Monday, September 29, 2008

Inlet Campsite Day 2: Allagash Wilderness Waterway Canoe and Guide Training Trip Journal

September 19, 2006
I was up at 5AM and, for once, I didn't feel tired. I think the previous day’s nap did me a lot of good. I got the fire started, made coffee, put on oatmeal, and dish water. By 6:30AM other people started to stir. I went fishing for a bit in the canoe with Keith (I had to rescue the lure that I had hooked on a log at 5:30AM).We got really close to a loon on the way back and he took off and circled around only to land near us again. We returned to camp by 7:30AM. During our usual breakfast of oatmeal, our campsite was invaded by quite a few sparrow sized pink and green birds. A quick look in the reference guides introduced us to the neighborhood house finches. Tim discussed options for our layover day, stay at the campsite and do bushcraft or paddle over and hike to the tower. I was the only one who wanted to hike so I went solo. At 8:30AM, I paddled over to Tower Trail campsite. There I met a nice older couple from Savannah, Georgia. I convinced them they should climb up and see the tower since it was warm and mostly sunny. We all left at 9AM, and since I needed to be back to the campsite by lunch we didn’t stay together. After 15 minutes or so, I stopped for a bit of a break and the older couple caught right up- I was impressed. I got to the tower, climbed to the top, took some pictures. I could see a front of clouds coming from the south and started to climb back down. By the time I got to the bottom of the ladder, the older couple had arrived. It was getting very windy but the tower seemed secure. We chatted for a bit and took pictures with each other’s cameras at 10:45AM.
By the time I arrived back at the lake, the wind was up the waves were very choppy. I rolled my canoe over, put it in the water, and loaded it quickly at 11:45. I had a heck of a time paddling solo directly into the headwind and whitecaps to get back to the campsite. By the time I made it back to Inlet campsite, I could see the older couple preparing to hit the river ahead of the weather. I had made it back by 12:10 and it was time for lunch. My solo hike had resulted in only one blister, sore arms, and a lot of cool pictures. I saw moose and bear scat, ruffed grouse, and red squirrels. In the afternoon, I carved a netting needle. I thought about taking a nap when some of the other folks did but the clouds began to look ominous so a few of us set up the tarp over the picnic table and split a bunch of firewood. We had just enough time to throw all of the gear into the tents before it started raining. It rained hard for an hour or so. Tim started a wet weather fire. We boiled the beans and cooked rice over the fire. The fire wasn't hot enough so Tim finished up over the propane stove at 5PM. Paul cooked bacon and Devin made gingerbread.

After dinner, we sat around and tried to stay awake by talking about books. I jotted down some of the recommendations: Fannie Eckstorm's father's book, "The Life and Writing of a Maine Fur-Buyer, Hunter, and Naturalist", "How to Talk Yankee" by Gerald E. Lewis and Maine's Golden Road: A Memoir and anything else by John Gould, No Surrender: My Thirty-Year War by Hiroo Onoda. The big bull frogs were in camp again for the second night in a row. Went to bed to the songs of the loons at 8:15PM. It rained all night so we hoped the river would be up the next day.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Inlet Campsite: Allagash Wilderness Waterway Canoe and Guide Training Trip Journal

September 18, 2006I was up early yet again. I guess I sneezed and coughed a lot since everyone asked how I was doing. I finally felt a lot better after a good nights rest. Devin has been camping under his canoe and he has really got his set up perfected.We ate our oatmeal, packed up, and poled down the stream. After a mile- we did a poling lesson and then poled on. We went 4 to 5 miles per hour in the rapids. It was mostly cloudy, windy and hot. We averaged 3 mph or so when we weren't waiting for a few in the group that occasionally got into trouble. I was pleased at how well my poling skills were improving.On the shore, after Henderson Bridge and just before Round Pond, there was a big Bull Moose standing there looking at us. I sneezed and he ran off. The river started to get wide and shallow and we were forced to wade and pull the canoes along in a couple spots.
We made it to Inlet campsite with a slight tailwind by 1:30PM. After a quick lunch, I went for a swim to clean up a bit, then set up the Hennessey Hammock and napped for an hour or so. Feeling better, I went fishing. I caught and released tons of chub except for one fat 12" chub which Devin decided to clean and cook for himself.

Dinner was tofu, rice, soup mix and carrots. The carrots were rotting in the cooler and had to be sorted through, washed, and boiled before dinner. Tim made coleslaw which went very well with the soup. We ate a lot and had great appetites; in fact, we weren’t picky at all at this point. After dinner four loons were calling back and forth and I recorded some of it. We sat around the flames of the fire and talked until almost 10PM. I was up a few times during the night.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Long Lake Dam Campsite: Allagash Wilderness Waterway Canoe and Guide Training Trip Journal

September 17, 2006
I awoke tired, congested, and miserable but still glad to be in the Allagash. It was cloudy, hot, and windy. The group debated some interesting questions: “How many rings on a racoon's tail? We decided from five to seven. “How do you teach someone to use a compass?” Put the dog in the doghouse. Put the red in the shed. “Is the fog over a lake in the morning convective or advective?” We didn’t have a clue but further Internet research says possibly advective. see had millet for breakfast again. I got the fire going and made coffee. We saw a moose while we were eating breakfast. There was a fog with heavy dew and everything was damp. We loaded the canoes and had a birch bark demonstration. Tim made a birch bark bowl that floated. We left about 10AM and were quiet but still didn't see any moose.
Almost immediately we hit headwinds, but I was in fine shape since it was my turn to be in a tandem with Dawa today. We made it across Umsaskis to a sheltered bay where we waited for the others not fortunate enough to be tandem. Once together again, we pressed on down Long Lake. Just before the ranger station, Meredith, the lady ranger, showed up with the lifejacket Devin had lost the day before. Devin was embarrassed because we made him go and get it from her.We pressed on past the ranger station, then on to Grey Brook where we wolfed down a 24 minute lunch so that we wouldn't miss the tailwind. Dawa held up a trash bag between two paddles in the bow and we sped northerly along at up to 4mph. A few of the others lashed 3 canoes together and made a square from a tarp. It looked like a pirate ship.We got to the Long Lake Dam campsite at about 4:30PM. It wasn’t a great site but would be good if it rains and it would be welcome after a hard paddle. We ate elbow macaroni, spaghetti sauce, onions, coleslaw, and sourdough biscuits. While waiting for dinner, I caught tons of small chub and one 14" chub which Dawa wanted to eat. I gave her the fish and she worked with Bud to clean and cook it. After dinner I took notes in my journal and swapped memory cards in my camera. It was early to bed for me, my head cold was really getting to me.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Chisholm Brook Campsite: Allagash Wilderness Waterway Canoe and Guide Training Trip Journal

September 16, 2006
I was up at 5:15AM again and it was partly sunny and warm. After collecting a bunch of twigs, I got the fire started from a coal leftover from the previous night. I ate GORP (our GORP contained Cheerios, raisins, peanuts, and m+ms) and canned milk and water. The rest of the group had millet and pears. I tried some and it was OK. I just can't get over thinking millet is birdseed. We packed and left by 9AM. We quickly paddled over to Scofield Cove to visit the spring where we filled our water jugs. Both Scofield sites are very nice with the point being the nicest. Devin lost his life jacket the previous day and we look for it as we paddle towards Churchill Dam. We feared that the wind grabbed it the day before and blew it far away. We meet a game warden in a Scott boat with a 10hp outboard on it. He motored around the shore looking for the life jacket for us as we continued to paddle on.We got to the dam about 11:30AM. I took some pictures at the dam and in the little museum. There was a cool stump puller and a rail car that looked like a motorcycle with a sidecar. We had to portage with the ranger since the water was too low for us to navigate Chase Rapids in the canoes. Fortunately, the ranger was happy to loan Devin a life jacket while we continued to look for the one he lost.
SUGGESTION: Bring an extra life jacket.The ranger took the first 6 canoes and gear around the rapids. It was a twenty minute ride through the woods. We ate lunch and poled up and down the rapids while the ranger went back for Tim, Bud, Devin, and the remaining canoes. I was starting to feel ill, so I rested while we ate lunch.
After lunch, we redistributed our gear load around so that we'd be a bit downstream heavy. That way the canoe pointed downstream. (RULE: load the canoe downstream and upwind heavy) I was pleased that I was able to pole up through the rapids and hit the eddys just right but I had really started to feel the dreaded head cold that Paul and Tim had the past few days. By now the sky had cleared off nicely and it was hot and sunny.
Everyone reloaded their canoes and we poled down to Chisholm Brook campsite which wasn’t that spectacular. While poling past Meadows campsite, we met a young female ranger who was looking for some biologists in a raft. Devin really liked her and we obligingly continued to tease him about this the rest of the trip.We arrived at 5:15PM and set up camp. I felt very poorly from my head cold. Dinner was a pound of bacon put into the boiled soaked beans with brown sugar. The bacon fat went into the sourdough biscuits. Right before dinner I caught an 8 and 10" chub. After dinner, Bud showed me how to scale the smaller fish, chop off its head, and gut it. I floured it and fried it in oil. The larger of the two fish, we boiled in the bacon fat covered fry pan in salted water. Both fish were surprisingly tasty for what is considered a trash fish.The lady ranger came downstream and talked to us for awhile. She was surprised to see us eating chub. Team New England (Devin and I) were set to be guides again the next day so we decided to get an early start. I went to bed early and hoped I'd feel better the next day.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Scofield Point Campsite: Allagash Wilderness Waterway Canoe and Guide Training Trip Journal

September 15, 2006 I got up at 5:10AM and stumbled up the trail to the scenic overlook in the dark trying to see without my flashlight. The overlook is a ledge outcropping that gives a great view of Eagle Lake and Farm Island looking across the lake to the tramway. Once at the ledge, I lay down on my fleece jacket to await the sunrise. A strange bird flew over my head. Since it didn't sound like a regular bird, I opened my eyes. A Saw-whet owl sat on a branch just 15 feet away and kept moving his head up down and side to side, looking at me. He flew to a branch on the other side and repeated the procedure. I tried to get a picture a couple times but didn't have much luck due to the low light conditions. All the picture shows is the reflection of his eyes in the darkness.

It was partly cloudy but there was a decent view. As the sun rose on the other side of the island, I took some nice pictures and headed back to camp with the story of my owl encounter. I arrived back at camp at 6:30AM and no one was up yet. I gathered firewood and practiced making fire with damp twig bundles. It was while making one of these twig bundles, that I found a moose vertebrae about 20 feet from the fire in the woods. I figured the little forest creatures would have long since nibbled it up- but there it was. We left it where I found it.
I warmed up some water so we could wash up and then I changed out of my sweaty shirt. Tim explained his rationale for wearing suspenders instead of a belt. Suspenders allow the hot moist air that your legs generate to warm your upper body as it vents up your chest- and you don't get crotch rot. I took a nice picture of Tim and Paul in their bright red suspenders. They looked so stylish. We packed up our camp but didn’t leave.

It was time for a group activity so we sat down at the table and made a harness for our water bottles out of string. We cut 4 strings 2.5 times the height of the object to be harnessed, flipped the object upside down, tied an overhand knot in the middle of all 4 strings, then we tied over hand knots in pairs of ropes just over the edge of the object (upside down bottle in this case). Then we tied over hand knots every 2 inches or so in each pair of strings and repeated this step until we got to the top. We did one last overhand knot an inch above the previous one at top of bottle, ran a new loop of string through the loops that formed and pulled tight around the object. Now we had harnesses for our water bottles. It was a fun activity.

We had another fire building demo where we all made fuzz sticks. When we lit the fuzz sticks, Dawa left her match case too close and it turned into a plastic glob. We ate a lunch of tuna, crackers, carrots, mayo, mustard, humus, and celery with GORP for dessert. The clouds had retreated, and we left around 2PM and canoed down towards a beaver house, then over to Zeigler campsite which looked like a nice place to camp. Then we paddled on toward Scofield point which was our goal for the day. It was hot, sunny, and the wind was welcome as it pushed us out of Eagle Lake, under John's Bridge, and halfway across Churchill Lake. Not only did Scofield Point have a gorgeous campsite, but the view was amazing.

Dawa pitched her tent out on the sand dunes. Devin pitched his tent way out on a gravel bar. It is a beautiful spot. The breeze was nice and I set up clothes lines to dry my clothes and sleeping bag. I took some pictures as we set up camp. We used the propane stove for cooking again and basically only used the fire to boil water for drinking, for dishwater, and to cook sourdough biscuits in the reflector oven.
Dinner was tofu with a soup mix and rice and carrots. After dinner, when the sourdough biscuits were ready, I used leftover strawberry jelly and canned milk to make a strawberry shortcake dessert. It tasted great and others followed my example. We then made another batch of biscuits, this time with garlic powder. A few of us discussed saving some cheese at lunchtime to make cheese and garlic biscuits. We were really getting into our wilderness lifestyle and now had time to worry about food creativity.
While cooking the second batch of biscuits we listened to a coyote howl fairly close to the campsite. It got dark quickly. Devin and I washed dishes, we told jokes, and went out with the star finder to try to identify some more constellations. We all crawled into our sleeping bags by 9PM.
SUGGESTION: tin foil might be nice for the reflector over when cooking sticky things as it can be hard to get clean. Of course we could have just melted butter on the pan first, or skipped the sticky stuff.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Pump Handle Campsite: Allagash Wilderness Waterway Canoe and Guide Training Trip Journal

September 14, 2006
We dragged ourselves out of our warm dry sleeping bags at 6:30AM while listening to the rain and drizzle outside. We ate our usual oatmeal for breakfast and prepared to line our canoes through canal stream by learning to tie a slippery bowline to one side of the stern, a prussic knot in the middle and a slippery sheet bend on the other side of the stern. This rope work is called a canoe bridle.
It rained and drizzled until 9AM, and after that it was dreary and overcast. A group of three men from Connecticut came up through the canal and headed down the lake. This was the exact reverse of what we were about to do so we had a quick chance to ask them about the canal while they portaged their canoes over the dam.Jeff left us and headed South down the lake following them- he planned to sleep in his truck and head back to New Brunswick the next day. While we grouped up to plan the day, a spruce grouse reclaimed the campsite totally unconcerned we were still there. After our meeting, I followed the spruce grouse around and took pictures. She was as tame as any chicken.
We lined, paddled, poled, and pulled the canoes through the old canal and over beaver dams. Once through, we paddled to Thoreau campsite and ate our lunch. While eating, we learned that some people wanted to go straight to camp while others wanted to see the tramway. I decided to go to the tramway with five other canoes while the rest went to our next campsite, set up camp, and cooked dinner.
Right before the tramway we saw a cow moose and she just kept staring at me while the other canoes closed in. She didn't know what I was but didn't run away either. After twenty minutes or so, we paddled on to the tramway and left her eating on the shore as if we’d never been there.At the tramway, it was amazing to see the huge locomotives and other assorted giant equipment and pieces of metal lying around like huge gears, crankshafts, and steam engine blocks. We paddled across Eagle Lake past Farm Island and I took out my fishing pole and trolled the lure behind my canoe. I eventually caught a nice 11" trout which was again just an inch too small to keep.
I trolled my line out behind me again and while I was just taking in the views and paddling along, another trout took out all the line off my reel. At the last minute, I saw my line floating on the water. I reversed direction and retrieved the line and tied it onto my pole.
I was the last canoe to arrive at Pump Handle campsite and immediately asked Bud to help me fix the reel. I reeled in another nice trout which was also too small to keep. We set up our tents, I changed out of my wet clothes (wet wool pants), and we ate dinner. We recited the few poems we could remember around the campfire. Tim read a few paragraphs from Robert Service's "The men that don't fit in". It was interesting to see how the group dynamics were changing. Bud recommended that we check out books from Edmund Ware Smith. We stayed up a bit but were all in bed by 9PM.