Below is an account of day 7 of 8 days paddling the Allagash Wilderness Waterway in Maine in August 2015. Check back next week to read the final day of the adventure!
Five Finger South to Big Brook East:
In the total darkness of 4:00AM, few bugs bothered us–just a few mosquitoes until the sun rose and a steady increase of no-see-ums until we left at 6. I pumped water through our filter into our bottles from the bow as Joe soloed us down the river. The high temperatures of yesterday inspired higher water consumption than earlier in the trip, so we were already running low. Two cow moose crashed into the woods as we approached, and, as with every morning, eagles, herons, kingfishers, and cedar waxwings graced the sky.
Unsure of where around Cunliffe Depot the infamous Lombard Log haulers my grandfather always talked about were, we slowed our pace to scout the shore. We also all needed a pit stop. As we approached the campsite there, we noticed it was occupied. A familiar head of white hair watching us, however, provided a classic Maine experience of seeing someone you know regardless of where you are–no matter how remote. Ron, who I knew from my college years and my parents knew through his volunteer-work at a local nonprofit, was staying at that campsite and more than willing to show us the rather hidden old machines being consumed by the forest. What used to be a loud logging camp was now covered with spruce and fir trees, swallowing the remnants of the machinery used to cut and move trees: a classic example of the interplay between humans and the Allagash region.
Next stop was the checkpoint at Michaud Farm, the site of a farm that supplied the food to these logging camps not so long ago. Ranger Matthew checked us in cheerfully, gave us advice about how to navigate the shallows, and told us a few stories. One such story involved a man who had been sick in the night and had zipped the tent door around his head to puke out the door. He awoke to a bear licking the vomit off his face! “Not the typical story a ranger tells, but it seemed relevant,” he said, given our thoughts on bear safety.
We headed on to the portage at Allagash Falls after a few scrapes and bumps in the shallow water leading up to it. The stop to portage and take a few pictures took nearly two hours–an exhausting portage for sure. We walked up to the falls to take pictures, fish, soak in our gratitude for our distance and success on the trip, and remember my grandparents who had done the Allagash’s various parts several times during their long lives.
Onward down the now very wide, yet mostly shallow river, we had partly cloudy skies, hot temperatures, and a refreshing tailwind pushing us to Big Brook East campsite. Despite the steep hike up the bank, this campsite offered a wonderful breeze, options for sun and shade, a lovely view down at the river, and an ice cold, spring-fed brook meeting the river.
We only had rain twice during the trip, once while in our tents our first night at Little Allagash Falls and again the night of the thunderstorm at Sweeney Brook. I lavished in our fortune, good weather, lack of biting insects, and my exhaustion by laying in the shade of some trees and falling asleep there in the open for a few short minutes–a luxury in this notoriously buggy place indeed.
We tucked into our tents before 8:00 after a refreshing final swim in the Allagash River accompanied by a not so distant moose. Clean and cool, I fell asleep before even picking up a book to read in my tent by the babbling brook.
This was an account of Day 7 of an 8 day trip. Check out these links for other days in the adventure: