wrote this back in 1996 for a fly-fishing audience, introducing a journal issue that included one or two articles about the various ways, historically, that anglers got to water. This was the first part of the introduction, the part that came before the hey-look-what-you’ll-find-in-this-issue part.
There are things I decided not to share with that audience—like just exactly how hungry I was and how consequently cranky I was getting. (I wonder if Tim noticed?) Like how it became clear as we followed the truck that this guy went by the moniker Snake. Like how even though I happen to love snakes, I wasn’t convinced that someone called that would automatically be the nicest guy in the world.
But it was the most memorable day of that vacation, which we had dubbed in advance Moosequest ’96. The title of this intro was “Access.” Here’s yours to it:
On a dirt road in Maine one August noon, my husband and I were trying to find a particularly remote pond, and it was eluding us. The pond was clearly marked on the Gazetteer, but we were discovering a lot of side roads that weren’t. This pond, we were told, was sure to harbor moose. Moose was the reason I was in Maine—moose and landlocked salmon.
About to give up, we saw a pick-up truck coming the other direction and flagged it down. It was a Mainer on vacation; he thought he knew where we wanted to go. He said he had all the time in the world and would be happy to show us the way. He turned the truck around, and we followed him.
It soon became clear that he couldn’t find the right road either. But he offered to take us to the pond where he’d just been fishing. He took a look at our VW Golf, made a quick assessment, and decided we could do it. We got back in the car and followed.
We followed a long way, for a long time. The roads got worse, more remote, and our clearance was becoming extremely questionable. My city survival instincts were beginning to kick in, and I wondered what we thought we were doing, following a complete stranger into the middle of nowhere. It could be weeks before our bodies were found. The fact that we’d flagged him down wasn’t alleviating my anxiety.
Finally, without warning, he stopped. He got out of the car and showed us his secret carry to the pond, invisible from the “road,” marked only by the smallest of cairns. By sharing this access with us, he’d saved us significant paddle time. We thanked him, Tim offered him some flies, and we carried our canoe down and ate lunch.
And there they were. Two calves, two cows, and a magnificent bull moose feeding in the pond. We paddled all around them. It had taken several frustrating hours to get there and to find them, but it had been worth it.
And I caught some salmon on the trip, too.