Reading Ron Chase’s collection of essays recounting some of his most memorable outdoor adventures in Maine is both inspiring and humbling. A former Maine Registered Guide, Army veteran, and IRS employee, the 75-year-old writer and outdoorsman is still hiking, biking, paddling, skiing, and generally appreciating the natural beauty and challenges offered by Maine’s exquisite and diverse outdoor venues.
A combination of true adventure stories and practical guidebook, “Maine Al Fresco” describes 50 of Chase’s outdoor excursions, many experienced with fellow members of the Penobscot Paddle and Chowder Society, and most accomplished after Chase reached the half-century mark. These include winter hiking in Baxter State Park, sea kayaking along the Bold Coast, whitewater paddling on the Class V rapids of the West Branch of the Penobscot, and multi-day canoe trips along the Allagash and Penobscot Rivers. Each chapter is accompanied by practical information about the activity and location just described, including accessibility, potential hazards, difficulty rating, parking spots, and generally useful advice (although I’d like to request that the next edition include maps).
While the majority of adventures detailed in the book require training in white-water paddling, ocean kayaking, long-distance canoeing, and winter hiking, not to mention athletic ability and a certain degree of physical fitness, “Maine Al Fresco” is not all extreme. Chapters on bike paths, day-trip paddles, groomed Nordic ski trails, and day hikes offer something for readers of all skill levels. At the very least, Chase’s riskier endeavors should serve to entertain and inspire certain “younger” folk who hope to keep the outdoors in our lives for as long as possible.