Shamrock Tour® - Farmington, Maine

Text: Ken Aiken • Photography: Ken Aiken

There is no better time or place to tour in northern New England than when those fleeting days of Indian summer coincide with the crowning glories of fall foliage.

There's beauty to fog, especially during the transition from night to day. As the sun breaks through, pearlescent tendrils, rising from the dark waters of ponds and lakes, dance and whirl. As I ride along the riverbank, my world is intimate, a circle of limited visibility without the distraction of rolling vistas or distant mountains. It's an intimacy in which individual trees, silhouetted against the shining gray boundary of visibility, take on special meaning. The world unfolds, constantly revealing itself as ethereal veils drop, one after another.

Despite my electric vest and heated handgrips I'm cold. The season's first hard frost lies upon the fields and the morning sun has yet to break its icy grip upon the landscape. I've left the fog at the Vermont border and Mount Washington, dressed in its fall colors, rises ahead of me like a Luminist painting.

Indian summer, that glorious time of year after the first hard frost when the sun shines brightly and the temperature briefly climbs back into the high seventies as a last encore to the summer season, usually lasts only a few days. So, taking advantage of a forecast calling for several days of ideal touring weather, I'm heading east on Route 2 to Farmington, Maine.

Leg 1: The Rangeley Lakes Region
Downtown Farmington is a hopping place this Sunday morning: the restaurants are busy and most of the parking spaces filled. Passing through New Vineyard and New Portland on Route 27, I can see the mountains ahead. After Kingfield the road becomes twisty and I get into the rhythm as I ride up the Carrabassett Valley on Routes 16 and 27. Just outside of Stratton, Route 16 becomes a corridor through the woods and I follow the tortured ribbon of gray asphalt and a succession of dark brown poles holding mile after mile of wires aloft all the way to Rangeley.

The village of Rangeley, situated on a narrow strip of land between the south end of Haley Lake and the northeast shore of Rangeley Lake, is one of the few places where public access to these lakes exists. The Rangeley Region is comprised of lakes, forests, and low, rolling mountains, but little of this is visible as I continue down the highway - it's a case of not being able to see the forest for the trees.

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the Summer 2002 back issue.