An Early Start to a Long Day

I normally don’t set an alarm when I take a road trip, but this morning was an exception because I had a lot of driving to do today, so I had to get up early.  My goal today was northern Maine, an area I’d been looking forward to visiting for quite a while.  That’s partly because I’d never been there – although many years ago, I had traveled through New Brunswick, right across the river from where I was going today.  But I mainly wanted to visit northern Maine because it contained three of the 16 extreme geographic compass points of the U.S. 

 
 
Above:  I left early this morning and crossed into Maine, then drove to the northernmost point of Maine and visited three extreme geographic compass points, #9, 10 and 11 on this trip so far.  I camped that night in Maine's oldest state park, Aroostook.

 

As you know if you’ve been reading my website, the main goal of my crazy trip around America is to become the first person to visit all 16 extreme geographic compass points of the contiguous United States.  Oh sure, I could just visit the four main points (north, south, east and west), but I'm sure some folks have already done that.  And there might even be a few demented people who’ve visited the eight extreme compass points (i.e., add in northeastern, southeastern, northwestern and southwesternmost points) – or maybe not.  But from the Internet research I’d done while planning this trip several months earlier, I realized that no one had ever visited all 16 extreme geographic compass points in the contiguous United States – or at least they hadn’t documented it.  As for visiting the 16 extreme compass points in the 50 states?  I figure that's darn near impossible. 

We all have a desire to be unique, to do something no one else has ever accomplished, so I figured I’d take this trip and become the first person to visit all 16 extreme compass points in the contiguous United States (literally, the 16 corners of the country).  So far I’d visited half of them, visiting point #8 in northern Minnesota, the northernmost point of the contiguous U.S., earlier this month.  There were three points in northern Maine – the northeastermost, north-northeasternmost and east-northeasternmost – that would be points 9, 10 and 11, and they were all fairly close to each other, so I figured I could visit them all in one day.

The tricky part was the campground situation.  I much prefer to camp when I travel rather than stay in some dingy, smoke-filled motel room, but there didn’t seem to be many public campgrounds in northern Maine – let alone much public land here at all.  In fact, from my searching on Google Maps there seemed to be only one public campground in northern Maine, at Aroostook State Park, near the city of Presque Isle, so my goal for that day was to visit all three extreme points, then spend the evening at Aroostook.  That, however, meant I’d have a long drive from southern New Hampshire, close to 500 miles and much of it on two-lane highways.  So that’s why I set my alarm for 5 a.m.

I tumbled out of the back of my truck at 5:05 a.m. and took a shower, here at White Lake State Park in New Hampshire, and by the time I got back to my campsite, I could start to see a glimmer of first light.  Or maybe not.  A half-hour after leaving the state park, I crossed into Maine, the first time I’d been to Maine since my epic 2001 trip around the U.S., which I described in DelsJourney.com.  I drove through Portland on the Interstate but didn’t stop, figuring I’d see it on my return trip, and continued on Interstate 95 heading north for another 200 miles, when I pulled off onto State Highway 11, still heading north.

As I drove along Highway 11, I was struck by the increasing ruralness, remoteness and ruggedness of this area.  There were no cities up here in northern Maine, just some scattered villages.  I’ve done a lot of traveling around the U.S., but I figured this area of far northern Maine was about the most rugged and remote place I’d ever been in the Lower 48.  Even the Rockies of Colorado, where I lived for many years and had spent this past summer, seemed a lot more “settled” or civilized than this area.  Knowing what the winters were like here, I figured the few folks living in this area were a pretty rugged bunch.  You’d have to be hardy to endure all the snow and cold weather here, I thought to myself.

From New Hampshire to Maine

Three Extreme Compass Points in One Afternoon

After a few hours of driving on the roller-coaster Highway 11, with its endless ups and downs, I felt like I was on another planet, not seeing hardly anyone except in the scattered small towns and villages that I’d passed through.  But finally I approached civilization again as I entered the city of Fort Kent, which sits across the St. John River from Canada.  This was the end of Highway 11 – but the start of Highway 1, which heads south from here, down the coast of Maine and the Atlantic seaboard before terminating way down in Key West, Florida, 2,369 miles later.  And to think that Highway 1 begins (or ends, depending on which way you’re driving) right here at this stop light in Fort Kent, Maine.

I turned east onto Highway 1 and followed the St. John River, which forms the border between the U.S. and Canada, for 15 miles until I reached the town of Madawaska.  Madawaska was one of those places – like Oodnadatta, which is a remote Outback village in Australia – that I’d seen for many years on a map and had wanted to visit, being captivated simply by its intriguing name.  I visited Oodnadatta back in 2002 and now I was entering Madawaska, Maine.  My life was now complete.

Quite seriously, I was glad to see how proud the Madawaskans were about their geographic heritage, because they’ve placed a sign as you enter town claiming that Madawaska is the “Most Northeastern Town of the United States.”  And not only that, but they also had a map of the U.S. on their sign correctly showing the four corners of the contiguous U.S. (northeast, southeast, northwest and southwest), and correctly showing that the southwesternmost point of the U.S. is NOT in San Diego, as so many blissfully ignorant people assume, but rather a few hundred miles to the north, near Santa Barbara.  So my hat’s off to you, you wonderful Madawaskans, for setting the record straight.  I felt right at home here.

I would’ve walked around town and shaken each lovely Madawaskan’s hand, but it was about 4:30 p.m., the sun was drifting lower towards the horizon, and I had still had a lot of work in front of me that day.  My first goal was to find the north-northeasternmost point of the contiguous United States, which I knew was along the St. John River a few miles down Highway 1, so I bid Madawaska and its wonderful sign adieu. 

Point #9:  The North-Northeasternmost Point of the U.S.

I looked at my GPS as well as some maps I’d prepared beforehand and realized that the north-northeasternmost point of the contiguous United States was on private land, a few miles north of Highway 1.  I could see on the satellite imagery two dirt roads leading to the NNE-most point, but as I drove down Highway 1, I saw big “No Trespassing” signs by each. 

One of my rules of this trip was to get as close as possible to each of the 16 extreme geographic compass points while staying on publicly-accessible land.  In other words, I wanted to get as close as the public can get to each of these 16 points, without trespassing on private land or, in the case of Vandenberg Air Force Base in California (which contains the southwesternmost point of the U.S.), government land.  So I drove by these two dirt access roads and continued down Highway 1, looking for a way to get closer to the NNE-most point.

I continued driving east on Highway 1 for another mile until I saw another dirt road off to my left.  There were no “No Trespassing” signs posted here, so I decided to give it a shot.  I drove down the dirt road for a half-mile, then the road ended at a clearing, where a guy with a backhoe was loading wood into a big truck.  I parked there, got out of my Tacoma and walked over.  A woman who looked a bit like Sarah Palin was nearby walking a dog and I approached her.  “Hi there.  You’re probably wondering what someone from Oregon is doing here.  My name is Del,” I said.  She smiled and said, “Hi.  I’m Sue.”

Sue told me that she and her husband Keith, who was operating the backhoe, owned a small firewood company here called Madtown Logging (the nearby city of Madawaska apparently is known as "Madtown," and so is a place I'd just visited:  Madison, Wisconsin) and they were loading up wood for a delivery.  I told Sue my story:  that I was traveling around the United States visiting extreme geographic sites and I informed her that this was the north-northeasternmost point in the United States that’s publicly accessible – well, o.k., it's probably private land here but there weren't any "No Trespassing" signs around.  Sue was pretty amazed by that – or at least she pretended to be, I’m not sure which – and I asked her if I could take some pictures.  “Sure, you go right ahead,” she said again with a smile.

Ten minutes later, Keith had finished his work and they both got in their truck to head out.  I walked over and introduced myself to Keith as they both sat in the cab, then I explained to Keith what I was doing here.  He was just as surprised as Sue to learn that this was the north-northeasternmost point in the U.S. that’s publicly accessible, and he gave me their business card and we said goodbye.  Nice folks.  I wanted to linger here a while, but I had two more sites to visit that day and the sun was setting fast, so it was back in my truck and down the highway.

  • Read more about my visit to the north-northeasternmost point of the United States and see a video here.
  • I've posted a panorama photo of the north-northeasternmost point of the United States here.

Point #10:  The Northeasternmost Point of the U.S.

It was now around 5 p.m. and I continued heading east on U.S Highway 1, this time in search of the northeasternmost point of the U.S.  I knew the northeasternmost point was on the south shore of the St. John River but I wasn’t sure how close I’d be able to get to it, considering that most or all of this land was privately-owned and considering the dense vegetation, making any kind of navigation to the shoreline difficult.

About 40 minutes later, with a constant eye on my hand-held Garmin GPS, I knew I was getting close to the site.  I figured I passed it, so I made a U-turn on Highway 1 and headed back the other way, looking closely at my Garmin.  I found a turnout on the north side of the highway, so I pulled over and parked, then studied my GPS again.  This looked promising and according to my Garmin, the northeasternmost point was about 600 yards north of here, so I got out of the truck, gathered up my gear, and started walking down a muddy two-track.

Ten minutes later, I stopped and took my GPS out again.  The dirt road was starting to wind back to the highway, so I figured this was as close to the northeasternmost point as I could get.  According to my GPS, the actual site was about 150 yards to the north along the St. John River, which was totally obscured by the vegetation from here, so I left the two-track and tried walking through the dense underbrush.  It was impossible (or I should say, impassable) though, so I called it good.  I figured this was as close as a person could feasibly get to the northeasternmost point of the contiguous United States, so I got out my camcorder and shot a brief video.  There was no one around and I could barely hear the traffic on Highway 1, which was a quarter-mile away. 

Knowing that I had finally reached the northeasternmost point of the U.S., I did a little happy dance (well, not really), then hustled back to the truck because it was almost 6 p.m., the light was fading fast, and I still had one more site to visit before I called it a day.

  • Read more about my visit to the northeasternmost point of the United States and see a video here. 
  • I've posted a panorama photo of the northeasternmost point of the United States here.

Point #11:  The East-Northeasternmost Point of the U.S.

I got back on Highway 1 around 6 p.m. and continued heading east, then a half-hour later I pulled off Highway 1, which veered south to the city of Caribou, and continued straight going east, now on Highway 1A, driving through the small village of Hamlin and continuing to follow the St. John River.  Up ahead in the dusk, I could faintly see the U.S./Canadian Customs building at the border, so I pulled off the road and got out my GPS. 

Yep, this was it.  According to my Garmin, the east-northeasternmost point was on the St. John River about 100 yards to the north through very dense vegetation.  It’s privately-owned land here and I figured I’d look pretty suspicious to any Border Patrol folks if they saw me scrambling through the thick underbrush right next to the border, so I decided to call it good.  This was as close as a person could feasibly get to the east-northeasternmost point of the United States.  I’ve had trouble before, in the U.S. and in other countries, when I tried to film a Customs building or border crossing, so I tried to be discreet as I made my short video clip. 

After taking a few photos in the fading light, I hopped back into the Tacoma and drove an hour to the bustling city of Presque Isle, where I got some KFC take-out, then drove on in the darkness to Aroostook State Park, Maine’s oldest state park.  I was perplexed to see the gate closed, however, because according to the State of Maine's website, the campground was supposed to be open for another few weeks.  I was a bit irritated, you could say, but I parked at the entrance to the park, had my dinner, then hopped in the back of my truck, put up the drapes, and started going to sleep.  

A few minutes later, though, a car pulled up to the gate, the driver got out, opened the gate, and drove in, then closed the gate behind him.  Where I come from, Oregon, the state parks don't have gates -- unless the park is closed for the season.  I figured maybe State Parks in Maine close their gates after sunset, so I tumbled out of my truck, opened the park gate, drove into the park, and closed the gate behind me, then found a campsite in the mostly-empty campground.  This was odd, I figured:  a State Park that closes its gate at night, but I figured maybe that's how they do things here on the East coast.   

It was pretty chilly that night, dipping down below freezing, and it had been a long day, about 16 hours.  But I did it:  I visited all three extreme geographic compass points in northern Maine.  Now I was going to turn my sights east for two more, on the Maine coast.

  • You can read more about my visit to the east-northeasternmost point of the United States and see a video here. 
  • I've posted a panorama photo of the east-northeasternmost point of the United States here.

Three Extreme Compass Points in Northern Maine