A rainbow forming over the St. John River. Bethel Citizen photo by Samuel Wheeler

The crumbling Route 161, stretching 86 miles from Fort Fairfield to Allagash, may be one of the worst roads I’ve ever traveled in Maine, but it led me to one of Maine’s gems. A place off the beaten path in northwestern Aroostook County called Allagash.

Despite being home to fewer than 250 people, the town is the biggest in the state by total land area (this does not include water), with more than 128 square miles, according to the United States Census Bureau. Much of the town consists of dense woods, which is where my friends and I spent the bulk of our time.

After leaving Orono around 8 a.m., we arrived in Allagash a little past noon. The drive took almost four hours. From Bethel, without stops, it takes six and half hours to get to Allagash, twice as long as it does to get to Fenway Park from here.

First on our minds was getting something to eat, and Two Rivers Lunch, a four-decade old diner right off the only main road in town, was the only option. Though the outside of the place may not appeal to the eye of many, the inside tells a far different story. History was plastered on the walls. Taxidermy ranging from deer to bobcats and numerous hunting photos containing recently killed bear, moose, coyote and deer could be seen everywhere we looked. Some of the photos dated back to the 1970s. We spent five minutes just admiring the interior.

Grilled cheese, hot dogs, burgers and hand cut fries came out steaming hot from what was probably the smallest kitchen I had ever seen not on wheels. We devoured our food in minutes, and were quickly brought a check. The prices were ridiculously cheap, with most items listed at under $5, though the food tasted a lot better than you’re typical five-dollar-foods.

Next came the only “setback” we had on our trip, which is when we were informed that the diner accepted just cash. My friend was able to cover for one of us, but we ended up driving back to St. Francis to the nearest ATM to get more money.


Finding a campsite was not an issue, given that the few inches of snow still covering most of ground probably scared away most spring campers. We pitched tents at a site on the banks of the St. John River, which was roaring due to some recent rain.

After setting up, we piled back into my friend’s Honda Civic and drove northeast down a dirt road for 10 miles or so, essentially on a road to nowhere. If you look on a Maine Atlas and find Allagash, you’ll notice there’s not much civilization past it, at least in Maine. That’s what struck us the most. I found myself taking pictures of the endless dirt roads and woods, because that’s all there was. No cellphone service, an occasional off-road vehicle and loads of deer, we saw nearly 50 by the time our adventure was over.

We returned to the campsite close to dinnertime and were able to catch a view of a rainbow arching over the St. John. An additional hour was spent walking along the shores of the river searching for more possible photo opportunities.

We cooked steak, potatoes and corn over the fire, had a few beers and were lucky enough to have a fully charged speaker, so we could play some classic rock too.

Everywhere we looked was dark, and the only noise heard was the flow of the St. John. The four of us were circled around the fire and none of us could stop talking about our love for this part of the state. When morning came, we tried convincing ourselves that our schedules had room for another night in this amazing town, before begrudgingly getting in the Honda and driving back to reality.

Allagash provided us a feeling of isolation that few places in Maine can match. Tired of the busy college environment, this adventure into the woods was exactly what the doctor ordered for all of us.







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