This 1894 map illustrates how uninhabited the territory was, in which the adventurous travellers became lost.

There is an old J. Geils Band song called, “I Musta Got Lost” which is the first thing we need to realize when we don’t know where we are or how to get to where we need to go. In my ten years at the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, I was often privy to some of the more intimate details of those who had “gotten turned around” while sporting about in our Maine Woods. These ‘adventures’ were often shared with me by members of the Warden Service who actually found them. “Getting turned around” is nice way of saying completely lost. In almost every case there was a desirable outcome with many a valuable lesson to be learned.

I once got myself lost on a cloudy day on a big stretch of flat featureless ground up by Baker Lake. We had bolted from the truck after a bird that had just ducked into the woods. Soon the dog was on point on three birds! We then proceeded to start turning this way and that while following a happy bird dog with a snoot full of sent and more were found with some dispatched over the next 20 minutes. When the dust settled my companion and I realized that we had two distinctly different opinions as to which way the truck was. Uh oh. I felt so foolish and then in the fading light of dusk a bit nervous.  I felt like a complete idiot for blasting out of the truck without a compass bearing after a scurrying bird. Idiot! Then it became all too clear why they say some folks panic and start running about. “Stay calm” is what all experienced woodsmen say about that realization, but my “terror” was in how embarrassed I’d be if my warden buddies had to perform a search for us! I then told my pal to stay put no matter what, gave him my extra dog whistle and then I did circles of increasing radius’ around him while occasionally signaling each other.  As the distance increased a shot or two became necessary.  I eventually found our truck on the road less than a quarter of a mile away. For two days after, I kicked myself for being so stupid.

There was no one to come look for you if you were lost in the Maine woods in 1899. This “Outta the fryin’ pan and into the Fire” (literally) story illustrates how bad it could really get back then.  We are so fortunate today, to have the skilled and dedicated men and women of the Maine Warden Service to find our injured or lost citizens. They are the best in the business. So please be smart, leave a trip plan, know your map and compass for when that GPS goes dead and get out there and make some well-oriented Outdoor History of your own!


Phillips Phonograph, SEPTEMBER 29. 1899.


Hunters Became Lost Between Rangeley and Dead River

One of the most remarkable cases of suffering, a suffering which cannot be easily appreciated, is illustrated by the misfortunes of two hunters from Ohio, who recently attempted to cross from Rangeley to the Dead River without a guide; these gentlemen’s names are Whitely and Mason. Being inexperienced in woodcraft they soon lost their way and on the second day out were lost in the great forests of North Franklin county. At this time their sufferings from thirst were terrible for the recent dry weather had dried up many springs and some brooks.

All this day they plodded along constantly on the lookout for water, but at last about sunset came upon a small brook where they rested for the night. Mr. Whitely, who was the weaker of the two, was by this time completely exhausted and both drank so much water that they were soon suffering from a debilitating sickness they having had no food since the evening of the preceding day. On the third day one of the men was in a high fever, but his companion at last killed a deer and this supplied them with food. On the seventh day, the sick man became better and they again tried again to get out of the wilderness.

They went along slowly following the brook, hoping this would take them to a larger stream. Greater trouble was in store for them for the course of the stream led them into the great forest fire of a short time ago. Mr. Mason says, “We halted, and I looked around me and tried to learn which way the smoke was drifting, feeling sure that course would be the best for us. There was but little water in the brook, but once in a while little pools large enough to hold us both were found”. The fire was now close upon them and the sky was as bright with flame as at noonday in sunlight. Here Mr. Mason carried his companion across rocks to a pool of water, and here they both sat down. At last they were obliged, owing to the heat, to lie down in the water while burning branches and embers fell thickly around them. At one the fire was so fierce and so close every few seconds they were obliged to dip their faces beneath the water. When the beat, became bearable they took off their clothes and dried them, passing what Mr. Mason calls “a night of horror;” they had at this time eaten nothing since noon of the day before. At twelve o’clock (the eighth day) they came to Dead River and a logging road and very soon to a camp; no one was in it, but it contained plenty of food and the men were soon on their way to New Portland and civilization.

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