Friday, July 11, 2008

Day 51


FORT KENT! Another big mileage day (33mi) and we find ourselves at the end of this canoe trip. Crazy.

Started at Twin Brook and made Allagash Village by 7am. Enjoyed some good eats at 2 Rivers Restaraunt (they offer great food and lodging) and chatted with the locals before making our way down river to the bridge where we walked up to Allagash Outfitters.

Here we met another Hafford - Wilmer Hafford, who gave us some snacks and sent us on our way down to the St. John River. Left the Allagash and made Pelletiers Campsite around noon. Here we took a break and, already a good 17 miles into our day, decided to push on to Fort Kent as the site would soon be filled with adolescent boys from local camps - not the most serene place to camp for the night...

Good water levels and a strong tail wind and we found ourselves cruising along the home stretch at 5.5 miles/hour. Fast for expedition boating! Usually the river is pretty shallow and you have to pick and choose your way through the channels, but due to all the recent rain, we found it quite passable and plenty deep.

Made Riverside Park at 245pm and ran into Brett and Luke who had also paddled in earlier that day (happy birthday Brett!) Took some photos at the kiosk - a strange feeling to be standing here on the other end of the trail!

Found our way to the Norther Door Inn - if you are looking to stay in Fort Kent, they are about the only game in town aside from camping in the park. They provide shuttles from the park and are very paddler-friendly folks. Showers/food/sleep. Our last town day in Fort Kent tomorrow and then we get picked up on Saturday to travel home.

Thank you to those who helped us along the way - to our friends and family for all the support, the wonderful folks at NFCT who work tirelessly to make and maintain this trail, and to you - good reader - for joining us on our adventure!

Weather: fair

Wildlife: fox, bald eagle, kingfisher

"We have not ceased from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." ~T.S. Eliot

Day 50


We hauled 36 miles today! This odyssey began at Long Lake Dam campsite where we continued north, downstream on the Allagash.

Negotiated some rips on our way to Round Pond - felt like we were paddling through the Shire. Didn't see any Hobbits though. We did however come across some amazing old Elm trees that escaped dutch elm disease because of their remoteness. Wow.

Round Pond was mirror-smooth and we made short work of it. After some more rips we were on to the Musquacook Deadwater. Had lunch at Cunliffe Depot where we checked out the rusting remains of the Lombard Log Haulers in the woods - neat side trip.

After lunch we paddled to the rangers station at Michaud Farm to sign out of the Allagash. The ranger was waiting to meet us at the beach - turns out he was a Hafford, just like Cranky Pants. Those guys are everywhere...

Cruised down to Allagash Falls - churning whitewater 40 feet down over ledge - didn't think too hard about running that!

As we started to portage the heavens opened up - our hardest rain on trip to date. Rumbles of thunder off in the distance, but nothing got too close. The portage trail looked like a river - erosion in motion. Guess the rivers will be up!

Paddled on as the rain let up and negotiated some class 2 whitewater where we made camp at West Twin Brook. Officially broke 700 miles today. Whoa. 6 more left to go to the village of Allagash - we are planning on an early morning tomorrow to make town in time for breakfast at the diner.

What a day.

Weather: fair, cloudy, intense rain and thunder, light rain in camp - saw the whole spectrum today!

Wildlife: 6 moose, 11 bald eagles, 1 turtle, 3 kingfisher, 1 loon, blackflies, mergansers, canada geese, dragon flies, a snake, and lots of boy scouts (side story: in the middle of the intense rain as we were trying to get packed up for the portage, one of the boy scout leaders came down and started giving a lesson using our canoe and pointing out our pole, packbaskets, and paddles - saying that this is how "old school" canoers do it - weird experience, and poorly timed!)

"I find that the harder I seem to work, the more luck I seem to have." ~Thomas Jefferson

Day 49


Slept in a bit since we couldn't start down the Allagash below the dam until about 8am when the dam let out less water to make the river runable. The ranger opened it up over night to double the normal level to purge some water from all of the recent rain!

Put in just below Churchill Dam and ran down through some crazy bony rapids for about 4 miles. Water rated as "class 2" should probably have just been listed as "rocks". There were two sections that we came across with no clear line through - not a problem for plastic boats where you can Dukes of Hazzard your way through the rocks, but a bit of trouble for us in our hand built wood canvas canoe!

We were glad that we had the ranger shuttle our gear down past the rapids so we could run the river with a lighter load. Ended up lining a few sections, but overall we paddled well through the rapids. India held up great and came out the other end intact! A bit of a risk, but we felt up to the task and Bean rocked out in the bow - a paddling machine!

After this section the river deepened and became more navigable. Saw a moose munching on some river grass and cooling off in the water right in the center of the river - Bean thought it looked like a good idea and went for a swim to cool off as well.

Paddled across Umsaskis Lake in a hard cross wind to the Ledges campsite where we had lunch in the shade. Put back in and paddled through the thoroughfare and set sail across Long Lake. A good following wind bore us all the way across to the other end before turning to the side as we reached Harvey Pond.

Stopped at the portage around the old dam and decided that we liked the campsite so we stayed there for the night. Had some dinner and went for a swim. Then we hung out with our neighbors, Clint and Crystal. As it happens they have done some volunteer work with the NFCT and race canoes together - quite the gandfather/granddaughter team!

Weather: hot! and sunny - looks like rain tonight

Wildlife: 6 moose, 6 loons, 2 bald eagles, osprey, kingfisher - an earwig that Bean flicked into the water was promptly eaten by a fish (she was very excited about this small drama in the circle of life...) and a curious swarm of large, black ants with wings at sunset at our campsite. Huh.

"People are the massive variable. I go with one person who is basically made of granite. You want someone who is watching out for you to a degree you never question." ~Todd Skinner

Day 48


Alpine start and on the water by 5am. Lake was much calmer to Lock Dam and then became down right glassy after we passed McCarren Campsite. As we rounded the corner into the cove where the Tramway Carry is we spotted a moose feeding on the grass in the water - drifted along and enjoyed the moment.

A sloppy carry along the Tramway. Muck up to calves and hordes of misquitos. But it was all worth it for the amazing train remnants that we came across - including 2 steam locomotives that hauled logs from Eagle Lake to Chamberlain Lake from 1927-1933. One moment you are portaging along and the next thing you know you are standing in front of two huge train - neat!

Put back in onto Eagle Lake - where we saw the mother of all leeches as we loaded our boat - freaky.

Paddled around Hog Island and Farm Island to the upper end of Eagle Lake. Set sail through Round Pond and across Churchill Lake to The Jaws campsite. 21 miles in 7 hours with 2.25 miles of carry in the middle - not bad. Hung out and ate lunch. Siesta. Watched two cow moose with 3 young feeding on grass in the water near the camp - wow!

Sailed across Heron Lake to Churchill Dam - portaged to the campsite and set up shop for the night. We begin our travels down the Allagash River tomorrow - a day of whitewater. Should be fun!

Weather: Clear, sun - roasting!

Wildlife: 2 bald eagles, a dog, 3 loons, osprey, canada geese with young, and a leech that looked like a sheet of black construction paper with fangs...

"You drink your sweat in this world." Kenyan Proverb

Day 47


Began the day at Umbazooksus Stream West Campsite. Our new friends from Hermon packed up and rolled out early to head back home - safe journey! Hung around until 10am when our shuttle from the Inn showed up right on time.

Packed up our gear and the boat and shuttled down to Chamberlain Lake at the bridge. Signed in at the Ranger Station and had some lunch before packing up the boat and getting ready to paddle again.

Here we officially paddled out into the Allagash Wilderness Waterway - one of the more remote sections of the trail. We were pretty excited as we have heard how beautiful the Allagash is!

As we paddled out onto Chamberlain Lake we chose the conservative route and stuck close to shore and made our crossings as short as possible as a strong wind had kicked up waves. Originally had plans to make it to Lock Dam tonight, but the headwind and the waves made it a bit of a challenge - so we decided to stop early and make camp on a rocky outcrop.

The plan is to go to bed early and get up at the crack of dawn in the hopes that the wind and waves will have died down a bit so that we can make our way up the lake to the carry into Eagle Lake without too much difficulty.

We hope to hit the Allagash River proper by Tuesday. Our food is a bit tight, but with a little careful planning we should be good to go (it probably feels like a short ammount of food because we always have way too much!)

Weather: joyous sunshine, difficult headwind

Wildlife: hawk, canada geese, loon - and a skeleton on the shore of Chamberlain Lake - moose?

"We make ourselves rich by making our wants few." ~Henry David Thoreau

Day 46


Awoke for the last time (this trip anyway) at Norcross Point to a good homemade breakfast courtesy of Jonathan - the man can cook! Broke camp and bid our hosts farewell - Camp Palleschi is the place to be in summer on Moosehead - we were blessed to spend such a great couple of days there!

Put back in at the bridge at Hannibals Crossing. Paddled 16 miles to Chesuncook Village on Chesuncook Lake. Crossed paths with Luke and Brett again and paddled the last bit into town with them. Got some tasty homebrewed root beer and homemade fudge at "the store" and then wandered over to the Chesuncook Inn to set up a shuttle around the Mud Pond Carry (heard that it was pretty nasty right now...)

The shuttle was a bit pricey, but split between 4 (Brett and Luke as well as us) it was a bit more manageable. If you are planning on arranging the shuttle, contact the Inn a couple of weeks in advance so that they can get everything set up - we lucked out in that they were willing and able to make it happen the next morning at 10am.

In the future, we would probably just paddle up to the West Side Campsite on Umbazooksus Stream and bum a ride - especially if it is near the weekend as there are always locals hanging out there camping - we discovered this after we paddled there to camp for the night. One dude, Uncle Kenny, lives there all summer in his camper. Everyone we met was super nice and we hung out with a few folks from the Hermon, ME area before we turned in. A good evening around the fire.

Weather: awesome

Wildlife: bald eagle, huge frogs, beaver, camp groups, and bison (there were about a dozen or so of them in a fenced in area at Chesuncook Village - didn't see that one coming!)

"Adventure is worthwhile in itself." ~Amelia Earheart

Day 45


For our 4th of July we did a bit of paddling with a little help from our friends. Paddled to the Northeast Carry with Chris in her kayak and then shuttled back to camp for lunch (and cookies!)

As we hung out in hammocks and lazed around camp, we saw two guys go paddling by in a packed Old Town Tripper - they looked at first like Paul and Jonathan (fellow NFCT paddlers) but they didn't seem to recognize us when we waved and continued on in the direction of the carry.

Portaged down to the West Branch of the Penobscot and paddled down to Hannibals Crossing with Chris, Jenn, and Shaun. It was most excellent to have company on the river - we rafted up for snack time and drifted by some moose (one of which ran up a bank, smacked into a tree, and then ran down river alongside us for a couple of minutes - thats a lot of meat in motion!)

As we were doing the shuttle to get back to camp, up paddles the two dudes in the Old Town Tripper - turns out that they are Brett and Luke - also fellow NFCT paddlers! Talked a bit at the bridge and then they continued on down the river with plans to camp at Thoreau Island. Awesome guys.

Back at camp for some dinner and to enjoy the local fireworks - quite a show!

And then, inevitably, we played cards. It was excellent. Happy 4th!

Weather: Fair, hanging in the hammock weather

Wildlife: 3 moose, a fox with a rabbit in its mouth, 15-20 rabbits, brook trout, muskrat, juvenile bald eagle, bald eagle, loons

"Keep company with those who make you better." ~English proverb

Day 44


Camp Day! Did a bit more mowing, a bit more reading - played a bit more cribbage and ate a lot of great food. Hot chocolate chip cookies just out of the oven...mmm...

Everyone jumped right in and we all got the dock in the water - no small task, and a bit damp at that! Had a phenomenal day just puttering around camp.

Sadly Chip-Chop passed away in the night, poor little bugger. Guess he is off in the clover fields of Bunny Valhalla. Rest in peace.

Weather: partly cloudy with a bit of rain

Wildlife: loon and camp dogs...crazy pups!

"The hours when the mind is absorbed by beauty are the only hours when we truly live." ~Richard Jefferies

Day 43


4am start and on the water by 5am to paddle across Moosehead Lake. We wanted to make sure we paddled in as calm conditions as possible - and the lake was without a riffle. Paddled down the last stretch of the Moose River and out into Moosehead proper just as the sun was rising behind Mt. Kineo - awe-inspiring.

Managed the large crossings to Kineo, Shaw Mountain, and across Big and Little Duck Coves with relative ease. Made it to Camp Palleschi (friends camp on Norcross Point) by 945am - 17 miles!

Of course, this was much quicker (we were expecting to encounter lots of wind and big waves) than we had anticipated and we ended up beating everyone to camp - so we ended up hanging around. Enjoyed a pleasant siesta, had some lunch, and did a little reading.

Folks showed up around 2pm and we helped get camp settled - moved a couch, did a little mowing, and helped unload vehicles. While we were mowing, we found a small rabbit all by itself in the tall grass - we promptly named it Chip-Chop (since thats what it almost was in the mower...) and set it up with a little food and water outside. The little guy fits right in the palm of one hand with room to spare.

Played some cribbage and called it a day. Camp living for the next few days. Life is good.

Weather: sunny and still in the day, thunderstorm at night

Wildlife: Chip-Chop and 3 loons

"What is more peaceable than a canoe at the dock in the sunshine as the waves slip gently under it, swaying its cane seats and their elegant crochet of shadows?" ~Wesley McNair

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Day 42


Up on the bright and early to shuttle back up to the portage from Casa de la Zach. Little bit of a gnarly portage down to the water - winding, lots of little trees, and the saplings that had been cut out to make the trail remained behind as punji sticks waiting to skewer a hapless portager who might slip. Luckily, this was not us...

Paddled out into Little Brassua and passed an Outward Bound group just begining to stir in camp. Followed the lake out into Brassua proper and made good time to the dam where we portaged along a grassy trail to the Moose River beyond. Continued downstream through some fun class 1 whitewater and pulled out at the OB base and called it a day. About 10 miles, 2 portages, and all in about 2.5 hours. Not too shabby.

A gorgeous view of Mt. Kineo greeted us as we drew near our destination. Big water ahead!

Went to Greenville to re-supply, get some food, and update this blog. We leave for Moosehead tomorrow (hoping to take a couple of days to chill out at a friend's camp near the Northeast carry) and approach the last few hundred miles of the journey. A good day.

Weather: mostly cloudy

Wildlife: 4 loons, a bald eagle, a dead moose hanging out in an eddy, yum- but mostly just sticks floating in the lakes

A little rain each day will fill the rivers to overflowing. ~African Proverb (its true, we've seen it...)

Day 41


Paddled out of Attean Pond into Big Wood Pond and onto the swiftly moving Moose River. A rock metamorphosed into a moose right in front of us as we made the transition onto Long Pond - stood there gawking at us before making up its mind to run as swiftly and with as little coordination as possible through deep water to the bog. Quite a sight.

Sailed all the way down Long Pond where we caught a bit of lunch at the Lower Narrows before continuing on. The Moose River just kept picking up speed - eventually we ended up pulling up to a portage on river left to the Demo Road bridge. The rapids are a severe class 3 and go all the way down to the Brassua lakes.

Caught a ride to Rockwood where we met up with Zach, a friend of ours who works for Outward Bound. He cooked us up a mean stir fry, let us use the showers and do laundry, and then gave us a place to crash. Super awesome. Tomorrow we shuttle back out and portage in to the put in below the falls to paddle the Brassuas.

Weather: rain in the morning, clearing

Wildlife: 3 moose, 5 bald eagles, 7 loons, 3 kingfishers, 3 hummingbirds and a fox. What a day!

Water has no taste, no color, no odor; it cannot be defined, art relished while ever mysterious. Not necessary to life, but rather life itself. It fills us with a gratification that exceeds the delight of the senses. ~ANTOINE DE SAINT-EXUPERY

Day 40


Rained all night and woke to a very damp camp. Ate breakfast, loaded the boat, and began to paddle the Moose River - simultaneously, it began to rain again.

And then it rained harder. Despite the dampness, we enjoyed our paddle down the river - the water is up and we moved right along! About the time we pulled up to Attean Falls to scout the rapids the rain let up. Decided to run it and maneuvered through without a hitch - a good line.

Paddled out into Attean Lake around noon and enjoyed a floating lunch to avoid the bugs. Made our way to Sally Beach where we called it a day. Siesta in camp and then dinner - biscuits cooked up in our Fry Bake with a twiggy fire and some soup, yum!

Looks like we are right on track for hitting Moosehead around the 4th!

Weather: rain, then windy and fair

Wildlife: 3 kingfishers, merganser, 3 loons

A lake is the landscape's most beautiful and expressive feature. It is earth's eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature. ~Henry David Thoreau

Day 39


Family Day here on the NFCT! Awoke at our camp and packed up quickly so we could bum a ride from a raft guide out to the Forks where we called Bean's parents to meet up with them for lunch/dinner. Something we had been looking forward to and trying to set up for a little while.

Got some food, coffee, and good conversation at a local brew pub. After the feast we shuttled up 201 to Spencer Road and the down Spencer Rips Road - all easily navigated roads with good signage. This by-passes the section of Spencer Stream to Spencer Lake. After scouting Spencer Stream and reading the description on the map we decided to go around this part - shallow and swift water, class 1+ to 2 whitewater and upriver with lots of rocks... As we were unable to get easy access to the lake, and the upper portion is largely unnavigable, we decided to put in on the Moose River.

Luckily, "Team Rally Echo" (beans folks) were there to see us through - the little toyota echo handled the roads, our boat, and all of us readily enough. Short portage from the car to the trail followed. Bid a fond farewell to the parentals (with plans to meet again in Baxter soon!) Now sitting in camp with the rain coming down and the Moose River cruising by our tent.

Weather: overcast, rain

Wildlife: deer, moose

Rivers are roads which move, and which carry us whither we desire to go. ~Blaise Pascal

Day 38


Woke up to more thunderstorms this morning - had planned to get up at 5am and get moving, but we decided to give it a little bit of time to pass, so we rolled over and went back to sleep! Took our time packing up as the campsite was so nice - very tempting to stay a few more days here...

Great paddle in the sunshine and then set sail when we gained a following wind - all the way to Long Falls Dam at the end of the lake. Gorgeous views of the Bigs - a most excellent morning! Packed up for portage #1 of the day, ate a quick lunch, then began the haul down to the Dead River. Put in at the boat launch further down river than the NFCT put in - past the campsite at Big Eddy and all the bony whitewater (the water is up and moving fast!)

A fast 7 miles followed down the Dead to the highwater portage around Grand Falls. No sooner had we pulled up than the misquitos descended and occupied every exposed piece of skin. Today we were involuntary blood donors...

A gnarly portage through a wet boggy sphagnum area, waist high brambles, an irregular 4X4 trail and then onto a dirt road with lots of mud - the worst part though was the bugs! We were both pretty beat by the end of the whole escapade, but the view of the falls after we put back in on the other side brightened our day a bit! Certainly couldn't have paddled those - 30 ft straight down onto rocks - ouch.

Made our way downriver to the confluence of Spencer Stream and the Dead River where we made our camp for the night - how nice to have a tent/misquito free space!

Weather: sunny/hot, no shirt day, short shower and low clouds

Wildlife: Coyote (right on the shore of Flagstaff!) bald eagle, osprey, 10 loons, kingfisher, 3 mergansers, ENORMOUS beaver, swallowtail butterfly, misquitos - their hum will haunt my dreams...

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me),

It's always our self we find in the sea.

~e.e. cummings

Day 37


Currently riding out a gnarly thunderstorm at Hurricane Island on Flagstaff Lake. Paddled about 12.5 miles today after shuttling around the South Branch of the Dead River. We heard a local report that it was really bony, had several river-wide strainers (trees blocking the river), difficult to navigate rapids at the end, and is relatively isolated in spots - erring on the side of caution we decided to shuttle via Bob from Gull Pond Lodge.

Quick stop in town this morning to get mail and send out packages - thanks for the food Ca-tay-tay! Put in on Flagstaff at the new NFCT kiosk near the boat launch (pretty sweet signage, well done NFCT folks!)

Sailed the first part to Savage Farm then turned eastward and began to fight a headwind all the way to camp. Raced the storm to camp, got everything set up and dinner eaten just in the nick of time before the heavens opened up! All along the paddle there are gorgeous views of the Bigelow mountains - we can see why our friend Chip loves this section (by the way - congrats on the recent retirement!) Hope the hikers are hunkering down up there on the Appalachian Trail!

Nothing but the sound of rain on the tent, the distant rumble of thunder, and the lonely call of a loon to fall asleep to...

Weather: fair and hot - the thunderstorms

Wildlife: osprey, snowshoe hare, 8 loons, kingfisher

"When the night is cloudy

there is still a light that shines on me

shine until tomorrow

let it be." ~John Lennon