We just got back from what is becoming an annual late summer or fall trip to Moosehead Lake for ATV riding and relaxing.

We stayed in the same house we were in last year, which features a hot tub on a deck that overlooks the lake. Yeah, I know — it's tough, but someone's got to do it. One thing that was different this year because of the plague (aka COVID-19) was that we prepared almost all our meals at the house, going out for a takeout dinner just once.

As we had last year, we enjoyed putting out the food provided by the owner of our rental for the deer and watching does and their yearling fawns come to eat. A number of times, the deer turned up at what they judged to be meal time and hung out in the yard until I came across with the food. As I said, the owners of the house feed them, and have obviously been doing so for quite a while.

We saw no one else on the trails. Well, no other riders, that is. More about that in a bit. The day we arrived was cloudy and cool, and it was nearly 4 p.m. by the time we were settled in the house with all of our gear, so we didn't go out for a ride. The next day, we visited a local trail that we could ride to from the house, so we didn't have to trailer the ATV to the trailhead. It's a woodland trail with quite a few steep ups and downs and a section that goes along on the level high enough to have a nice view of the lake once the leaves are down. This time, we had to peer between trees and bushes to see the lake, but we enjoyed the scenery anyway.

And speaking of scenery, the trail crosses a bridge over a waterfall, where we ate lunch on this ride. The water was noticeably lower this year than previous times we've been here, because of the very dry summer. Still, water splashing over rocks is always soothing to the eye and ear.

The next day we decided to be more ambitious, taking a longer ride and one we hadn't done before: the trail from Rockwood to Jackman. We looked up a map online and the next morning set out in the car to drive the 30 miles or so to Rockwood. On arrival, we came upon the parking lot for the boat ramp, where it is possible to put into Moosehead Lake or take a ferry to the island that is home to Mount Kineo.

Next to the parking lot was a post office, so I got out of the car to go inside and ask directions. As I was headed to the door, I saw a man getting into a car with the logo of a pontoon plane operator on it. Thinking he would know about adventurous outdoor activities, I asked him how to find the ATV trail to Jackman. What I got was really two answers: one was to head back in the direction we'd come from to ask at a gas station convenience store, and the other was to go seven or eight miles in the other direction to find a parking lot for the trail near a railroad crossing.

After looking around a bit more, we opted for the convenience store, where the second answer about riding toward Jackman and looking for the bridge was confirmed. So we went back to the boat launch parking lot, took the ATV off the trailer and headed off. After a couple of false turns, we came to a sign.

"End ATV access," it said. That is, we had come to the end of the stretch of road where it was legal to ride an ATV. And we were nowhere near a railroad crossing or anything that looked like a trailhead. Nice scenery, though.

We turned around and rode back to the parking lot, put our machine back on the trailer, tied it down and went back in the direction of Jackman to see if we could find the elusive trail.

And what do you know? We did finally come to a railroad crossing, where various trucks and other vehicles were parked beside the tracks and men were standing around as if some important business were underway. And, better still, there, just the other side of the tracks, was the symbol for an ATV trail and an actual trail!

No parking lot, though. Really, unless we had parked beside the railroad tracks — and there wasn't much room left there, with all the work vehicles — there was nowhere to park. We kept driving.

In a little while we went down a dirt side road and eventually came to a dead end in sight of a small cabin. And there was an ATV trail nearby! We decided we could leave the car and trailer at the dead end, took the ATV off the trailer again and headed down the trail. This day, we ate a late lunch next to a lovely stream.

"We should count this day a success because we found a trail!" Maureen quipped, and I couldn't disagree.

As we headed further down the trail, I began to wonder if we would make it to Jackman and back to our car before it was dark. It was a pretty trail, partly in the woods, partly in more open country. It did include plenty of rocks to drive over, and even a muddy area, which I was surprised to see, given the dryness.

After a while, we saw a pickup truck on the trail in front of us. We figured there must have been some other way in besides the route we had used, because some of that terrain would have been hard for anything but an ATV to navigate.

We kept on riding, hoping the truck would turn off somewhere so we wouldn't have to breathe its dust and exhaust. Instead, we came upon a whole cluster, a veritable convention, of pickup trucks.

At that, we turned around, not being sure what was going on or what we might run into further along the trail.

Going back, we encountered several more pickups; the driver of one was kind enough to explain that he and the other guys were fixing the train tracks. Maybe they were. I didn't see any train tracks where we'd been riding, though.

We got back to the car, got the ATV trailered and headed home to the hot tub. In all, we'd covered about five miles of the trail to Jackman.

Maybe next year we'll take the train there.

Sarah Reynolds is editor of The Republican Journal.