CAROLYN'S COMPOSITIONS

February 10, 2008

OH, TO CLIMB SCHOODIC MOUNTAIN (Maine)


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OH, TO CLIMB SCHOODIC MOUNTAIN

I am writing a historic romance novel in which one scene will be about an independent French land speculator, Madame Rosalie de la Val, seeking to purchase land in Lamoine, Maine. In order to see the land, she climbs Schoodic Mountain. Thus, the last time my husband Monte and I visited Maine, we too climbed Schoodic Mountain. Below is a journal of our trek up the big hill.  —Carolyn C. Holland

On Saturday, October 7, 2006. Monte and I climbed Maine’s coastline Schoodic Mountain with my niece Erin, her husband Greg and their two children, Paige (seven) and Morgan (five), who live in a coastal Maine town. It was my suggestion. I wanted to see and experience what the main character in the first part of my novel, Madame Rosalie de la Val, saw and experienced when she climbed the mountain in 1791 to survey lands she was speculating on.  (to read the rest of this article, click on  
Oh, to Climb Schoodic Mtn.)

At the edge of the parking was a sign, Foot Traffic Only, Road Closed to Vehicle Traffic. We entered a typical woodsy path, darkened by the leafy autumn trees. Sunrays danced off fallen leaves that padded the walkway ahead. We couldn’t have planned better weather—warm, registering in the sixties, and sunny.

We began our ascent of the mountain Madame Rosalie described in her journal as “one of the highest lands in Maine.” It’s actually the third largest mountain at 1069 feet.

Not too bad, we thought, relaxing and anticipatory, as we met a couple headed toward the parking area.

While we enjoyed their two huge wolf-like dogs I said nervously, “I hope there are paramedics up there.”

Their response? They were paramedics! Unfortunately they were going the opposite direction. We should have started earlier.

I’d begun this journey with trepidation. I really wanted to climb this mountain so I could repeat somewhat Madame Rosalie’s experience. This grande French lady Rosalie is the main character in the first part of the historical novel I’m writing. She’d been seeking land for a French refugee village during the French Revolution and was told the mountaintop was the best place to view the possibilities. She was the only woman climbing the mountain with the likes of Henry Jackson, Jean-Jacques de la Roche, and a guide. I will also include her secretary, Louis des Isles, on her adventure. He is my ancestor and a key character in my novel.

I’d hoped the mountain climb would enhance my writing, making it more palatable for the reader. But I digress.

My hesitation in following in Madame Rosalie’s footsteps was medically based. Last year we cancelled our visit to New England. Instead I had a heart catheterization that showed a 90+ blockage in my lower descending heart artery. I had a stent put in. A procedure like this makes one nervous about climbing mountains without medical backup. I could picture myself having a heart episode in the uppermost regions of the Downeast area, creating a challenging medical rescue for local emergency personnel.

But again, I digress.

The path’s grade became gradually higher. Like the frog in the water that didn’t notice the water temperature increasing, we initially didn’t recognize that the trail was becoming steeper.

Paige and Morgan exuded much energy on this first part of the hike. Monte and I figured they would soon tire and need assistance continuing.

As we hiked we passed two outhouses, which Erin said she wouldn’t use except in case of emergency. Shortly we came upon a sign announcing Schoodic Mt., with images of two hikers on it. What? Hadn’t we been climbing Schoodic Mountain from the start? I guess not. We’d only been on a trail leading to the mountain. We were at the trailhead.

The path was rocky. We came to two outcropping of rocks where the kids posed for pictures. We next found an opening with previews of scenes to come—a panoramic view. Black Mountain was set against a robin’s egg blue sky. The hilly terrain was accented in fall-color, gold, red, bronze and green, as far as the eye could see. There was a lake below us. We saw the mountains on Mount Desert Island, including the renowned Cadillac Mountain, in the distance. Frenchman Bay was just barely visible.

So far so good. Could this ease of hiking last?

The path narrowed and became gravely, taking us among steep high rocks. Then we were at an opening that showed the pronounced rise we’d made. It was beginning to look treacherous. As though knowing we needed encouragement, the steep path opened to a spectacular view. The children became more kid-like, skipping along without a concern in the world. We adults had to continually pull on their reins so they wouldn’t move too fast or pull too far ahead.

We came to a rock. I posed, leaning against it feigning tiredness. The trail was becoming challenging.

I wondered how Madame Rosalie fared. Her hiking group entered the area by boat, not by car. They landed somewhere in the Hog Bay area, where lakes are close to the foot of the mountain.

The weather was different, probably in the 40s and not the 60s. She probably wore a dress. What kind of footwear did she have? My sneakers were broken, worn on the trip to finish them off.

The scampering of the children was becoming dangerous. The narrow, gravelly path had a steep drop off to one side. I recalled my granddaughter, Dana, running on the gravelly unpaved roads of our community back home. Skipping along, she ignored my warnings and her feet rolled under her. She fell, as did her tears, when she scraped her legs. Probably less the pain than the humiliation.

This was much more treacherous. If Paige or Morgan slid, they could easily drop right over the side of the mountain. Ahead of me, Greg did the right thing—he disciplined them. Tears fell as they rested on some rocks. Thereafter they controlled the excitement of the day, in order to have a modicum of safety.

We were feeling the ascent. I had to rest more, and needed more assistance at steep and/or gravelly places. I asked Erin “Whose idea was this anyway?” She blamed me, I accused her.

We stopped and called my sister Lee in Buffalo. Erin sat down to talk to her, the men continued upwards to keep up with the girls. I think they believed Erin and I were quitting. Erin was on the phone with Lee and I thought she was done so I followed the others. It was quite steep. At each juncture I thought I wouldn’t make it further. The side drop off was scary. We kept calling back to Erin, but had no answers.

Suddenly the path broke onto a stony mountaintop. We’d made it! The kids ran freely over the almost treeless expanse where there was a tower, an interruption and reminder of civilization. We met several other people there.

We’d neglected to time our ascent.

“We …took a guide, and after having ascended for three hours, always rapidly and by paths that were not very convenient, he conducted us to the summit of the mountain.”

The view was spectacular, indescribable.  This was the same view Madame Rosalie described thusly 215 years ago on another October day:

“…we’ve discovered an immense panoramic expanse of the country, because the weather was beautiful and clear. From this mountain called Schoodic we were able to visit the area as eye-witnesses, better than we could have done going there. We see everywhere the same kinds of trees and the same types of ground as the places that are cultivated that are found near the water. They seem to be of a passable quality to find some better in the interior.

I was wishing we’d been there the night before, during a spectacular sunset and a moon so big I felt I could reach out and touch it. Of course, that would have had an unthinkable consequence—climbing down the mountain in the dark! Or perhaps, spending the night on the mountain.

I wouldn’t let myself consider descending the mountain at this time, for fear of ruining the awesomeness of the experience before me.

Suddenly Erin appeared, cell phone at one ear. Lee had kept her company for the ascent we all thought she wasn’t going to complete.

One of the other climbers pointed out Mt. Katahdin in the distance, sixty miles away. It was barely visible due to fog, but it could be identified between two other distant mountains.

We drank in the view, our reward for a climb well done. Internet sources described the path we’d climbed as a “pristine single track,” having sandwort (a plant) and tons of sliprock with ledge drops everywhere. It is rated as advanced skill level. I wonder, because if I climbed it, it couldn’t be advanced!

Internet resources described going down as “mindbending.” Not wanting to ruin the rewards of my success, I’d refused to think descending. But all too soon the time came to leave, to face the challenge.

Madame Rosalie’s guide, after their group ate a bite, cried a hurray and threw a few rocks,” took them down the mountain a peak (straight down).

Me, I found the descent less and more challenging.

My heart-rate and heartbeat didn’t as it had during the latter third of the climb, so I didn’t need to rest as often. However, the fear my feet would roll out from under me, no matter how careful I was, was over whelming and needed to be conquered.

Greg and Monte were great, predicting where I would need help climbing down over rocky spots. Often each held a hand for me. Greg went back and forth helping his daughters, Erin and myself.

We passed the outhouses on the way down. Erin was desperate, but discovered a big spider on the door of the first house and animal evidence inside the second one, so was thwarted in her desperation. The final descent seemed to take much time in the imminent darkness.

We arrived at the parking lot and left to find a restaurant—with restrooms!

For Madame Rosalie, reaching her water transport was more difficult. Her guide “had us cross the marshes, where we had some times water and sometimes reeds and other herbs clear up to the middle of our bodies.” When they finally reached their boat at 6:30 p. m. there was “a lot of fatigue of an astonishing manner that was endured by our companion of trip (probably Madame).”

I know there was lots of fatigue in my family members after we reached the bottom. We all enjoyed dinner at a Chinese restaurant in Ellsworth before collapsing for the night for a well-deserved rest.

ADDITIONAL READING:

What is a Mantua Maker?

LIZZIE BORDEN—A REENACTMENT

From the Bastille to Cinderella

Madame Rosalie de la Val: A Character Sketch

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4 Comments »

  1. I climbed this moun tain at least a dozen times in the 1970’s and 1960’s. My mother owned several cabins on the opposite end of Flanders Pond. I would walk across around Flanders Pond until I got to the railroad tracks. It would take several hours to walk around Flanders Pond to get to the railroad tracks. Once you got on the railroad tracks it was about a one a half mile walk on the railroad tracks until you got to the trail going up Schoodic Mountain. Once you got to the railroad tracks, there was a beautiful cold spring which spouted cold spring water on a culvert alongside the railroad tracks. This spring supposedly produced 60 gallons a minute. The water was wonderful. Sometimes when I walked down the railroad tracks, a train would come by. Once you started to climb the trail, there was a Ranger’s cabin about 200 yards up the trail. Back in those days, there was a tower at the top of the mountain manned by a ranger looking for fires. There was a small spring by this ranger station. Once you reached the summit, the ranger would open the trap door and you could climb up into the tower. It was about a 50 foot climb up the latter. Inside the tower there was a magnificent view. I even climbed Schoodic Mountain twice in the winter, once with two of my friends(about 1964) and later with my son ( about 1982). It is a beautiful mountain and that whole area in a wonderful area. I would be glad to talk to anyone about this area.

    Comment by Andy Macko — December 16, 2008 @ 3:54 am | Reply

  2. […] OH, TO CLIMB SCHOODIC MOUNTAIN (Maine) […]

    Pingback by Traveling Places Through My Novel | Carolyn's Online Magazine — March 17, 2015 @ 1:31 am | Reply

  3. […] **   OH, TO CLIMB SCHOODIC MOUNTAIN (Maine) […]

    Pingback by Who is This Woman, Madame Rosalie de la Val? | Carolyn's Online Magazine — March 8, 2016 @ 9:32 am | Reply

  4. […] Beginning to ascend Schoodic Mountain on a leaf-covered path. From the top of the mountain we could see Rosalie de Leval’s promised land (as being told in my novel-under-construction, She Saw Her Promised Land) Read @ OH, TO CLIMB SCHOODIC MOUNTAIN (Maine) […]

    Pingback by Rethink Church Lenten Photos 2016: Week 5 | Carolyn's Online Magazine — March 10, 2016 @ 5:05 am | Reply


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