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Maine State Route 182 and the Blackwoods Scenic Byway

 



At a total of 23.5 miles in length, Maine State Route 182 (ME 182) is a scenic alternative and bypass from US Route 1 in parts of Downeast Maine. Also known as the Blackwoods Scenic Byway for 12.5 miles of the state highway's length, the route stretches from US 1 in the Wild Blueberry Capital of the World of Cherryfield, Maine, past hills and ponds on its way through Franklin and back to US 1 in Hancock, Maine. But as pleasant as this drive is, there is also a spooky side to ME 182 as well. ME 182 has traditionally served as a shortcut frequently used by locals and freight traffic traveling between Ellsworth and Machias. While taking ME 182 is a shorter distance than US 1, it is also designed as a slower road due to its limited width and sharp turns as it hugs the landscape. The Blackwoods Scenic Byway portion of ME 182 starts at the old Calais Branch Railroad line in Cherryfield and ends where the route crosses the old railroad again in Franklin.


The name Blackwoods is an apt description of this tree-lined passage that meanders its way through the woods of Downeast Maine. Until recently, trees formed a canopy over the road. While the canopy has been pruned in recent years, much of this road remains mostly unspoiled. The relatively tall and mature forest lands of pine, spruce, and birch permit views into the woods. The more likely origin of this road's name is the local historical figure Colonel John Black, who had built a family fortune in this region following the War of 1812. He was one of the first people to realize the economic potential of Maine's forest lands. He managed land for wealthy Philadelphia investor William Bingham, who owned vast amounts of largely uninhabited land in Downeast Maine and also after whom the city of Binghamton, New York was named. Colonel Black's success is still visible in the popular Ellsworth historical museum known as Woodlawn. Likely, the Blackwoods Road was once known as "Black’s Woods Road", recognizing the gentleman who had managed this vast and remote area of Maine.


Among the sights you will pass along the way on ME 182 are lakes that are perfect for fishing and boating, such as Tunk Lake, which has some of the clearest water of any lake in Maine. Native Americans found plentiful fishing, hunting, and trapping along its shores. At the close of the 19th Century, cabins were constructed along the shores of Tunk Lake, principally for summer recreation and winter hunting camps. The most famous of these cabins was called the Wickyup Club and was constructed by Admiral Richard Byrd, the famous polar explorer. Byrd would visit his cabin by float-plane up until he died in 1957. A little further down the road, you'll pass by Fox Pond, which has a scenic pull-off alongside the road. West of Franklin, ME 182 passes by Taunton Bay, which is a body of water that extends north from Mount Desert Island. You can see Cadillac Mountain in the distance on a clear day. Near this scenic spot is the Robertson Quarry Galamander, or granite lifter, which was used to lift and transport stone from quarries. Plus, there are a few other mountains you will spot on your way. Tunk Mountain is probably the most prominent mountain that one can easily see from ME 182. But it is the nearby Catherine Mountain, also known as Catherine's Hill, that can send shivers down your spine as you pass alongside the hill during your travels down the byway.


While driving along ME 182, the last thing you may expect is for a ghost to try to hitch a ride as you're making your way between Cherryfield and Franklin. There are various ghost stories for roads all across the country, but this tale is unique to traveling along the Blackwoods Scenic Byway of ME 182. Just west of Tunk Lake, there is Catherine Mountain which refers to a woman named Catherine, and here's where the spooky legend comes into play. The legend of Catherine has been around since 1860. The story goes that she was in either a carriage or a car accident, which seems to change depending on when the story is told. In some stories, Catherine died as a newlywed who was traveling with her husband on their way to Bar Harbor to spend their honeymoon. Others say that she died on prom night or on the way home from a dance hall. Another story links the ghost of Catherine to a Model T Ford at the bottom of nearby Fox Pond. This story is about her being in a car with a companion and they were going too fast and ended up in the lake.


Some versions of the story tell the tale that Catherine was killed by decapitation, and that her headless ghost haunts the hill. In other versions of the story, Catherine is a woman in a white or blue dress with her head intact, standing by the side of the road to flag you down and ask for a ride through the woods, looking to go to nearby Ellsworth or Machias. If you refuse to give her a ride, you won't reach your destination alive. She is characterized by long black hair and a face that is said to be frightening, angelic, and beautiful. Those who are wise enough to pick Catherine up avoid a terrible fate, but are forced to endure her cold company until she disappears from the vehicle.


Now, I don't recall seeing any ghosts or other paranormal activity as I made my way down ME 182. However, I was able to spend some time enjoying my travels and even stopping to see the natural beauty along the route. My usual travels around Downeast Maine generally take me along US 1, so I thought taking ME 182 would be a nice shortcut and change of pace, which it was.



Veering off of US 1 in Cherryfield, Maine to start my journey down ME 182. If you are in a truck, you may want to stick with traipsing down US 1 if the weather is bad. Fortunately, it was a bright and sunny day.

ME 182 serves as a shortcut to Ellsworth, the gateway to Acadia National Park along with other various Maine Points like Bangor or Belfast.

ME 182 shield hiding behind a sign of some sort, also in hiding behind a tarp. When I took this picture, Maine was exiting frost heave season, but it wasn't quite construction season yet.

This is what a good portion of ME 182 is like, just a quiet road rolling through the countryside. The trees tend to bloom fairly late, as it was the second week of May and the trees were still just budding.

Making my ascent (or is that descent) towards Tunk Lake.

Catherine Mountain is in the distance here.

An old sign in LeHay font for Tunk Stream, which connects the short distance between Tunk Lake to the south with Spring River Lake to the north. 

Tunk Lake, which has a small pulloff from ME 182 for boaters. In the distance, you will see Black Mountain. Beyond Black Mountain, there is Donnell Pond and Schoodic Mountain, which I visited during another trip to Maine.

Back on ME 182 going westbound, there's Tunk Mountain in the distance.

Then there's Fox Pond to the left.

Plus as always, plenty of boulders and trees. The land around ME 182 was shaped by glaciers from the Ice Age. The glacial retreat also left a group of ponds and hills that some people call "Little Switzerland", which the Blackwoods Scenic Byway cuts right through the heart of it all.

Entering Franklin, Maine. Founded in 1764 and incorporated in 1825, Franklin has played a role in the the lumber industry, granite quarrying and blueberries.

Approaching the junction with Maine Route 200 (ME 200), which goes in a general northwest/southeast direction from US 1 in Sullivan to ME 179 to the north of Ellsworth.

Franklin United Methodist Church

ME 200 departs for the northwest while ME 182 continues its trek back to US 1.

Taunton Bay to our left.

And if you look in the distance, there's Cadillac Mountain, the highest point along the Atlantic Coast in the Continental United States.

Back to US 1, in Hancock, Maine. Ellsworth is just a few miles away to the right.



How to Get There:



Sources and Links:
Explore Maine Scenic Byways - Blackwoods
WGME 13 - A frightful drive on Route 182
The University of Maine - Catherine Hill Winery in Cherryfield
Alps' Roads  - ME 182
This Author's Mind - The Black Woods Road
American Ghost Walks - The Legend of Catherine Hill
Blackwoods Scenic Byway - Route 182 Scenic Byway Corridor Management Plan
Floodgap Roadgap - Maine State Route 182
Blackwoods Scenic Byway - Maine Route 182 (PDF)

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