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Published: July 13th 2008
So before I begin this post it is only fair that it contains a precursor. This is a long post as it contains the remaining portion of our journey from Rangeley to Fort Kent, so make yourself comfortable, go make a nice sandwich and cold glass of your beverage of choice...I'll wait. OK, you back? Did you get a pickle (they compliment sandwiches very well)? No, well, go ahead, I'm not going anywhere (granted the power doesn't go out) as this is just photons bouncing off from your screen to your retinas. Alright, you settled? Ready for the long haul? Here we go.
From Flagstaff to the Moose River
After Rangeley and a nice day off from the trail we took the opportunity to supply for the long and remote haul from the Dead River to Fort Kent (there is the possibility of resupplying in Rockwood and Jackman, but after that it is just you and the water until you get to Fort Kent). Thanks to the copious amounts of rain in June we were able to run most of the Dead River (be careful at the barn doors rapids) through a torrential down pour, into Flagstaff lake and right
The only way to get to this town is by boat or float plane.
into the starting line of the Straton Family Fun Weekend Canoe/Kayak Sprint. Brett and I not being fellows to turn down a challenge through out some of our packs on the dock and hit the water paddling! Alas it was not fated for us to win as one of our paddles (Cleatus) would snap in the middle of the race and another group of through paddlers (Paul Heintz and Jonathan Hancock -yes he gets a lot of flack about the name) ended up taking the prize and trophy! It was a good time and we got to talk to Kate and Rob Williams of NFCT and tell them about our adventures and get some good words of encouragement. So after a stop in Straton to pick up a new paddle, a new hat, and have lunch with Jonathan and Paul we all decided to meet up at the Round Barn campsite. Here is some more important information for anyone paddling across Flagstaff Lake.
MOY IMPORTANTE: There is an island marked on the Flagstaff map that is half public and half private land just south of Hurricane Island. The south side of this half and half island is IMPASSIBLE! There
Boy and a boat
Looking over Chambelain towards Katahdin and Baxter State Park.
is a large "stump bridge" that goes from the Maine land (pun intended) to this half and half island, that will probably become an isthmus in a hundred years or so. You have a couple of choices if it is windy you can paddle up to it and portage over it (not to much a pain in the ass) and then paddle some more and snake through the SECOND "stump bridge" and back into Flagstaff lake proper. If it is not windy feel free to go around the North end of the Island.
With that warning/informational plug taken care of, let me tell you the story of Flagstaff lake. It is a man made lake (hence all the stumps) where they flooded the Dead River to make a lake to help keep water levels consistent for hydro power. Unfortunately, the town of Flagstaff was in the way and the power company bought the WHOLE TOWN and then flooded it. So the lake is named after the village that is at the bottom of it. Pretty neat story and there is a fellow by the name of Duluth (who goes by "Dude" as well) at the Straton Historical Society who
will tell you all about it AND about General Benedict Arnolds adventures here (this is where things started getting crappy for Benedict). As we crossed this man made lake the winds picked up and we had a ferocious head wind that was whipping up some very large waves. We hugged the shore and didn't quite make it to Round Barn, but had a great campsite provided by Florida Power and Light.
The following day we portaged a dam and got back into the Dead River where we had a nice surprise at lunch. Brett noticed a small animal on the edge of the woods and it turned out to be a fawn that jumped into the river and swam right by the boat and to the other side. Pretty sweet.
Towards the end of our journey down the Dead there was one more portage, the Grand Falls portage. These two portages of the trail are tough, but both are rewarding with some great views of the intense rapids right after the dam and of the Grand Falls (both which were running high as they were releasing a TON of water that day due to the rain).
night we again met up with Jonathon and Paul (who had been stranded at Hurricane Island the night before) at the confluence of Spencer Stream and we decided we would do the last bit of upstream travel of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail together the following day and make it all the way to the Moose River.
Spencer stream was also running high and it made for some good lining/walking/wading all the way to the dam at Spencer lake. There is NO OFFICIAL PORTAGE AS OF THIS TYPING, but it wasn't to difficult to get up into Spencer Lake and Fish Pond, which narrows very quickly into a stream and up onto the portage to Moose River. A long walk, but we got in at dusk and were looking forward to going "all down hill from here".
The Moose River to the Penobscot River
The following morning I decided to run Spencer Rips solo and as I was paddling out to line up, I seem to have forgotten how tippy a unloaded canoe is and flipped the boat on the first attempt. I made it to shore and Brett and Paul thankfully hopped into Paul and Jonathan's
One of the few Elms that survived the Dutch Elm disease due to it's isolation in the Allagash Wilderness Waterway.
boat and retrieved the upside down canoe. Very soggy but not discouraged I walked the canoe back up to the put in successfully ran the rip that time. The Moose River was a nice paddle/float down to Attean Falls which was another nice rapid to run and we found ourselves landing in Jackman for a late lunch. I was planning on updating the Blog here, but the Jackman public library holds strange hours (Monday, Wednesday, Saturday from 2pm to 4pm). So instead we ate a nice lunch and said our good byes to Jonathan and Paul and continued on our merry way to Long Pond. The following day we continued to paddle the Moose and portage around the rapids there (very high that day) to Little Brassua and Brassua lakes. Despite the warnings of how this trail is easy to get lost on we still managed to get lost and took a right when we should have gone straight. It was slightly frustrating, BUT there were a lot of wild strawberries that we ate before we back tracked and walked our way to the correct portage. That evening we made it to Moosehead lake and crossed over to Mount Kineo
Sailing in Style.
Great current and great winds made for a short last day (check out the wake at the front of the canoe).
where we stayed the night.
Mt. Kineo is a cool place, not only because Thoreau camped there, but because it is a hiking trail you can only get to by boat. From the top of Kineo (which I hiked the following morning) you get a great panoramic view of Moosehead lake and the surrounding mountains. The rest of the crossing from Kineo to Northeast carry was a mix of a nice tail wind and sun with some chop, but not to bad. On our way to Northeast carry we had a couple of people run out onto a dock and wave at us, Brett and I weren't sure who it was as we didn't know anybody on Moosehead and by the time we were wondering if we should go back and say hi, the wind and our paddling had made the decision for us to continue on to Northeast carry. Come to find out it was another set of through paddlers (William and Eileen
) who we would see at the Golden Road bridge and paddle with to Chesuncook village. The evening of the fourth we stayed at Thoreau Island (another spot that Thoreau camped at during his adventures in Maine). The
following day we would see eleven moose prancing all over the Penobscot and enjoy a nice relaxed paddle into Chesuncook Lake.
Chesuncook Lake/Village and the Allagash Wilderness Waterway
We stopped by Chesuncook Village (population: 8 year round residents and only accessible by float plane or boat) and arranged a ride with the Chesuncook Lake House
(Please try to arrange the ride in advance as it is much easier for them) to go from Umbazooksis Stream to Chamberlain Lake and into the Allagash Wilderness Waterway. One cool thing of note is that the Chesuncook Village Store (the only one in town) only sells homemade root beer and fudge. It is a pretty cool place and I hope I get a chance to visit that neck of the woods again. After our visit we hopped back in the boat and crossed Chesuncook (which is actually referred to in HP Lovecrafts tale The Thing on the Doorstep
) and passed Gero Island. The following day we were on Chamberlain Lake and into the Allagash.
The Allagash Wilderness Waterway is a 92 mile stretch of rivers, lakes, and ponds that are part of the Bureau of Parks and Lands and the Maine Department of Conservation. Like I
Best Self Portrait Shot
I could get with the two of us.
had mentioned before in about the Rangeley lakes, this is a phenomenal opportunity for people of the State of Maine to get out and explore their "back yard". This area is rich in history, peppered with great campsites, and helpful rangers. The Chase Rapids are fun to run (though because of the high water levels, the first wave we hit put A LOT of water in the boat, but since it was hot it was no bother), the Allagash is fun to float, I mean paddle (the water was high and the river wasn't bony at all). Pump Handle campsite on Eagle lake has access to a trail that will give you a nice view of all the lakes, there are two train engines in the middle of the woods between Chamberlain and Eagle Lakes and some remains of the old Lombard Log Haulers in the woods before the last Ranger Station.
Because the river was so high, Brett and I were wondering if people actually race in the AWW. It could be called "The Mad Dash to Allagash" and start at Chase rapids and end at Allagash Village (roughly 62 miles). Though Brett and I couldn't find the
The Bigelow Range is in the back.
public boat launch in Allagash Village (we don't think that there is one) people could take out at Evelyn Mcbreairty's house.
Evelyn Mcbreairty: The Self Proclaimed "Bitch of Moosetown"
Our meeting with Evelyn Mcbreairty, was fortuitous to say the least. Brett and I had pulled up our canoe to what looked like a boat landing right before the bridge in Allagash Village (we couldn't find the landing after the bridge) and decided to walk into town to try to find a pay phone (non-existent in Allagash Village) to let people know we would be in Fort Kent by the tenth. As we were walking up to the road we heard some one yelling something at us, and sure enough it was Evelyn on her porch telling us we had parked our canoe on private property! So we got to talking and this 92 year old lady had lived her whole life on the Allagash river and her father used to ferry people across the river before the bridge was there. She told us about the Tow Boats that used to bring goods up to the camps on the Allagash and of what it was like to go to school
Is right where I'm pointing can't you see it?
when she was a young girl (first through eighth grade, no running water, etc). She took us inside and showed us around her house and all the pictures she had of people who had used her property to keep their cars while they were in the AWW. She charges a modest fee (2 dollars a night for vehicles, for canoes, and for tents) and is so feisty that I feel they are definitely in good hands. She has never driven a car not shot a gun, BUT she is pretty dang dangerous with her cane (once telling some kids who asked if they could go joy riding in some of the cars parked on her lawn she would "go inside and get her cane to knock their god damned heads off if they didn't get back to the river" and they went.) So we paid our two dollars and walked over to Two Rivers Lunch where Evelyn's father was born and raised (at least in the building, not in the diner). The diner could easily be mistaken for a taxidermists shop with all the stuffed game animals in there. On our way back we said good bye to Evelyn and
The Sea of Gnar.
Logs piled together to start building an isthmus.
took to the St. John River. Stayed the night at Pelletiers Campground and talked to Norman L'Itallian for a bit about the changing mentality between older generations and todays generations, which could be summed up in one phrase from one particular episode of the Andy Griffith show: "What's Your Hurry?"
Our final day consisted of great tail wind's and fast current and a nice float down the St. John to Fort Kent. We walked into town and had a celebratory meal at the Swamp Buck to celebrate not only our finishing of the NFCT, but of Brett's birthday. We visited the Block House and were surprised when we returned to the Eastern Terminus to be greeted by William and Eileen (both anticipating to be done on the 12th not the 10th)! Congratulations to the two of them for finishing the trail in their homemade canvas canoe, India. Good luck to them on their next adventure.
So that about sums up our trip I will post one more time about my thoughts as a whole of the trail and perhaps some advice for others after I have had time to properly digest them.
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