Flying over Moosehead Lake & Lobster Lake, Maine

Probably not so famous for bush-flying activity as other locations on the West Coast, especially British Columbia and Alaska, the easternmost state of the US – Maine – has still much to offer in this sense. Besides the beautiful coast going from Portland to the famous Acadia National Park and the border with New Brunswick, the central and northern part of the state are totally wild areas, with few roads and many lakes, forests, wildlife and breathtaking panoramas you can appreciate from the air.

Similarly to the Rockies in the West, the Appalachians constitute an ideal backbone of all states in the North-East of the US. Of course, being far elder than their western counterparts, the Appalachians seem less massive and their peaks are not so high, yet the almost isolated domes of the last mountains of this range in Maine make for very unusual sights.

The wild features of this land, as in other parts of the US and Canada, make it a perfect place for bush flying and related photo opportunities. Determined to explore this part of the country from the air, in a party of three we found a nice company to fly with, with a base in the nice town of Greenville, ME.

The following photographs were taken during our stay there in 2011.

Getting there

We booked with Currier’s Flying Service – website curriersflyingservice.com. The planes of this company are all beautiful floatplanes, and in summer they can be spotted resting on water in a protected cove – named ‘West Cove’ – on the western border of the town of Greenville, the largest town on the shores of Moosehead Lake.

The small nice wooden terminal of the company is clearly indicated and can be found besides the main road (West Street), just before passing a railway bridge leaving from downtown Greenville heading for N.15 and Quebec City.

Sights

We had booked in advance via phone, and we were greeted by Sue, the wife of the owner, Mr. Roger Currier, who is also the pilot. We profited of a short time waiting for Mr. Currier to have a look at his incredible mechanics shop and hangar, which looked like it had come out of a National Geographic’s documentary or a book on open range explorations!

Besides an array of radial engines, including one with a fully assembled two-bladed propeller, we could see a hangared Cessna 195 on floats – Mr. Currier owns two of these, we flew on the other white and blue painted one -, a canoe, a historic small truck, and tons of engine parts, propellers, deer antlers, tools and cabinets. Going to the nearby pier, we could see the other aircraft belonging to the company, the Cessna 195 we were to fly on – I had expressly asked for this, due to the extreme rarity of this model on a world scale -, a modern Cessna 180 Skywagon, and a larger and nice De Havilland Beaver, a more common site in the Northwest, as Kenmore Air operates some on a regular timetable even from downtown Seattle.

After meeting with Mr. Currier we boarded the 195, with me in the front right seat – I am a pilot, so I’m often offered the first officer’s seat on similar occasions, just in case! This aircraft has only one yoke, which can be shifted to the left or to the right, leaving the not-in-command seat with much room. This and the fact that 195 has a high wing with no struts, similarly to the Centurion and Cardinal models, make this airplane a perfect choice for observation and photography missions. Those in the front seats enjoy a great lateral visibility, but the huge radial engine limits the view to the front, at least on water – things improve a bit in flight.

Furthermore, the two seats in the back are arranged in a saloon configuration, with much legroom and very good, unobstructed visibility to the sides – optimal for photography.

We taxied on water to the north for a while and took off to the south, making a left U-turn over Greenville and setting course again to the north. Another seaplane hangar, larger than that of Courier, can be spotted close to the center of Greenville. It used to be the home base of another flying service company, named Folsom, once famous for operating one of the few Douglas DC-3 on floats ever manufactured. Also the hangar of Jack’s Air Services can be spotted nearby.

Following the eastern shoreline of Moosehead Lake stationing at a 1600 ft above sea level, hence at a convenient zoom-lens distance to the ground, I could take pictures of the many coves and bays, including Sandy Bay, Lily Bay and Spencer Bay. From the photographs, it is clear that soon after leaving Greenville you really get into the wild. Looking east you can see in the distance mount Katahdin, the easternmost peak of the Appalachians.

Approaching Spencer Bay you get a beautiful close view of the Spencer Mountains and Spencer Pond.

Further north we reached Lobster Lake, again a wild area.

Turning west and then south we moved along the western shore of Moosehead Lake. I faced the sun in this part of the flight, and the plexiglass canopy didn’t help with the light, so the pictures are a bit blue-filtered. The most prominent feature of this second part of the flight was Mount Kineo, with the distinctive knife-cut shape, and Kineo Cove nearby.

Getting closer to Greenville we could spot some beautiful homes with direct access to the water, some with a floatplane moored nearby.

Touching down on water is not softer than landing on a runway – this was my first time – but the aircraft stops quite more rapidly than on a runway.

After landing Mr. Currier set off for another trip with two couples from Florida on the Beaver, taking off to the north.

Before leaving Greenville we had a stop by the Folsom hangar and by the local general aviation airport, where we found Folsom’s famous DC-3. The plane has been converted to the usual wheeled configuration. Furthermore, it looks damaged, resting in a marked right-banked attitude.

The flight took about an hour, a very enjoyable experience I would surely recommend if you are visiting this part of the country!

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