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Essay collection gives voice to Maine’s north woods

Aug 24, 2018
Maine author and longtime journalist Earl Brechlin.

Author and Registered Maine Guide Earl Brechlin is crisscrossing Maine to share his new collection of essays about Maine’s iconic landscapes, the power of family and the search for meaning and renewal in the embrace of wilderness.

“Return to Moose River, In Search of the Spirit of the Great North Woods,” released this summer by Down East Books, includes 14 narrative nonfiction essays chronicling adventures across the breadth of Maine, from the Moose River to the top of Mount Katahdin in Baxter State Park, Telos, to the Appalachian Trail's 100-Mile Wilderness and Moosehead Lake to the majestic St. Croix River on the border with New Brunswick. Whitewater canoeing, backpacking and snowmobiling adventures are all included.

The stories in “Return to Moose River,” chronicle the semi-annual expeditions by a ragtag group of friends and family that became known as the Moose River Camping Club, over more than three decades.

The inaugural “Moose” trip in 1986 was on the Moose River. It ended with a pledge to continue the adventures every year, with a return to the Moose every decade.

The first essay takes place back on the Moose River 10 years after that original trip, after sons joined the group, and beards became tinged with gray. The last essay is 10 years after that, when the group returns once again, this time bearing the ashes of the author’s twin brother, who had passed away tragically on a river trip.

Each essay focuses on the featured area’s natural and human history. For Brechlin, it is the spirits of those who have traveled Maine’s woods and waters before, as much as the landscape, that gives these areas special significance.

“We’ve done such a great job of conserving land and water in Maine, but we haven’t done as well preserving the human history and legends that populate these places,” Brechlin said. “Whether it’s the Native Americans, early settlers, explorers, loggers or others, you can’t separate the people from the land or the land from the people, and we need to do more to celebrate that.".

While most visitors to Maine focus on the coast, especially in summer, Maine’s vast northern forests and mountains are often overlooked. “There is as much of Maine’s heart and soul in those mountains, woods and waters as there is anywhere,” Brechlin said. “People who don’t visit and experience these places really miss out.”

Brechlin is the author of more than a dozen books, including “The Adventure Guide to Maine,” hiking and paddling guides to Acadia National Park, and numerous volumes using antique postcards to share the history of Maine and New England. A former Maine Journalist of the Year, he worked for nearly 40 years in the state’s newspaper industry and was the founding editor of the Mount Desert Islander. He is a regular columnist for “Islandport Magazine,” and his work has appeared in the Boston Globe, Newsweek, Down East Magazine, The New York Times, Chevy Outdoors, and the Maine Sportsman.

A graduate of the University of Maine Forestry School, Brechlin is a descendant of Maine author Ruth Moore and lighthouse heroine Abbie Burgess. For several years, he operated a small independent bookstore in Bar Harbor featuring Maine authors and illustrators and writers who worked here.

To find out more, visit the “Return to Moose River” Facebook page or go to

Tour Dates:

Monday, Sept. 1, Sherman’s Bookstore, Bar Harbor

Wednesday, Sept. 5, Berwick Public Library 6 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 15, Sherman’s Bookstore, Damariscotta, 10 a.m. to noon

Saturday, Sept. 15, Sherman’s Bookstore, Boothbay, 1 to 3 p.m.

St. George Public Library, TBA

Wednesday, Oct. 24, Northeast Harbor Public Library, 5:30 p.m.

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