The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer is Ron Joseph’s Gazetteer preferred traveling companion. Scott Monroe/Morning Sentinel

I enjoy studying pages of my DeLorme’s Maine Atlas and Gazetteer. My wife, though, thinks it’s odd that I like flipping through the Delorme’s. Most Saturday mornings, I sit in a coffee shop gazing at the Gazetteer’s pages.

“Are you planning a trip?” a young couple recently asked. “Oh no,” I replied. “I’m reading my handwritten wildlife notes. Here’s one dated 1977 referencing the first time I saw two moose mating. It says here that the bull was ‘drooling with excitement.’”

The couple stared at me for a few seconds before returning to their smartphones.

Now 72 and forgetful, I think the notes have become my de facto wildlife journal. The Gazetteer is as indispensable in my vehicle as a spare tire. Smartphones with map apps are now wildly popular. But for old Luddites like me, the Gazetteer is our preferred traveling companion for three reasons: cellphone coverage is absent in many regions of Maine, Google maps are often unreliable, and best of all, the Gazetteer isn’t dependent on battery power.

A map shows the route of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail a 700-mile water trail from Old Forge, New York, to Fort Kent, Maine, that goes through private and public lands. Map courtesy of

A few summers ago, I met a young woman walking on a remote logging road. Using her smartphone as a route guide, she was hauling a canoe on a two-wheel portage cart about 25 miles southwest of Jackman. She was searching for the Moose River’s Spencer Rips — the end point of her portage on a segment of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. Her phone’s app, though, instructed her to proceed west, in the opposite direction of Spencer Rips. Informed that the app was leading her astray, she just scowled at me in disbelief.

Showing her Gazetteer Map 39 convinced her that my assistance was sincere. Her eyes, though, opened wide while reading my wildlife note on the map: “10/10/08, saw Canada lynx sitting on the logging road at mile 8.” I explained that accuracy aside, the Gazetteer doubles as my field notes journal. “Lucky you,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to see a lynx.” After thanking me, she pivoted her canoe cart in the direction of Spencer Rips.


Below is a sample of some of my noteworthy Gazetteer entries. To aid the reader’s orientation, each numbered map’s most prominent feature is included in parentheses. Map 50 (Mt. Katahdin), March 23, 1988: “Delivered a road-killed moose to a gravel pit along the Telos Road. Watched hungry coyotes tear it apart the next day. One brave raven landed and tugged on a coyote’s tail before retreating. A golden eagle landed and gorged on moose meat.”

Map 61 (Allagash River), Sept. 28, 1993: “Camped at the Umsaskis and Long Lake thoroughfare. Peak of the moose rut. Several cow moose called all night. After imitating a cow call, I crawled back into my tent. Fifteen minutes later an angry bull dislodged my stake lines, causing tent to collapse. Moose knocked over my makeshift dinner table and dented my Coleman stove.”

Map 61 from the Maine Atlas and Gazetteer shows an area of Long Lake and Umsaskis Lake in Aroostook County, Maine. Scott Monroe/Morning Sentinel

Feb. 21, 1978: “Maine Game Warden pilot Jack McPhee, operating a Cessna, flew me over the Big Black River to survey a large deer wintering area. Mature spruce-fir forest as far as the eye can see. Beautiful. Snowshoed the area the next day. Large male fisher eating the head of a frozen deer bluff charged, prompting me to deviate from my compass bearing. During lunch, a family of flying squirrels emerged from a cavity 5 feet above my head. Late afternoon, saw my first ever American three-toed woodpecker.”

Map 62 (First and Second Musquacook Lakes), June 7, 1994: “Allagash fishing trip. Camped at Round Pond. Went for a walk to stretch my legs. Mosquitoes and blackflies fierce. Two bear cubs climbed aspen tree in front of me. Momma bear came running when cubs started bawling. She circled me several times and bluff charged twice, baring her teeth, and snapping her jaws. Cubs dropped from the tree and ran off with momma bear.”

As the state’s regional wildlife biologist in Greenville in the late 1980s, I had great fun solo canoeing at dawn to count waterfowl broods in June and July. Map 41 (Moosehead Lake), July 5, 1988: “West Shirley Bog. Silently approached two bull moose foraging in middle of clear stream. When their heads were under water, I quietly paddled toward them. When they lifted their heads, I remained motionless. Moose completely submerged, walking on stream bottom like hippos. Spooked by my canoe’s shadow, the bulls plunged to surface, nearly toppling my canoe. Charging up the grassy bank, water cascading off their antlers, they stopped to look at me. Continued paddling upstream. Bulls resumed feeding in the water.”

And this one, dated a month later: “Returned to relocate the two bulls but could find only one. Beached the canoe and scanned the open bog with binoculars and saw the other bull moose. It was dead. Close inspection revealed that it had been struck by lightning. Fur badly singed. Visible entrance and exit wounds.”


Map 49 (Chesuncook Lake), July 7, 1989: “At 8:55A, I completed Pine Stream Flowage waterfowl brood count. Counted 13 moose, 10 black ducks, 3 ring-necked ducks, 3 black bears, 2 kingfishers, 3 Lincoln’s sparrows, 1 Wilson’s warbler, and 1 American bittern. Wonderful morning.”

The snowy night of Dec. 17, 1996, provided one of my most treasured wildlife observations. I was returning to the Caribou Motor Inn after watching a high school basketball game in Fort Fairfield. Map 65: “Drove past a house on Route 161 and noticed a front yard’s spruce tree, adorned with blinking Christmas lights, violently shaking. Made a U-turn to look more closely. For several minutes watched a large bull moose tugging and eating spruce bough tips while residents were watching Seinfeld. Best show was outside their window.”

In the 1990s, my early morning June breeding songbird surveys in northern Maine also provided memorable wildlife encounters, including this one on Map 60 (St. John River), June 8, 1995: “Several singing mourning warblers and fox sparrows near Red Pine campground. Newborn calf moose walked onto logging road behind me. Cow moose stepped onto the road in front of me. Ears back and neck hairs raised, she galloped toward me. I ran up a log slash pile to avoid being attacked. Irate cow tried reaching me, but her long legs became entangled in slash. Standoff lasted 10 minutes before she retired to woods with calf in tow.”

Although moose sightings dominate my notes, my peregrine falcon work often appears in the Gazetteer, such as in this note written near Grafton Notch in western Maine, Map 18 (Richardson Lake), Aug. 7, 1993: “Rappelled a prominent cliff to extract eggshell fragments and prey remains from a peregrine eyrie. My belayer was a no-show. Rope didn’t reach the ground. Used Jumar ascenders to return from nest to the cliff top. Screaming adult peregrines strafed me. Struck on my helmet. On the second flyby, back of my neck raked by talons. Bleeding while collecting songbird feathers, several from a rose-breasted grosbeak and cedar waxwing. Can’t identify the other feathers.”

Map 18 from the Maine Atlas and Gazetteer shows Richardson Lake in the western part of the state. Scott Monroe/Morning Sentinel

Map 3 (Biddeford Pool), Labor Day weekend, 2003: “Kristen Lindquist, Paul Doiron, and I saw a buff-breasted sandpiper. Kristen took photo of the rare, handsome bird. First one she and Paul have seen. Bird nests above the Arctic Circle. We wondered how many polar bears, arctic foxes, and wolves the sandpiper has seen in its lifetime.”

Re-reading my Gazetteer notes generates a flood of wonderful memories of beautiful Maine places visited and wildlife observed, inspiring me to explore other regions. High on my must-see list are Deboullie Public Lands, east of the Allagash River (Maps 62, 63), and The Nature Conservancy’s Boundary Mountains Preserve (Map 38).

Ron Joseph, of Sidney, is author of “Bald Eagles, Bear Cubs, and Hermit Bill: Memories of a Maine Wildlife Biologist.” His column appears monthly. 

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