I want to share with all of you my mid-night encounter with a big black bear on Umbagog Lake...Polly Mahoney
Polly Mahoney and Kevin Slater, owners of Mahoosuc Guide Service, live the dream life. Each year they lead people from all over New England and the world on wilderness canoe trips and dog-sledding excursions. Kevin and Polly will pull back the curtain and give us a peek as to how things have changed in their 28 years providing guiding services to the public.
Before meeting at Hurricane Island Outward Bound School in 1989, both had already experienced outdoor adventures. Polly was born in Bangor and grew up in South China, Maine. She went to Alaska when she was 20, spending the next 9-½ years in the Yukon living a subsistence lifestyle and perfecting her bush skills including learning to dogsled. The dogs they have now are direct descendants of the ones she learned to mush with 38 years ago. Kevin grew up in southwest Pennsylvania and came to Maine at the age of 18. He initially worked for Chub Foster on Grand Lake Matagamon and with various Outward Bound Schools.
He is a mountaineer, paddler, guide to far off places like Denali in Alaska, and Ben Nevis in Scotland and he is one of the first people to paddle the Grand Canyon in a canoe. Kevin is a Master woodworker who makes dogsleds, wood canvas canoes and paddles.
After 28 years in business, Polly and Kevin have seen lots of changes. The weather is different – winters are shorter, storms are more extreme in both summer and winter. The clientele have changed too – some people are looking for “shorter experiences not wanting to be away from their phones” too long, while others want to connect with family away from their everyday lives and welcome being “unplugged.” Schools have added trips to enrich students’ education – a Harvard student said the highlight of his four years was a three-day dogsledding/winter camping trip with Mahoosuc Guide Service. However, not all clients are looking to shorten their stay. A couple from Scotland started taking trips with Polly and Kevin when they were in their late 60’s and continued to do so for 21 years! At the spry age of 85, Polly’s Mom still accompanies them on multiple day canoe trips, using her experience as a sailor to help read the weather and water.
Dogs are central to Kevin’s and Polly’s work and life. They have raised dozens and dozens of Yukon huskies, from puppies through training to in-house retirement. Currently they are caring for 34 sled dogs.
When not guiding trips, Polly’s pastimes include organizing events in the Mahoosuc Mountain Lodge – concerts, dances, first aid courses, retreats, and meetings. The timberframe building (which they mostly built themselves) has spectacular views of the Mahoosuc mountains and beckons visitors to come and sit awhile.
Polly and Kevin have been supporters of Mahoosuc Land Trust for about 20 years. “We know many of the people on the board and officers of the organization. We like what MLT is doing and love to see more country go into conservation so that future generations can enjoy it as we have.”
On Wednesday, October 24th, Polly and Kevin will be speaking about “A Day in the Life of a Maine Guide” at the McLaughlin Center at Gould Academy at 7pm.