Back in early summer a young lady of otherwise able smarts told me that in early August she and family would go camping at Lily Bay, and what was there up that way to see? Immediately I said, "Harry Sanders!" and then I realized Harry was long gone, and also that a newer generation might not appreciate his finer points.
Harry kept the long-legendary Sanders' Store in Greenville, by Maine's magnificent Moosehead Lake, and he dabbled in real estate - among, I must add, other things. Harry had a lot of lakeside property he was delighted to sell to would-be happy cottagers throughout the Moosehead region whenever anybody could scrape up the price. His store sold anything, and was famous for outfitting canoe trips down the beautiful Allagash River. Tell Harry how many and how long, and everything you needed was ready to go.
Lily Bay is an inlet of Moosehead Lake, and some years back the Scott Paper Company owned the land around about, and decided to make a gift to the State of Maine. Then Lily Bay could become a state park and assuage the yearning of folks who might like to come and camp out, enjoying the wilderness and fighting black flies. This gesture was much appreciated, the deed of gift was duly presented, and official thanks came from the statehouse. Plans were made to build a fine road from the highway into the Lily Bay State Park so people could come, set up tents, swim and fish, hike and climb, and fight black flies.
During the preliminaries, Harry Sanders attended his store, outfitted canoe parties, and made his daily trips to the bank across the street with faithful regularity.
Now the State of Maine made a sad discovery. It seemed the generosity of Scott Paper had not included access. Somehow the land from the state highway into Lily Bay Park was owned by Mr. Harry Sanders. I always found it amusing that Harry Sanders, who was Jr., always went as Harry Sanders Jr., whereas he had a son, approaching his seniorship, also named Harry. This made it unnecessary to repaint the sign on the store every few years.
There was some thought among Greenville people that Mr. Sanders might be charitable, as Scott Paper had been, and give the state some land. But those of us who admired Harry in our own ways did not consider that likely, and we proved to be correct.
After negotiations, Lily Bay State Park opened and Mr. Sanders was not invited to attend and speak a few words, and now this young lady asks me what to see there.
I have suggested:
Moose. She will see a lot of moose. I have told her not to disturb the mother moose while nesting, as they are unpredictable and can become dangerous if provoked. Keep a safe distance. A few muffins and Danish may be left on a stump at evensong, and it will be gone by morning. Some say Harry Sanders takes these offerings, but that is not so. It is the black flies.
I have suggested the young lady and her family hike in Gulf Hagas, near Greenville. It is the best Maine can do for a Grand Canyon, and is a spectacular ravine ground from basic granite by the scouring glacial waters and their sand. I have asked them to stand there on the brink of this great chasm, through which flows so magnificently the West Branch of the Pleasant River, and consider as they peer the great need for funds to support educational institutions.
Bowdoin College was founded by well-meaning Bostonians back in 1794. Harvard had been serving the needs of the Massachusetts Bay folks well, but her location was unhandy for students in the western section of the Bay State, and for those far up in the forests of Maine. Williams College and Bowdoin were authorized, and for financial support to Bowdoin, two wilderness townships were donated. These became the East Bowdoin College Grant and the West Bowdoin College Grant, adjacent in Piscataquis County. The gift came to almost 60,000 acres of forest wilderness, and included the Gulf Hagas.
Engrossed in indices and surds, the trustees of the institution didn't realize what they had, and they frittered the wild lands away in idle amusement and set up the Alumni Fund, which pulls in maybe $3 million a year that is fully appreciated. In this way, title to Gulf Hagas township passed to out-of-state interests (but not to Harry Sanders Jr.) and the other day was offered on the pulp-and-paper market for so many millions I'd have to take off both shoes to tell you how many.
And Gulf Hagas is smack on the Appalachian Trail, a footpath in the wilderness from Maine to Georgia. I do hope the young woman and her family make the trip.
THERE are other things up that way to look at. They ought to see the memorial monument to the river driver at Chesuncook Dam Boomhouse. The granite monolith is hung with the tools of the extinct trade, the pickpoles, the peaveys, the axes, and all the rest. A tribute to a mighty breed thrown out of work by the age of trucks and logging roads. On the very peak of the tall stone rests a cast-iron beanpot - the kind that was buried in a hot beanhole in the ground, to be ready for the river hogs come suppertime.
Great Northern Paper Company, which put up the monument when it made its last river drive, said the beanpot would emphasize the part played in forest history by the lowly cook. If he wasn't good, help was hard to hire.
Anyway, the things I told her to see wil take her mind off the black flies.