A couple days ago, a non-Mainer was looking over a cultural map of Maine’s Aroostook County. A title seemed to jump of the page and with a quite interesting theme: “CAN-AM Crown International Sled Dog Race.”
Immediately he went to ask his friend who is from St. Agatha about the festival and what it is all about. His friend, Adam Weyeneth, said, “Yeah, I know the festival. It’s close to where I live. We could go if you want to?”
The response to that was, “Of course we should go.”
The trip was planned and this past weekend they went for an expedition up in the northernmost parts of Maine. Although this was a routine trip for the two northern Maine friends, Adam and Sarah Harris, for him it was like going into an adventure to the unknown and the wilderness.
The landscape going up to St. Agatha was breathtaking with all the forestry and the potato fields that surrounded the area, even if they were covered in lots of snow. It was a true dream land.
The three friends spend Friday night in St. Agatha, in a lake house right on the frozen lake shore. St. Agatha is right on the corner of Long Lake, and from what the fisherman in the area said, this winter the lake had four feet of ice. The many cars and snowmobiles that they saw roaming the lake and all the fishing houses that were present proved that northern Maine is always the land of surprises.
The next morning it was race day. They drove from St. Agatha to Fort Kent in about one hour, with the road going right along the St. John River beside the Canadian border. The view was stunning.
Once they got to Fort Kent, the view was spectacular. The main street was blocked off from both ways and a huge crowd of many ethnicities filled the streets.
They found a place to park their vehicle and they walked toward the loud Acadian music that was playing from the street. The street itself was half accessible and the other half was staged for the dog races. A thick two-foot snow pile was spread all along the street, from one side all the way to the other.
Once they observed the well-organized street, they moved closer to the crowd that was gathered along the frozen pathway to watch the races. The race itself was called the CAN-AM Crown and it was an international sled dog race with participants from all over the country and Canada.
Throughout the race people could hear from a long distance the happy voices of the dogs that couldn’t hide their excitement. The variety of the sled dogs taking part in the race was astonishing, with the most magnificent of all being the Husky slides. All the dogs were so excited that before the call for them to start, they were jumping up and down ready to go and do what they had been waiting and practicing for a whole year. The races included 30, 100, and 250 mile distance trails. With the youngest rider being 12 years old and the oldest one 71, the race had a mix of every sort of individual who were brought together for their love for the sport.
Senator Angus King and Senator Susan Collins were also at the festival. They were so excited to be there that they even rode the sleds for a good distance themselves. The riders said it was good luck for them if the senators were to choose to ride on their sleds.
Once the race was over, the non-Mainer took in some of the other sights, sounds and tastes of Fort Kent, including the Fort Kent Blockhouse, the Route 1 first mile site right by the Canadian border and, of course, some of the very tasty local cuisine.
On the way back, Adam and the non-Mainer asked Sarah if she was willing to show them a trail for hiking. Her answer was, “I think my father would be really happy if he was to show you the trails, since he loves nature himself.” They stopped at Sarah’s house and Adam, Sarah’s father, decided to show to the non-Mainer the experience of snowshoeing: one more experience for the traveler’s checklist.
The final observation was that people in northern Maine are some of the friendliest people you could find. Small communities such as these empower the human aspect of society and, most important, focus on family and kindness.
This expedition was one of those that the non-Mainer is going to remember for the rest of his life. The nature of northern Maine, in combination with its amazing culture and people, makes the perfect combination of the so-well-placed name of “vacationland” or “the way life should be.” If nature, friendly people and amazing events are what you are looking for, then Aroostook County is the answer.