Below is an account of day 5 of 8 days paddling the Allagash Wilderness Waterway in Maine in August 2015. Check back each week for the next 3 weeks to read the next days of the adventure!
Chisholm Brook to Sweeney Brook:
We set the alarm for 4:00 to get packing and hit the river by 6:00 to be able to make it to a campsite before the 10am-12pm thunderstorms predicted. The mosquitoes were thick; everyone was tense. I wore my bug jacket for the first time during the trip. As the sun started to rise and the glass-calm river was painted with deep blue and some red, a moose walked across from the east to west shore just a few hundred yards from our campsite. Pint-sized bullfrogs hopped in slow motion across the grass at dusk and dawn at this campsite. One even hopped into dad’s leg at 4:10am.
Just five minutes down the river, we watched a cow moose and a goofy young bull with only one antler graze in the water. The bull even submerged himself several times, adding to his goofy gestalt.
We paddled on into the sunrise up Umsaskis Lake and into Long Lake as the mosquitoes dissipated and the heat and humidity rose. Any breeze was only as quick as we could paddle, so offered no relief. I dunked my white long-sleeve shirt in the water twice to keep me cool. Long Lake was indeed long, but still as glass along its entirety with sweeping views of small mountains, gorgeous water reflections, loons, mergansers, ospreys, and kingfishers.
The portage over Long Lake Dam came with blackflies, a group rushing behind us, a feeling of hunger, and a sense of feeling overheated due to the humidity. At this point I wondered whether our fortune on this trip was turning. Nevertheless, we did an efficient portage and made it to our first campsite option 15 minutes later: Cunliffe Island. This site seemed buggy and enclosed, so we decided to go the extra mile to Sweeney Brook, protected with trees but remarkably insect-less while the sun was out, but for a few ankle-biting mosquitoes.
We set up, fished, and swam, walking upstream to float the current back to our campsite. Dad, who had ripped off a huge leech from his toe the day before and still had a bloody toe 24 hours later, emerged from our swim with an equally large leech on the bottom of one of his toes. Upon closer inspection–and to my horror–several spots around his toes crawled with maybe 100 baby leeches! I shook salt on them all and scraped them off with the edge of dad’s pocket knife. No one else got leeches.
The rest of the day involved baking a lemon cake and English muffins, making dinner, filtering water, and battening down the hatches for an impending thunderstorm. The storm passed by near us, but not quite overhead–enough to appreciate and feel a tinge of apprehension, but not imbue nervousness. We played Farkle under the tarp. Mom won.
Afterwards, Joe and I jumped in the water one last time to cool off and we listened to a great horned owl, a moose splashing in the marshes across from us, distant thunder, and the last drips of water falling from the trees. We crawled into our tent by 8:30 and the sky opened up again with the gentle tinkling of raindrops on nylon.
As I turned off my headlamp to shut my eyes, I noticed a roar. At first I thought it was the river, but surely I would have noticed that deep rumble earlier. Then I thought that the river had grown higher due to the rain, but it had not rained that much. The noise grew louder, closer. Had the dam spilled over? Impossible…I hoped. I realized it was a sheet of rain moving loudly down the river. It grew louder and louder, hit my parents’ tent, the tarp over the picnic table, then our tent, deafening us with the torrent. I do not remember falling asleep.
This was an account of Day 5 of an 8 day trip. Check out these links for other days in the adventure: