Thursday, July 30, 2015

2014 Presi Traverse with Teenaged Kids

Trip prep… I spent a lot of time trying to make a trip to Baxter State Park work. I considered a lot of combinations for 3 to 4 day wilderness loops trying to incorporate available sites. Since I had waited until only several weeks before the trip, there was just no good way to make this trip happen. Perhaps I’ll get another shot at this next year. The Presi traverse had a lot of things going for it. I had done the trip before and was familiar with the route. In addition, food and water is plentiful along the route so it is hardly a wilderness experience. It is also widely recognized by many folks and definitely has wow factor. Unfortunately, I had more time to plan the trip than I did to pack for it.

Rt 2 to Valley Way Campsite, 3.2 miles

We spent the day unpacking from the Allagash trip and packing our backpacks. I had arranged for transportation to the trail head later in the afternoon. A quick trip to the grocery store was needed for taco shells, tomatoes, cheese, 2 cans of chicken, rice, snacks, bananas, and jerky. The rest of our food was made up of leftovers from the Allagash trip.
We left Standish at 1PM and stopped in Fryeburg at 2PM for lunch at Subway. We dropped my car at the Webster Cliff trail head on Rt 302 at 3PM. We made it to the Valley Way trail head on Rt 2 at 4PM. At the start our packs weighed: 32 lbs (my pack), 25 lbs (15 year-old's pack) and 15 lbs (13 year-olds pack). It felt like we were making good time up Valley Way but with our packs it still took us until 6:12PM to make it into camp.
The tent site was almost full when we arrived and we ended up on a hillside which really wasn’t a problem for our hammocks. The tacos we made for dinner tasted amazing even though the rice was a lot more like soup than rice. Dinner consisted of tortilla shells, Knorr Spanish rice, a package of Mexican cheese, a chopped fresh tomato, freshly shredded lettuce, and a can of chicken. Not typical backpacking food, but we love the stuff! Once we finished dinner, all food had to be put into a bear bag and hung up in the trees. We crawled into our sleeping bags just after 8PM as we wanted to get an early start. Alarm was set at 5:15.

Valley Way Tentsite (Madison Spring Hut) to Nauman Campsite (Mizpah Spring Hut) via Mount Washington and Lake of the Clouds Hut, 14.3 miles

Up early and it was hard to crawl out of the warm sleeping bags. Nate was hanging partially out of his hammock already. We were ready for our oatmeal, coffee and cocoa as we ate in our fleece clothing, hats, and gloves. We quickly broke camp and headed up the hill to Madison Spring Hut and the summit of Madison returning back to the hut before 8AM. We summited Adams just after 9AM and the weather was still clear and beautiful.
However, my 13 year old fell and scraped his knee and morale declined as the weather started to close in. We pushed on hard through heat and humidity as the clouds surrounded us. We stayed on the AT and skipped the peak of Jefferson and Clay. It seemed to take forever to get to the peak of Washington. Then we saw the Cog Railway as the clouds parted. We were very hungry and thirsty when we finally arrived at the peak of Washington. I couldn't believe all the people there. We couldn't even get near the actual summit sign because of the long line. We were tired, exhausted, and dehydrated. Most of these folks had arrived via car or train. I was beside myself.
When we couldn't find a seat in the dining room I just dropped my pack and got in the line for food. In retrospect, I must have been very dehydrated. I suddenly felt extremely weak and had to sit on the floor. I made the boys hold our place in the long line and sat on a bench for a minute. I had a Gatorade, a slice of pizza, chowder, peanut M+Ms, and a whoopie pie. I immediately felt better. As the group leader and the parent, I should definitely have not let myself get dehydrated to that point. The weather and the terrain can be very tricky in the mountains particularly in the Presidentials.
My youngest ate 2 Hot Dogs and a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. My oldest ate pizza, chowder, Reese's, Gatorade, and a danish. We finally felt like all was right with the world again. That instant oatmeal had not been enough calories for Breakfast!
We left the top at 1:45 and made it to Lake of the Clouds about 2:30. My youngest was dancing with every step by that point because he had to go to the bathroom so badly. There is no privacy above treeline in that area.
Since we didn't have reservations, the hut host told us we had to keep hiking to Nauman tentsite but that it was only 3 ½ hours away. Dry River shelter was closed so we had to keep going. We left at 3PM but in our haste we followed the AT and skipped the peaks of Monroe, and Eisenhower but went over Pierce. However, we made it to the Mizpah hut at around 6PM.
We had to pay $8 to camp there. It is a great deal! You can get water and even have an outhouse. There are tent platforms which we didn't use. We pitched our hammocks in the trees. The ATT cell phone didn't work, but US Cellular/Verizon allowed us to get a text out that we were safe and sound in camp.
Dinner was great. We cooked Cheesy Noodles and added the rest of the bag of Mexican cheese from the previous night. We put mashed potatoes right in the same pot and mixed it up. We had Ritz crackers and cheese sticks for dessert. There is a special place for dishwater waste. I had put crumbs in our trash so our trash had to spend the night in the bear box with our food. We were in bed and snoring by 9:15. Alarm was set for 5:30.

Nauman Campsite (Mizpah Spring Hut) to 302 (Crawford Notch) via Webster Cliff Trail, 6.4 miles

Someone had rattled the chain on the bear box and it woke me up before the alarm at 5:20 and I decided to let the boys sleep late. It was very comfortable. I lazed in the hammock until 6 when I got up and made coffee. I headed into the Mizpah hut and looked at maps and filled our water bottles. When I got back I woke the boys up. The oldest boiled the water for oatmeal.
We had shared the tent platform with Santiago, a student from Columbia going to Tufts. When he woke up, he started talking to the boys about being multilingual and about his times mountain biking in New Zealand when he took a semester abroad.
The boys told him about our trip in the Allagash the previous week. He was very interested and they traded tips back and forth. We were eating breakfast while we were talking and a Canada Jay showed up. I fed him a raisin right out of my hand. Soon we had a bunch of Jays dive bombing us and eating out of our hands. Santiago and the boys enjoyed the birds. We knew we had a tough hike ahead.
Santiago told us about how he was hiking longer than he planned because stranger's kept giving him food. Someone had given him a huge Hillshire Farms sausage the day before. We gave him our extra oatmeal and snacks to lighten our packs. We filled our water bottles to the top and said goodbye to the hut.
When we stopped to snack on Mt Jackson, the Jays were back to bum more food. They had crossed the valley to visit us. We joked and half wondered if they would follow us to the car. The views were amazing! We stopped at a trail junction for a snack not realizing that just ahead were cliffs that gave us even more stunning views. We could look straight down to the rest area 2500 feet below. The next 3.1 miles took us much longer than we expected as it was a bit technical to climb down with packs. However, the boys were chatting about video game design and Sim-EARTH, but even that faded to silence as we trudged on.
We finally arrived at the car about 1PM. We stopped at Subway in Fryeburg and feasted on sandwiches. Once we arrived home, we unpacked our gear, laid it in the sunshine to dry, and napped.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

2014 Allagash Journal

I was fortunate to paddle the Allagash again in 2014 with my father and sons. This is the journal from that adventure.

Indian Stream to Thoreau Campsite

We left Portland about 6:15AM and headed North. Refueled in Bangor and went to McDs for Breakfast. Arrived in Ft Kent at 12:15 and went to subway. Took my last chance to reply to emails and say goodbyes on the phone. Pelletier’s Campground@1PM. We ran into Nate Smith (former Camp Hinds’ Councilor) who was just getting in off the river with his Chewonki crew- small world. He just walked right over and said “Do you remember me?” After a quick catch up, we headed South down Route 11 to Portage Lake. Stopped to buy nymph dry flies and grab a fishing regulations book at the town hall. Pulled onto Pinkham Road (A NMW Road) and arrived at Indian Stream at 5:30. Unloaded the gear and got the canoes loaded. Tipped Adrien $50 for great service! Headed downstream at 6PM. Guided the canoe and walked in the bow and stern until we got to Eagle Lake. It was very shallow at first. We tried to paddle straight for the narrows toward Pillsbury Island. It was tough going. The temp was perfect and the lake was like a mirror. We arrived at the first Thoreau campsite at 7:15PM. It was occupied. We went to the third campsite. Just as we landed, it started to rain. We quickly unloaded the gear and threw a tarp over it. We spent time in the rain setting up the other tarp over the ridge pole then moved our gear under it. The rain slowed down enough for us to set up our Hennessey hammocks. Mine went up quickly but the boys had a lot of trouble. Gramp set up his tent. Once camp was made, we had a snack. Gramp and My oldest son had granola bars. My youngest son had Ritz crackers. I boiled water and made hot cocoa. Then made beef stew (the dehydrated kind). My oldest son, Gramp and I ate the stew with some lemon cheesecake pudding for dessert. At 9PM I went over the plan with the group and the boys went to bed. The new mini propane lantern worked great and I wished we had a mini-propane stove to match. The clouds cleared and I looked at the almost full moon over the lake.
Travel Times:
Shuttle St Francis to Indian Stream, 2:30 to 5:30, 3 Hours
Indian Stream to Thoreau Campsite, 5:45 to 7:15, 1.5 Hours

Thoreau campsite to Tramway to Scofield Point
We woke at 5:30AM to the scolding of squirrels and made coffee while the boys snored in their hammocks. We made them cocoa and got them up at 7AM. My youngest son cooked bacon and eggs for breakfast. There aren’t really enough eggs for 4 in a 16oz carton but the liquid eggs are VERY tasty. Cleanup was tough because we didn’t heat up enough water and used too much soap.
We packed and left Thoreau toward the tramway. On the way we saw our first Loon. Gramp and My oldest son missed the landing so My youngest son and I arrived first. The boys loved scrambling all over the old locomotives and rail stuff. So many treasures so little time! The amateur archaeologists could have spent the day there and we only stayed an hour or so. My youngest son figured out he could fit in through the ash bin of the locomotive and come out down below. Gramp looked for the geocache for almost an hour but was unsuccessful.
We headed for Zeigler for lunch. The wind was straight into our face and progress was slow due to the hard going. We finally made it to Zeigler at exactly noon. Our one hour lunch break consisted of granola bars, an apple, and rice with broccoli. My youngest son had a big tub of plain white rice and couldn’t eat it all. Gramp let My youngest son use the Svea stove to heat the water. We mixed the rice and ate our “prison rations”. The rice tasted good but there just wasn’t enough of it. I found the spring behind Zeigler and there was a nice Spring house where we filled our water bottles. We left at 1PM and headed for Scofield point. The wind got very strong and it was very tough going. We still made it to the point at 3PM. We had to share the site with a couple that we had met at the Tramway in the morning.
We unpacked everything and laid all sorts of wet stuff on the rocks to dry in the hot sun. We set up our hammocks and tent and hung tarps on the table. There was a very friendly squirrel that was all over our stuff so we had to keep the trunks closed. We made iced tea and My youngest son fished. We argued about the menu because it had changed all by itself. There was not enough dessert. We made a fire to save propane and debated cooking muffins in the reflector oven. In the end, we ate 2 pounds of hamburgers- two each with lettuce and tomatoes. Cleanup with fire boiled wash water. We all decided My youngest son hadn’t had enough camp experience but he sure was getting it now. Everyone went to bed under the super moon just after 8 listening to the cries of the loons.
Travel Times:
Thoreau to Tramway, 8:45 to 9:30, 45 minutes
Tramway to Zeigler, 10:30-12:00, 1.5 Hours
Zeigler to Scofield Point, 1PM-3PM, 2 Hours

Scofield Point to Churchill Dam to Sam’s Campsite
We woke up early enough to see the setting orange moon and then went back to bed. No one was in a hurry to get up so I made the fire to heat up coffee water. My oldest son set out his instant oatmeal breakfast. I saved my raisins and granola bars for later. After cleanup, pack up, and a little exploration of the point, we still managed to leave at 9AM.
We paddled hard and arrived at Churchill Dam right after our site mates. The ranger ported all of our gear for $10 then came back for us in the other truck. While we waited, we visited the museum and saw the weather forecast was rain for Wednesday and Thursday. We decided to push past the planned Chisholm Brook (which we passed at 2PM) and headed for Long lake Dam. Even though Umsaskis and Long Lake were calm, we were getting tired. We ate our PB and Banana bagels at the Bissonette Bridge put in, then tackled the rest of Chase rapids. My youngest son banged a few rocks at first but quickly got the hang of it and maybe even had some fun.
We crossed Umsaskis and headed under the bridge only to discover our previous camp mates were in camp at Pine, a solo site… we laughed as we expected they wanted their privacy! At Grey Brook we took a half hour break. We were tired. We visited the outhouse, looked at the map and decided to push for Jalbert or Long Lake Dam. We made it past Jalbert but pulled into Sams at 5PM to cook the beef stew. We quickly decided to stay. My oldest son’s stew was fantastic. We started to fish after we made camp and caught a fish with every cast. Even My oldest son was successful! While My oldest son did the dishes, I hooked up the fly rod. My youngest son and I managed to catch our first fish on a fly rod. Then it got dark and was time for bed. We managed to see moose, eagles, and a rabbit today.
Travel Times:
Scofield Point to Churchill Dam, 9AM-10AM, 1 Hour
Portage, 2.5 hours as we had to wait for another group
Churchill Dam portage to Chisholm Brook, 1PM-2PM, to Thoroughfare Bridge, 2PM-3:30PM, to Grey Brook, 4PM, to Sam’s Campsite, 5PM, 4 Hours

Sam’s Campsite to Round Pond Tower Campsite

We listened to Sam the bunny hop around camp all night long…. I discovered that I didn’t have to leave the warmth of my hammock in the middle of the night just to pee. I just flopped around enough to pee out the slit in the bottom of the hammock. This was a fantastic plan and I was comfortable all night… however, I realized in the morning I had managed to soak my sandals in the process.
Imagine my surprise at slipping my feet into a cold and damp urine soaked sandal in the morning- so long dry feet. Gramp and I got a big fire going and made coffee and cocoa. My youngest son made some fantastic banana pancakes with the bananas that we had been carrying and not eating so far. The dish water was ready on time but we still didn’t meet our goal of being ready by 8AM and still managed to leave camp at 9AM. Up ahead on the lake we saw a red canoe leaving Lost Popple. When we arrived at Long lake Dam at 10AM it was chaos due to a huge group there bottlenecking the portage.
We portaged in 30 minutes and set off behind an older couple in a red canoe and the Schofield couple from Maryland in a green canoe that had stayed at Pine the night before. We scraped and bumped our way down the rips and got to the elm tree I remembered in the deadwater of Round Pond.
The wind turned into our faces. I thought I could see Squirrel Pocket across the lake but the map made it appear closer to the cabin. That error cost us the site. We canoed in a fight against the wind only to arrive moments after a couple of guys in a blue canoe that had stayed at Sweeny Brook the night before. I took a quick walk around the Squirrel Pocket site but wasn’t impressed anyway. It was quite a disappointment to work so hard to get to this site only to miss it by minutes. First come first served… oh well.
We headed up the shore line to Tower Trail campsite and arrived at 1:45 hungry and exhausted. We ate a snack while My youngest son made more pancakes. We made PB and fruit cream cheese sandwiches made with banana pancakes. These were the best food ever and we devoured them. Then we went for a swim and took a nap out of the hot sun. We were all a bit sunburned. My youngest son fished a little and got a leach between his toes that bled quite a bit.
At 5:30 we were ready to venture up to the tower. Just as we prepared to leave camp, the Maryland couple arrived to hike it too. At the top of the tower, I received a cell signal from Roger’s Canada and managed to get out some pictures to the home folks. The boys headed back down while I fiddled with the phone trying to get a good weather forecast. I headed down and managed to slip a sandal in the mud. I was completely ill prepared for the hike and the mud made the sandals difficult to hike in. I ended up stuffing leaves in the sandals to keep them on while I tried to hop jog as fast as possible to arrive back at camp just at the point where it became difficult to see in the woods.
The boys had made tacos that dripped down your arm when you ate them and they were delicious! Gramp had heated up the dishwater and we finished the dishes in the dark, brushed our teeth, and went to bed. It was a cacophony of loons all night long just like it was in 2006 here. I charged the cell phone a bit while I put down notes in my journal.
Travel Times:
Sam’s campsite to Long Lake Dam, 9AM-10AM, half hour portage, Long Lake Dam to Back Channel, 10:30AM-12:30PM, Back Channel to Squirrel Pocket to Tower Trail Campsite, 12:30PM to 1:45PM

Round Pond Tower Campsite to Cunliffe Campsite

Up at 5:30 only to realize we didn’t have enough water for breakfast. We packed everything up and left at 7AM to paddle to the spring by Outlet Campsite to fill up all of the water jugs. As we were getting to the rips, the Maryland couple left in the green canoe so we pulled into their campsite and made our breakfast.
We left at 8:45 as a Maine guide arrived with his crew. We listened to his training lessons to his group, and then made our way through getting better the further we got. We eventually caught up with the last canoe as it was hung up on some rocks. We then passed that group venturing on by ourselves. I think we did better without them. We made it to the dead water and could look back to the tower we had climbed the night before.
We wanted to go all the way to Dead water South for lunch but had stopped at 5 Fingers for a quick break and pushed on. We saw deer, moose, and bald eagles. We ate our ham and cheese sandwiches and visited the outhouse at Bass Brook. The cooler isn’t very cool anymore so I passed on the ham eating only cheese and lettuce. We reached Cunliffe at 1:30PM unpacked and decided to tent in the grassy meadow in the shade.
After a rest, we made the quick paddle over to see the Lombards all in one canoe. I didn’t remember the stream crossing in 2006 but there was a decent little bridge now. I also didn’t remember the fence around the Lombard’s due to the asbestos. We crossed back over around 4:45 and started to make dinner. My oldest son cooked the pasta mac and cheese while the dish water heated. Then he put the corn straight on the coals which we rotated every 3 minutes. The corn was super tasty but overcooked. The cheesy noodles were very tasty and we all ate seconds. I ate two cookies and cut a spruce pole so I could have a pole the rest of the trip.
I cleaned the pole and showed how you could ferry the canoe across the rapids and upstream from eddy to eddy. Then I brought the canoe back and eased into the shore. I had forgotten what a workout that was.
After the poling demo, I went back and helped the kids make muffins in the reflector oven with a muffin tin. My oldest son did dishes and My youngest son timed the muffins. We all threw branches on the fire to keep it hot. The muffins were super tasty! Around 8:30 it got dark and it was time for bed. The boys wanted to get an early start the next day.
Travel Times:
Tower Campsite to Spring, 7:00-7:30 to Breakfast at Round Pond Rips at 8AM. Rips campsite to Bass Brook Campsite 8:45-12:15. Bass Brook to Cunliffe Campsite 12:45-1:30.


Cunliffe Campsite to Michaud to Allagash Falls Portage to East Twin Brook Campsite
We woke at 5:30 to the sound of logging trucks which reminded us we must be coming to civilization. Things are down to a habit now, fire, coffee, dishwater, breakfast, pack. My oldest son cooked strawberry pancakes with warm strawberry mush from the cooler. We had coffee, cocoa, and a second batch of the pancakes with bananas trying to use them up. My youngest son decided to join us for the second batch of pancakes. By the time we got everything packed and were ready to go, it was 9AM. We can’t seem to beat that time. We headed through the rapids and were feeling pretty good about our navigation by the time we got to Michaud Farm to check out. There was a broken canoe there twisted right in half.
If it was there to convince us to carry around the falls, we didn’t need any more convincing. We saw geese, bald eagles, and a shy moose ran up the bank while we wound around through a lot of channels. I had pulled out at Michaud Farm in 2006 so had no idea what to expect. Right before the portage, we saw a huge bull moose. No one got a picture as we were in the rapids. When we got to the portage at 11:30, the guide told us it was the biggest moose he’d seen on the waterway in 10 years.
We carried the white canoe the length of the portage and then rested. My oldest son and I loaded all the remaining gear in the Tripper and lined it to the second landing so we could cut out a lot of the carrying. We carried the gear around. By the time we carried the canoe and we were ready to get gear, a big group and a guide had arrived. He gently poled each canoe to the second landing for his clients….. there’s one for experience. They all helped each other portage. In the end, we wished we had the wheels as it would have made the actual portage shorter. All in all, it was a two hour exhausting process. Our goal was the last possible campsite so we made sure no one passed us.
As we neared our goal, a canoe began to gain on us. We paddled like mad banging rocks and getting hung up, jumping out of the canoe and pushing. We didn’t want to get beaten to a site again. We arrived minutes before them. They passed in a Kevlar Racing canoe. No wonder it had been so hard to stay ahead! There was another couple sharing the site and they kept to themselves. We had seen them back at the entrance to Round Pond. They had stayed at Five Fingers and McKeen brook. We had paddled a lot of miles to catch them. I set up the hammock near the river and Gramp set up his tent. It started to sprinkle so we made the camp rain ready with the tarps while the boys set up and we all prepped firewood under the tarp to get ready for rain.
When it really started to rain, we had the dishwater in the cook pot over the fire and banana bread in the reflector oven. All we had to do was cook dinner and feed the fire. The banana bread took an hour to cook in the rain. We ate dinner and sat and watched while the rain pour onto the tarps. My oldest son had made yummy tacos with sour cream, old wilted lettuce, old tomatoes, Spanish rice, and canned chicken. We didn’t waste much of that old head of lettuce or the tomatoes even though it was pretty disgusting. The bananas were black and squashed after travelling 80 miles but the bread was just fine. We sat under the tarp listening to Gramp's stories and ate the entire loaf of bread with a stick of butter melted on it.
Travel Times:
Cunliffe Campsite to Michaud Farm 9AM-9:30, Michaud Farm to Allagash Falls 10AM-11:30AM, Portage and lunch 11:30AM-1:30PM, East Twin Brook Campsite 3:30PM.

We had tried to pack everything ahead of time for the next day because it was supposed to be cold and wet but it was a very cold night. I had pitched the hammock out over the riverbed and it finally meant I ended up with a wet sleeping bag. At 1AM I put on my rain gear and a warm shirt and pitched the LL Bean tent while I shivered. Once it was set up, I used my towel to dry off the tent floor and put on all my dry clothes and crawled into my wet sleeping bag to try to get some sleep. Up at 5:30 to make some hot coffee.
My youngest son made English muffin and bacon sandwiches. We packed up and got going around 7:45. We hoped to get all our paddling done in an hour but it took 90 minutes to make it to White Birch landing because of the head winds and pouring rain. We did well navigating the rapids and passed a bunch of houses before White Birch Landing. She wanted to charge us only $18 so we paid her $25 and she let us warm up in her house. On the way home we stopped to say hi to Norm L'Italien and tell him about the trip. He asked who we had seen and checked in on “his” folks out on the river.
Shortly after we left his place, the truck brake warning light came on. We went to subway and had a huge lunch. Once back in the truck, the dreaded light didn’t go away. We stopped at a garage and he told us the lines were just spewing brake fluid. We bought a huge bottle and tried not to use the brakes. We had to stop in Bangor and Gray to put a little fluid in the master cylinder but were all set for the ride home!
Things we wished for- larger dining fly, fishing knot reference, headlamps instead of flashlights, stories to read by the campfire, better ice because the milk spoiled, eat the bananas sooner,
Things we learned- roasted corn is good, reflector oven is fun, muffins are better than bread, apples keep well, cream cheese keeps well, two 9x10 tarps were the absolute minimum. 12x15 should be perfect or one 10x25, get canopy balls.
East Twin Brook to White Birch Landing, 8:30AM-10AM, Allagash Village, ME to Standish, ME 11AM-6:30PM.