How many lake islands in Maine have had a best-seller written about them? One, as far as I know.
Maneskootuk Island, or Doctor’s Island in Rangeley Lake, Maine. The book is The Islanders by Elizabeth Foster and tells the story of the house her grandfather, Frederick Dickson built on the island, their many summers there and especially of the garden her grandfather built and lovingly tended.
Our paddling companion had read that book and a follow up book by Carolyn Scofield. A gardener herself, she wanted to see the remnants of the massive garden.
And so we set off from the Rangeley boat launch in our trio of boats: a Wilderness Systems Zephyr, Current Designs Sirocco, and Old Town Tandem Otter. We started early in the morning, to avoid wind driven waves that can build during the day.
The Otter moved smoothly, although we were not ideally positioned in the boat. The front seat serves as a brace for the back seat. Unfortunately, the back seat did not move easily, so we were further back than was ideal for boat trim. However, we were well matched paddlers, and despite the Otter’s 29” beam we had no trouble setting a good pace.
It helped that on the way our gardening companion entertained us with tales of the island and the steamboat which used to carry visitors out.
|A bright log cottage|
Maneskootuk is a private island, festooned with No Trespassing signs and decorated with assorted houses, cottages and sculpture. The original grand house burned in 1939. We worked our way about the island until at last, on the southern slope we were rewarded with views of the garden remnants in eight glorious terraces.
Maneskootuk is an Abnaki phrase, picked out by Frederick Dickson to describe the island. It means “Place of the Big Trout”. And, in case you’re wondering, he was not a doctor, but a lawyer. Doctor’s Island reflects a later use of the island, as camps (cottages) only doctors were permitted to rent.
|Amazing mountains serve as a backdrop to the lake|
The Islanders is available from many sources. However, the follow up book, The Island Maneskootuk by Carolyn Scofield, telling about later owners of the island, is harder to find. One source is the Ecopelagicon Nature Store in Rangeley. (Ecopelagicon also rents kayaks, sells gear and arranges shuttles.)
|Our intrepid explorers heading back to Rangeley|
Launch: Rangeley Town Park. No charge, restrooms open by 8AM. 4 miles to go out, around the island and back. The Old Town Otter worked well, though I doubt we would have been happy had waves been slopping into the large cockpit.