Aroostook State Park, Maine
Camp Maine: I’m talking with Scott Thompson this morning. He’s the Park Manager at Aroostook State Park in Maine. First of all, thanks, Scott, for setting me straight on the pronunciation of that State Park. I didn’t quite nail it the first time.
Scott Thompson: No, you did well. You did well.
Camp Maine: So, let’s start with how long Aroostook State Park has been there and how it got started.
Scott Thompson: Well, it’s officially Maine’s first State Park in the Department of Agriculture and Conservation and Forestry. It’s Maine’s oldest State Park. It officially opened in 1939. It would brought to premise during 1935. The Maine State Park Commission was starting to gather information and plans to start developing State Park System. And the people, Merchant’s Association, and the Town of Prescott, Maine took a hundred acres and donated it to the State. And then about that time and it was a couple years later, they basically made Maine’s first State Park. Aroostook State Park is Maine’s first; and soon after that, there was four other Parks that were added to the list, and then it’s gravitated to 48 State Parks within our State Park System, including some State Historic sites. So, there’s a lot of opportunity to explore in the State.
Camp Maine: Okay. And what types of camping do you offer at Aroostook State Park?
Scott Thompson: Well, we like to call it semi-primitive camping. We are not a drive-in, hook-up type facility. We do not have electrical or water hook-ups for RVs, but each site has a picnic table and a fire ring. That can accommodate, most generally, various sizes. We have some sites that will accommodate large campers, RVs right down to tent camping. Each site, like I said, offers a picnic table and a fire ring. Our campground does have a shower house and a kitchen shelter area, which is a pavilion-style building. That gives the campers who may not be hard-shelled, more tenters an opportunity to get out of the in-climate weather. It’s a great place to do your dishes. There’s hot and cold running water there.
Camp Maine: Oh, great.
Scott Thompson: So, it’s semi-primitive camping with a little bit of modern flair there, which makes it a little easier for folks to stay comfortable while exploring here in Aroostook County.
Camp Maine: Nice.
Scott Thompson: We do not have any type of dump station, but there are a couple locations fairly close in the Town that people can dump their RV waste.
Camp Maine: Okay. And what are the most popular activities there?
Scott Thompson: It’s a four-season Park. So, if you start in the springtime, the biggest big out thing for us up here, for the Park, is the brook trout fishing that Echo Lake produces for the local people and people who come to visit. An opportunity to catch some really nice brook trout. You know, sizes varying anywhere from eight inches up to 24. They’re very large, so we have a great little ecosystem here. It’s not a very big lake. It’s only a 90-acre-sized lake, which, on average, depth is only six-foot in depth. So, it’s Spring Fed Lake that produces some good quality brook trout fishing.
Camp Maine: Cool.
Scott Thompson: And as time progresses, the camping season starts to kick in and hiking in the summer is a big activity here, which we offer a three-mile loop, which gets people on top of Quaggy Jo Mountain, which offers some great, spectacular views of the local area. For people from away, typically, they see this as being a very unique look because you’re seeing basically all three high-economic backed resources that stimulate the economy here all in one viewing. You have the recreation, which tourism and recreation is a big part of this area, but the two others is the forest industry and the agricultural industry.
Camp Maine: Okay.
Scott Thompson: And throughout the seasons, those views change. Of course the most spectacular views that we have and offer is during the fall, which towards the end of September, first of October, some great fall foliage viewing from the top of Quaggy Jo Mountain.
Camp Maine: Okay.
Scott Thompson: And of course, you’re seeing the colorations in the fields with the harvest. Different types of crops will change color throughout the year. So, you get the earthy browns, looking in the fields in the spring when the farmers are out, working, and you can see the grays of the forest starting to show little hints of little green in the trees. And then, of course, on the earth, where the farmers are planting their seeds to create the crops for the earth.
Camp Maine: Okay.
Scott Thompson: And as that process changes, it changes almost on a weekly basis, and then it gravitates right up to fall, and then the leaves disappear and then it becomes gray and earthy-looking on the fields again. And then the temperatures change. It gets a little cool and, you know, there’s kind of a gray dullness to it, but yet unique and beautiful in itself. And then the snow comes, you know, and the temperature freeze up. The lake here freezes over. By the end of the winter, we can have about three feet of ice on the lake. We do not offer ice fishing here at the facility, but what we do offer is snow shoeing and cross-country skiing.
Camp Maine: Nice. You guys groom the trails then there too?
Scott Thompson: Yes, we have a classical cross-country ski trail system here.
Camp Maine: Awesome.
Scott Thompson: Where we have a double-set track for classical skiing only. And the snow shoeing. About five miles of snow shoeing. About fifteen miles of cross-country skiing to offer. And you know, different points of interest along the trails and skiing. The views of Quaggy Jo. The wooded forestland, which is typical for this area, and some warming areas that people can ski out to. Bring a lunch or hotdog, or whatever they may want to have for the first snack, and then just head down in this morning, where they can build a fire and ski a couple weather trails, and then come back to that area, and then book your hotdog. Some people cook steaks. We did have one guy who brought some lobster one time, and he cooked lobster out while cross-country skiing.
Camp Maine: Classy.
Scott Thompson: Yeah, very classy, but very, very rustic. So, you know, in order to have fun, keep it simple. Sometimes the simple things can be brought up a little bit.
Camp Maine: Sure.
Scott Thompson: You know, a hotdog on a stick or lobster. It all cooks on an open fire.
Camp Maine: Absolutely. Two more questions for you, Scott. If you were going to spend just one hour in Aroostook State Park in Maine, how would you spend your time there?
Scott Thompson: The first hour, I would just basically sit along the shoreline, just to feel the wind off the lake and watch the wildlife. The waterfall that’s done there. You may be able to enjoy time there. Walk up the campground road to get a prospective of what our campground is all about. There’s some transitional zones there from the lake up to basically the hardwood ridge to where the campground is located, which is about a quarter mile up off the water, up onto the ridge line. A simple hike up the North Peak could take you an hour’s time to get to the top to get the quick view, and then back down to the Park. You know, there’s numerous things. People can come here in the springtime and sit down on the shoreline and throw out a nightcrawler or castle fly and maybe a have limit of fish in that hour’s time, you know, if they hit it right.
Camp Maine: Perfect.
Scott Thompson: So, we do have kayaks and canoes that we rent here, and about an hour’s time will get you a paddle around the little 90-acre pond. So, you know, there’s various things in an hour’s time. In the wintertime, an hour’s time can get you three to four miles of good cross-country skiing or a mile and a half worth of snowshoeing.
Camp Maine: Okay, perfect. And if you could spend just one night in Aroostook State Park in Maine, which specific campsite would you choose and why?
Scott Thompson: Well, our campground is really small. It’s a small site. It depends. People ask me: “What’s your favorite site?” I don’t like to give that answer. All our sites are to each one’s own, so to speak. May meet the needs of a certain camper a little more.
Camp Maine: Sure.
Scott Thompson: We have a wide variety of sites to offer out of the thirty sites. I think a camper can pretty much find a site that would meet their accommodation. We do have a backcountry site that we allow people – it’s more of a hiking site. So, if somebody has their deer and wants to hike up on top of the ridge, we have a ten by ten Adirondack shelter that we allow campers to campout in. It’s very rustic. There’s no running water. We do not allow fires, but it’s that opportunity to get on a higher elevation. It faces east really, so you’re actually going to see the sunrise, which is brilliant.
Camp Maine: Nice. And how far is the hike into that?
Scott Thompson: Let me see. It’s up the North Peak trail, so you’re looking at about a mile and a half.
Camp Maine: Okay, so not too bad.
Scott Thompson: But it is rugged. It’s a rugged hike to get to it, and we’d like to have people call ahead just to make sure, because it’s a first come, first served basis. We don’t allow rentals there or reservations.
Camp Maine: Okay, perfect. Well, thank you so much, Scott, for taking some time out of your day to explain all the parts of Aroostook State Park, and especially I appreciated the detailed description of the Park throughout all the seasons. I think that’ll pique the interest of our visitors on the website. And once again, thank you so much.
Scott Thompson: Well, I certainly appreciate your time, and good luck to your venture in getting all this information out to the public.
Camp Maine: Thank you. Take care.
Scott Thompson: All right, bye-bye.