2024 Thoreau-Wabanaki Trail Festival

Mt. Kineo on Moosehead Lake and a Wabanaki creation story

The 18th Annual Thoreau Wabanaki Trail Festival
runs Sunday – Friday, July 21 – 26, 2024!
~~ WATCH FOR UPDATES to schedule, times, locations ~~
For information, contact: suzauclair@myfairpoint.net

~~ The Festival promotes the understanding, appreciation,
and stewardship of Maine’s
unique cultural heritage and natural resources ~~

The annual Thoreau-Wabanaki Trail Festival commemorates the history of the Wabanaki people and philosopher naturalist Henry David Thoreau’s three trips into the Maine Woods, two of which were launched with Penobscot guides here on Moosehead Lake.

Sunday – Tuesday, July 21-23, 2024
Penobscot Ways in the Woods & Waters
Like Thoreau, participants learn under the wing of Penobscot guides about Wabanaki ways and Penobscot Life Connection to Maine Woods & Waters. Trip features easy canoe/camping on their Sugar Island. Days feature guided activities, learning plant identification & medical uses; history, archeology, Native ways of being in the natural world. Includes traditional drumming & singing demonstrations; campfire circle talk; learning about birch bark canoes, paddling a birch canoe. Offered as part of the Penobscot Nation’s Cultural Immersion Program. Registration is limited!
$600 per person. For details, contact suzauclair@myfairpoint.net

Wednesday, July 24, 2024
Maine’s Master Wooden Canoe Builders
Outdoor Exhibition & Indoor Presentation with North Wood’s Best, 1-5 p.m.
Visit and see the canoes of some of the nation’s finest wooden canoe builders, most of whom live right here in Piscataquis County. Afternoon panel presentation offers plenty of time for questions and answers.
Crafts Park, East Cove downtown Greenville

The Great Canoe Loop
with Penobscot Guide Ryan Kelley, 6:30 p.m.
Join Kelley on his 1500-mile canoe journey across ancient water routes. The trip, in 2023, took four months through some grueling conditions.
Loop includes the Moosehead Lake Region, North Woods Wilderness Areas.
It will be featured in a 2025 edition of National Geographic. Evening program includes time for questions and answers.

Thursday, July 25, 2024
It’s For the Birds!
with Birding Experts
Bob Duchesne, Alexandra Conover Bennett, Kate Weatherby
The day features early morning birding walk, talk, and identifications on easy, close-by trails and an old back road, followed by a remarkable evening presentation about Maine’s Bird Atlas.

The Maine Bird Atlas
with Kate Weatherby, 6:30 p.m.
joined by Bob Duchesne and Alexandra Conover Bennett
Ms. Weatherby, coordinator extraordinaire of Maine’s winning Bird Atlas, provides a broad overview of the project and how it fits into the national Atlas scope. Panelists Duchesne and Bennett add their local expertise about the bird scene around Moosehead Lake. This birder’s delight is also a great introduction to anyone with a backyard interest in birds.

Friday, July 26, 2024
Thoreau-Wabanaki Ways in the Woods

Children’s Guided Nature Walk
and a reading of “Many Hands, A Penobscot Indian Story” 10 – 11:30 a.m.
with Educators Kathy Bishop, Prudy Richards, and Dawna Blackstone
A guided nature walk through an easy in-town trail,
learning about local trees, flowers, plants and the smells of the woods.
The walk is immediately followed by the outdoor reading of the Lupine Award’s “Many Hands, A Penobscot Indian Story”.
Participants meet at the field bleachers, Greenville Consolidated Schools

Thoreau-Polis Relationship to Wabanaki Land Movement
with University of Maine Professor Darren J. Ranco, 6:30 p.m.
Festival closes with the dynamic scholarship of Prof. Ranco, who carries the historical context of the relationship between Thoreau and Penobscot Guide Joe Polis into today’s Wabanaki land movement.

Moosehead’s Natural Resourced Education Center (NREC),
the Penobscot Nation, Maine Woods Forever, Shaw Public Library, and the Moosehead Lake Region Economic Development Corporation

NREC Mission: To provide resource-based programming to visitors and residents of the State of Maine that come to the Moosehead Lake Region to explore its woods and waters. It is operated by an all-volunteer board and is a 501c-3 nonprofit organization.

Maine Woods Forever is the founder of the Thoreau Wabanaki Trail Festival. Its Mission: Dedicated to finding common ground among people of diverse interests for the responsible use and shared stewardship of Maine’s woods and waters; Working with others to designate exceptional natural, cultural, and historic sites for the eduction, benefit, and spiritual well-being of Maine people, visitors, and future generations. Maine Woods Forever continues to support the programming offered by the annual festival and offers quarterly professional roundtables on a variety of mission-driven topics. It is operated by an all-volunteer board and is a 501c-3 nonprofit organization.

Maine Woods Forever
provides a generous financial contribution each year
toward the success of the annual Thoreau-Wabanaki Trail Festival

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Wed – Fri, July 19-21, 2023

Wednesday, July 19, 6:30 pm  
Archeology & Wabanaki Ways in the Maine Woods, Drumming & Singing
with Chris Sockalexis, Penobscot Tribal Historic Preservation Officer

Anthropologist and flintknapper Chris Sockalexis opens the festival with the fascinating oral legends and traditions of the Moosehead Lake Region, including the Penobscot creation story of Mt. Kineo and how Moosehead got its name. Gifted with a resonating singing voice, and a lead singer of the RezDogs, an intertribal drum group based out of Indian Island in Old Town, he will close out this first night presentation with a demonstration of traditional Penobscot songs. He is currently conducting research for a Masters of Science degree at the University of Maine Climate Change Institute, with a thesis on Cultural Identity and Maritime Adaptation in Frenchman Bay, Maine. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from the University of Maine, with a focus on Maine archeology.

Thursday, July 20, 6:30 pm 
The Moose of the North Woods  
with Lee Kantar, Moose Expert, Maine Dept. of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife

Moose Expert Lee Kantar at the Moosehead Cultural Heritage Center

It’s said that one of Thoreau’s last dying words was “Moose” – still the most sought after mammal that people seek to see in Maine today. Come find out why, with Maine’s best expert about our North Woods moose populations, life cycles, and why we continue to have the highest numbers of them outside of Alaska. Lee Kantar’s studies are internationally watched by field experts. In 2019, at the 53rd North American Conference on Moose, he was honored with the Distinguished Moose Biologist Award. Past recipients have included those from Canada, Sweden, Finland, and Norway. We are fortunate to have this North American leader on moose available for the Thoreau Wabanaki Festival, where he will talk about Maine’s pioneering long-term moose study.

Friday, July 21, 6:30 pm  
A Guide to Solo Wilderness Travel 
with Alexandra Conover Bennett, Wendy Weiger, Aislinn Sarnacki

Thoreau couldn’t have survived in the wild without his Penobscot guides, but he brought the experience of the Native world of our region to the world at large. Tonight, come hear how going solo in the wilderness is a life-changer, with the extraordinary experiences of a panel of outdoor experts living here, right now.

Moosehead Lake from the Indian Trail, Mt. Kineo

If we listen to the songs of the water and the whispers on the wind, we will feel the heartbeat of Mother Earth, and all creation will continue to breath ~ Wabanaki saying

Alexandra Bennett lives off grid near Moosehead and has spent most of her adult life in the back country of Maine and Labrador. She’s lived solo in winter territory, ran traplines, and is uniquely qualified in the many aspects of surviving difficult situations in remote territory. She brings with her a lifetime of outdoor skills, where, for her, going solo into the woods is as essential as breathing air. She is an expert canoe and snowshoe guide, and remarkable identifier of birds, plants, and animals. Her specialty is how to live, travel, and survive northern boreal woods, having made a 350-mile snowshoe trip across the Ungava Peninsula, Québec, refining her skills by living with indigenous friends and learning their traditional ways.

Dr. Wendy Weiger left the halls of academe and moved to Moosehead Lake. Much like Thoreau, she absorbed all she could from the locals around her. Then, she went solo, living alone off grid in the Maine Woods in her cabin east of Kokadjo, and became a naturalist writer. Come hear what she found as spiritual solace, celebration, and life affirming connections in all her travels through these woods and waters.

Aislinn Sarnacki writes about her outdoor experiences for a living and admits that going solo was at first an acquired taste. Now, it is her preferred way. She says going solo into the wilderness is not for everyone, and unless you have the skills, knowledge, and gear, there are some things you just don’t do alone. With experience though, she now prefers going solo, for the independence, for the freedom of being on nobody’s schedule but your own, and for the ability to see wildlife that you otherwise wouldn’t get to see.

Come hear about the risks and the rewards of traveling solo in the wilderness. All three experts are dynamic speakers. Each in their own way will tell their own remarkable personal experiences, with many tips on how to navigate, be confident, feel alive, and find ease in the Maine landscape. Questions and Answer time will follow this rare panel presentation.

The annual Thoreau-Wabanaki Trail Festival commemorates the history of the Wabanaki people and poet, philosopher, and naturalist Henry David Thoreau’s three trips into the Maine Woods, two of which were launched with Penobscot guides here on Moosehead Lake.

For more information or details, contact NREC Board Member
Suzanne AuClair at suzauclair@myfairpoint.net; 207-349-0538.

Moosehead Lake on a July 3 summer afternoon

Festival is made possible in partnership between Moosehead’s Natural Resource Education Center and the Penobscot Nation Cultural & Historic Preservation Dept., Maine Woods Forever, and the Moosehead Historical Society.

Thoreau-Wabanaki Trail Festival is sponsored by its founder Maine Woods Forever (www.mainewoodsforever.org) and the generosity of individual donors, in-kind contributions.

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~~~ July 22-24 PENOBSCOT TRIP CLOSED ~~~   
Last Leg of Thoreau’s Trip with Penobscot Guides
“Last Leg” follows the last section of Thoreau’s 1857 canoe trip on the Penobscot River, made famous in his book The Maine Woods. Like Thoreau, paddlers will learn under the wing of Penobscot guides about Wabanaki heritage and Penobscot connection to the landscape. 

Ash and sweetgrass basketmaking demonstration with guide and artist Jennifer Neptune

Saturday and Sunday are spent immersed in traditional cultural activities on the Penobscot Nation’s Sugar Island after an easy paddle down the river. Days include a demonstration about the artistry of ash and sweetgrass basket making; making your own basket; learning about the construction of and paddling a feather-light birch bark canoe, nature & traditional medicinal plant exploratory walks, visit to wigwams; flint knapping, or wood carving; evenings in a talking circle around the campfire, with drumming & singing demonstrations. Penobscot Nation Cultural and Historic Preservation Director James E. Francis, Sr. will be on hand to answer questions, share Penobscot ways of life and philosophy. Monday after breakfast, paddlers move downstream from Sugar Island to Indian Island, load out, have lunch together & gather into a closing circle before saying goodbyes.