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Old 11-03-2011, 01:55 PM   #1
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The Map is Not the Territory: A Northern Maine Adventure

Hey ADV Rider! I've been reading trip reports for quite a while and boy, are there some awesome ones here!! I don't have a bike yet, but am looking to swing a leg over a 2011 WR250R as soon as I can :)
Anywho, in September a group of us completed a 5 day Expedition on four wheels. Since it seems you guys like a good story, I figured I'd share it here too. Anyone who visits expedition portal may have seen it, it will be identical here.

The Map is Not the Territory


Noun: An unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity.
Verb: Engage in hazardous and exciting activity, esp. the exploration of unknown

The Men

Nick C - Trip Leader From: Southern NH

Nick B - Photographer From: North Jersey

Chirp - Adventure Dog From: North Jersey

Jason G - Local Man of Mystery From: ?

Josh L - Driver / Engineer From: Seacoast Region NH

Kevin J - Scientist From: Some Lonley Island

Erek J - Chef / Adventurer From: Seacoast Region NH

The Means

2007 FJ Cruiser: Lifted, Rear Locked, 33” MT’s, Winch
1997 Lexus LX-450: Lifted, Fully Locked, 33” AT’s, Winch

The Mission:

I had never been to the North Maine Woods. I’d always heard it was a place where you saw more moose than people, where you could drive for days on endless dirt roads. Roads where overloaded & speeding log trucks set the rules. They made the roads, they own the roads, and they will run you off them if you don’t move out of the way.
But there had to be more up North... some natural beauty in the relatively untouched lakes and rivers of the Alligash waterway. The mission was to explore the North country of New Hampshire and Maine and discover what I had been missing all these years.

Planning the trip was quite an undertaking - it took a long time to find published points of interest. I decided there would be three main destinations that would guide the rest of the route.
The Two Trains - There are two abandoned steam locomotives in the North Maine Woods, and we would try to find them
Gulf Hagas - The Grand Canyon of Maine - 5 mile long gorge strewn with waterfalls
The B-52 Crash Site - A mountain in Maine where a Boeing B-52 crashed, the wreckage remains
The rest of the route was determined by the desire to make the trip entirely on dirt roads - The Harder & More Wild the Better.

Stay tuned for more :)

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Old 11-03-2011, 01:57 PM   #2
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DAY ONE- Thursday 9.22.11 155 Miles

After hurriedly packing the FJ with Nick B and Jason, we were on the road at 5:00 PM headed for Concord. I would be driving for the whole trip since Nick B doesn’t drive stick and well... Jason has crashed more vehicles than I’ve owned.

In the spirit of the trip we decided not to take the highway and instead rode back roads to get there. After a short stop in Concord (so I could buy jeans and underwear since I had been too busy to do any laundry before the trip) we headed to our first dirt road of the trip: Sandwich Notch Road.

Sandwich Notch Road winds North into the White Mountains offering little challenge, though at night it is relatively untraveled. The road had previously been closed due to flooding so we were happy to find that it had been repaired and open. At this point we made contact with Josh in the LX - they were on the way from Rochester, NH and needed food. What better place to eat when you’re in the area than The Common Man?!

First we had to walk Adventure Dog and with the leash in New Jersey I found a suitable replacement...

Tree Saver Leash

Introductions were made, beer and burgers were consumed, then we were off to Sandwich Notch Road.

We made camp for the night in a cul-de-sac at the end of an old logging road, outside the State Forest land. Erek set up a pretty cool hammock with rain fly, the rest of us were in tents. It was misty and late, nobody felt like making a fire so we made do.

It was a good chance to get to know each other, everyone sat around the fire (lantern) drinking more beers and telling various college drinking tales and other fish-tales:P
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Old 11-03-2011, 01:58 PM   #3
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DAY TWO - Friday 9.23.11
224 Miles

Tunes for the day: Bill Cosby Standup
Day two began at 7 AM with coffee and oatmeal for breakfast and an early (kind of) start to the day. It was still misty and we had to pack up wet sleeping gear in the hopes that it would dry later in the day.

Josh had discovered the secret to oatmeal was piling as many other sweet things on top of it as possible. Mmmm Pumpkin.

Sandwich Notch Road (Class V - Maintained Dirt) is a nice scenic and hilly drive, so we took it slow and enjoyed the start of the fall foliage. Leaving the state forest there is a clearing and a house, which offered a few good photo ops. Foliage was at peak and pictures simply cannot illustrate the view we had through the mist that morning.

After Sandwich notch we cruised by Waterville Valley on Tripoli Road, which is another seasonal Class V dirt road. Foliage abounded casting the whole crew into a good mood. Tripoli Rd was considerably better than the highway and happened to be in good condition, covered a good distance at a good pace.

The original plan was to then take the Kancamagus highway to Bear Notch Road to Jefferson Notch Road (All class V). To make up some time - and because Jefferson Notch Road was closed due to flooding - we chose to take 93 to RT 3 to get to Groveton, NH where our next untraveled(by us) road would be.

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Old 11-03-2011, 03:38 PM   #4
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The Old Man

Almost to Groveton we passed a man standing on the side of the road smoking a pipe. He had long hair and a long nicotine yellow-grey beard. All of his clothes were worn thin, the once red undershirt almost the same color as the blue jeans. Nick B - the photographer - stopped the convoy and sprinted back up the road to grab a portrait of this guy.

Nick sprinted back and we all crowded around his camera to get a closer look at the guy. One of his eyes was missing, his skin was the color of his clothes. Nick learned he had lived in the house by himself since 1955.

I'll have more on this from Nick B later

We jumped back in the trucks to get to Groveton to pick up some grub. I hadn’t prepared for the rest of the weekend so Nick B and I picked up some supplies while Josh’s crew prepared their exhaust manifold burrito cooker. Our beer supply had also mysteriously run low so we re-stocked the cooler.

epicxcrider added 30 Minutes and 26 Seconds later...

Back on the dirt we started up E. Nash Stream Rd in Nash Stream State Forest. By this time I was getting the hang of the overloaded handling of the FJ, though something would have to be done about the front wheels bouncing off the ground while climbing hills. We turned East off Nash Stream and began to climb. The road was steep and windy, a 2nd and sometimes 3rd gear climb up into the mountains. The road was fun and we made good time to our lunch spot on Little Bog Pond.

Lunch was pre-cooked chicken we made into sandwiches, reminding me of the Bill Cosby joke about an American being able to turn anything into a sandwich with two pieces of bread :P

Josh’s crew enjoyed (tolerated?) their manifold-warmed burritos.

Erek explains the workings of the universe to Nick and Chirp

There were a few camps on the pond but the place was utterly deserted while we were there. By the looks of the camps and the number of propane tanks outside, most of them are winter use only by snowmobiles.

Why not take a swim?

We explored a bit, I found an outhouse -and used it- and Josh found some old couch springs to try and tie up his busted exhaust. More on this later. (The exhaust not the outhouse)

Little Bog Pond

Now the route had called for us to backtrack to Nash Stream Rd and continue north to RT 26.....

Forget the route. Trio Pond Rd looked like the road less travelled so we went East...

Airing Down - I should stop here to mention something about airing down on an exploratory trip.
I’ve found that if you air down early, you’ll be thinking “why did I bother” at the end of the easy dirt road as you dig around in the back for the compressor.
If you wait, however, you’ll end up stuck between a rock and a log wondering why the ____ you didn’t air down earlier as you kneel in the mud to let some air out of your tires.

Josh, Erek, and I cleared away all the nail-filled boards that had been tossed in the newly formed ditch and proceeded. With some careful spotting and driving both vehicles made it through with a few too many scrapes and bangs. (remember about airing down?)

The trail here sort of disappeared into a bog, so I sent Jason and Nick out ahead to scout the trail. Jason returned in a matter of seconds (Nick seemed to be distracted by a photo opportunity) so I quickly re-dispatched Jason to run ahead until the trail intersected with another trail.

This is a trail? Sweet.

Josh and I continued through the undulating rocky and boggy swamp overgrown with prickers until we both got hung up good on rocks. We could not move forward or backwards. (That airing down thing again)

I should take an aside here - there are a lack of photos.. This trail was NOT easy, grass covered all obstacles entirely and you would fall into holes walking down it. We had not gone so far we couldn't turn around... but there was at least 1.5 hours invested in this trail so far.

So.... while we were both kneeling in the (smelly) mud airing down Jason returned with the good news - there was an intersection about ¼ mile ahead. Nick B was nowhere to be seen but nevertheless we saddled up and moved forward with our newly found traction. Of course because we had just aired down, we came back out on to a mild dirt logging road - the challenging sections behind us - for now..

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Old 11-04-2011, 05:35 AM   #5
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The Wind Farm
Back out on the logging roads, there was another challenge ahead of us - where do we go? Nothing was marked and the GPS & Atlas were both wrong. Roads change so fast in logging country - what was a road on the map is now a skidder trail strewn with CV boot and brake line ripping sticks. .

Dirt paths led in unknown directions. We tried heading North but the road ended in another skidder trail, Southeast it would have to be. Continuing down the “road” with the most recent traffic we seemed to be heading in the right direction - East. The new goal was to intersect with Phillips Brook Road which would wind us through the mountains to RT 26 - back on track.

The logging road began winding left and right and gradually getting steeper downhill until we came around a sharp left hand corner... all we could say was WOW.

Josh and I skidded to a stop to get out and take in the amazing view of the mountains in front of us. The logging road stretched out and down into the valley below, a small ribbon winding into the forest.

My photos do not do justice to this view

The view really was incredible and we all took the opportunity to snap a few photos before descending off the mountain.

Picking up a considerable amount of speed, Josh and I wound our way down the nicely graded logging road - slowing only for the blind corners and unknown intersections.

Eventually we found ourselves at an intersection with a heavily travelled construction road and were greeted with a confused look from a dump truck driver. A quick check of the Map and the GPS told us we were on the right road, so North we went. We weren’t following the dump truck for long when the giant structures on trailers clued us into the fact that we were in the middle of the new Coos wind farm project. There were signs instructing drivers to tune to CB 19, but only heard a few French Canadian truckers conversing.

It wasn’t long before we were greeted with another confused look from a truck driver. I asked this one if we could continue North... he explained (still confused as to how we got there) that the road was closed up North and had we come in from the south (not over the mountain to the East) that we would have seen the detour signs. We would have to head South and find another way around. We cruised south on the construction road checking out the staging area for the wind turbine pieces and the huge national guard trucks they were hauling them with - it was a pretty cool sight.
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Old 11-04-2011, 08:35 AM   #6
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Old 11-04-2011, 10:30 AM   #7
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We ended up on Rt 16 and headed North. Because of the unexpected re-route our new goal was to get to Colebrook NH, refuel and reassess our route there. I quickly tired of being on pavement and started looking for a new dirt route - and found that Millsfield Pond Rd would take us through the hills to Rt 26, skipping Errol altogether.

We had just started up the road and I got word over the CB that there was trouble in the LX - Josh smelled burning rubber.I backed up to where he had pulled off and got out to help assess the situation. Josh quickly determined two things:

A) His busted exhaust was making his bumper extremely hot, possibly causing the smell
B) A piece of the aforementioned couch spring was rubbing the inside of the tire - also possibly contributing to the smell.
We removed part of the couch spring and pressed on and I reassured Josh that “they make new bumpers every day”.

After about 30 minutes on the dirt, we were back on the pavement again heading West on Rt 26 towards Colebrook through Dixville Notch. I’ve driven through the Notch a few times and been greeted with the amazing view of The Balsams, but had never taken the time to stop in the state park. We pulled off on the North side just as the road started to climb. Right off the highway we were rewarded with a view of the falls.

After the requisite photos and exploration of the falls, it was back on the road to Colebrook. We arrived at the gas station around 5:00, aired up and filled up. Erek had also made a call to his in-laws - it looked like we would be able to spend the night under a roof in Pittsburg NH. That suited all of us fine since rain was in the forecast. I went back to the atlas and GPS to find a route that would bring us there on dirt :)

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Old 11-04-2011, 10:30 AM   #8
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I planned a route taking us North through Coleman State Park, around the South side of Diamond Pond and into unknown territory. Driving North we were treated with some nice sunset views of Northern New Hampshire and the mountains to the south.

As we drove around Diamond Pond we were greeted with a familiar sight to most ENH’ers: Private road signs posted on a public way. Cautiously ignoring the signs we continued on as the road turned to a washed out dirt road, crossed a bridge and dove South into the woods. There was nothing particularly challenging about this trail, but everyone seemed excited. It was new territory far from home and the light was fading quickly...

After a short time there was a fork in the road - Jason was pretty sure left was the path we wanted and it was more travelled so left it was. Unfortunately as the sun was setting we found ourselves at a cul-de-sac, road had once continued but was now blocked by a felled tree and had not been travelled in quite some time. Disheartened, Josh and I conferred and decided we should backtrack and make for the cabin.

Driving South again, I decided to give the other fork in the road a chance thinking to myself “one last try”. As I made the sharp left I saw headlights on the horizon and we pulled up alongside a full size Chevy. Most (all?) of the occupants were having a road soda(read: beer) and after making sure we weren’t lost (I don’t think we looked lost...) they informed us that there was no path North to Pittsburg any longer. We made a quick u-turn and back-tracked past Diamond Pond and out to Rt 26.
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Old 11-04-2011, 10:31 AM   #9
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We arrived at the cabin at around 9:00 and Erek got us set up with gas and electricity while everyone unloaded the vehicles for the night. The musty smell told me right away that this cabin was a true hunting, fishing and more importantly - drinking cabin. Blown out speakers had been turned into cabinets, there were fading pictures plastered all over the walls of people in huge sunglasses with huge hair, giant perms, and denim jackets. It was awesome.
We cooked some food - Erek even made a salad - and enjoyed some beers before heading out to the tiki bar.

Nick B editing and Jason being mysterious

True Dat

Tiki Bar!

Erek proved pretty adept at making a fire and despite all the wet wood, most of us were able to see / breathe. The trail choices of the day were discussed and everyone agreed that we had quite an adventure despite not having left New Hampshire yet. Maybe it was the beer talking.

One by one everyone trailed off to bed until Erek Josh and I were the only ones left. We unanimously decided on a wake up time of 7:00 (since it was probably 1:00 now). We should be able to get out quickly as we didn’t have to break camp.

The 5 star accommodations
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Old 11-04-2011, 09:00 PM   #10
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DAY THREE - Saturday 9.24.11
221 Miles

Top tunes for the day: The XX

“Just a small town girl, livin' in a lonely world
She took the midnight train goin' anywhere”

7:00 Saturday morning I awoke to Journey blasting through the giant speakers in the tiny cabin, immediately putting a smile on my face. I jumped out of bed and ran downstairs with Chrip hot on my heels leaving the groans of Nick B, Jason, and Kevin behind me. Journey continued blasting well into the 6th song on the album until everyone had made it downstairs. By then the smell of coffee and oatmeal had permeated the cabin and things were moving along. I spent about an hour pouring over the atlas and the GPS, trying to find the elusive back way into Maine. Everyone enjoyed the use of the last flush toilet -for who knows how long- as we packed up and got ready to roll.

Really, I promise

I HAD to post this :P

Josh thought it would be smart to top off fuel so we made a quick (way too long) trip to the gas station where everyone got lost inside. We each pumped about 4 gallons of gas which took 45 minutes, then took off North on Rt 3. We pounded pavement for approximately 10 miles until we reached the turn we were looking for - a small unmarked dirt road going east. I radioed Josh "this is it, we're in uncharted territory now". I had heard there was a way to get to Maine from Rt 3 in New Hampshire but I had not found a map, route, or any other evidence of this route existing. On the map there were some roads which connected but most were either gated or "impassable" once they reached Maine.

Into the woods
Our small convoy headed West through the mist on the narrow gravel path, unsure of what would lie ahead and loving every second of it. I put it in 3rd, threw the center diff lock on and hit the gas reaching 50 MPH quickly for a fully loaded SUV. This road was a blast, winding up and down left and right around banked corners through the North country.

Both Josh and I discovered locking the center diff countered some of the body roll we would normally experience and let the rear get a little loose in the corners, adding to the fun :) After an hour of banchin’ it through the woods we came to a point where my planned route broke from the well travelled road. With the spirit of adventure calling, I pulled off the main track and into the waist high grass where there was once a road....
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Old 11-04-2011, 09:00 PM   #11
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I cautiously crept down the road (field) until reaching a bridge spanning a small brook. Hopping out to scope out the underpinnings of the bridge I was shortly joined by a surprised looking Josh, though he was not the least bit apprehensive about the road (field) ahead of us. The brook had washed into the trail ahead but the ground underneath seemed firm enough. I put the FJ in 4-Low and bumped up on to the bridge, crept over, and dropped down into the grass. Josh followed without incident. After splashing our way through the wet section the trail seemed pretty solid aside from being overgrown.

The GPS showed this overgrown stretch of “road” going South for a mile, then turning due East for a total of 5 miles before the next intersection. Creeping in 4-Low through the hood-high wet grass, I hoped there would be no sink-holes or other large obstacles out in front. The map showed a number of small stream crossings but the first had been a bridge and the second a culvert. I wasn’t concerned until we came across a culvert that had been pretty well washed away...

Josh and I jumped out to take a look and found the culvert was still structurally sound. Without much delay we decided to simply drive over. The steel was slippery but keeping to the high side and stacking a few logs both vehicles made it over without incident.

It wasn’t long until we reached the next stream crossing. A culvert had been washed out but was now sitting proud of the ground, there was no way to go over it. There was a deep ditch on the high side of the road, and we would have to go low. It was going to be tight - especially for the LX - but I was confident we would be able to make it through.

With Josh spotting I drove up off the road to the left and started down into the washout below the culvert. Maneuvering down the side of the washout was made even trickier by the grass obscuring the sink-holes in the banking. The FJ got a little tippy as I descended further, but thanks to good spotting by Josh and backing up to re-orient I was able to get into a good position and down into the ditch. My bumper made first contact with the banking on the other side, but it was too late to back up. A little extra throttle and the FJ pulled up and out onto the firm roadbed.

Josh’s Turn :)
The LX is significantly longer, making the transition up the banking a bit harder. He wasn’t afraid to push a little dirt around and in short order had scraped his way up with the front and down with the back. The rear bumper seemed a little dislocated but was still hanging on, so off we went!

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Old 11-05-2011, 07:40 AM   #12
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Old 11-05-2011, 08:22 AM   #13
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I went to the University of Maine at Orono (UMO), have an FJ cruiser, AND this plaque at my place in western N.C.

I love this shot !

Thanks for taking me back many years !
'10 Husaberg FE570
'10 BMW R1200GSA "30th anniversary edition"
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'08 Ducati Hypermotard 1100S -- Going, still for sale.
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Old 11-05-2011, 08:46 PM   #14
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There was about enough time to get comfortable in the driver’s seat again and we were at another washout. The road beyond the culvert was washed out leaving a section just wide enough for a vehicle to pass - carefully.

Too far left and the vehicle would have started slipping sideways off the roadbed and a rollover was certain. Too far right would have ended with a sunk wheel or entire rear axle. I looked around for a winch point but finding nothing, we would just need to be extra careful. I pulled forward and hard left, then cut hard right to get back on the road. Everything was fine until I felt the right rear start to sink.....

I hit the throttle and the FJ banged into a hole and bounced out thanks to the extra momentum. The road had collapsed under the weight of the vehicle leaving an even larger hole for Josh to get through! I got in position to spot him through and slowly he inched along swinging the front tires wide left, then hard right. The rears would have to go over the hole - there was no other way. Using the same tactic the LX surged forward and bumped over the hole, making it bigger in the process. We were through!

Luckily, this would be the last obstacle on this road Half a mile later we rejoined the heavily travelled logging road and started picking up the pace. I was glad to be finished with the challenges. For now....

As the trail came to an end I took a quick look at the map and noticed we had just crossed into Maine! There had been a lot of effort getting here so far and this seemed like a big milestone for us - I felt pretty excited as I radioed Josh’s truck the good news.

Back on the nicely graded dirt we started pushing the limits of the trucks a bit to make up some time. Locking in the center diff to help the turn in, Josh and I were reaching speeds of 55 mph on the windy loose dirt track.

Center Diff: Locked
Again I feel the need to stop and explain - this time about the center diff lock.
Both the FJ and LX-450 are all-wheel-drive vehicles, meaning all four wheels are getting power, but all four wheels can rotate at different rates. With the center diff locked the system behaves like a traditional 4WD - both front and rear axles rotate at the same rate.
Normally on dirt roads the center diff would be stay open and the Torsen diff does it’s job sending 60% torque rear and 40% front while allowing for better cornering and constant traction. Loaded down and at high speed Josh and I both found that locking the center diff kept the vehicle grounded over potholes and loose gravel where otherwise it would become unstable. Very quick turn-in and just a little slip in the rear end helped keep things fun - but still extremely stable - around the corners :)

We rallied onward for a bit and ran into some like minded folks. I still had not found a viable route to bring us Northeast so I stopped to ask if they had any knowledge of the area. Unfortunately they knew little more than us so we started East without a sure plan....
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Old 11-05-2011, 08:49 PM   #15
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After rounding a wide sweeping right hand turn I found our tentative route to be blocked by a locked gate... that a Maine Warden had just unlocked! What luck!

Quickly we parked and I ran up to ask “Hi! Do you think you could let us through?!” He replied rather seriously “Sure, do you have the keys?” I was a little taken aback but he explained the area was gated from all sides and I would need keys to leave. With proceeding out of the question I stepped out of the way to let a vehicle with Jersey tags pass through - he had been escorting them out of the locked area - and inquired about a route to Maine.

The Warden finished locking up and walked over to where we were waiting. I caught him looking inquisitively at both trucks and when I explained our origin and destination he was happy to show us a route. I spread the atlas open on the hood and using his pen he quickly marked a series of turns which would bring us to Eustis. He also informed us the road from Eustis to Jackman was in use for wind farm construction and we might run into security there.

After a quick portrait and some expedition banter we sped Southeast along Lake Aziscohos towards Green Top Mountain and Tim Pond Rd.

The Maine Atlas
We obtained a valuable bit of information from the warden regarding the Maine Atlas - and why using the newest one is critical. See, the roads on the Atlas are labeled as highways, roads, local roads, dirt roads, and trails. gates on the roads and trails are marked by o----o meaning locked, or x-----x meaning gate or rock - sometimes unlocked. Other obstacles are marked by an O - Impassable or O with the bottom half filled in - sometimes passable (think flooded road). Game wardens each have their own territory, and every year Delorme gives each warden a map and asks them to mark each gate and impassable / sometimes passable points. The warden might not be able to check a certain area, or may not remember every road in his / her territory and therefore the map is inherently inaccurate. The Map is Not the Territory

Stopping only for a quick view of Lake Aziscohos I led on quickly until about 11:00 when Josh radioed “It’s burrito time, let’s pull over here.” He quickly loaded the Lexus burrito cooker while everyone milled about and Chirp and I walked along the nearby stream. Shortly everyone was at battle stations and off we went, Chirp in the back using Jason to dry the water from the stream.

We made good time to Eustis, I still had half a tank of fuel and 12 gallons on the roof. After a quick check with Josh found he had the same, I turned left on Rt 27 looking for the road North: Goldbrook Rd.

Starting up Goldbrook Rd it was very clear this was a wind farm installation. CB channels were clearly marked and there were signs directing drivers to Phase 1 and Phase 2 of construction. There was no gate or security - simply a sign that read “heavy construction traffic - pass at own risk”. So we passed. Right of the bat the road wound back and forth up out of view into the low, rolling mountains. Again locking the center diff I gassed the FJ and our small convoy began climbing, climbing, climbing. A few uphill miles quickly passed and out of habit I casually glanced in the rearview mirrror noticing the absence of headlights behind me. Not 5 seconds later Josh radioed “Hey we stopped back here.... we smell rubber again.”
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