What Is a Guide?
MORE ABOUT THE SERVICES OF A GUIDE
Eighty-nine percent of Maine is forested, the largest proportion of forested land of any state in the USA. The northern counties, sandwiched between Québec and New Brunswick, hold the greatest expanses of contiguous forest in the state, and in the USA east of the Mississippi as well. The uninhabited region in Maine west of Interstate 95 and north of the 45th parallel is an area the size of Belgium.
While Maine’s southernmost counties have assumed the urban character of Massachusetts and have asserted a claim to the northern two-thirds of the state comparable to municipal annexation, the northern counties have not made a counter-demand for control of the south, nor do they behave as if annexed. Perhaps they should, if only to frustrate the ambitions of those who would further attempt to “protect” the north woods from the people who have managed to keep it as pristine as it is for such a long time already.
The forests of Maine’s north woods contain roughly 5,000 lakes, thousand of miles of recreational rivers and streams, high hills and low mountains, and a smattering of small towns. We who live in this frontier-like wilderness are aware of the technological and cultural developments in other parts of the country, but we are also (thank God!) still able to get away from most of it at any time. We can still build a camp fire and fry a perch at will. We can pick wild blueberries, photograph woodpeckers, swim in crystal-clear waters, look up at the Milky Way, and listen to loons on a lake — and that all in one day, and for many, without leaving home. We don’t have to pay for parking, wait in traffic, or lock our doors at night.
What seems so unreal to a visitor from a major urban area — moose tracks in the yard, total darkness and total silence at night, even the option to go skinny dipping in private — are routine and natural occurrences for most people in the northern half of Maine. Changes in the rest of the country barely affect us here, unless we choose to get involved. (The Internet, for example.) So, your trip to northern Maine is not a visit to a “living museum” or a wilderness theme park. You are visiting a section of the country that has remained relatively unaffected by urban expansion and congestion. As long as the residents of northern Maine can thwart the efforts of those who would “protect” it further, it will remain relatively unaffected by urban expansion and congestion.
Most of what we think of as traditional activities continue to be practiced with little change. We own chain saws to clear the scrub growth that threatens to overrun our homes every couple of years. Many of us burn wood for winter heat. We go ice fishing or snowmobiling or cross-country skiing or snowshoeing rather than grumble about winter.
The most unwelcome influence in recent years has been the efforts by some to restrict northern Maine residents in their accustomed uses of the land. It’s not the landowners who are leading this charge, but the conscripts in the armies of organizations concerned about the “ecology” — the politics of ecology rather than the science of ecology.
A Guide is concerned about ecology, about the environment, about stewardship, and about disturbing the natural order of things. But a wise guide uses his own observations and experience and accepts the expertise of the biologists, not the politicians or the shrill, agenda-driven lobbyists.
This damned old Yankee knows Maine’s north woods. Based in Lincoln, just above the 45th parallel, which cuts the state in half, we have lived and worked in the region between Lincoln and Millinocket for more than 40 years. We know where things are and in what seasons.
We are educated in the science of ecology, contribute to organizations that practice conservation-without-politics, and hold our neighbors and officials accountable. That will continue to work as long as we don’t have to become greatly distracted by the interference of environmentalist do-gooders and other non-experts with an agenda.
THE ADVANTAGES OF USING A GUIDE
You get to where you were going and you find what you’re looking for. No guarantees, but you stand the best chance of seeing an eagle or collecting a brachiopod or hearing a loon when you are with a Maine Guide.
You don’t waste your time. You don’t drive around looking for a place to eat or go to the toilet. You don’t wander around looking for a moose in all the wrong places. You don’t end up stuck in a quagmire up some dead-end skidder trail where there is no cell phone service. Depending on what services you’ve retained the Guide to provide, you may not need to look after minor details of daily living either.
You don’t have to provide much equipment. The Guide expects to outfit your excursion, except where the safety or success of your trip depends on your familiarity with your own camera or firearm, for instance.
You aren’t stuck with a lot of preparation. Someone is laying the groundwork, paying attention to details before and during the trip, assuring the proper permits are obtained, and looking out for your safety along the way.
You don’t have to worry about trespassing or breaking obscure laws. A Maine Guide may not have the entire legal code memorized but has a clear understanding of protocols, courtesies, common errors, and erroneous assumptions. A Guide checks with landowners ahead of time, when necessary.
You learn a lot more than you expected to. A Guide can educate and entertain (within reason!) so that you don’t just get the perfect photograph of the mountain but also learn what might have contributed to its physical character or what historical event might have happened there. If hunting, you don’t just get a decent shot at your prey but also learn something of its biology.
You’re safe. We know what is a hazard, and perhaps just as importantly, what is not. We’ve thought of everything already. We’re prepared, which means that you too are prepared for anything that can happen.
NOT EVERY GUIDE DOES EVERY KIND OF GUIDING…
…although it seems some do, and do it well. Generally, though, one who only hunts bear with beagles may tell you he doesn’t do canoeing. Someone else guides ice climbing expeditions and admits she’s not one for insect hunting. I’m not the one to go to for some things, either. But if I’m not, I know who is or where to find the right Maine Guide.
WE HONOR THE PLEDGE OF THE PROFESSIONAL MAINE GUIDES TO:
* obey all state and federal laws,
* cooperate with all wildlife officials and landowners,
* provide quality service and equipment, and
* promote conservation and education and putting safety above all else.