Below is an account of day 4 of 8 days paddling the Allagash Wilderness Waterway in Maine in August 2015. Check back each week for the next 4 weeks to read the next days of the adventure!
The Jaws to Chisholm Brook:
We got out of our tents at 6:00, groggy and feeling inefficient due to the additional hour(s) of sleep. We had Allagash bars and leftover frosted chocolate cake for breakfast and began the inevitable backcountry conversation surrounding the state of everyone’s bowels after consuming so much dried fruit and beans in recent days. Despite our feeling of sluggishness, we departed by our 8:00 goal to make it to Churchill Dam just after they would have started letting the water into Chase Rapids for the day.
We arrived by about 8:30 and my stomach churned with nervousness about Chase Rapids. When we checked in with the rangers about portaging my parents, their kayaks, and everyone’s stuff, the only advice they offered us was to “keep the open side up” and keep to the left side of the first island. They also showed us the weather forecast, a seemingly auspicious trend of highs in the 90’s and sun all the time.
Joe and I began Chase Rapids at 9:00. The water had been running since the previous night, so we were good to go. Allagash Stream under our belts, we were ready to read the rapids and maneuver into the “v’s”. The number of people who warned us about taking an aluminum canoe down any rapids did not ease my nerves. The water was so much deeper than Allagash Stream, however, making maneuvering much easier.
We were doing well until we hit a hidden rock, which lurched us forward. I caught myself on the breastplate with my right arm as my left arm gripping my paddle splashed into the river, never easing its grip on my paddle. Meanwhile in the stern, Joe had hit so hard that he required two arms to break his impact onto the thwart and he dropped his paddle into the rapids.
I watched the Maine-made ash paddle given to my parents by my father’s father in the 1980’s shoot down the river in front of us as we sat glued to the rock. Joe pushed us off the rock, I handed him my paddle so he could steer, and we picked up speed down the rapids, I, feeling helpless without my paddle. I kept my eyes on the floating paddle, which had fortunately gone the safest way our canoe (hereafter named “Lurch”) could go. We approached the paddle and, with my only chance, I grabbed the paddle with my right hand. We switched paddles and continued on our knees through Chase Rapids. That was our closest call. We stuck to a rock only one other time and made it through to Bissonette Bridge where my parents stood waving 55 minutes from when we saw them last.
We pulled in, competing with each other for air time about our greatest mishap and subsequent paddle rescue. They seemed relieved but distracted. Once we got out of Lurch, Joe said he was going to throw a few flies quickly before we headed on. My dad said, “that sounds like a good idea…I did something stupid.”
I quickly scanned them both for signs of injury, but saw nothing. Apparently when they were loading their stuff into Ranger Shane’s truck, they had not emptied one of the kayak hatches. It opened in transit and dropped their tent somewhere en route. Shane said he would look for it on his drive back to the Ranger Station, but would only return if he saw it.
So there we all stood. Only one 2-person tent among the four of us with at least four nights left, waiting to hear the hopeful sound of truck tires on gravel. We had a 12’x16′ tarp, so we did have a backup–albeit an unpleasant one given recent high temperatures. Dad decided to walk back up the road (where they had seen a bear just minutes earlier) for 45 minutes or until he saw Shane or the tent. He took off with my watch, wearing only a hat, t-shirt, and swim shorts, and carrying no food or water.
Resigned to the reality of it all, mom sat on a rock, Joe fished, and I wrote. Fortunately, Shane had found the tent and came back with another party’s belongings not long after. We were back on the river by 10:55, feeling incredibly relieved. We made it to Chisholm Brook campsite by 11:30 and began to set up camp.
We swam, fished, wrote, and explored the afternoon away in the sunny 90 degree weather. While we did not catch any sizable fish, Joe and dad did find some sizable chanterelles. We sauteed them with the zucchini we had with pasta.
Sadly, dad’s fishing rod splint did not hold (damn superglue) and was rendered useless by late afternoon. Joe sat brainstorming about what he could do about it and I suggested sap. He collected spruce and fir pitch, mixed it with some charcoal, and fixed the rod in no time! Today was a day of lost and broken things being promptly found or repaired. We all felt lucky.
In the evening, we paddled around the marshes silently, looking for wildlife but only seeing the sliver of a crescent moon in the pink sky and clouds of mosquitoes. As we fell asleep on this night, we listened to a moose splashing in the water and the buzz of thousands of mosquitoes surrounding our warm tents.
This was an account of Day 4 of an 8 day trip. Check out these links for other days in the adventure: