Friday, October 3, 2008

Home: Allagash Wilderness Waterway Canoe and Guide Training Trip Journal

September 22, 2006

I woke up to a frost at 5AM and Orion was clearly visible in the clear pre-dawn southern sky. How strange that Orion seems to be the favorite constellation of many folks. Maybe that is because it is pretty easy to imagine that it looks like a man.

I grabbed my Allagash books and my Allagash map out of the group library box and packed everything in my personnal duffle for the trip home. I grabbed my paddle and lifejacket too. I walked to the store (open at 3AM for the local loggers) and bought soveniers for my wife and kids. I encouraged everyone in the group to get up and get packed so we could get going.The cabin where some of our folks stayed had a painted wooden floor. What made it most unique was that they had painted a line of deer tracks on the floor which led up to the rear end of a deer mounted on the wall.We left at 6AM and got to Fort Kent at 6:45AM. In Fort Kent you can see the end of Route 1 North and the beginning of Route 1 South on the same sign. I called my wife on the cell phone and talked to the kids. My youngest missed me "worser" than I missed him and told me he liked me a whole lot. All the other customers in the diner were jabbering away in French. We were the only ones speaking English. We were back on the road by 7:15AM.We stopped in Ashland at the woodsman's museum and checked out a King Pine log on display as well as log hauling equipment, a loggers cabin, and other interesting historical things.We also stopped briefly at the Cold Spring Rest Area, and then again in Patten at the drug store to adjust ourselves back into the food of society. I had taken over 700 pictures on this trip and, although we were all tired and uncomfortable in the van, we had a good time looking through the camera’s LCD at them. We could see Katahdin, where the journal began, way off on the horizon. We had traveled more than 100 miles north from where we had started.

Once we got to Bangor, we drove past Stephen King's house, and then dropped Bud off at his house. We ate at Dysart's. Tim dropped me off at 3PM at the Gray exit and I waited for my wife and kids to arrive which they did at 4:30PM. Dirty and in need of a shave- my excellent adventure was now over.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Pelletier's Campground, St. Francis: Allagash Wilderness Waterway Canoe and Guide Training Trip Journal

September 21, 2006
Rain early then mostly cloudy and cool. Showers with Sleet and windy by lunchtime.
I got up at 5:30AM in my long johns and rain poncho, then worked for about half an hour and got the wet weather fire going using a huge glob of spruce pitch and a large sheet of birch bark. Since we had plenty of propane left, we cooked the oatmeal over the propane stove using a diffuser to keep it from burning on. As people started to get up for breakfast, I realized I was still in my long johns and had to run for the tent. Other folks didn’t share my appreciation of how stylish long johns can be. While we were eating breakfast, a big bull moose stopped in for a visit. He hung around for a while and we watched him instead of packing up which is what we should have been doing. I wrote in my journal and quickly packed the canoe.
There were some tempers flaring that morning since we were just about done with our trip. I got a bit ahead of the group and did some fishing- more catch and release chub. The group came right along and we poled through the rapids without much fanfare. Some of the rapids were quick and shallow and we all made good time. A huge bull moose followed us along the shore getting pretty close to us in the rapids. When we couldn't see him, we could still see birch trees swaying as he rubbed against them running parallel to us downstream.Everyone had really gotten the hang of poling rapids at this point. I thought it felt great to blast through the rapids at 5 or 6 mph. Although shallow, we managed to work our way down the river. In the middle of a decent set of rapids, a huge gust of wind came up. My lure stuck and my line broke with about 15' of line on it. I poled back up but was unable to locate lure or line. It was a bit depressing since I had made it the whole trip with only one lure.Just as we arrived at Cunliff Depot to see the Lombard Log Haulers, the cloudy sky opened up with huge raindrops and sleet and we all ran for our raingear. Up river, one member of our group who will remain anonymous set the pole wrong and dumped the canoe. I remember thinking, “OK this is it. We’re done for the day. Now it is time to start a fire and get dried off.” He arrived soaking wet and we pulled his canoe up on shore. He then grabbed his dry bag and headed into the woods.We put on our raingear and I stuffed a bunch of GORP in my mouth to curb my appetite. I had stuffed my camera in the cooler to keep it dry. I remember the loud pinging of the sleet against the rain hood on my head. Once the sleet stopped, we went for a short hike to see the Lombards and to warm up. I was still in shorts with a t-shirt, wool shirt, polypro shirt, and fleece jacket on. My kneepads gave my knees some insulation and I didn’t want to change so close to the end. We checked in with everyone to be sure they were warm and dry. Even the poor fellow who’d gone for a swim was now dry and good to go. With only two miles to go, we headed down river while the wind howled in our faces and made the rapids difficult to run.At this point, I could almost run the rapids in slow motion because the wind speed and downstream current forces were almost equal. Then the wind would stop, or blow harder, and I would be off course and into a rock. It became difficult to choose a good route through the rapids. Several times, I was blown into shallows and had to get out and pull the canoe. Getting wet was bad because then I was cold. Just as I started to feel uncomfortably cold, I saw our destination, Michaud Farm at 2:30PM. Just for good measure, at the very last rapid, I got blown off course and had to pull the canoe out one last time.Once at the van, I changed into the clean dry clothes I had packed in the van ahead of time. We loaded our gear into the trailer and van and headed into Allagash village. At the checkpoint, we officially checked out of the North Maine Woods.
The paper snowmobile sign said Kelly's diner and another Two River's Restaurant and none of us cared that it was nothing fancy. A warm meal that was full of grease and fat was all we desired. I got a bacon cheeseburger, onion rings, coke, and 3 scoops of ice cream. It cost me $9 including a tip. Four of our group wanted the huge breakfast special so the lady called the breakfast cook who arrived about five minutes later to cook for them. Now that was service- everyone that works there must live nearby.We then drove to John's Country Store and Pelletier's Campground in St. Francis. I bought a Moxie, and some of the others wanted beer. Four of our group rented bunks in a hunting cabin for $20 each. The rest of us, me included, spent one more cold night in the tent reluctant to come back to civilized living. I looked for a payphone with no success. My cell phone still didn't work even in this populated part of the world. We sat around the picnic table telling stories for a bit while I wrote in my journal. We watched shooting stars and looked to identify constellations in the cold clear night sky. Devin and Tim discussed past and future classes. We crawled into our sleeping bags about 9PM.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Five Fingers Campsite: Allagash Wilderness Waterway Canoe and Guide Training Trip Journal

September 20, 2006I was up at 6AM and tried to get the fire going without much success due to the rain. Paul took over and spent an hour or so and finally got it going when the rain let up. The weather appeared to be clearing slowly and Bud said his barometer was holding steady. I ate a bowl of GORP with canned milk. I packed while the others finished their breakfast. Then I had a bit of millet in a bowl with more milk. I still thought it was for the birds.
We packed everything up even though it was soaked and I took the time to treat the blister from my hike with 2 coats of liquid bandage- yikes that stung. I found a big bullfrog that was stuck in the woodpile and picked him up. He growled and howled even after I put him down on the beach. He was mad at the world. Then he hopped into the water and swam away.

We left the campsite a bit after 9AM and headed for a spring. Bud visited a sporting camp on the other side of the pond that he had been previously visited in 1962. We filled our water bottles at the spring, Bud rejoined the group, and we all headed down the rapids. I put the camera in the cooler to keep it dry when I was really worried I might go for a swim. When we went by Outlet campsite there was a woman packing gear into a Mad River canoe. We began to snub our way through the rapids using the poles. (snubbing is stoppng the canoe or changing its direction with a pole going downriver)When we snubbed (stopped) in mid-rapid as a group to discuss poling strategies, the Mad River canoe came zipping through the rapids bouncing from rock to rock. They smacked and banged their way through our group and then on down the river. Their expletives following each drum of the canoe on a rock were quite entertaining to our whole group. I guess we felt like we finally knew what we were doing.
Tim kept offering suggestions about improving the way I returned the pole for my next push. Hopefully that meant he thought I was using it the right way the rest of the time. I seemed to be missing the rocks with the canoe and finding the deepest water even in the shallow channels. Poling through the rapids was a total blast!

We ate lunch at a beaver dam where the Musquacook River meets the Allagash at 1:30PM. I tried a bit of fishing at the beaver dam but had had no luck. Just after we resumed down river, we went around a bend and I thought I could look back and see the tower I climbed the day before.

We made it to Five Fingers campsite at 3PM. There was a huge rock and eddy in front of the campsite. This is Tim's favorite swimming spot on the whole Allagash. A few in the group swam out and shot down past the big rock.
I tried to fish it but got nothing above or below the rock. Bud caught a nice 10 or 11" brook trout which he cooked and ate. I had a bite and it was delicious. I started to change out of my wet socks and Devin started yelling. He had just had a fly fishing lesson and almost immediately hooked a beautiful 14" brook trout. It was gorgeous. When we cleaned it, Bud cut open his stomach and we found a whole shrew in there! You might say Devin is hooked on fly fishing now.Bud salted the fish, rubbed it with flour, salt, and pepper. He salted and peppered it while he cooked it and again before eating. He preheated the fry pan with oil to medium hot- the oil was just making a popping sound, Bud said salt pork or bacon fat would work too. He'd have mixed 50/50 flour and cornmeal if we had had it.
He started to fry the fish when the oil was hot- not smoking but close. He browned both sides of the trout while holding it down with the spatula. Once both sides were browned, he reduced the heat and cooked it 5 minutes per side (10 minutes total per inch thickness of fish). He then cooked it a little longer for good measure. Then he separated the meat from the backbone at its thickest point. He fried a few onions in the fishy oil right after the browning stage of cooking.
(Bud’s Secret Tips- butter can't take the heat but it browns a fish nicely. Also, 1 part yogurt, 1 part mayo and a bit of dill makes a wonderful sauce for trout.)

We all ate some of Devin's fish. It was delicious- the best trout I had ever had. Just when we finished the trout, our regular dinner was ready. We all ate dinner (not nearly as good as the trout- tuna, rice, and celery). Then we ate gingerbread for dessert. I wrote in my journal while the dishwater heated. Devin and I did dishes again. Then we looked at the stars and tried to stay up. It was cold and crystal clear. We went to bed about 8:30PM.
When I got up at 2AM for my typical middle of the night ritual, I noticed it was warmer and there were no stars out. It started raining at 2:30AM . As soon as I heard the sprinkles, Bill and I grabbed our gear and threw it in the tent which kept most everything dry. It rained quite hard until about 8AM.