Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Just Passing Through

 Entering the AWW just east of Umsaskis Bridge on the Realty road.

Who comes out here? I blirted aloud, knowing full well who goes out there. There we were, just driving along. We had only just hit the Realty (Reality) road heading west, just outside of the small, classic, Aroostook County town of Ashland, ME. One thing about Ashland in the middle of January, don't expect to find any bundles of firewood for sale, but stop at the local Shop n Save forty or so miles before in the town of Patten, ME  and DO take them up on their offer to free up the frozen lock with a torch to get at that wood shed, a nice warm fire on a January night when it's predicted to be twelve below zero could save your life.
 Russell Stream Road, June 2011

 Realty Road, January 2012

A contrast in views from the pictures above of just driving along through the North Maine Woods. My adventures to this vast area of Maine are many, I've told tales here, here, here and here, including a cryptic, but relative mention here.  As a bonus, if you read along to this unrelated, but yet very telling write up, your life may be forever changed from a spirit of adventure

The last two journeys into the Allagash, unwritten about until now, could not be more polar opposite from each other, and at two of the most inhospitable times of the year, black fly season and during winter's icy grip. Back in June of 2011, myself and co-pilot, expert navigator and long time friend Mike headed back to an area near Allagash lake with a main mission, get my Subaru and kayak to the water way gate in advance of a yet to be fulfilled kayak camping trip. 

 Allagash Lake access, check.
Not only did we accomplish this mission, I had no doubt we would, but we ended up driving 280 miles of woods roads from Greenville to Fort Kent stopping in to check out McNally's camps, a little self baptizing in the St. John river, and finding the old camp on Eagle Lake where I stayed with my family as a wee one.

Picture, left the Alpine glow of the distant peaks in Baxter State park taken from the Telos road.

On both trips the Subie Dubie absolutely ruled, but on this trip, with the wintry conditions, the all wheel drive provided nothing but confidence inspiring handling, plus it's so fun to drive. 

This trip was intended mainly as a nature tour and woods road scouting mission, but also allowed me to investigate where and how other types of vehicles like snowmobiles get around a few key areas of areas I'm not as familiar with. I've been dreaming this one up for the last few weeks. With detailed map plotting, checking on roads that are plowed and not plowed as well as other research I've been gathering online. Pretty much up to the last minute the plan was confirmed and executed. Bail out options were noted and different road segments were targeted to be dealt with on demand knowing we would adapt to the conditions on the ground. We planned to car camp out at two possible sites, Wadleigh Pond on the St. Juste road or at Caucomgomoc Lake on the Caucomgomoc road and then finish the drive the next day. All this may sounds confusing, but flip through a DeLorme Maine Gazetteer maps - 63, 62, 61, 56, 55, 50, & 49.


 Reality takes this route!

As the story goes, I left home in Eliot at 3:30 AM, the first stop was picking up Mike in Lewiston for 5:00 AM, then after a brief stop for some greasy spoon breakfast, it was north to the launch site in Ashland, 10:30 AM. I had yet to approach the woods from this section, so I was anxious to see what it was like. It had snowed over night and the day before and the plow had been about half the distance to Clayton Lake then turned back, but the road had been traveled, so we pushed on through the snowy wilderness expanse. It was super cold outside the car, remaining near or below zero and I began to wonder about how much desire I really had to camp out. Arriving at Clayton Lake we stopped for a couple of photos, I don't believe anyone else was there, just the empty houses and buildings the loggers use. 


Representing the State of Maine, the US and Canada at Clayton Lake.

Then it was westward on to our first junction with the Poulin road south bound. Only a couple sets of tire tracks here through 8-10 inches of snow didn't turn me around until the road turned into a snowmobile trail. OK, we're backtracking to Clayton Lake and headed down the Churchill Dam road thinking our original planned route was not possible. Only seconds down the road, an approaching truck with two guys who looked like brothers stop to chat. I asked about the road to the dam and they said it was not passable, we had some further chit chat and they carried on. Seems they were also out for a woods road ride. At the junction with the Churchill dam road is the Priestly Cut off which would take us back on route to the Poulin road. I can see why the loggers use this option as it's closer and more direct to Clayton Lake. Important bits of road navigation taking place here. Now quickly rejoining the Poulin road we were greeted by two huge moose.

Brother.
Sister with claim to the Poulin Road northbound.

Just as quickly as we saw these Moose, two more appeared and scurried off the road as we approached. A few clicks south, a quick flash of another just in the woods off the side of the road, then ahead a couple hundred yards, two more jumped out and ran across our path. Seven within in a couple miles of each other. Continuing south we arrive at our next junction. A quick lunch and we're headed west again, now on the Cyr road. This one was also not plowed and snow covered, but we we're zipping right along worry free. Less than ten miles down the Cyr road where the Ross Lake camps winter access is right where the tracks stopped on Cyr road. This is where folks have parked their trucks and trailers and taken snowmachines in toward the sporting camps at Ross lake. A lonely looking Game Warden is sitting in his truck and I give a wave hello that goes unanswered, poor warden, his hands must have been too cold to wave back hello. Without being able to carry on down the Cyr road I calculate going on this untraveled road -vs- daylight fading and the unknown of the road ahead. A smart decision is made to exercise our bailout option and head toward the Telos gate and on to Millinocket, as this is the final option for our intended route west and south.  Yet, from here, the ride is far from over and we're back in the Allagash Water Way zone. Appropriately we stop in the "no stopping" zone at John's Bridge and take a few photos.

The Waterway south and west looking at Round Pond and further toward Big Eagle Lake.

North from John's Bridge on Churchill Lake up to the dam.

Continuing down the road I note several spots to park at and head down to Eagle Lake via snow machine. As we approach Haymock Lake, we see a happy woman cross country skiing and she waves and smiles. What a day for a ski I thought...

At the junction with the Indian Pond road I decide to head down, it's been plowed, but is snow covered and the going is better than I remember from the time Steph and I camped out there for multiple days. The now famous Pelletier Brothers have been logging down there for a few years and have really widened and improved the road. I was hoping to show Mike the summer access to Indian Stream, but just after the camps at Little Indian pond the road turned into a snowmobile trail, so we headed back out. The next diversion is at the Nugent's Camp parking lot, where a sign reads "Camp parking two miles". Yup heading down this road too! We arrive at the parking lot, now nearly all the way to camp, and see a bunch of vehicles and trailers. They must have had a busy weekend and full house. It is then that I spot this little gem...
Single place snowmobile trailer. I will have one with a shiny new Ski Doo please.

We head back to the main road and from here it's ten miles to Chamberlain Bridge. From the thoroughfare at the bridge one can access both Chamberlain and Telos lakes. There are some excellent camping spots along the way. Highly recommended is the High Bank campsite on Telos and Lost Spring on Chamberlain. Check them out. Not only are the campsites awesome, it's all about the view. 

Katahdin range from Chamberlain Bridge.

Thirty miles south of the bridge is the Golden road heading east to Millinocket and where we stopped the GPS track for the day. We had decided to head back to Lewiston at least, but I was mentally plotting making the trip wicked epic by driving home as well. We decide to stop and grill up some burgers and hot dogs we had brought with us followed by some hot tea for the caffeine effect and the long drive home. At this point, 5:30 PM, I had been on the road since 3:30 AM with over five hundred miles covered. Below is a GPS track of our drive in the North Maine Woods, followed by a final pic from high up on the Telos road.

 Fire in the sky on the Telos road.

Twenty one hours and 868 miles later I arrived home. It was an incredible drive, mission accomplished for sure. Thanks for reading. Do yourself a favor and check out this great treasure we have in the state of Maine. Go explore the woods.
 

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