Donnell Pond

It’s nice to  have a big, mostly empty recreation area equal in distance to SeaCat’s Rest when compared to wildly popular Acadia National Park. I’m talking about Donnell Pond Public Reserve Land. This is an area of over 14,000 acres of isolated ponds, crystal clear lakes and mountains with panoramic views and the trails to get there. This compares with the 49,600 acres of Acadia, but it’s a guarantee that during the summer at least, the density of visitors there will be a tiny fraction of its big national brother. All this and a mere 22-1/2 miles north and east of here, about the same distance as Acadia NP in the other direction.

The big nature reserve came together with the help of The Nature Conservancy, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, the Land for Maine’s Future Program (which helped to fund more than half the acreage acquired), the Frenchman Bay Conservancy, and private landowners deeply committed to conservation. In the early part of the last century Tunk Lake was a source for ice before refrigeration, and a large estate there belonged to famed Antarctic explore Admiral Richard E. Byrd. It was destroyed by fire in 1989. Now it all belongs to the people of Maine.

One thing which stands out when visitors take the obligatory trip to the top of Acadia’s Cadillac Mountain is a high mountain in the distance called Schoodic Mountain, visible over Bar Island, just to the left of Bar Harbor down below. Just to the right of it is a lesser peak called Black Mountain. Both these peaks are in the Donnell Pond Reserve and both have trails to the top, and as you might guess, both offer a view of Acadia. There are several campsites on Donnell Pond with fire spots, privies and picnic tables. These are available on a first-come-first-serve basis, and you can stay up to 14 days. Donnell Pond is also open to fishing and motor boats. Access to the main camping beach is by a 1/2 mile long foot trail, so if you have heavy items, you may want to use the boat launch site, out of the park’s boundaries.

Looking back at Acadia from Black Mt. A ten mile view.

If we zoom in we can see a cruise ship….

I took the The Black Mountain Cliffs Loop (2.9 miles – allow 2 hours) from the Donnell Pond parking area on September 6 and took a few pictures. The trail is easy to follow but not easy. There are lots of twists and turns, wet stream beds, and an abrupt climb at the end, almost like a giant staircase. I was glad I brought water for the 900 foot climb, and comforted that I had my cell phone, since I encountered no one else. The trip back down was to the Donnell Pond’s (Schoodic) beach. Ironically, there was a busload of schoolkids making a constant racket there, which was a sound beacon guiding me back. I also had my car’s GPS with me which answered some direction questions when it seemed the trail markings were ambiguous. A compass would have worked just as well.

How to get there: Take US Rt. 1 east out of Ellsworth–follow the signs to Campobello Island. Drive about 10 miles to the bridge before Sullivan, then drive another 4-1/2 miles and take a left onto ME 183N. Drive for 4.3 miles and take a left on Schoodic Beach Road, bear left for another 2 miles and you will come to the parking lot.

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Moose in Lamoine!

I borrowed this from It resembles what I saw from my boat

On September 26 I had just finished pulling my lobster traps for the last time for 2013. They were stacked and tied down in Eleccentricity, my solar electric lobster boat. I was cruising back to my mooring when I saw a huge beast lumbering across the field next door to SeaCat’s Rest. I instantly recognized the shape, but I still couldn’t believe it. A moose. A BIG moose. I altered my course to get closer to land but it soon disappeared behind the trees. It was 8:30 AM.

Moose are not at all uncommon in Maine, but they tend to stay away from the coast, preferring the more wild interior and mountains. I have only seen coastal moose in the Rockport area, over an hour’s drive away. This was a first for Lamoine in the 18 years I’ve lived here. A moose is a big deal. Unlike shy deer, it goes where it wants and doesn’t care much what you think.

I dropped off the two lobsters I caught in my floating crate and rowed ashore. By now it was after 9 AM but I wanted to see if I could find the beast; after all, something that big is hard to hide. I cut through the woods and reached the field. No moose. I couldn’t even see any footprints. I was starting to think maybe it was a horse, or maybe I had imagined it all. But on Saturday, which is dump day around here, I asked our transfer station attendant Bill if he had heard anything about a moose in Lamoine. Bill knows everybody in town and takes gossip seriously. If anyone would know about a moose, he would.

Here’s another image I borrowed, from

Yes, he reported, there is a moose in town and furthermore, it was last sighted “out your way near the piebald deer area”. Now you are wondering what the heck a piebald deer is. It’s a rare color scheme on a deer, resulting in a mostly white coloration. I saw this creature too, in another bout of sanity-doubting. You never know what will turn up in Lamoine.

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Maine’s Chanterelles, Our Best Forest Edible

Page 250 of Mushrooms of the Northeast by George Barron

Morel mushrooms used to be my fungal focus in springtime back in Michigan, but the Maine woods just don’t produce them, so for many years I have tried to find a local substitute. Chanterelles now fill that need. My requirements for a morel replacement are:

  1. Easy to spot in the woods. Chanterelles are yellow-golden and stand out “like stars in the black heavens” on the forest floor.
  2. Easy to tell apart from any toxic look-alike. The closest one is the Jack-O-Lantern, Omphalotus illudens, which grow in

    Jack O’ Lantern

    clusters on buried dying wood. These mushrooms are much larger and the gills are much sharper, Chanterelles have blunt, forked ridges rather than gills. Their similarity is decurrent gills/ridges–they run down the stem.  Also, the Jack-O-Lantern is not a killer– it will just make you wish you were dead.

  3. Good eatin’. Chanterelles are known the world over for their awesome flavor. Why go to the trouble of bushwacking through the Maine woods if the reward is only mediocre? They have a fruity aroma and are a delicate addition to eggs or white wine sauces.
  4. Long season. In this sense they beat morels. Chanterelles fruit from early July (as I write this on July 6, there is a cluster next to my stairway to the shore) to late fall.
  5. They stay put. The chanterelle is in a stable symbiotic relationship with trees wherever it grows, it is not a decayer. That means the fruiting bodies (mushrooms) will pop up at least once a year in the same spot. You will not diminish the huge underground part of the chanterelle (mycelium) by picking the mushrooms.
  6. Slow growing. Here’s another way they beat morels. You can leave tiny chanterelles alone and come back in a week and they will be much bigger. Don’t try that with most other ‘shrooms. Bugs don’t like them, but watch out for slugs. We all know here in Maine slugs are at the top, the bottom and everywhere else on the food chain.

The best way to become comfortable with picking wild mushrooms is to take it slow and stick to easily identified species. Get a few good identification books specific to your area (NOT just the internet, do NOT rely on search engine pictures) like George Barron’s Mushrooms of Northeast North America, The National Audubon Society’s Field Guide to Mushrooms or Maine’s own Dave Spahr’s Edible and Medicinal Mushrooms of New England and Eastern Canada. Find an expert in the locality who gathers edible mushrooms if possible or join a mushroom club like our Maine Mycological Association. If you’re pretty sure you have an edible mushroom (other people say 100% sure, but are we ever really?) then begin by eating a very small, cooked portion (never eat raw mushrooms from the wild) and waiting to see if you get an adverse reaction, at least 24 hours. Now comes the fun part: You now have found an edible mushroom and you have taken photos and recorded the date and place. Now all you have to do is check the same spot next year or in the case of chanterelles, every week or so until late fall. With a few more species you’re well on your way to becoming a Maine fungal gourmet.

Sadly, the only way most of us have access to chanterelles is by buying dried ones in little bags at outrageous prices from the grocery store. Here’s the sad part: unlike the king bolete (porcini, steinpilz), chanterelles don’t dry well. Their delicate flavor is lost unlike stronger flavored mushrooms. You might as well not bother. However, some grind the dried ones into powder and use it to flavor sauces, but do that with your own harvest, not with store-bought.

I hope someday to have guests from Italy or Poland whose favorite activity is to hit the woods and look for mushrooms. I remember when the first Russian fishermen came ashore in the late 1980s everyone assumed they’d go to the bars or retail outlets, instead they took to the woods, looking for mushrooms. I could learn from those folks.

Fiddleheads, clams, chanterelles, lobsters, wild blueberries…don’t miss a taste of Maine on your vacation. If only there were a good way to prepare slugs!

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Lobsters Can Live in your Mooring

I think I took this at Northeast Harbor

Traditionally in Maine boats are moored in their harbors not with big anchors, but heavy chunks of granite. These chunks weigh 4000 lbs and tend to partially sink into the mud, which increases the holding power. From time to time the moorings are raise up to inspect the steel U or eye bolts and chains. Now a new Maine company has come up with a better idea, a mooring with holes where critters can live.

It’s a simple idea really, as long as so many people are putting big, heavy rocks onto the sea bottom, why not create a reef-like habitat? Habitat Mooring of Hamden, Maine  has done just that, and at a price cheaper than granite.


I have always heard that concrete makes a poor choice for moorings because underwater it’s “lighter” than granite. All this means is that concrete is less dense and must weigh more on land in order to have the same weight under water. So to equal 4,000 lbs of granite on dry land (which is 2,500 pounds on the harbor bottom) the concrete mooring must weigh 4,450 lbs. The Habitat Mooring is cast of fiber-reinforced concrete and has 12 habitat holes to allow lobsters to find shelter at many times during their life cycles. But not only lobsters can live in the holes, “30 species of vertebrates and invertebrates, including lobster, Atlantic cod, flounder, pollack, sculpin, crabs and mollusks, as well as kelp and other important marine plants” were found on a mooring at Seal Harbor, Maine as compiled by Dr. Ian Bricknell, University of Maine, from dive videos taken in 2010 and 2011 by Mt. Desert Harbormasters Shawn Murphy and John Lemoine.*

As I get ready to launch Eleccentricity for another summer of lobstering, I find myself wishing I had a lobster habitat at the end of my mooring chain. The Habitat Mooring is available in four different sizes from Hamilton Marine.

* from APlaceToCallHome.pdf from the company website above.

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Maine’s Mushroom Superstar, Sam Ristich

Professor Herb Wagner

My time at University of Michigan’s biological station near Pellston, MI exposed me up close to the culture of academia. Billed as the opportunity for undergraduates to get to know professors one to one in a rustic setting, I found them to be often arrogant, disdainful of undergraduates and eager to turn graduate students into uncredited slaves. An important exception to this was Warren “Herb” Wagner, a name which brings thousands of his former UMich students around the world to a moment of gentle remembrance. Dr. Wagner taught the popular Woody Plants course and did what all great teachers did, get people excited. He died at 80, January 8, 2000 after only a week of absence from his research laboratory.

Sam Ristich from

But this is not about Herb Wagner, it’s about his Maine mycologist equivalent, Sam Ristich. Since becoming involved with mushrooming in Maine and joining the Maine Mycological Association, I have heard quite a bit about Sam and how he single handedly formed the club and exported his considerable enthusiasm about fungi for many years. Always available for one-on-one and delightfully oblivious to fashion or other social conventions, he stayed active into his 90s, devoting his last 2-1/2 decades to educating Mainers about nature.

Born in Pittsburgh in 1915 to Serbian immigrants, Sam served as a navigator for the US Army Air Force’s Air Transport Command in WWII, starting his working life risking it to deliver planes to dangerous places like Greenland, Burma and the Sahara desert. A marker-filled map of the world chronicles his many achievements at After the war he earned his PhD in entomology at Cornell (1950). During 15 years of teaching at the New York Botanical Gardens he founded the Connecticut-Westchester Mycological Association (COMA) and the New Jersey Mycological Association. He and wife Ruth worked for civil rights and were active from 1955 to 1975 with the NAACP and the Unitarian Social Action Committee.

In the early 1980s Ruth inherited her family’s farm in North Yarmouth, Maine and so they came to our neck of the woods. Many of the current members of MMA remember Sam, his bubbly enthusiasm and trademark expressions; his whoops of excitement and “wonderment” of the natural world.

Sam died during dinner on February 11, 2008 at the age of 92. I was not lucky enough to have known Sam Ristich, but I can tell he was an important figure in Maine history. You can’t get very far into fungi without encountering his name or photographs. There are annual forays named after him and a memorial nature trail in North Yarmouth. He even discovered a new mushroom in 1983, Amanita ristichii. His service for the Northern New England Poison Control Center in identifying mushrooms probably saved many lives. But to me his greatest mark was as a teacher. Like Herb Wagner and Richard Feynman, his legacy will continue forever in the lives of those he inspired. In his own words from

I loved it! [Teaching] I had the good fortune of being at the right place at the right time and having the motivation to really tap the potential. Somebody said that the greatest of talents is to discover it and develop it in others. And there’re some people who are motivators and know where to find it and how to mine it.

His daughter is working on a film about her father’s life. See a clip below:

F__Microscope Drama from Ruthie Ristich on Vimeo.

Sam Ristich resources on the web used in this article:

  • “Sam’s Corner”,
  • (obituary)

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North Acadia’s Lake Wood

This is what you will see from the Crooked Road

While looking at a map of Acadia National Park I noticed a small elongated lake I had never heard of, the innocuously named Lake Wood. I don’t think any park literature mentions or directs visitors to this lake, making it a secret spot for avoiding the crowds. Hopefully this post will not reverse its status. The aforementioned map does not show the access road and parking lot serving this gem. In fact there is a well marked road named (amazingly) Lake Wood Pond Road which is on the south side of the Crooked road just about a mile west from Rt 3 in Hulls Cove.

A mention of Lake Wood to locals brings on many stories and memories. It is like it is “their” part of Acadia National Park; a fishing, sunbathing and swimming spot all their own. The skinny end which presents itself as the access trail ends is a passable beach, suitable for swimming or watching little fish and tadpoles among the water lilies. The southern  exposure makes for warm picnics. According to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries, the lake is about 16 acres, has a maximum depth of 11 feet and an average depth of 7 feet. That’s 36.5 million gallons. The fish species are brook trout, white sucker, rainbow smelt, banded killifish, minnows, pumpkinseed sunfish and American eel.

View from the beach

Until recently, the eastern shore of the lake belonged to the Town of Bar Harbor. Here, just around the left side of the swimming beach, there are granite cliffs which offer a drop into the water popular with “skinny dippers”. Now the entire lake is surrounded by National Park property and as such, nude bathing and other former activities are discouraged, but not eliminated. The lake has a solid ranger presence and an outhouse, but there are no lifeguards or camping. The trail to the granite outcropping branches off left of the main road just before the parking lot.  This same trail leads to three acre Fawn Pond, an even more remote body of water. Both bodies of water drain the mountains to the south and have an elevation of about 130 feet (Lake Wood) to 200 feet (Fawn Pond). Downhill, their water drains to Hamilton Pond and the Northeast Creek, which is a big wild cranberry area.

Water lilies are getting ready to bloom as of late August.

So folks who come to Acadia National Park and find to their distress that there are just too many people, are not giving the park a chance. Try Lake Wood for a little more isolation. I covered other remote places here. There will be more to come!

Fawn Pond

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Spring Makes a Weird Entrance in Maine

These crocuses are still lookin' good

Like the rest of the country, Maine had a few freak days of summer-like heat. It was in the 80s for a few days in March. While in April this would normally induce a giddy euphoria, most Mainers were heard spouting End-Of-Days-like comments. We’re already used to being at the end of the earth, so the end of days is nothing unusual.

No sap from this red maple

Since then things have returned to normal. The heat shock brought a quick end to the maple sugar season, reason enough for some to reserve a condo in Oblivion, but unlike Wisconsin, our grapes at SeaCat’s Rest have not produced exploding buds (the horror!).  But still, there’s change afoot. On my daily trips to the mailbox, where I sometimes find checks from future guests, I have recently been meeting up with Br’er Fox, who was obviously upset by my mail quest. He (or she) slid ever-so-elegantly into the puckerbush before I so much as registered his (or her) presence. Not so subtle were the mating-crazed frogs in our culvert’s headwater. These creatures are vocally demonstrative, with variations not unlike the Vienna Boy’s Choir at puberty.

Elsewhere the odd flower or foliage is popping up. The crocuses have mostly come and gone. Tree buds are swelling despite the occasional dip into the 30s.  Two days ago it snowed. The annual road heavy load restrictions have been removed, a sure sign that the frost is losing to the forces of warmth. The Portland Press Herald reports that ticks are out early, a fact our cats can verify.

Green lawns are just starting. Not enough to satisfy the craving for green. For that we must visit the woods, where mosses are hogging all the chlorophyll. Just down the trail is a little pond where clumps of frog’s eggs are floating.

Not exactly a riot of color, sunlight and warmth, but these things take time in Maine. Even when it gets to 80 degrees in March, nature takes it’s time.

Frog's eggs

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The Guns are Silent in the Maine Woods

The daily (except Sunday) banging of firearms coming from the woods, is over for another year.  True, Acadia National Park is always closed to hunting. In fact, some park roads are closed in firearms season to discourage poaching. For the rest of us, we can now venture outside without wearing orange. This hunting season in Maine, during which deer, bear, and moose  can be shot, ended Saturday, November 26. Duck season is still on though. Sea ducks can be hunted with guns until January 31, 2012 and regular ducks until December 24.  Sea duck hunting goes on right off our shore, and it’s a little nerve-wracking. Admittedly, the boats are about a mile away, due north of Mount Desert Island, but the sound carries well over the water. The urge to duck (pardon the pun) is hard to resist. I have to remind myself that steel bird shot (lead is prohibited) will probably travel no further than 800 feet, about 1/7 of a mile. Bad for the duck but harmless to us.

So how does Maine do, safety wise, in hosting the primal hunting ritual? Actually not bad. This year was worse than the past few, with one fatality and two gunshot injuries but compared to 1970, when there were 52 incidents in the Pine Tree State we’re looking pretty good. Consider we’ve lost 4 hunters from fatal gunshots from 2000-2010 while Pennsylvania has lost 29 and Arkansas 36. That’s actual numbers, but in per-hunter statistics we don’t do bad either, averaging 42 incidents per 100,000 hunters in the ten year period. That’s 4.2 per year. Compare that to New Hampshire’s 5.6 per 100,000 per year and Vermont’s 5.5.

How did we achieve this goal? Two laws. One is the mandatory wearing of a very specific color of orange on the body and head. Still, according to a post on

Blaze orange will not protect you from being shot by a color-blind hunter, and there are a lot of us out there….The thing that others need to be aware of is that Blaze Orange is the same color as Grass Green to me – make all the arguments you want to on the basis of wavelengths and stuff, it’s perception that counts. And more specifically, it’s the perception of the color-blind guy with a .30-06 three hundred yards away that counts.

And the other law requires a mandatory hunter’s training course. The training course law had an immediate effect on fatalities when it went into effect in 1986. Another law, called the positive identification law, requires hunters to ID their targets before pulling the trigger. Sounds like a no-brainer, but I guess some people need to think about it.

The first full winter I spent in Maine there was a terrible fatality. A young mother of year-old twins stepped outside her house wearing white mittens. She was shot dead in her backyard. Some people actually criticized her for her choice of handwear, I was appalled. The hunter was initially charged with manslaughter but not indicted. He was a scout leader and well loved in the community. The surviving husband and twin girls moved away shortly after the grand jury decision. Fortunately, this was the worst incident of its kind as far as I know in recent memory, and I think of it every year around this time.

As the reader can probably infer, I’m not big on hunting. But hunting season does bring cash into Maine at a time of year when not many folks want to be here, and the vast majority of hunters are careful and respectful of private property, and human life.  Now deer season’s over and I can walk through the woods without fear, which I will do as soon as I’m finished typing this. I think I’ll still wear orange.

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Mushrooming in Lamoine, ME

The morel, from wikipedia

This fall like most we attended the Common Ground Fair in Unity. While there, we listened to a talk by Greg Marley, our local (Rockland, ME) mycologist (mushroom expert), mycophile (mushroom lover) and mycophagist (mushroom eater). His talk was meant to put an end to mycophobia.

Marley sees the world as divided into the mycophobic (like here and England) and the mycophillic (just about everywhere else). He tells us our society has an irrational fear of fungus, but then points out how mushroom poisonings in the mycophillic world number into the hundreds per year. The one thing to remember, he says, is to focus on edible and medicinal species which are not at all similar to poisonous ones. This means avoiding LBMs (little brown mushrooms) which are notoriously difficult to key out. Also, keeping a checklist of the traits of the most toxic

The death cap from wikipedia

‘shrooms is a good practice. The most toxic genus (the last stop before individual species) is by far, Amanita. One typical cap of Amanita phalloides, the death cap, can kill 5 people and will do so slowly over a week or so. Saving the life of the victim often involves a liver transplant. Amanitas have a white spore print, white gills which are free from the stem, a ring around the stem (an annulus) and a swollen base (a volva), as if it came out of an egg. The death cap is rare in Maine but other Amanitas, including equally toxic ones, are plentiful.

Now, are we ready for the edibles? Feeling uncertain? Good! Identifying edible fungus is best first done with an old hand. Someone who not only knows how to identify them, but where they are likely to grow. When I was a kid that guy was Smitty, a retired mail carrier and big band musician who lived

Shaggy Mane, from Sisyphus. A little past its prime.

across the street. Every May he and his wife Louise would take me into the woods and we would look for morels. This was northern Michigan, where morel hunting is a favorite pastime. The big benefit of morels, besides their flavor, is the fact that they look like sponges on a stalk and so can’t be mistaken for anything poisonous (actually, there’s one, but it’s easy to tell apart and it’s not as deadly as a death cap).

When I moved to Maine I had to leave morels behind. They do grow here occasionally, but you can’t gather enough for a meal, just the odd one. So after years of feeling sorry for myself I ended up listening to Greg Marley and realizing all I had to do was to substitute local edible mushrooms for the ones I miss. Greg presented the “fool-proof four” mushrooms for Maine. They are the morel, puffball, hen-of-the-woods, and shaggy mane. But he said these four are from

Hen of the woods, from AMG

another mycologist and the morels here are scarce. He also pointed out that the puffballs, while an easy target, are not the most choice. He advocated three more which may be more appropriate for Maine, the chanterelle, the sulphur shelf and the king bolete. I am looking forward to finding all these gems. I already came across a nice stand of shaggy manes, and I had a great meal.

There’s much more to getting started in wild mushrooming that looking at a few pictures and

Sulphur shelf, from wikipedia

warming up the frying pan. An intermediate step is to start an excel spreadsheet of all the specimens you find. Each row corresponds to the found fungus with columns for date, location (GPS is good!), habitat, link to photo, spore color, best guess (genus, species, common name) and notes. This will get you practice in identification, a feel for the features of different families and genera, and will give you a chance for a return visit next year. You need an up-to-date field guide. Mine is old and fails to reflect all the name changes that have occurred in the last 30

Chanterelles, from wikipedia


Mycology is very much an evolving field, with genetic data starting to turn the old classification system on its head. Two  on-line resources to use are and Europe’s Roger’s Mushrooms. Don’t do a google search for a picture of a certain species without realizing you will get pictures of misidentified mushrooms–stick with the above sources or a good field guide. Stay in touch with other mushroom hunters like Ari Rockland-Miller and his blog to see what’s popping up in the area.

Greg Marley’s book, Chanterelle Dreams, Amanita Nightmares: The Love, Lore, and Mystique of Mushrooms is available in the usual places and is a great tour through the fungal world (did you know flying squirrels eat truffles?). Greg wrote in my copy, “Hope this gets you out into the mushrooms!” It did!

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Latona Spring, Lamoine’s Free Pure Water Source

Latona was a goddess of Roman origin. Daughter of Caeus the Titan and Phoebe, or, according to Homer, of Saturn, and mother of Apollo and Diana. For our town, I assume one particular legend of Latona’s applies. She was banished to earth and earth people were forbidden from giving her comfort by the jealous goddess Juno. Latona and her two children asked the farmers around a lake if she and her children could drink from it. The farmers, fearing the wrath of Juno, denied her. After repeated entreaties she finally decided she had had enough, and turned them into frogs. Lamoine people, by naming our spring after the spurned goddess, are certain to provide her water, and therefore need not fear being changed into frogs.

Latona Spring is downhill from Blunt’s Pond, once used for a public water supply, and kept relatively pristine by laws against bathing, motorboats and swimming dogs. This water is filtered through the aquifer and emerges at Latona Spring, where it is captured in a brick enclosure. From here water emerges through a pipe where visitors or Roman goddesses can drink or capture as much as they wish.

Many locals use the water for drinking if their own well water is less than tasty. We have recently used it as we “break in” our new well. We know that the bottled water from the supermarket is no better than that from our Roman goddess. The spring has recently undergone renovations by the owners, Lamoine’s Whitcomb family. The roof has been temporarily moved and is in need of shingles. Plumbing has been replaced and the outlet pipe has been artfully enclosed in granite stonework. New gravel now improves parking.

Stone steps lead to easy access of cool, pure water

The entrance to Latona Spring is just opposite the sign for Latona Lane on State Route 184, Lamoine Beach Road, about 2 miles east of the school. If you visit, please remember this is private property shared with the public, and may not remain so if abused.

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