Go Stake Your Claim


Jan 20, 2000
Outside Magazine

Homeward found: Maine's Mount Katahdin

SHOPPING FOR LAKESHORE OR RIVERBANK property is a bit like shopping for a spouse: Infatuation is swell, but before you commit you should picture the worst and make sure you can hack it. Don't let the seductive vision of a moored rowboat bobbing at the dock blind you to potential problems, such as, for starters, rising water. Build on a hundred-year floodplain and you risk floating downstream on your coffee table some rainy day. States and counties often publish maps of floodplains, as does the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA's are called Flood Insurance Rate Maps, or FIRMs). On the other hand, too little water can spoil the party. Check with locals to make sure the river you hope to paddle all summer doesn't shrink to an ankle-deep trickle. Find out what's going on upstream as well. Herbicide or pesticide residues from farms can taint waterways. And according to the EPA, logged areas can dump as much as 7,000 times the original amount of silt downstream. Finally, try to find out how your potential neighbors use the water. The howl of powerboats and personal watercraft, if they're allowed, could wreck your Thoreauvian idyll.

ALONG A 30-MILE SWATH of Lake Superior's southern shore, 15 miles west of Marquette, Michigan, lies the Great Lakes' best impersonation of Montana: dense stands of hardwood and conifer, inland lakes by the hundreds, the muscular Huron Mountains, and trout streams that reeled in Hemingway. Locals include black bears, deer, and reintroduced moose and timber wolves. Other locals—paddlers, mountain bikers, climbers, and nordic skiers—hardly know where to start in this scenic playground.
RECENT LISTING: Twenty-nine wooded acres on 141-acre Thomas Lake in the Hurons west of Marquette, minutes from Craig Lake State Park and the Moose Cafe in Michigamme, $305,000. Huey Real Estate, 800-733-4839, www.upwaterfront.com.
PICTURE YOURSELF: Skiing through six inches of new snow on the same trail where you mountain-biked six weeks earlier.
FORGET IT IF: Winter is your least favorite season.
PERIODIC WAVES OF URBAN REFUGEES—back-to-the-landers in VW buses in the sixties, earthquake-fleeing Californians a decade ago, retirees from Seattle (226 miles west) last week—haven't much ruffled the tranquillity of Washington's northeast corner. The "lake" is actually 130-some miles of dam-swollen Columbia River, flanked by the million-plus-acre Colville National Forest. Nearby, hundreds of miles of trails weave through the Selkirk and Kettle Ranges, home to pristine woods and quaint gold-rush towns.
RECENT LISTING: Piney two- to four-acre tracts with 200 feet of shore, $42,500 to $55,000. United Country/Four Seasons Realty, 509-685-9655, www.unitedcountry.com/colvillewa.
PICTURE YOURSELF: Tracking black bears—at a polite distance—through a cathedral of old-growth fir.
FORGET IT IF: January's first arctic blast leaves you convinced that a Carnival Cruise would be "really, really fun."

NORTH-CENTRAL MAINE HAS no shortage of allure: granite peaks, loon-haunted lakes, Penobscot and Kennebec whitewater, the Appalachian Trail's northern homestretch, platoons of iconic moose. But this area, roughly 20 miles northwest of Bangor, is not exactly a well-kept secret. Timber companies, the state, and assorted land trusts own most of it, and new-money gazillionaires have snarfed up large tracts of what's left (derisively dubbed "kingdom lots" by locals). But it's still possible to find choice land. Since the state boasts 32,000 miles of running water, streamfront parcels are easier to locate. And if the word "pristine" isn't an absolute prerequisite, partially logged acreage can be had on the cheap.
RECENT LISTING: More than 1,100 acres of just-thinned forest with three-fourths of a mile of Birch Stream's bank, close to the University of Maine in Orono, $225,000. John Cochrane, 207-942-4941, www.land-usa.com.
PICTURE YOURSELF: Flipping through Essays of E. B. White while icing both knees and a six-pack after bagging the summit of 5,268-foot Mount Katahdin.
FORGET IT IF: You consider blackflies public enemy No. 1.