Aroostook County, Maine

Aroostook County, Maine, or just “The County” is a special place. Much of my family hails from the St. John River Valley in Northern Maine and Southern New Brunswick, Canada. The river divides the two countries, but not the people. The Acadian migration of the 18th century left an incredible history in this French speaking area. Several amazing little towns line both sides of the river, and others are just beyond the valley. Aroostook County is the largest county in Maine and has a rich potato farming history. My Pépère was a potato farmer. Aroostook has become a tough place to live. There is very little industry anymore. They heyday of farming, logging, and paper production is long gone. A lot of people have moved out of the County over the past 50 years in search of better jobs and a better life. The winters in Northern Maine are fierce and long. Last winter’s record snowfall was even hard on the tough as nails folks who love The County. Over the years, many Northern Mainers have moved to downstate Maine. Many came to Southern New England, like my mother. Many moved even farther away. Those that have stayed have maintained the unique character of this part of our country. 

We stayed at a cool motor inn on Long Lake in St. Agatha. When you are at the only inn in a small town, you are often greeted with awesome service. This was certainly the case at the Long Lake Motor Inn. Ken and Arlene Lerman are a great example of Mainers who have used their entrepreneurial skills to thrive. They are busy in summer and winter. We visited during a quiet time. This is our usual resting spot when we visit, now that there are fewer family beds to stay in and more family to accommodate. Long Lake is an awesome site. Madawaska, St. Agatha, Frenchville, Grand Isle, and Fort Kent are several of the notable towns on the US side. The main town on the New Brunswick side is Edmunston, where we still have a lot of family. 

One of the interesting things about Northern Maine is that it is a hotbed for off-road vehicle (ORV) recreation. I am strongly against motorized recreation of this sort. Hikers, bikers, and trail runners tend to be at odds with ATVers and snowmobilers, but I can still respect their right to access certain trails. Aroostook County is one of those places where they actually fit in. Many of the trails and old logging roads are ideal for ORV’s. After years of working the land (farming and logging), Maine’s woodlands are tired. This doesn’t make ORV use right, but at least we aren’t talking about pristine trails or national forests. Aroostook County has a large and vocal base of snowmobilers. Fortunately, for the Northern Maine service economy, a lot of people visit to take part in motorized recreation. I can’t begrudge them.

I got  chance to explore some of the trails both on foot and on my mountain bike. It was well worth it for us to schlep our gear. We got a chance to see The County before the first snow. A week later, it is winter up there now.

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