Saturday, October 10, 2015

July 8, 2015 Loon Lodge on Round Pond

We woke up at first light to our truck bed full of water from a thunderstorm the day before. A quick trip up a hill with the tailgate down solved that problem as the water all rushed out the back. We loaded the truck and filled two coolers with food and ice loading those in the truck last.

We hit the road while the boys' eyes were still sleepy and made it to the Millinocket McDonald's before 9:30 for breakfast. The first rule of camping is you can never have enough bacon. We decided we needed more and ran across the street to Hannaford to buy more bacon, bagels, and a car charger adapter to keep the phone/GPS working.

Soon we headed into the woods on the Golden Road to the land of no Internet and no cell phone coverage. We were free of all modern inconveniences except Moxie which we managed to buy at the Northern Maine Woods checkpoint. The simple life has its simple pleasures.

Dottie Brook
Though our goal was Loon Lodge, we wanted to do a little research along the way.  I had read a blog entry where a Northern Forest Canoe Trail paddler had successfully navigated Dottie Brook and I read another blog entry where a couple portaged their canoe 18 miles on wheels between Umbazooksus and Churchill Thoroughfare Bridge. We stopped at Dottie Brook to consider a possible portage up the road instead of the dreaded Mud Pond Carry.

Mud Pond Carry
We drove back and forth a few times before finding the Mud Pond Carry at the point where it crossed the Winter Road. The carry looked like a muddy snowmobile trail that sometimes was a stream. We decided that a 2 mile carry on wheels west to Umbazooksus Lake along the road from Dottie Brook was much more exciting than a 2 mile slog through mud on the Mud Pond Carry. There was no way we were doing the Mud Pond Carry or an 18 mile carry along the road.

We arrived at Loon Lodge at 2:30 in the afternoon. The owner's dog, a lab retriever, was immediately in love with the boys that would throw the ball for her over and over again. The boys spent pretty much the whole afternoon throwing the ball for that dog. Never mind that they could do that at home with their own dog, this was a vacation and we were unplugged. The poor dog was pretty close to exhaustion when my father, myself, and the lodge owner stopped catching up. In truth, I had barely spoken to the lodge owners on the phone, but it felt like we were family from away finally stopping in for an overdue visit.

Lounging on our cabin porch
Sometime mid-afternoon we grabbed a quick ham and cheese sandwich on the porch of the cabin and let the poor dog rest. Dad and I discussed water conditions, portage options, minimal politics, and amenities at the lodge with the owner. We were able to get fresh ice out of a freezer for the cooler and there was one electrical outlet in the cabin I could use to recharge my camera batteries. We discovered flush toilets, hot showers, and bedding. Fortunately, there were out houses available so we could still rough it if we wanted to. We didn't want to because this place was heaven in the wilderness.

 Allagash Lake Fire Tower View
At 5PM, we bumped along in the truck on the road toward Allagash Mountain until we got to a gate. It was only a mile hike to Allagash Lake and the Ranger cabin and then another mile up a steep trail to a fire tower at the top. We were rewarded for an hour of effort with hazy but incredible views of most of the Allagash Waterway north and down into Moosehead Lake to the south.

Cooking inside our cabin
When we returned to the lodge at 8 PM, we finalized plans with the owner of Loon Lodge who had never heard of anyone paddling out of Mud Pond into Dottie Brook. He would be out preparing for the fall bear and moose hunting season and would pick us up at noon on Monday at Chamberlain Bridge to portage us the 18 miles west to Umbazooksus Stream. No need for the Mud Pond Carry! No need to explore Dottie brook. Problem solved!

We cooked cheeseburgers on the propane stove in our cabin and then did dishes. We used the flush toilets and the running water in the bath house to get ready for bed. We wanted to play cards and tell stories but the boys and their grandfather were asleep and snoring by 9. I crashed before 10 after charging all the cameras and taking some notes in my journal.
Sunset over Round Pond

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