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Special thanks to Ben Lawry (www.benlawry.net) for teaching me the correct mechanics of the forward stroke, Mother Nature, www.mothernature.org for the window of opportunity, Ed and Shirley Raymond/Steve and Belinda Scanlin for making the loop trek possible. Thank you Jason K., for helping this IT-challenged poster insert media files.
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After my overnight stay at the no-frills, but highly-recommended Trebor Mansion Inn (www/trebormansioninn.com) in Guilford Maine, I drove the ˝ hour to the put-in at Greenville public dock, launching next to the tourist steamer "Katahdin". The day dawned foggy, as is typical for this time of year, but a forecast of sunny skies, < 5kt. winds, and temps in the upper 60’s was spot-on. Only 2 boats were seen motoring from afar, and I had the glassy-smooth Lake to myself.
Though Moosehead can be deep (~250’ east of Kineo), much of the waterway towards the southern end is marked by channel buoys. A friendly loon entertained me at close range, at the southern end of 4+-mile-long Sugar Island, and I soon met a canoe-couple on a day paddle from Lily Bay State Park. A heavily-used campsite on the island afforded a tranquil stop for a swim (low 60s) and a snack.
Much of the shoreline is owned by the State as Public Reserved Land, and the eastern shore of the middle portion of the lake is dotted with more than 20 campsites, complete with picnic table, fire ring, and privy, all for one low price-free! The western and northern shores have fewer sites, but allow for extend tripping. The site NE of Big Dry Point was my destination for tonight, and an early landing left time for a leisure evening of reading, looning, swimming, campfire and supper.
My route for day #1: www/gmap-pedometer.com/?r=5114445
Day 2: The sound of rain on the fly was only somewhat discouraging, as I rather enjoy paddling in the rain. The forecast called for 100% POP in the way of showers; quite a trick to stow and keep dry all the sleeping gear and tent under the small MSR Hubba fly. My route today had me splitting the Moodys (Warren-bald eagle @ 2:00; alas no pix in the downpour) on the way to sleepy Rockwood. The information center consisted of a billboard, but the kind postal worker across the street gave me the skinny on Mt. Kineo trails. By now the VHF was telling me showers were only 50/50, with only isolated events for the afternoon and beyond. I parked the bus at one of the 2 tent sites at Hardscrabble Point, what used to be a popular destination for tourists staying at the former resort hotels (5), the last, like others before, consumed by fire, in 1938. The original 1844 Mt. Kineo House boasted 220 rooms and seating for 400 diners! Several old resort buildings, private residences, and a golf course remain today.
The 5-mile, up-and-back hike to the fire tower led to some nice SW views at the false summit, but only limited views at the tower.
I kayaked on to Kelly’s wharf to set up camp before dark. Here, ages-old apple (delicious!) trees of a previous farmstead competed successfully with the puckerbrush. Not enough daylight left to explore the myriad trails/roads leading to Little Kineo Mtn.-?next time? I dispatched the 5 resident mossies before heading to dreamland.
My route for day #2: www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=5114409
Day 3: Another sunny day and flat water for a 40-degree course to the Northeast Carry, a 1.9 mi. straight route to the W Branch Penobscot, a former passage used for centuries by Native Americans. Black flies and skeeters took advantage of bare extremities as I trekked to Raymonds’ General Store (www.sledmaine.com/) a few hundred yards down the Carry. For a small fee Mr. Raymond was able to shuttle me over barely-passable terrain to the W Branch. My alternate, unpractical plan was to tote the boat and gear on a kayak dolly to the river-‘nuf said. I meandered the few miles to Lobster Trip put-in where several parties were packing up for their journeys home. Followed Lobster Stream to Lobster Lake, and made haste to Ogden point, where I settled on a beautiful sandy beach site.
On my paddle around Big Island, I met a foursome canoe-motoring, who invited me to their camp site for hors d’oeuvres-of course I said yes! Turns out they live in the adjacent town where I was born and raised! They knew of my old neighborhood, and asked which house, I replied "3rd from the bottom, on the left". "Is your mother's name Barbara?" one of them asked. In the middle of Nowhere, where I expected to find Nobody, the world suddenly became very, very small! It was great to have the company, but I soon bid farewell and finished my jaunt around Big, made supper, then hit the sack.
My route for day #3: www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=5114397
Day 4: I plotted a course of 326 degrees for the inconspicuous Lake inlet, on my way back to the W. Branch. I ended up dead-ending in a marshy cove, having been distracted by the garbled VHF weather transmission from Greenville. (Note to self: When encountering 2 or more proximate in/outlets, pay close attention to the direction of their in/egress. Better still, mark and label as a waypoint on your GPS.) Another glorious day on the water, passing numerous fishing parties scattered about the river at designated sites and in boats. Out-of-staters typically pay $8/head in the Penobscot Riverway, but this seemed to be the end of the season, and I encountered no toll-takers or drop boxes for the rest of my safari.
Just beyond Big Island I had a little scare in the 4 knot, 1-2 rapids, after grazing a mid-stream boulder that I saw at the last second-another wrinkle for the hull. I landed at Boom House, just before Chesuncook Lake, with plans to hike the 1.3 miles to the Village. One of the 2 sites was occupied; this would be a good alternative to Gero Island, around the corner, if I got back after dark. Within 100’ of the privy, the trail was disrupted by non-harvestable trees left by the recent logging gouge/slash into the forest. Soon after picking up the trail, it morphed into a drainage sluice at the side of the Paper Co’s. super highway. Despite its dreadful presence, I marvel at the engineering of these routes, considering the amount of material (where does it come from?) and elaborate drainage systems. Attempts at picking up the trail across the way were futile, so I followed the road until it branched to the Village road, an extra mile detour. A grassy cemetery reflected the long-term habitation of this unplugged community.
I was hoping for a warm meal at the Lake House (www.chesuncooklakehouse.com) but was told by David, the owner, they would be closed until the sledding season, when they would be fully booked. [He apologized for the late-night excited voices from the night before (I could hear them across the smooth lake, 1 mile away). Apparently I had missed the spectacular northern lights display, not visible from my facing-the-wrong-direction shelter in the trees.]
Back to Boom House, finding the campers having returned, enjoying their last of eleven days in paradise. Off to Gero, with the setting sun, to find a recently-constructed lean-to recommended by Dave of Lobster Lake.
My route for day #4: www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=5114382
Day 5: [Still puzzled how these waterways were originally tagged. Because Chesuncook is so big, did its southern bays deserved to be called lakes (Caribou and Ripogenus)? Whattup with the 10-mile water course consisting of Black Pond, Caucomgomoc Stream, and Brandy Pond? What of a 3+ mile-long body of water termed Pine Stream FLOWAGE?]
Shoved off @ 8 for a paddle N to Black Pond. Uneventful, uninhabited, uninhibited flat-water paddling bliss, save for a float plane waving with a dipped wing. As forecast by the Boom House campers, I found my Bullwinkle on the second day of the season, just N of Little Scott Deadwater. Efforts to sneak up on him for a close-up were thwarted, despite being downwind (I know what you’re thinking-this is Day #5), and deliberate. How do you sneak up on ANYTHING in a bright orange-yellow school bus? He posed long enough for a long range profile before ambling to the mixed forest. I paddled on to “The Horse Race”, the small stream release from Caucomgomoc Lake, and paddled upstream. The 4.5-knot current and 4 inches of water hastened my retreat after a few hundred yards, and I was unable to locate the portage depicted on the NFCT map. I paddled back to the camp site near Mr. Moose, for a ripe PB&J, then to Gero by 4pm, for a bath, campfire, warm meal, and incomplete VHF news of winds tomorrow 5-10 from the S.
My route for day #5: www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=5114373
Day 6: The sound of waves lapping the shore stressed me to fully-awake mode at 3am. I had planned to be on the water by 6am ahead of the wind, but the best laid plans….. I quickly pulled out the chart and did some plotting and GPS waypoint calculations for different routes. By daybreak, I was worried about my planned 1.6 mi crossing in the building, white-capped waves, so I opted for a 5-mile detour, a CW trip around the lee of Gero, and a 0.5 mi. crossing to test the chop. The boat seemed to like the 10-knot headwind and 1-2-foot, short-period waves, so I paddled and paddled close to shore for 7 hours, to my pre-arranged take-out, stopping at interval protected points for a leg stretch and hydration (cuppa Lake). Steve and Belinda at Allagash Gateway Campground (www.allagashgatewaycamps.com) have recently taken ownership of this campground, and have big plans for offering a wilderness-like experience to visitors-please support them if you get a chance. They had previously agreed to transport me, my boat, and gear back to Greenville. Though I was a day early they graciously decided to drive me back that afternoon. I was back to my car by 5:30, and quickly called home, after being out of contact for 4 days.
My route for day #6: www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=5114355
Things I wish I had brought: rental SPOT system, man-girdle that cyclists wear (saddle sores), snow peak 28oz solo cooker (just purchased (on sale, of course)-perfect size for the cat stove).
Things I didn’t need: so much extra clothing, water filter, tripod stool (donated to neighbors on Lobster Lake).
Itemized food: breakfast-homemade oatmeal; lunch-PB&J X4, homemade zesty lemon granola squares; supper-Lipton/Knorr sides plus; snacks 8 oz.dry-roasted almonds, Lindt creamy milk chocolate bars (2), Haagen Dazs milk chocolate/almond ice cream bar at Raymonds’ Store (of all places! I can’t get this favorite at any stores near home!).
Gadgets: ICOM M88 VHF, Garmin entry-level GPS, VADO HD video, Pentax OptioW10 waterproof camera, cell phone.
Stove: JFalk’s cat stove: www.backpacking.net/makegear/falk-catstove
Camping: MSR Hubba (solo) tent, footprint, Thermarest inflatable (by you), LLBean 40-degree climashield long, OES 10X12 sil-nylon tarp: www.outdoorequipmentsupplier.com
Maps: Delorme-Moosehead Lake; Northern Forest Canoe Trail #11; photocopied/laminated gazetteer map of Moosehead (Delorme).
•What’s in/on your pfd? www.youtube.com/watch?v=91uGIvnbNvk
•My first-aid kit: www.youtube.com/watch?v=svfUqRMyqQU
•My repair kit: www.youtube.com/watch?v=4z865v_E_sk
•My day kit: www.youtube.com/watch?v=3YY7qR8v0ZA
•Packing my kayak for camping (poor audio): www.youtube.com/watch?v=UODSS0Zw5J0
•Random paddling footage from the trip (1st attempt at video-rather sketchy): www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ZzATi6A6xc
The Kayak Wing