Below is an account of day 3 of 8 days paddling the Allagash Wilderness Waterway in Maine in August 2015. Check back each week for the next 5 weeks to read the next days of the adventure!
Farm Island to The Jaws:
After a relatively restless night due to the stagnant heat surrounding us all, I awoke at 4:33 AM ready to go (!) We started packing up our tent as dawn came on and by 5:00 we were out of the tent arranging breakfast things. Eagle Lake was still glass calm and the mountains to the east were painted with strong wisps of fog. The sun rose round and red-orange over the hills and turned everything a rosy gold. We were back on the water by 6:45–having shaved 45 minutes off our departure time from the day before. Dad paddled east of us, profiled by the warm morning glow and fog.
We made it to John’s Bridge by 9:15. The thick pollen on the water looked like fog. Paddle-strokes left perfect footprints through it, like snowshoes on fresh, fluffy snow. Loons called around us. We cast a few lines under and atop John’s Bridge. From this vantage point, we saw a moose off to the west side of the water so I changed to my zoom lens and we all quietly paddled along, watching as she peed, ate, and watched us. We then noticed another moose to our right. We feathered our paddle tips in the water between strokes to reduce noisy splash.
As we paddlers increased our speed, so did the wind. We hugged the left shore to paddle the thoroughfare into Churchill Lake and took a pause at the Scofield Cove campsite, a favorite site for many. The tall pines and shaded sites were nice, but not as interesting looking as Scofield Point, which we cruised past with the wind at our backs and a tarp briefly assisting our “sail.”
Despite our two breaks at John’s Bridge and Scofield Cove, we made it to our campsite at the northern end of Churchill Lake by 12:30. We had hoped for High Banks campsite, given the float plane take off zone and road access to the Jaws campsite across the water, but the banks really were high and the site did not seem as pleasant. Given that it was a Sunday afternoon and we had only seen two other parties for the entirety of the trip, we figured the chances of seeing anyone there were slim. We set up just left of the open grassy campsite at the big beach for added shade. It was a great site with a breeze and a good branch for the bear hang. We ate lunch, set up the tents, and I took an hour and fifteen minute nap in the tent. Meanwhile, Joe caught a fall fish and decided to make a fire and cook it up, salted on a stick, Japanese style, to try this species for the first time.
This fish was not sweet and it was full of ‘y’ bones, but seasoned with “seafarer’s blend” made for a tasty treat. While these native fish are not a favorite of anglers due to how numerous they are compared to the oft-desired trout, I think they are fun to catch and fine to eat. And they are all the better for being a native fish with some eccentric habits: they build huge underwater rock piles with their heads and grow purple horns in order to headbutt other males during spawning season. Not a “trash fish” at all!
I then had a blissful bath. I used soap in my hair for the first time in three days while cleaning with just a few drops of biodegradable Stream Soap, standing and dunking at the entry to Heron Lake on the north end of Churchill. I watched Canada Geese and herons sit and eat on the western shore.
After supper, I helped teach dad how to set up a bear hang and helped him unhook a fall fish he caught on the rod his father gave him decades ago. This rod had been broken until Joe repaired it with its very own little splint before we left for the trip. Then dad and I fished together at the beach at dusk, catching nothing, but watching and listening to the buzz of big hex mayflies dancing above the water as high as the eye could see. I fell asleep after rinsing my arms, torso, and face with the cool water one last time.
This was an account of Day 3 of an 8 day trip. Check out these links for other days in the adventure: