Henry David Thoreau.

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morning one of the party was steaming his way to

What is most striking in the Maine wilderness is the
continuousness of the forest, with fewer open inter
vals or glades than you had imagined. Except the few
burnt lands, the narrow intervals on the rivers, the
bare tops of the high mountains, and the lakes and
streams, the forest is uninterrupted. It is even more
grim and wild than you had anticipated, a damp and
intricate wilderness, in the spring everywhere wet and
miry. The aspect of the country, indeed, is universally
stern and savage, excepting the distant views of the
forest from hills, and the lake prospects, which are
mild and civilizing in a degree. The lakes are some-


thing which you are unprepared for; they lie up so
high, exposed to the light, and the forest is diminished
to a fine fringe on their edges, with here and there a
blue mountain, like amethyst jewels set around some
jewel of the first water, so anterior, so superior, to
all the changes that are to take place on their shores,
even now civil and refined, and fair as they can ever
be. These are not the artificial forests of an English
king, a royal preserve merely. Here prevail no forest
laws but those of nature. The aborigines have never
been dispossessed, nor nature disforested.

It is a country full of evergreen trees, of mossy sil
ver birches and watery maples, the ground dotted with
insipid small, red berries, and strewn with damp and
moss-grown rocks, a country diversified with innu
merable lakes and rapid streams, peopled with trout
and various species of leucisci, w r ith salmon, shad, and
pickerel, and other fishes; the forest resounding at rare
intervals with the note of the chickadee, the blue jay,
and the woodpecker, the scream of the fish hawk and
the eagle, the laugh of the loon, and the whistle of
ducks along the solitary streams; at night, with the
hooting of owls and howling of wolves; in summer,
swarming with myriads of black flies and mosquitoes,
more formidable than wolves to the white man. Such
is the home of the moose, the bear, the caribou, the
wolf, the beaver, and the Indian. Who shall describe
the inexpressible tenderness and immortal life of the
grim forest, where Nature, though it be midwinter, is
ever in her spring, where the moss-grown and decaying
trees are not old, but seem to enjoy a perpetual youth;


and blissful, innocent Nature, like a serene infant, is
too happy to make a noise, except by a few tinkling,
lisping birds and trickling rills ?

What a place to live, what a place to die and be
buried in ! There certainly men would live forever, and
laugh at death and the grave. There they could have
no such thoughts as are associated with the village
graveyard, that make a grave out of one of those
moist evergreen hummocks!

Die and be buried who will,

I mean to live here still;
My nature grows ever more young

The primitive pines among.

I am reminded by my journey how exceedingly new
this country still is. You have only to travel for a few
days into the interior and back parts even of many of
the old States, to come to that very America which the
Northmen, and Cabot, and Gosnold, and Smith, and
Raleigh visited. If Columbus was the first to discover
the islands, Americus Vespucius and Cabot, and the
Puritans, and we their descendants, have discovered
only the shores of America. While the Republic has
already acquired a history world- wide, America is still
unsettled and unexplored. Like the English in New
Holland, we live only on the shores of a continent even
yet, and hardly know where the rivers come from
which float our navy. The very timber and boards
and shingles of which our houses are made grew but
yesterday in a wilderness where the Indian still hunts
and the moose runs wild. New York has her wilder
ness within her own borders ; and though the sailors of


Europe are familiar with the soundings of her Hudson,
and Fulton long since invented the steamboat on its
waters, an Indian is still necessary to guide her scientific
men to its headwaters in the Adirondack country.

Have we even so much as discovered and settled
the shores ? Let a man travel on foot along the coast,
from the Passamaquoddy to the Sabine, or to the Rio
Bravo, or to wherever the end is now, if he is swift
enough to overtake it, faithfully following the windings
of every inlet and of every cape, and stepping to the
music of the surf, with a desolate fishing town once
a week, and a city's port once a month to cheer him,
and putting up at the lighthouses, when there are any,
and tell me if it looks like a discovered and settled
country, and not rather, for the most part, like a deso
late island, and No-Man's Land.

We have advanced by leaps to the Pacific, and left
many a lesser Oregon and California unexplored behind
us. Though the railroad and the telegraph have been
established on the shores of Maine, the Indian still looks
out from her interior mountains over all these to the
sea. There stands the city of Bangor, fifty miles up
the Penobscot, at the head of navigation for vessels of
the largest class, the principal lumber depot on this con
tinent, with a population of twelve thousand, like a star
on the edge of night, still hewing at the forests of which
it is built, already overflowing with the luxuries and
refinement of Europe, and sending its vessels to Spain,
to England, and to the West Indies for its groceries,
and yet only a few axemen have gone " up river," into
the howling wilderness which feeds it. The bear and


deer are still found within its limits ; and the moose, as
he swims the Penobscot, is entangled amid its shipping,
and taken by foreign sailors in its harbor. Twelve miles
in the rear, twelve miles of railroad, are Orono and the
Indian Island, the home of the Penobscot tribe, and
then commence the batteau and the canoe, and the mili
tary road; and sixty miles above, the country is virtu
ally unmapped and unexplored, and there still waves
the virgin forest of the New World.


AT five P. M., September 13, 1853, I left Boston, in
the steamer, for Bangor, by the outside course. It was
a warm and still night, warmer, probably, on the
water than on the land, and the sea was as smooth
as a small lake in summer, .merely rippled. The pas
sengers went singing on the deck, as in a parlor, till ten
o'clock. We passed a vessel on her beam-ends on a
rock just outside the islands, and some of us thought
that she was the " rapt ship " which ran

" on her side so low
That she drank water, and her keel ploughed air,"

not considering that there was no wind, and that she
was under bare poles. Now we have left the islands
behind and are off Nahant. We behold those features
which the discoverers saw, apparently unchanged. Now
we see the Cape Ann lights, and now pass near a small
village-like fleet of mackerel fishers at anchor, probably
off Gloucester. They salute us with a shout from their
low decks; but I understand their " Good-evening" to
mean, " Don't run against me, sir." From the wonders
of the deep we go below to yet deeper sleep. And then
the absurdity of being waked up in the night by a man
who wants the job of blacking your boots ! It is more
inevitable than seasickness, and may have something to
do with it. It is like the ducking you get on crossing
the line the first time. I trusted that these old customs
were abolished. They might with the same propriety


insist on blacking your face. I heard of one man who
complained that somebody had stolen his boots in the
night; and when he found them, he wanted to know
what they had done to them, they had spoiled them,
he never put that stuff on them ; and the bootblack nar
rowly escaped paying damages.

Anxious to get out of the whale's belly, I rose early,
and joined some old salts, who were smoking by a dim
light on a sheltered part of- the deck. We were just get
ting into the river. They knew all about it, of course.
I was proud to find that I had stood the voyage so well,
and was not in the least digested. We brushed up and
watched the first signs of dawn through an open port;
but the day seemed to hang fire. We inquired the time ;
none of my companions had a chronometer. At length an
African prince rushed by, observing, " Twelve o'clock,
gentlemen! " and blew out the light. It was moonrise.
So I slunk down into the monster's bowels again.

The first land we make is Monhegan Island, before
dawn, and next St. George's Islands, seeing two or three
lights. Whitehead, with its bare rocks and funereal
bell, is interesting. Next I remember that the Camden
Hills attracted my eyes, and afterward the hills about
Frankfort. We reached Bangor about noon.

When I arrived, my companion that was to be had
gone up river, and engaged an Indian, Joe Aitteon, a
son of the Governor, to go with us to Chesuncook Lake.
Joe had conducted two white men a-moose-hunting in
the same direction the year before. He arrived by cars
at Bangor that evening, with his canoe and a compan
ion, Sabattis Solomon, who was going to leave Bangor


the following Monday with Joe's father, by way of the
Penobscot, and join Joe in moose-hunting at Chesun-
cook when we had done with him. They took supper at
my friend's house and lodged in his barn, saying that
they should fare worse than that in the woods. They
only made Watch bark a little, when they came to the
door in the night for water, for he does not like Indians.

The next morning Joe and his canoe were put on
board the stage for Moosehead Lake, sixty and odd
miles distant, an hour before we started in an open
wagon. We carried hard-bread, pork, smoked beef, tea,
sugar, etc., seemingly enough for a regiment; the sight
of which brought together reminded me by what igno
ble means we had maintained our ground hitherto. We
went by the Avenue Road, which is quite straight and
very good, northwestward toward Moosehead Lake,
through more than a dozen flourishing towns, with al
most every one its academy, not one of which, how
ever, is on my General Atlas, published, alas! in 1824;
so much are they before the age, or I behind it! The
earth must have been considerably lighter to the shoul
ders of General Atlas then.

It rained all this day and till the middle of the next
forenoon, concealing the landscape almost entirely; but
we had hardly got out of the streets of Bangor before I
began to be exhilarated by the sight of the wild fir and
spruce tops, and those of other primitive evergreens,
peering through the mist in the horizon. It was like
the sight and odor of cake to a schoolboy. Re who
rides and keeps the beaten track studies the fences
chiefly. Near Bangor, the fence-posts, on account of


the frost's heaving them in the clayey soil, were not
planted in the ground, but were mortised into a trans
verse horizontal beam lying on the surface. Afterwards,
the prevailing fences were log ones, with sometimes a
Virginia fence, or else rails slanted over crossed stakes;
and these zigzagged or played leap-frog all the way to
the lake, keeping just ahead of us. After getting out
of the Penobscot valley, the country was unexpectedly
level, or consisted of very even and equal swells, for
twenty or thirty miles, never rising above the general
level, but affording, it is said, a very good prospect in
clear weather, with frequent views of Ktaadn, straight
roads and long hills. The houses were far apart, com
monly small and of one story, but framed. There was
very little land under cultivation, yet the forest did not
often border the road. The stumps were frequently as
high as one's head, showing the depth of the snows.
The white hay-caps, drawn over small stacks of beans
or corn in the fields on account of the rain, were a novel
sight to me. We saw large flocks of pigeons, and sev
eral times came within a rod or two of partridges in the
road. My companion said that in one journey out of
Bangor he and his son had shot sixty partridges from
his buggy. The mountain-ash was now very handsome,
as also the wayfarer' s-tree or hobble-bush, with its ripe
purple berries mixed with red. The Canada thistle, an
introduced plant, was the prevailing weed all the way
to the lake, the roadside in many places, and fields not
long cleared, being densely filled with it as with a crop,
to the exclusion of everything else. There were also
whole fields full of ferns, now rusty and withering,


which in older countries are commonly confined to wet
ground. There were very few flowers, even allowing
for the lateness of the season. It chanced that I saw no
asters in bloom along the road for fifty miles, though
they were so abundant then in Massachusetts, except
in one place one or two of the Aster acuminatus, and
no golden-rods till within twenty miles of Monson, where
I saw a three-ribbed one. There were many late butter
cups, however, and the two fire-weeds, erechthites and
epilobium, commonly where there had been a burning,
and at last the pearly everlasting. I noticed occasion
ally very long troughs which supplied the road with
water, and my companion said that three dollars an
nually were granted by the State to one man in each
school-district, who provided and maintained a suitable
water-trough by the roadside, for the use of travelers,
a piece of intelligence as refreshing to me as the water
itself. That legislature did not sit in vain. It was an
Oriental act, which made me wish that I was still far
ther down East, another Maine law, which I hope
we may get in Massachusetts. That State is banishing
bar-rooms from its highways, and conducting the moun
tain springs thither.

The country was first decidedly mountainous in Gar
land, Sangerville, and onwards, twenty-five or thirty
miles from Bangor. At Sangerville, where we stopped
at mid-afternoon to warm and dry ourselves, the land
lord told us that he had found a wilderness where we
found him. At a fork in the road between Abbot and
Monson, about twenty miles from Moosehead Lake, I
saw a guide-post surmounted by a pair of moose horns,


spreading four or five feet, with the word " Monson "
painted on one blade, and the name of some other town
on the other. They are sometimes used for ornamental
hat-trees, together with deer's horns, in front entries ;
but, after the experience which I shall relate, I trust
that I shall have a better excuse for killing a moose
than that I may hang my hat on his horns. We reached
Monson, fifty miles from Bangor, and thirteen from
the lake, after dark.

At four o'clock the next morning, in the dark, and
still in the rain, we pursued our journey. Close to the
academy in this town they have erected a sort of gal
lows for the pupils to practice on. I thought that they
might as well hang at once all who need to go through
such exercises in so new a country, where there is no
thing to hinder their living an outdoor life. Better
omit Blair, and take the air. The country about the
south end of the lake is quite mountainous, and the
road began to feel the effects of it. There is one hill
which, it is calculated, it takes twenty-five minutes to
ascend. In many places the road was in that condi
tion called repaired, having just been whittled into the
required semicylindrical form with the shovel and
scraper, with all the softest inequalities in the middle,
like a hog's back with the bristles up, and Jehu was
expected to keep astride of the spine. As you looked
off each side of the bare sphere into the horizon, the
ditches were awful to behold, a vast hollowness, like
that between Saturn and his ring. At a tavern here
abouts the hostler greeted our horse as an old ac
quaintance, though he did not remember the driver.


He said that he had taken care of that little mare for
a short time, a year or two before, at the Mount Kineo
House, and thought she was not in as good condition
as then. Every man to his trade. I am not acquainted
with a single horse in the world, not even the one that
kicked me.

Already we had thought that we saw Moosehead
Lake from a hilltop, where an extensive fog filled the
distant lowlands, but we were mistaken. It was not
till we were within a mile or two of its south end that
we got our first view of it, a suitably wild-looking
sheet of water, sprinkled with small, low islands, which
were covered with shaggy spruce and other wild wood,
seen over the infant port of Greenville with moun
tains on each side and far in the north, and a steamer's
smoke-pipe rising above a roof. A pair of moose-horns
ornamented a corner of the public house where we
left our horse, and a few rods distant lay the small
steamer Moosehead, Captain King. There was no
village, and no summer road any farther in this direc
tion, but a winter road, that is, one passable only
when deep snow covers its inequalities, from Green
ville up the east side of the lake to Lily Bay, about
twelve miles.

I was here first introduced to Joe. He had ridden
all the way on the outside of the stage, the day before,
in the rain, giving way to ladies, and was well wetted.
As it still rained, he asked if we were going to " put it
through." He was a good-looking Indian, twenty-four
years old, apparently of unmixed blood, short and stout,
with a broad face and reddish complexion, and eyes,


methinks, narrower and more turned up at the outer
corners than ours, answering to the description of his
race. Besides his underclothing, he wore a red flannel
shirt, woolen pants, and a black Kossuth hat, the or
dinary dress of the lumberman, and, to a considerable
extent, of the Penobscot Indian. When, afterward, he
had occasion to take off his shoes and stockings, I was
struck with the smallness of his feet. He had worked
a good deal as a lumberman, and appeared to identify
himself with that class. He was the only one of the
party who possessed an india-rubber jacket. The top
strip or edge of his canoe was worn nearly through by
friction on the stage.

At eight o'clock the steamer, with her bell and whistle,
scaring the moose, summoned us on board. She was a
well-appointed little boat, commanded by a gentlemanly
captain, with patent life-seats and metallic life-boat, and
dinner on board, if you wish. She is chiefly used by
lumberers for the transportation of themselves, their
boats, and supplies, but also by hunters and tourists.
There was another steamer, named Amphitrite, laid
up close by; but, apparently, her name was not more
trite than her hull. There were also two or three large
sailboats in port. These beginnings of commerce on
a lake in the wilderness are very interesting, these
larger white birds that come to keep company with
the gulls. There were but few passengers, and not one
female among them: a St. Francis Indian, with his
canoe and moose-hides; two explorers for lumber; three
men who landed at Sandbar Island, and a gentleman
who lives on Deer Island, eleven miles up the lake,


and owns also Sugar Island, between which and the
former the steamer runs; these, I think, were all beside
ourselves. In the saloon was some kind of musical
instrument cherubim or seraphim to soothe the
angry waves; and there, very properly, was tacked up
the map of the public lands of Maine and Massachu
setts, a copy of which I had in my pocket.

The heavy rain confining us to the saloon awhile, I
discoursed with the proprietor of Sugar Island on the
condition of the world in Old Testament times. But
at length, leaving this subject as fresh as we found it,
he told me that he had lived about this lake twenty or
thirty years, and yet had not been to the head of it
for twenty-one years. He faces the other way. The
explorers had a fine new birch on board, larger than
ours, in which they had come up the Piscataquis from
Rowland, and they had had several messes of trout
already. They were going to the neighborhood of
Eagle and Chamberlain lakes, or the head- waters of
the St. John, and offered to keep us company as far as
we went. The lake to-day was rougher than I found
the ocean, either going or returning, and Joe remarked
that it would swamp his birch. Off Lily Bay it is a
dozen miles wide, but it is much broken by islands.
The scenery is not merely wild, but varied and inter
esting; mountains were seen, farther or nearer, on all
sides but the northwest, their summits now lost in the
clouds; but Mount Kineo is the principal feature of
the lake, and more exclusively belongs to it. After
leaving Greenville, at the foot, which is the nucleus of
a town some eight or ten years old, you see but three


or four houses for the whole length of the lake, or
about forty miles, three of them the public houses at
which the steamer is advertised to stop, and the shore is
an unbroken wilderness. The prevailing wood seemed
to be spruce, fir, birch, and rock maple. You could
easily distinguish the hard wood from the soft, or
" black growth," as it is called, at a great distance, the
former being smooth, round-topped, and light green,
with a bowery and cultivated look.

Mount Kineo, at which the boat touched, is a penin
sula with a narrow neck, about midway the lake on the
east side. The celebrated precipice is on the east or land
side of this, and is so high and perpendicular that you
can jump from the top, many hundred feet, into the
water, which makes up behind the point. A man on
board told us that an anchor had been sunk ninety
fathoms at its base before reaching bottom ! Probably
it will be discovered ere long that some Indian maiden
jumped off it for love once, for true love never could
have found a path more to its mind. We passed quite
close to the rock here, since it is a very bold shore^ and
I observed marks of a rise of four or five feet on it. The
St. Francis Indian expected to take in his boy here, but
he was not at the landing. The father's sharp eyes,
however, detected a canoe with his boy in it far away
under the mountain, though no one else could see it.
" Where is the canoe ? " asked the captain, " I don't see
it; " but he held on, nevertheless, and by and by it hove
in sight.

We reached the head of the lake about noon. The
weather had, in the meanwhile, cleared up, though the


mountains were still capped with clouds. Seen from
this point, Mount Kineo, and two other allied moun
tains ranging with it northeasterly, presented a very
strong family likeness, as if all cast in one mould. The
steamer here approached a long pier projecting from the
northern wilderness, and built of some of its logs, and
whistled, where not a cabin nor a mortal was to be seen.
The shore was quite low, with flat rocks on it, overhung
with black ash, arbor- vitse, etc., which at first looked
as if they did not care a whistle for us. There was not
a single cabman to cry " Coach! " or inveigle us to the
United States Hotel. At length a Mr. Hinckley, who has
a camp at the other end of the " carry," appeared with
a truck drawn by an ox and a horse over a rude log-
railway through the woods. The next thing was to get
our canoe and effects over the carry from this lake, one
of the heads of the Kennebec, into the Penobscot River.
This railway from the lake to the river occupied the
middle of a clearing two or three rods wide and per
fectly straight through the forest. We walked across
while our baggage was drawn behind. My companion
went ahead to be ready for partridges, while I followed,
looking at the plants.

This was an interesting botanical locality for one
coming from the south to commence with; for many
plants which are rather rare, and one or two which are
not found at all, in the eastern part of Massachusetts,
grew abundantly between the rails, as Labrador-tea,
Kalmia glauca, Canada blueberry (which was still in
fruit, and a second time in bloom), Clintonia and Lin-
ncea borealis, which last a lumberer called moxon, creep-


ing snowberry, painted trillium, large-flowered bellwort,
etc. I fancied that the Aster Radula, Diplopappus wn-
bellatus, Solidago lanceolate red trumpet-weed, and many
others which were conspicuously in bloom on the shore
of the lake and on the carry, had a peculiarly wild and
primitive look there. The spruce and fir trees crowded
to the track on each side to welcome us, the arbor-vitse,
with its changing leaves, prompted us to make haste,
and the sight of the canoe birch gave us spirits to do so.
Sometimes an evergreen just fallen lay across the track

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