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.

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