Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Allagash Adventure

Steph in the rain on Indian Pond.

Allagash- A lake named by Abenaki Indians as, "Allagaskivignanmook" or "bark cabin lake". Many of the other lakes and streams in the area bear native names as well. Allagash Lake is a major source of water for the entire Waterway.

Introduced to the North Woods of Maine and the Allagash Waterway area by my Uncle Paul at a tender age, I have fond memories of those days and the magnetic lure just keeps getting more powerful every time I return.

The Allagash Waterway stretches 92 miles from Chamberlai
n Bridge, at the junction of Telos and Chamberlain Lakes, to Allagash Village, where the St. John and Allagash Rivers meet. About 45 miles or so is Lake water, with a couple of small narrow thoroughfare sections leading to the next Lake, then at Churchill Dam it continues north on mostly river. Protected by the State of Maine since 1970, for the ambitious, it is a true wilderness experience. Heavily traveled, it is not purely untouched, but what really is these days? Certainly there are places to "get away from it all". Even still as I enter, I unwind and recharge. When the time comes to depart, slight depression sets in and I begin to dream of the next journey to the wilds of this area.

Steph and I started planning our recent trip last September, when we paddled Telos Lake to High Bank campsite and spent a quick one night out camping before going to Baxter State Park for some hiking and camping. I met a Ranger at Chamberlain Bridge at that time and asked her some questions about an access point near Indian Pond, specifically at Indian Stream, where it dumps you into Eagle Lake. She gave me some very valuable information to help in the planning. Come to find out she was the Head Ranger for the Waterway. I never did get her name...

We were both on vacation the third week of July and decided we would head to Indian Pond and explore the stream into Eagle lake and hopefully camp at Thoreau, a State campsite on Pillsbury Island on Eagle Lake. This is the furthest North on the Allaga
sh that Henry David Thoreau traveled back in 1857 with his two guides. As influential as he was to the preservation of this waterway, and even though it took 113 years, it is right to have a campsite that bears his name.

After a seven hour drive, hungry and a touch grumpy, we arrived at our campsite on Indian Pond. Arriving later than we would have liked, we quickly set up camp and take command of the picnic table for a quick meal. As it has a lot this summer, it rained hard all night. I must remember to seam seal the rain fly in the tent!

Old growth pines and rocky shores line the edge of Indian Pond.

We woke up to continued rain showers and pressed some Java, YUM! While eating breakfast, the clouds began to break and we had a couple hours of sun. We took the time to dry out the tent and decided based on the forecast; we would wait it out that day and paddle on Indian Pond, as well as, investigate the drive down the road further to Indian Stream. We made it about a 1/4 mile from camp and we were stopped in our tracks by a flooded section that probably would have come above the floor boards of the car. Having slightly abused the VW on the approach the night before, we decided we would opt for plan B, and the next day, paddle the three miles down lake to the stream and portage to Eagle Lake.

Loon eggs on an unprotected nest.

We were on the water by early afternoon. It started to sprinkle as we got in our boats but, we pushed on. Paddling into a cove south of camp, we quickly spot a Moose feeding in the water. We keep a comfortable distance as she looks on with great curiosity. Just as we start to get further away from her, a loon pops to the surface just off to our right about 25 feet away. She stayed on the surface for about 15 seconds and then returned underwater to make a quick get away. Nature thrives here and it energizes us in an instant! We continue to explore some other coves well across from our campsite. The shoreline is very rocky with thick forest all along. We spot a beach on a near by island and decide it would sport a good spot for a little snack. As I am paddling swiftly for a classic beach landing, I notice the eggs pictured above and back paddle hard to keep from landing on them. Steph snaps a photo as we hear the cry of the loon and quickly paddle away. Within a minute a loon emerges and tends to the nest. Indian Pond is a peaceful place to paddle. We will return! Apparently, the good word for you fishermen is the brook trout are in abundance on Indian pond...Hint, Hint, Roy Boys!

This tree narrowly missed our neighboring campers tent during a bout of intense weather.

We had stopped at LL Bean the day before on our drive north. I have wanted to buy one of those hand crank radios for weather reports, listening to "classic rock" and conveniently for catching Red Sox games. We tune into WTOS and the song "Crazy Train" by Ozzy Osbourne is playing...I say to Steph, it is a sign, we will get to the trains!! The weather forecast was looking grim with Tornado warnings for our area and calls for heavy rain. After a great day on the water and an excellent gourmet camping meal, we head for the tent. I had my I-pod on for a bit while Steph was reading and I began to fall asleep. So I took off the head phones and we were getting ready for lights out, when all of a sudden, it was like a freight train was passing right outside our tent. After all my travels in the Mountains, I have never heard wind so loud. We started to worry a bit about the possibility it was a Tornado. Having to nearly yell to communicate with each other, we wondered should we make a quick break for the car? The rain was pounding and in a flash the wind was gone. We jumped out of the tent and noticed the tree pictured above had fallen. Debris was all over our car and we were unsure of what had just taken place? Our neighbors had gone to town for supplies and fortunately so. If they had been around, the tree would have crushed their jeep! We sat in the car, parked in the most open space the camp site allowed for about an hour, then decided it was probably safe to retire for the night. The rain pounded the tent all night but, it remained relatively calm otherwise. We didn't notice the dents in the roof of the car until we got home!

Steph pulling her boat through thickets!

Friday morning brings brighter skies and no rain! Wooo Whoo! We have coffee and breakfast and get our gear ready for the trip into Eagle Lake. Our camping friend Alan had given us some beta on where to find the stream at the end of the lake. The three mile paddle is pretty quick and a Bald Eagle greets us in the cove. He sits strong and stout on a tree limb watching us and then flies away. It was a little difficult finding a place to land, we look for the dead trees clumped together and I go onshore to see if I can see the stream. The forest was so thick! I could not see the "culverts" that go under the logging road. I could not see any stream? We scour the map and find a small stream and game trail that just dead ends in a bog. Back in our boats, I am determined to find the road. I land again and find some old logging cuts and push through poison ivy and picky bushes. After about 200 yards in, I find the road. I return to Steph who is waiting with the boats on shore and describe our portage to her...She stares at me with some question in her mind. We pull the boats up on shore and empty mine and carry all the gear in a large duffle, like carrying a back pack. I am pulling my boat through the woods, over downed trees, through the game trail to the road. What an effort! We hike down the road about a quarter mile, find the stream, leave the gear and go back for Steph's boat.

This is Fun!

Indian Stream.

We float down the stream laughing and giggling with spirit of wilderness all around us. I picture a bear in the stream around every corner or a moose feeding. We enter the South end of Eagle Lake and it is instantly obvious we are in the Allagash. The smell, the feel, the look, the sound, it is pure nature in Maine. I love this place!

A Great Blue Heron greets us on Eagle Lake.

Sit tight....Part 2 of our trip coming soon!


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