Friday, September 12, 2008

Gravel Beach Campsite: Allagash Wilderness Waterway Canoe and Guide Training Trip Journal 2006

September 12, 2006

The day dawned clear and very windy out of the North. I was up by 6AM. We started the propane stove hand boiled the oats and raisins that had soaked all night. (we must have started the fire for coffee and dish water.) Tim's "Secret" Oatmeal Recipe: 5 cups old fashioned oats, 1 box raisins. Soak all night. You need to keep stirring while heating to keep the oatmeal from burning on. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. We added 1/2 box of shelled sunflower seeds to the oatmeal. Canned milk and brown sugar were added individually to taste.
Why brown sugar instead of normal sugar? Tim brings brown sugar because it clumps- if the container dumps we'll be able to recover some of the sugar. Good advice if you are going to be out in the woods for a while. We also made camp coffee which is 1/4 cup of grounds to 1 quart of water. Bring to a boil and let the grounds roll once then remove from heat. Let set a few seconds and then pour one cup of cold water into it from a height to settle the grounds. I enjoyed standing on the picnic table and dumping in the cold water from as high as I could reach. There was a strange satisfaction in it.
We all packed up our gear and tents while the dishes were done. Jeff and Tim talked about how you can add baking soda to baked beans to make them less gassy. Our first day in the woods and we were resorting to bathroom humor- the glue that binds humanity together. I planned to paddle solo this day. To set the trim in my canoe correctly for lake travel, I carried my 60lb army duffel bag with the 3 mil liner, the 50 lb group cooler, the 10 lb tent, and a 56 lb 7 gallon water jug- total about 180 lbs. For lake travel we tried to set the trim even bow to stern in the canoes.
We left camp around 9:30AM- an early start, or so we thought. We paddled 2 miles in the first hour. Then the wind and waves came up and we paddled the next 2.4 miles in 3 hours. The solo folks (me included) really had trouble moving along. The waves got higher and higher. Just past an island, while I should have been paying attention to paddling, I caught a nice 13" brook trout on a daredevil lure. I snapped a picture and put it back in the lake. The limit for brook trout in Chamberlain Lake is 14" and one trout per day. After the adrenaline from catching the fish wore off, I got very tired of paddling into the wind, moved to the shore, tried poling, and then tried pulling the canoe through the waves. I kneeled to try to get out of the wind. The wind was right in our face and the whitecaps were high. Some waves broke over the bow and some water was beginning to get into the canoes. I thought my trim might be bow light, because the wind kept trying to turn me around. I vowed to grab the knee pads out of my duffel for the rest of the trip as soon as we stopped.
Tim made the decision to give up and stop for lunch about 1:30 because we weren't making much progress against the wind and whitecap waves. The tandem canoes had gotten way ahead because two people could paddle much more effectively against the wind. We were all ready to take a lunch break but the tandem paddlers had to walk back across the beach to us before we could eat. We had two packages of reconstituted humus, two pounds of cheddar cheese, and two packs of crackers. After lunch, we each took one piece of gear and walked it a mile or so down the beach to Gravel Beach campsite. Tim identified and discussed edible plants along the way. We saw colts foot which is a yellow flower that blossoms first in spring. We saw deer tracks and I found a crayfish shell. Once we reached the campsite, Tim and Jeff demonstrated the twig bundle fire building method. Tim made a tripod for the fire and Oliver gave an axemanship demonstration. Bill and I set up our tent. The wind had died down enough so that we walked back to our canoes and paddled them to our site about 4:30. We'd had a rest and paddled against the wind for the remaining half mile pretty easily. After a dinner of Zucchini, burger, onions, rice (which had soaked in water in the cooler all day) and sourdough biscuits, Tim assigned Devin and I (Team New England) as guides for tomorrow. Devin and I discussed with Tim and Jeff the idea of leaving earlier in the morning to avoid the wind. We also discussed skipping Allagash Stream and going straight to Lock Dam as we'd missed our campsite goal for the day and we could be back on schedule. Once it was very dark, Devin and I had done dishes again, we went out to identify stars. I could easily find the big dipper and little dipper and North Star. We identified Cassiopeia, Signus, and also saw a shooting star and satellites. A tiny orange light appeared on the horizon like a small coal. Soon the coal grew into a raging orange fireball. It turned out to be the moon and it was surreal. Though it seemed really late, in reality we crawled into bed about 9PM or so.

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