Before heading up here, the Great North Woods certainly had this far-away, almost mystical element to it, and finally stepping foot into it, I must say its not lost its mystique, not one bit. Mid-afternoon on an unusually windy Wednesday, I rounded the turn in to Umbagog Lake State Park. Known for its remote campsites and fantastic fishing, Umbagog (pronounced “uhm-BAY-gog with stress on the second syllable) is Abenaki for “shallow water”, as the lake only has an average depth of 14 feet. The lake is 12 miles across from south to north end, and marked with islands all the way across. Instantly I was enraptured by the view of the lake. No matter how many pictures I had seen, no matter how friends had done their very best job to describe the view to me, I needed to see it to feel its pull. There is magic to this place.
Perhaps, it’s driving into the country and seeing nothing but waves of trees and mountains in the distance, or endless vibrant evergreen be-speckled with glittering blue water. There’s a calm disconnect, like you’ve left the realm you were once a part of, as if touching the untouchable, an ethereal gift. Standing out over the lake itself grants the gift of this humble refrain. Out over your head, you may be lucky enough to spot some of the Bald Eagles in their brave glory soaring over the lake, though more often you’ll spot an osprey or a heron. I have found it quite easy to become lost in awe of the expanse of the lake surrounded by mountains. It is especially hard to peel yourself away as the sun sets fire to the mountain horizon at dusk.
Nature’s reach is still in full swing as I go to bed, once I’ve pulled myself away from the glittering night sky. A great horned owl can be heard sometimes over the myriad calls of the loons out on the lake. This symphony of the night under the glow of the moon is simply bewitching, another ode to the beguiling magic of Umbagog. Winged creatures like bats can sometimes be seen swooping out over the lake or across the light of the stars. Glittering moths as large as an adult man’s hand can also be seen haphazardly diving bombing their spiral way towards the office lights, where they remain on the outside wall for hours even into the morning, allowing you to admire the beauty of their almost luminescent patterns of wild colors, furry hoods, and bold eyespots. In the morning there are songbirds singing in every tree, and as I walk towards the bathhouse to brush my teeth sunflower yellow swallowtail butterflies billow out encircling me.
I’ve begun to fall in love with the quaint, social base camp that my toolshed is situated on. There are families in campsites and parked in RVs, each enjoying different aspects of the park together. From here I’ve been able to experience all of this, though being out the water is a distinct trait that Umbagog has. It has been small part of my short time so far, and yet been so powerfully influential in beginning to connect with this place. Out on the water there are kayaks, canoes, and motor boats.
On our way out to the remote campsites, the fish will jump to and fro while off in the distance you can see osprey nests or lone loons diving for food. I’ve been able to spend some time on a few of the remote sites and each offers a brilliant view, seclusion, and their own respective charm. For those like myself, who want to disconnect, or value a more private experience while camping, these are the ideal – given that you can have your own island for a few days. This however, doesn’t mean that a guest can’t grab a site on shore and hang around the beach where one can lounge in the sun, swim, and watch as baby ducks wade through the water behind their mother.
Umbagog is surely a gift, an immeasurable, beautiful, and fulfilling gift. I find myself more and more enthralled with this place. The allure of the park is such that I believe I will only become more enamored with it as I experience more of its natural beauty, varied wildlife, and the surrounding expanses of the North Country. At the moment, as I write this perched on a picnic table overlooking the expanse of the lake, I am nothing but grateful. The magic of the North is alive at Umbagog, with a unique spell all its own. Umbagog is the kind of experience that will enrich connections with ourselves, the natural world and our families out in the great outdoors.
I’ll be offering Nature Programs here at Umbagog Lake State Park all summer so check out my program schedule and come Discover the Power of Parks!