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Four in the morning seemed early on Sunday, August 12th of the year 2001. Jim was already in the shower and the Pleiades Meteors were shooting past the picture window at Indian Hill Motel room number five. My mother would always say to me, "Where is my adventure boy going now?" Maybe because my first adventure was, at the age of three I walked away from home and put the whole family into a frenzy, only to have a taxi drop me off with a cup of ice cream about an hour later. "Here I go again Mom."
Jim, like myself was most likely very anxious to get going. Our plan was to get up early and go into Greenville for breakfast before we started our weeklong Allagash Canoe Trip. Getting away from it all, canoe camping in the north woods of Maine. Leaving the noise and stress of modern life behind and refresh our spirit in Maine's clean air, clear water, and balsam-scented forests. We wanted to learn how to travel gracefully and efficiently using our own power, following canoe routes used by northwoods natives for thousands of years. Listening to the haunting calls of the loon, coyote songs at night, and enjoy frequent encounters with moose, beaver, deer, bald eagles and osprey.
Jimmy flushed the toilet and said "say good-bye to this sound for a week". We jumped into the Albertine and drove down the hill into Greenville, Maine around five A.M. and we found a small town still deep in sleep with all the stores closed and signs that stated, open at 6 a.m.
We than drove over to Kelly's Landing (a boat launch and park) on the West Side of town and watched a fishermen begin setting up for some early morning fishing. We just sat there and watched the red glow of his cigarette and the silhouette of him and his coffee cup as he moved about at the edge of Moosehead Lake (1029 feet above-sea-level, ASL).
The break of dawn was beginning to take the stars from the sky and we wanted to have our last decent breakfast before we started our journey. So, we decided to drive around town a bit and look for a place to have breakfast. We found a place on the eastside of town, They had opened at five a.m. and was serving a full breakfast.
Jimmy and I walked up to the counter and sat down. The owner, waitress, cook, dishwasher and cashier asked us if we wanted coffee. We replied "yes, ma'am"! She served us our coffee and gave us each a menu. This small rustic log cabin paneled restaurant was real homey. The food was cooked up and served as to have other fast-food places taking notes. The ham and eggs with home-fries where excellent. We finished breakfast and coffee, paid our tab, left a tip and away we went.
Jim and I arrived at Herb's place at six-thirty A.M. and we were the first ones there. Herbs (the grandfather) house has a spectacular view overlooking Moosehead Lake and the islands. Before long all twelve of us had assembled and our trip leaders Chip & Lani had started introducing themselves and we started packing our gear onto the canoe trailer.
There was a real sense of excitement as fourteen of us piled into the Ford van and Chip eased it out of Herbs driveway onto the Lily Bay Road and headed for Kokadjo population, not many. As you enter Kokadjo you pass a large road sign that states: "Keep Maine Green. This is God's country, why set it on fire and make it look like HELL!"
We were off to the Allagash via a two and half-hour ride down the Golden Road then the Telos Road through the Telos Gatehouse and finally down a small access road to Indian Stream.
We started to get to know the others at a gravel bank with a pair of steel culverts that let the waters from Indian Pond (940" ASL) flow down Indian Stream for a quarter mile into Eagle Lake (922' ASL). We would spend a couple of days learning whom our fellow paddlers were. Right now we needed to get the canoes from the trailer and all the food, tents and gear into the seven Old Town Canoes. Chip & Lani started telling us what to get and how to balance the load in our canoes. Jim and I would have a twenty year old Tripper made by Old Town that showed the scars of many other canoe trips. Tripper as we would come to call our canoe had gray duct tape on her port bow on the outside as well as inside. Others would be more concerned about the duct tape than Jim and I would be because we kinda knew that any canoe that had passed the test of time like Tripper, would be a winner to paddle down the Allagash.
We all had to take a canoe pole, wannigan (Indian for food storage), tent bags, three paddles (one for a spare), personal flotation devices and our personal gear. Jimmy and I both had more than we would need for this trip. Nether of us had done something like this before. So, we both were over prepared and between the both of us we carried several hundreds pounds of gear.
After we filled a couple of canoes with gear we walked them down Indian Stream to make room for the others to load their gear. Jim and I were one of the first to reach Eagle Lake right behind Bob & Thomas. Bob was from Augusta, Maine and Thomas was Bob's brother in-law from England now living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The next boat behind us was Sarah & Steve. Sarah a twenty-three year old engineer from Rochester, New York and Steve a forty-eight year old job placement specialist from Ohio. Than came Jessie & Tom. Jessie a twenty-three year old ninth-grade English teacher and her fiancé Tom a computer programmer from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. There was also Gilina from Russia working in Massachusetts and Jo-Ann a sixty-five year old retired physical education teacher, that had hiked the total length of the Application Trail in sections over the coarse of several years. Than there are the stars Eileen & Harry, a seventy-six year young couple from California. Last but not least our fine guides Lani & Chip of Allagash Canoe trips. Lani Love Cochrane a thirty-two year old, has been guiding with Chip since 1988, and is a white water raft guide and kayak instructor. Lani has been busy getting the next generation of Allagash guides off to a good start. She has been doing a lot of the behind the scenes packing and trip preparation right now, and will be back to guiding with Chip just as soon as the youngest Cochranes can carry water and chop wood. Lani finds herself assisting her husband Chip for the first time in seven years down the Allagash River. Chip Cochrane a forty-year-old kid, began guiding with his grandfather and father at age 13; since then he has accumulated over twenty years of Allagash experience. A former World Cup downhiller for the US Ski Team, Chip now coaches developing alpine racers during the school year. In recent years Chip has captured first place medals in several National Downriver Whitewater Championships, and won the National Canoe Poling title for several years. Chip also guides whitewater raft trips and teaches whitewater canoeing and kayaking. This would be Chip's eightieth trip down the Allagash River.
Now for the first time our seven canoes are all afloat together on Eagle Lake, it was eleven a.m. We have eighty miles of paddling ahead of us in the next seven days. Chip calls us closer together so that he can begin giving us basic paddling instructions and some trip information. Just then Tom and Jessie have motion control problems and Tom decided he will change places with Jessie in the canoe and with his polarized sunglasses steps out of his canoe and up to his neck into the water. Tom though the water was only knee deep. We all had a good laugh over that move. Chip stated to Tom (rather loudly) that he did not want to flip his canoe over and that he was carrying some of the food and gear we would need for the weeklong journey.
Jim was in the stern (stern-men) of the canoe and I was in the bow (bowmen). We quickly took the lead and I realized that I would be lost as to which way to go. I asked Jim if he knew which way to go and his reply was "No!" Chip would call out a point of land ahead and we would paddle in that direction. We had a strong breeze blowing from the south that gave us a tail wind. At times the wind would cause us to surf and Jim would be frustrated with the loss of control. We paddled over to the first point and sat and talked while waiting for the others.
The scenery of Eagle Lake was splendid, there where no camps on it's shores. It's waters where clear with a light tint of tea brown (tannic acid). Most likely due to the years of logging that ended in 1977 and having giant trees with their bark silently decomposing on the bottom of the lakes. The sky was clear blue with small puffs of white clouds drifting over the wooded green shore of pine, spruce and hemlock.
Jim and I again waited for the others to give us a direction and we began to follow trying to guess as to which way we would be going. Some of the group was on the eastside others in the middle of Eagle Lake as we paddled along on this picture perfect day. Chip called out that we would be turning left up ahead at another point and head over to the island beyond the point for lunch.
We could see a couple of other canoes way ahead on the lake and we struggled to hold a straight line with the stiff south-wind to our back. This was better than having to struggle with paddling into the wind as we had read and heard of others having to wait for several days on shore for the North-wind to calm itself so they could continue their journey.
We pulled our canoes up onto Pillsboury Island and used it's campsites for our first break and lunch. Some of us needed water and there was a spring a short hike up the hill on this island. The spring water was located in a green grassy area at the edge of the thick forest. The water was crystal clear and as cold as if it was from a fridge.
Chip & Lani spread out our lunch on the picnic table from the wannigan and we all began to make sandwiches and sip on lemonade with chocolate-chip cookies for desert. I though that the food was exceptional due to the fact that I was outdoors and working up an appetite. I would soon learn that I was wrong about the food.
We started introducing each other and telling people where we had traveled from and why we wanted to make this journey.
Chip talked about the area and its early beginnings and that we where on the same island as the Allagash Four had been abducted several years earlier by a UFO.
So, here we are on the same island almost to the day twenty-five years later having lunch. Some of us would keep and eye open for strange lights at night. But, most of us would be exhausted from paddling and well asleep by full nightfall every night to be concerned with UFO's.
We finished lunch and loaded the canoes for our next leg of this day's journey. Knowing that this was where Henry David Thoreau in 1846 had turned back on the Allagash. Thoreau would later write "The poet's, commonly, is not the logger's path, but a woodman's ... there are spirits ... to whom no simplicity is barren. There are not only stately pines, but fragile flowers, like the orchises, commonly described as too delicate for cultivation, which derive their nutriment from the crudest mass of peat. These remind us, that, not only for strength, but for beauty, the poet must, from time to time, travel the logger's path and the Indian trail, to drink at some new and more bracing fountain of the Muses, far in the recesses of the wilderness." The Maine Woods,
Jim now wanted to be the bowmen and had enough of struggling with being the sternnen for what I though would be for just today.
Now finding myself in the stern and having to get a feel for the wind, water and motion of the weighted canoe for the first time. I had been canoeing whitewater with empty canoes with just life jackets for several years. But never loaded canoes with food, shelter and gear for a week. The responsibility to keep the canoe upright was much greater in the middle of a wilderness with no phone, roads or help for many miles in any direction. I found that heading-up on a lake was just a matter of not over-steering the canoe as you would your car. Just constant little adjustments and changes in paddle strokes made for easy going with a tail wind. I was now practicing and playing with what I call the Cochrane stroke.
I asked Jimmy if he could figure where we were heading with the map that Chip had given us at the gatehouse back on the Telos Road? Jim took out the map and began to study it and looked around to find his bearings so that he could navigate from. He was working on his navigation task when Chip told us to hug the left side of Eagle Lake as we paddled north.
We continued to take in the views and enjoy the sound of the wind, absent of any man-made noise as we gently paddled toward a corner of Eagle Lake. We slowed and let Chip take the lead and guide us onto shore.
This spot turned out to be the area that the Tram and the Allagash Trains would be found. The tramway was built in 1902. It was a one and half inch cable, that was six thousand-feet long that had trucks, that would drag logs from Eagle Lake over a wooden Tram (like a chair lift) over about a half mile. The tram moved at two hundred and fifty feet per minute into Chamberland Lake so that the logs could be driven to Bangor, Maine instead of Canada. The Tram was used for only six seasons. In 1927 a couple of massive trains with eight six-foot drive wheels would be built in the wilds of the Allagash area to haul logs from Umbazookus Lake to Chamberland Lake. Today, the remains are being picked over for souvenirs and the giant trains still stand guard in the mist of trees that was once what they would haul to market. I returned to the shore of Eagle Lake and our canoe feeling like I had visited history. That in it's hay day this would of been state of the art technology, with engineer's on the cutting edge of designing equipment that would someday allow us to contemplate how one-hundred years ago such great things could be accomplished.
It was now around three p.m. and we all continued to paddle North on Eagle Lake. Jim was now able to plot our course and guide us North. The wind had now whipped up the whitecaps with one to two foot chops on Eagle Lake. We were really surfing when Chip motioned us over toward Farm Island. Jessie and Tom were off our portside (port has four letters like left and starboard has more than four letters like right). We paddled over to Farm Island and beached our canoes. Jim & I pulled out the fishing poles and fished from shore as we waited for Chip to come ashore. The wind was still whipping across Eagle Lake and hissing through the trees on Farm Island. I thought that it was going to rain as the wind was from the south and we had dark clouds that now filled the sky. The trees were bending and swaying in the gust's of wind that I would guess reached thirty miles an hour.
When Chip arrived on shore we learned that Steve had forgotten his hat at the Tram area and had turned back to go get it. Bob & Thomas were hanging back to buddy with Sarah and Steve in the wind and growing surf. After about three-quarters of an hour they also beached onto Farm Island.
It was around four p.m. and Chip decided that this would be our campsite for the evening. No-one complaint about his decision as we began the task of removing all the gear from the canoes and setting up camp.
Jim and I setout to get our Eureka Tent #33 set-up. This was a triangular four-man tent with zip-down flies on each end. This tent would be home for the next six nights and after putting our gear in it was just right for two men.
Chip was busy cutting firewood for the fire so that he could cook our dinner and Lani was setting-up their tent on the beach than getting the table ready for dinner. With the campfire started, Chip & Lani were preparing steak in grilling racks over the wood fire and boiling potatoes and vegetables in pots that were stove black from being fired over the wood fires. The daily highlight would be fresh baked goods baked in a oven that Chip's grandfather Herb had designed decades earlier and used to this day in-front of the blazing campfire.
Pails of water had been fetched from the lake for cooking, tea, hot choc or the word and washing and rinsing the dishes. This water was also used for fire control by Chip while he orchestrated dinner. If the fire was running too hot he would take a ladle of water and douse the fire down. He would call-out that dinner would be served in ten minutes. We were all very hungry from our first day of paddling and quickly lined up for dinner. We all sat at a large picnic-table and amazingly, just like we had lived together for years on a farm we began passing the salt, pepper, butter, tableware, etc. etc.
The steak was cooked to satisfy any variation of doneness and the flavor was outstanding and tender, as if cooked by a French Chef in a four star restaurant. All the fixings had a flavor that only years of trial and error working outdoors and cooking would yield this result. I thought, "well we were lucky tonight. The rest of the trip will most-likely be de-hydrated soup and trail-mix". WRONG!!!..
After dinner came dishes and Chip had a good plan for that. When you use your dishes you can walk to the end of the table and wash in one bucket and than rinse in the other and put you tableware back in it's holding place for the next meal. This failed due to a few well doers taking on the task of always washing all the dishes.
After dinner Jim and I would go off and do some fishing. I brought my Uncle Rene's fifty-year-old Whirl-A-Way fishing pole. This fishing pole was not the modern Lamiglas G500 Graphite Casting Rod with the very best in high quality graphite, featuring a wide range of actions and offering translucent pearl/blue blanks, hardloy guides, graphite reel seats, and premium Portuguese cork grips. This was one of my Uncle Rene's fishing rods that he left me when he passed-away in 1996. This was one of the reasons I'm here on the shore of Farm Island on Eagle Lake in the Allagash Wildness Waterway. It was due to the love of my family that gave me the love of the outdoors and the memories of them teaching me and guiding me down the path that in time would lead me here.
I stood on a rock that was just off shore and cast into the wind, the Red Devil lure would spin off fighting and straining into the wind, dropping into the choppy whitewater. As I began reeling there was a slight tug as if I had snagged the bottom. When a tiny fish came into sight. I eased it onto shore and proudly displayed my three-inch Chub. Several Chubs of varying sizes were caught by Jim and I and after inspection from the group of spectators. They would carefully be released back into Eagle Lake.
Jim & I placed the fishing rods under the over-turned canoes and washed up with biodegradable liquid soap and a facecloth.
The evening sky was cloudy and still windy as the surf slapped on the stony beach thirty feet from our campfire where a few of us had gathered to discuss our days events. Chip had warned us not to burn his cooking wood. So, we scratched the ground for twigs and branches to keep the night fire going for a little while so we could spend time talking with the others. After the fire died down, Jim and I retired to the tent and it was not long after that we were fast asleep.
I awoke to the gentle snore of Jim and in the background I could here the crackle of a wood fire and the mutter of quietly spoken words. As I opened my eyes I could see the glow of the fire through the open screened fly of the Eureka Tent #33. There was Chip busily tending over the fire, again boiling water and making coffee while getting breakfast going. It must have been around five-thirty in the morning on Monday, August 13th 2001.
Jim soon woke up and we went out into the early brisk morning air for our first cup of camp coffee. Coffee made camp style. That is, take a coffeepot, fill it with water than pour coarse ground coffee into it and put it over the fire till it comes to a full boil. Then let the coffeepot steep for several minutes on the side of the fire allowing the grinds to settle to the bottom of the pot. The secret is in how you pour the coffee from the pot. Slowly pour the coffee as to not draw the grinds from the bottom of the pot into your cup. If you get a little bit of grinds in your cup, just toss the bottom of your coffee cup away or think of it as coffeecake.
Dawn had now broken and there was still a slight south-wind and the sky was cloudy and looked as if it may rain. Sarah had a bad night with side-cramps and was still sore from the ordeal. Someone was giving her ibuprofen to try to reduce the soreness. All the others had a good night sleep.
Chip called out that breakfast would be ready in ten minutes. Chip cooked up a bucket of four-grain porridge for the first course and was still cooking buttermilk pancakes in a couple of black pans over the wood-fire and storing them in his reflective oven to keep warm for the second coarse. There was real maple syrup and honey on the table. We had reconstituted milk for the porridge. Again, the food was magnificent and I was wondering how Chip could do it.
After the meal the dishes needed to be done and we began breaking down the tents and packing of the gear. Jim & I rolled up our ground mats, stuffed our sleeping bags into their stuff sacks. Took all the gear out of the tent and then broke down the tent and worked together to put the tent-rods, fly and carefully handling the tent stakes as to not lose any, fold and roll the tent into it's tent sack.
We than began loading the Tripper for another day of paddling on Eagle Lakes over to Churchill Lake. We would help the others load their canoes and then we began to float off from shore at seven-thirty in the morning.
With our bellies full, we started to get those tired muscles warmed up again. Jimmy had his map laid out on the floor in the bow of the canoe so that he could study it as we happily paddled along. The Englaze (Bob & Thomas) mounted an assault on us (The Canadians). Bob & Thomas would use Custer's Charge Hymn to attempt to take over the lead. Jimmy and I answered the challenge with (Let's go) and Jimmy's left-handed ability and my right-handed ability gave us an edge over two right handed paddlers. I would not let on to the others in the group about our secret weapon, Jim's left handed.
After their defeat, the Englaze (pronounced the same as said by the Indian Mogkuk who hated the English on the Last of the Mohegan's) would fall back to recover from the injuries (feelings) while Jim and I gloated over the successful defense of our lead.
Jim would give me the heads-up direction and we would beeline from shore to shore in a straight-line. Giving us lots of time to check the waters-edge for wildlife. We had Bob & Thomas off our portside and we thought we could see three canoes way up ahead and than Thomas thought he saw a moose on the starboard side of the lake. Later we would prove that the moose was a large rock on the shore and the three canoes were mirages in the early morning sunshine.
There was certain solitude as we softly paddled around Loons that would lay-low in the water with their necks high. Like a battleship with its hull deep in the water and its super-structure with sixteen-inch cannons riding on the waters edge.
The Loon's would dive down and fish and then surface. They were letting out their haunting call of the wild when from behind on our starboard-side came the sound of paddles splashing with heavy breathing as if someone was running. It was Jessie and Tom that wanted to take the lead. I motioned them ahead and Jim and I fell back.
We were now nearing John's Bridge and Jim and I would drift while the others caught-up. Jessie and Tom had gone ahead and now wanted us to take their picture. We all stopped on the left side of the bridge and took a ten-minute break with peanuts and trail mix.
The threat of rain had diminished for now and the sun was now shinning and the temperature was on the rise. Suddenly, someone spotted an eagle high in an evergreen watching over us.
The cameras quickly came out for this event. The young Bald Eagle leaped from its high perch and glided down over the water, then soared up and disappeared over the trees.
Lani wanted to dive off John's Bridge and Chip warned her that jumping was no longer allowed off of any of the bridges that cross-over the Allagash. Lani was disappointed and said "things have changed over seven-years". We were spread-out over both ends of the bridge when a fully loaded logging truck came along and crossed over the bridge kicking up dust and shaking the earth as only the tremendous weight of one hundred cords of wood could do.
John's Bridge has been in the news recently, there is a proposition to make a parking area for six vehicles at this bridge for access to the Allagash River Wilderness Waterway. Some say we would lose the wilderness aspect of it, others say we need more access to the Allagash River Wilderness Waterway. What is a wilderness? An unsettled, uncultivated (to cultivate is to improve) region left in its natural condition.
All of us were getting into our canoes at John's Bridge when the silence was broken by the sound of on-coming EEEEEEERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR. What was that noise echoing and resonating from every direction? Canoes with gas motors on them coming from Churchill Lake (922' ASL) from under John's Bridge.
Chip told me that motors are allowed on the lakes in the wilderness, but not in the river. I asked Chip, how he felt about motorized canoes used in the middle of the wilderness and he said. "Paddle all day for a certain campsite and from the rear with the roar of a motor that drowns-out all the natural sounds of loons, fish splashing on the surface of the lake, the screech of the eagles or even the chirp of chipmunks in the trees and here comes someone that motors pass you and takes that campsite, well it upsets me." Being the first timer on the Allagash, I could not agree more with Chip's meaning.
Leaving John's Bridge we would also leave Eagle Lake behind and enter into the swampy waters that are good bird-watching country of Churchill Lake. The Indians knew Churchill Lake as Allagaskwigamook, which has been interpreted as meaning "Bark-cabin Lake." Allagaskwigamook was condensed into "Allagash." It's interesting the name of the lake came to refer to the entire river. Perhaps that was due in part to the importance of Churchill Lake to the Indians. Undoubtedly Spider Lake, a tributary of Churchill Lake, provided a thoroughfare to Chase Lake, a source of the Aroostook River.
We were following the Englaze when Jim pointed out a full-grown Bald Eagle. We changed course and paddled toward the great bird. I had my camera in hand and Jimmy kept paddling to keep us in control. As we got closer the Bald Eagle spread its large wings and gently lifted itself from its high perch. At first the eagle floated down toward us to gain speed. I desperately tried to focus on it as I bent-over backwards to try to get a good camera shot from underneath the bird. I snapped off several shots in sequence and I told Jimmy "I think I got it!" Returning the 35mm back into its waterproof bag, we returned to gazing around and paddling across Churchill Lake.
Several more Eagles would be seen circling in the distance over the tree line. Jim and I crossed-over the lake. Chip had planned on staying at the campsite Jaws. That campsite (Jaws) had several canoes that could be seen on its shore. So, we chose to go to Highbank. As we neared the campsite (Highbank) there was a flock of Canadian Geese and they started to honk. Have you ever heard Canadian Geese honking overhead as they migrate South in November? Well we got to listen to them in August.
It was still early afternoon so, I pulled out the old Whirl-a-way and started fishing. Several minutes passed without a single bite. By now, Lani and Eileen would land at Highbank. This would be our over-night campsite.
Again, we all worked together to get the canoes emptied and the campsite set-up and everyone was getting their tents up. Jim and I learned from Lani to put the tent as close to the water as possible. This allows good ventilation and viewing from the tent. We opened our sleeping bags and put them over the tent to get the sun and wind to dry them out. Sleeping bags will retain your body moisture and any early morning dew, so it is advised to air you sleeping bag daily.
Many of us were starting to do the Allagash wawa. That is we were complaining about how sore or how stiff this or that was. I was wawaing about how tight my muscles between my shoulder blades were. My Aunt Albertine would have told me, "You don't know pain!" Albertine was ninety-two and full of arthritis. Sarah's side was still bothering her. Galina & Jimmy's shoulders were sore.
Chip told us that we could swim across the narrow point, over to the other side and walk a mile or so to Churchill Dam and the ranger station for drinking water. I thought maybe in another life I would swim and walk a mile for drinking water.
Jim came up from the point and said there was a cow moose and its calf feeding in the water just off shore. I told Thomas about the moose and he said, "If we were lying he would kill us!" I was hoping the moose had not walked back into the woods. We walked down to the point and sure as Jimmy had said, they were still there and feeding on the bottom of the lake for aquatic plants. Thomas said that he had never seen a moose before and his dream was to see moose on this trip. Jim and I tried to estimated how many Moose we would see, Jim's guess was one hundred and twenty five, and mine was a modest twenty five. Lani, told me that Thomas was going to hold back twenty dollars for everyday he did not see a moose from Chip's tip. Thomas told me he was just kidding about killing someone. I still, to this day wonder about that.
Galina, ran back-up to the campsite and got her camera. Then ran back to the point. She was dissatisfied with the distance she was from the moose. So, she put her camera in a zip-lock bag and started wading her way, sometimes neck-deep holding her camera high over her head to get to the other-side and gently and slowly sneaking ever closer to the cow moose and it's calf. The cow moose was to busy eating aquatic plants from the bottom at first to notice Galina. I think Galina spooked the calf while taking pictures. The mom (the cow) now raised her head very high and had her ears pinned back. I noticed Galina looking back at us and I eagerly motion her to come back. I feared that the cow moose would charge her to defend her calf. (When I was in Alaska in 1999 someone was trampled to death by a cow moose because of a near by calf being harassed). Galina never questioned my gesture and quickly returned the same way that she had gone. I couldn't help but in-vision Galina going over there with a knife between her teeth and bringing back some moose on her shoulders for supper. Galina was rightfully very excited about the encounter and the moose went back to eating.
Jimmy and I took an Allagash bath. We put on our swim shorts, waded out into the water and dove in. The water was cool and refreshing. Our companions from down South though that the waters of Northern Maine were rather cold and unpleasant (Flatlanders). It was no hot tub for soothing tired joints and muscles. But it did feel refreshing. We used biodegradable soap and lathered a face cloth and washed on shore to avoid getting soap into the water. A fresh change of clothing and we were ready to go up-town Monday night.
For Jim and I, uptown meant a couple of miles down the lake to Churchill Dam. Jimmy looked at me side-ways when I suggested that we take the canoe and paddle down to the Churchill Dam and checkout Chase Rapids after two days of paddling across two very large lakes. Jimmy suggested that we take the canoe and get a few pictures of the feeding cow moose from the canoe on our way to the dam. I agreed and away we went. The moose's calf had moved out of site and the cow did not seem intimidated by Jimmy and I taking pictures as we watched her feed. The moose would lower its head underwater up to its shoulders. Then it would hold its head under for thirty seconds or more. Then slowly it would raise its head above the water. We could hear the trickle of water streaming from her mouth and greenery could be seen hanging from her mouth like green dental floss. The moose's forehead, head and ears were covered with that slimy gray-brown that you find moving out from under you feet when you walk in a river.
While paddling toward the dam, we stopped to take a few pictures of a lovely loon grooming its feathers and spreading its wing, it then flapping its large wings as if it was shaking out some bed sheets just before tucking them neatly back into place.
Jimmy spotted moose number three (one was on the road at night on the west-side of Greenville)
As it's dark figure moved from the edge of shore over by the dam and went back into the green forest.
When we arrived at the dam, a group of young people were leaving to make camp on Churchill Lake. Jimmy wanted to fill our water bottles and headed for the ranger station. I stopped and looked over the newest of the Churchill Dams. This dam was built in 1997 and included a fish ladder.
Churchill Dam was the hub of the lumbering activity in the Allagash region and the sheds that once housed the lumbering equipment here still stand. The new dam was rebuilt to control the water for recreational boating and fishing on the lower Allagash. Walking up to the sheds revealed some steam equipment from the past. Jimmy asked me what one large eight-foot piece was. I told him it was a fire wood splitter, capable of splitting on both sides. You would not want to forget what you were doing while working on something like this. The other piece was a large steam engine absent of the boiler to power it.
We went below the dam and took pictures and wondered what tomorrow morning's ride down the infamous Chase Rapids would be like.
We returned to the parked canoe and started paddling back to Highbank (camp). The sky was cloudy with some real dark thunderclouds to the West. We now had to paddle into a headwind. We quickly caught up to the young canoeist and did not want to get in their way, so we stayed toward the shore and watched this group struggle to head-up into the breeze. Leaving them behind, we returned to our camp.
Jimmy, Sarah and I took some ibuprofen for our ache and pains. Then Jimmy and I stored our gear in the tent as a light rain shower had begun. Chip put a couple of tarps over the table where the campfire would be. We could hear thunder rumbling in the distance that echoed over the lake. What a magnificent thing sound can be when it not interrupted with other noises.
Harry & Eileen had set their tent up in a secluded section on the point near the backwaters of a cove with a beaver dam near by. The tent was at a very steep angle and I though that they would have a tough time sliding down to one side all night long.
Eileen loved to swim, she was born and raised in England and swam at a professional level in her youth. At around seventy she could have swam the entire length of the Allagash River. You could see her gently floating with just her head above water for hours on a sunny day and she NEVER complained about the water temperature only the air temperature on this cloudy day, Harry liked to swim as well. He would wear his BVD's and the women were bothered by it and I only wished I was seventy-six and able to walk around in my BVD's in public. Wait till I get older... Harry struck me as the Humphrey Bogart (1899-1957) type of guy in his shape and character. Harry would walk down to the water and crawl on his hands and knees to get into the water. It looked real strange but it was better than slipping and falling in shallow waters and landing on rocks and bruising yourself. I like Harry he is the man. He told it as he saw it and I'm sure we were all surprised with his abilities considering his age. My Aunt Albertine would say of Harry, "He's just being young!"
Chip changed into his cooking outfit from his canoe attire. He would wear a pair of light nylon shorts with a tee shirt while on the water and his cooking outfit was not a white shirt and pants with white cooking apron and a white chef's hat. It was more like a fire-fighters outfit. He then would put on heavy leather boots for fetching, chopping and cutting wood. He wore a long sleeve shirt with heavy trousers. This would protect him from scratches and bugs (bee's) while fetching wood and most importantly from the intensity of the fire he would use to cook. On his hands he would wear heavy leather gloves the type that go above the wrist. Like machinist or welding gloves. This would allow him to handle the numerous pots, pans and his granddad Herb's reflective oven. He was and looked like a working man. No one would be allowed in the kitchen area while Chip was cooking, even Lani would have a difficult time to assist the head chef while he was working.
Tonight Chip would cook us beans and hotdogs with coleslaw and freshly baked brown bread. Again I was already looking forward to the next feast.
After dinner dishes were cleaned and put away, we kept the fire going and just sat and told stories. We could here loon's calling in the dark and Jimmy went down to the point to watch beavers feeding on fresh water mussels and slapping their tails on the water. Tom came up the bank saying how he encountered a killer frog. As Tom was walking along the shore he spotted the largest frog he had ever-seen, as big as a salad plate. A smaller frog jumped out in front of the large frog and the brute launched forward and the only trace of the little frog was its tiny legs quivering from the mouth of the brute frog.
Around nine p.m. Jimmy and I were pretty beat and needed to get some rest before we tried to kill ourselves the next day. We climbed into the tent and it was not long we were fast asleep.
Tuesday, August 14th 2001, I was not the first to get up today and then I thought I was the Tin-man on the Wizard of Oz, because the first thing I did was reach for the ibuprofen (oilcan). I was some stiff and needed coffee to get the old bones moving today! They say that coffee or caffeine and ibuprofen are a great combo for easing pain, it works for me. Jimmy was already up and about when I came to life. Of course, Chip had breakfast cooking and was almost ready to serve the first course of four-grain porridge. I filled a bowl with it and started slowly eating it. I asked Chip why was it so tasty and Chip said: "He only buy's natural grains that have not been processed down to powder." Chip feels that it is important to eat a wholesome breakfast to have strength for the day. Chip's second course was bacon, scrambled eggs with home fries. I've forgotten what the baked good was this morning. I kept pace with Chip to make sure none of the bacon would go to waste on this fine early morning.
Harry & Eileen had stories and tales to tell this morning. They had not slept very well, due to the parade of wild animals behind their tent all night long. Eileen thought that the animals were coming through the tent at times and was still very excited about that thought. They could hear beavers slapping their tails and moose walking in waters behind their tent. Harry told us how he tried to hang himself up with his belt so that he would not slide down toward the bottom of his tent.
By seven a.m. we were loading the gear and getting ready to practice paddling the different strokes we would have to use in Chase Rapid's. Chip had us float off from shore and taught us how to perform a draw, pry and back paddle. How to lean down-stream into the obstacle to get your canoe and the force of the water to move you around objects in the stream.
We paddled down to the dam and stopped at the take-out. Here the wilderness becomes civilized for only a few miles. For ten dollars each (included in the trip fee) the Rangers will take our gear and drive it down a few miles and drop it off at a pick-up point down stream. This insures that none of the food, equipment or gear will be lost or destroyed going through Chase Rapid's.
I found my 35mm camera floating along the dock. I was snapping so many pictures that I had left it out of the waterproof bag. Most likely in the excitement of going down Chase Rapid's, someone accidentally knocked it into the lake. I would hope it would be ok, more on the camera later.
The difficulty of Chase Rapids has been somewhat overrated by both very early accounts and modern, inexperienced paddlers. The rapids certainly deserve the paddler's attention but they are not unusually difficult for the most intermediate paddlers. The river descends through numerous boulders and the standing waves do build to some extent, but can easily be negotiated in an open boat or even avoided, if preferred, by moving to one side to the other. Two miles below Churchill Dam the rapids diminish. Sometimes this section of the river is referred to as Chase's Carry because the rapids were considered too severe for the canoes of yesteryear. Like those used by Indian's made of birch bark or like the canvas-covered canoes that Chip & Lani have that were made some sixty years ago.
Before our trip down Chase Rapids, we would all practice in the outflow of the dam several times before starting down river. Chip would lead the group as Jim and I brought up the rear and act as clean up. That is clean up anyone that may not make it through the rapid ahead of us. Others would call it a safety boat. The Crazyman in me wanted to have wild and uncontrollable water that would leave us with carnage and possibly broken canoes. This would not be the case today. The problem with groups is, stop & go. We would wait for those in the front to go, before we could start and than they would wait for us before they could go. It would have been nice to just shoot the rapids and see how well we could have done. But, this is a group and we worked as a group. There was some challenge to the rapids and Galani and Jo-Ann learned that canoes do flip over when they got hung up on a large rock. Jim and I took in few splashes and had water to prove it inside the Tripper.
We stopped and picked up our gear and had a ten-minute break. I lost one of my reading glass lenses in the flow of the Allagash River, no longer to be seen again. I stored the glasses away and finished loading the Tripper for our next leg of our journey.
The scenery and the river's breath were splendid as we paddled along, winding around some low islands, passing into the lovely ridged-rimmed Umsakis Lake (821' ASL). Jim and I would be watching the banks and coves for wildlife and in the early morning light the steam would rise from certain area's as if there was a hot spring feeding the river. Just as we entered the open body of the lake. Jimmy spotted an Eagle circling the sky to the starboard side of us. Then like lightning, it bolted at an angle into a dive with it feet out-stretched in front of it, it struck the water and looked as if it had something in it's feet as it tried to fly-out but it dropped it. It would try several low-level strikes and than just fly off.
We than paddled along the left side of the lake and arrived at the source of a spring, where we would stop for fresh drinking water and lunch. This place was once an attractive camp, most likely owned by some nature loving individuals.
When the State Of Maine took this camp and property from the owners and turned it into a Rangers Station. One day it suddenly burned to the ground and was never rebuilt. We enjoyed the slow running spring on the shore as we all ate sandwiches, pepperoni & cheese or leftover pancakes with peanut butter and jelly.
After we stopped for lunch Chip and Lani made a few team changes in the canoes and we started out again to cross lovely ridged-rimmed Umsakis Lake on this picture perfect day. Jo-Ann & Harry had paddled off first and were paddling in unison. I could not hear or see any conversation between them and Jim and I had all we could do to over take them in the next two miles. I told Jo-Ann & Harry that they were smoking in their paddling, making Jim and I work to keep up with them. They responded, that they were the senior team.
We entered the thoroughfare at its northwestern end and canoed under a major logging bridge of the American Reality Road. You may notice a little current at the bridge, but for the most part, the thoroughfare is flat.
The third day of paddling was taking its toll on Jim & I. The others in the group seemed to be slowing in their pace as well. Long Lake (821' ASL) seemed too lengthy for this day. We would paddle only halfway down Long Lake with Grey Brook Mountains off to the portside of our canoe.
We were all very excited to hear that Chip was going to set-up camp at Jalbert a campsite just ahead on Long Lake. The shore was rocky and the banking was gradual. Jim and I set our tent up near the top of the gradual banking over-looking the hills on the far side of the lake. Jimmy noticed that we had the best view and pointed out the gigantic ant mound the size of a kitchen table just a few yards from our tent. We set-up in this spot in hopes the ants would not notice us moving in next to them.
Jim & I went on about the task of getting things in order. This afternoon would be the first time I unpacked my camping hammock. I hung it between two spruce trees on the edge of the campsite looking down and across the lake. It felt so good to lay in it plus stretch out. I had my cowboy hat and used it to provide shade from the afternoon sun. As I lay in the hammock I was talking with those sitting at the table. Galina & Tom wanted to know if they could try it and I said, "If you see this hammock empty, go for it". As I laid there, I noticed Jim was looking rather exhausted. Jim's eyes were half shut and his head slouched forward. I asked Jimmy if he was tired he replied "Exhausted!" I offered to let him rest in the hammock, he was fearful that if he stopped he would never get-up again. I gave him ibuprofen than we sat or laid around resting.
After about a half-hour, Jim and I went to the tent and it was covered with black ants. The ant mound had found our Eureka Tent #33. We were discussing what to do, when Jo-Ann walked over and we asked her what she thought of the situation, she suggested using our DEET bug spray around the tent. We did and sure as heck, the ants beat feet and left our tent alone. We had not seen a single mosquito so far on this trip. There were a few no-see-em bothering Jessie and Sarah, but otherwise no bugs. This was most likely due to the fact that there had been no rain. The woods were very dry and fire danger was very high.
Chip & Lani cooked us another spectacular meal consisting of barbecued chicken with stir-fried rice-pilaf. Black tea was always a hit on this journey and I really enjoyed the taste of it. We would fetch our water from the lake for cooking and hot drinks. Most of us drank tea, others drank chock or the word.
Lani shared a story about how she and Chip were fetching wood they came upon some yellow-jacket bees. Apparently according to Lani (not Chip) Chip became quite excited at the fact that there was a threat of a bee sting. Lani say's that Chip let out a squeal for Lani to save him from the bee as he ran off to escape the bee. Chip totally disagrees with this tale. I thought I did here a loud squeal.
I walked down to the lake and dove in, the water was still refreshing as I floated around in knee deep water for several minutes.
After freshening up I returned to the hammock and watched the sunset over the lake and shore. The sky would turn a blaze of orange and later lavender, than the stars came out. I thought to myself that life just doesn't get any better than this. (Maine the way life should be.)
Wednesday, August 15, 2001
I woke at six a.m. Jim was up and having coffee while he stood around the fire warming up. It was around forty degree's Fahrenheit and it was very wet and damp. Chip was serving oatmeal like grandma use to make, this morning the warmth of the oatmeal was very filling, as was the smell of fresh baked blueberry muffins. There was a fog over Long Lake that you could cut with a knife. The fog was due to the cool Canadian air over the warmer lake water. After all, we were geologically further North than Quebec City. We were beyond the 46-degree parallel, we were closer to the North Pole than to the equator.
We all left Jalbert Campsite behind us in the eerie fog. It was not long before we were all unable to see each other. I took out the small hunting compass that I had in my fleece jacket pocket and fastened it to the outside of my jacket. Once while I was hunting with this compass, I noticed that the sun was ahead of me and the compass pointed North. No matter what direction I pointed in it read North. I than moved the barrel of my rifle from my cradled arm and the compass quickly swung to the correct North. So, today I checked that metal was not going to interfere with the compass. It did not take long to realize that this small compass would not give me the graduation need to navigate a boat in the fog. It was a good foolproof tool to keep from going in circles. I also found that the sun was straining to the Eastside to shine through the fog on my starboard side. I kept the sun on my right shoulder and the compass in the North direction. At times I thought about airplane pilots that would suffer vertigo when flying in the clouds. I at several times questioned what we were doing and kept checking my compass and the sun to assure that we were ok. So, with a few other canoe's following us, we arrived at the Northend of Long Lake in a about an hours time.
Suddenly, like a voice from the abyss Chip's strong and distinctive voice sounded from behind us. I thought that he was ahead of us. He did not want us to paddle into the quick-moving water. So, we stopped and gathered together at the headwaters of Harvey Pond. Chip would lead us down this rock and fog laced part of the journey.
Chip had us all pull over and get out of the loaded canoes. We would all work our way out into the downed edge of the old wooden dam. We needed to be aware and careful of old spikes protruding from the remnants of the dam. Chip would float a canoe by jumping on the rear of it and with frog like legs he swam it over to the dam (The Human Propeller). There the thirteen of us lined up and would take the canoe and hand it down the sleuth of the dam to the next person and so on and so on.
As we all started out from the riffles below Long Lake Dam. Chip told Jessie and Tom to take the lead and start down toward Round Pond. Jessie and Tom had problems with the water drifting toward a tree overhanging the river as it slid their canoe into it sideways. Jessie bent down low enough under the branches to get through. Tom did not have as much luck. Tom tried to lay backwards over the backend of the canoe. But the branches tried to sweep him out of the canoe. It looked as if the canoe was going to flip over, when suddenly Tom popped out the other-side of the tree and the canoe was free of the tree at last. Tom suffered a few tree branch scratches and lost his high-tech shorts pant legs. The rest of us would laugh and chuckle at the situation because it wasn't us.
The fog had finally lifted and the sky became clear and sunny. We paddled gently around Cunliffe Islands. The occasional riffles are enjoyable and mild as we paddled through some rather difficult low and rocky water. Jo-Ann and Harry would have a tough day with commands and control of their canoe. We paddled under the last bridge that crossed the Allagash for our trip.
The bridge was made on twenty by twenty columns of wooden poles that are filled with rock. The poles are angled down to face up-stream. In front of the massive wooden columns where steel plates. The plates of steel had been bent and twisted they had moved from their location by the ice flowing in the river. This must be one wild place in the early spring with all the water and ice rushing down the Allagash River.
The river wanders through many channels as it enters the last and lowest of the lakes of the Allagash. The modern name Round Pond (781' ASL) is a direct translation of the Indian word "Pataquongamis."
It was still early in the day when we arrived at Round Pond and our campsite (Inlet). There was another tent at the site so we shared this campsite with two couples from New Jersey. The plan was for some of us to hike up the two and a half-mile Round Pond Mountain. My plan was to hike up the steep banking at our campsite and set-up my hammock for a lazy afternoon's rest.
Jim and I set-up the tent, so that it was overlooking the Pond and surrounding mountains. Chip needed volunteers to fetch spring water so Jim and I signed-up for that task. Chip, Lani, Steve, Bob, Tom, Jessie, Galani and Harry would climb Round Pond Mountain. Lani had her doubts about Harry doing any climbing. So she begged him to stay behind and when that failed, she told him she would leave him behind with the others, because Chip and Lani need to get back to camp at a decent hour to begin dinner. Harry was determined that he was going and that was that. Go Harry!
Before leaving Chip gave Jim and I directions to the spring for fresh water. Chip and the others departed by canoe for the other side of Round Pond to pick up the trail up Round Pond Mountain. Jim and I took the two water containers and departed with the Tripper for our chore of finding fresh, cold, clear, spring water. I had told Chip we hoped that we would not fail him with this chore. We also brought the fishing poles in hopes to fish for trout were the cold water entered the pond.
We located the spring a few hundred yards up the lake. Just were Chip said it would be. The spring was located on the shore in a small cove with water lilies and weeds on the cove surface. We pulled-up the canoe and took out the water jugs and we than set-up the black tube that would feed water into containers from the crystal clear spring. This spring was about two feet oblong and you could see small colorful stones at the bottom of it. As green moss lined the wood side of the spring, the spring looked like a small shrine shining at the edge of the wilderness. Someone had drilled a hole through a hardwood log to hold the black plastic tube inside the spring. Jim attempted to make an improvement to the system and suddenly with a couple of gurgle's and the water stopped flowing then in front of our very own eye's the water in the spring turned brown with sediment. I looked at Jim and said, "This spring probable flowed water for hundred's of years and in a minute we have stopped the flow and turn the spring into a mud-hole!" Jim grumbled as we set out to fix what we had done. After careful adjustments and purging the hose of air, the spring started flowing after a few minutes the water was flowing crystal clear again, as if some miracle had happened. I asked Jim to change water jugs and he said, "I'm not touching anything!" I had a good laugh over the thought of what had just transpired.
I fished from the canoe as Jim slowly paddled back toward camp with our fresh drinking water. There was a Loon with its half-grown chick swimming along on the surface of the lake. The chick at first appeared in distress. The chick had long fuzzy fine hair, it flopped and splashed as it made goofy noises as it tried to dive below the surface of the lake. I could hear Jim laugh at the foolishness of the bird's youth. I can remember, not so long ago, when I was as foolish as that bird, maybe still to this day.
Upon returning from our water-fetching chore, we rested. I plopped into my hammock and looked over the lake as the hammock gently rocked me. Sarah and Eileen were swimming and bathing. Jo-Ann was reading a book. Jimmy looked like he was ready to do work. So, I fell-out of my hammock and dragged myself back onto my feet. I walked over to Jim and explained how I thought that Harry was going to make Chip and Lani late for dinner. Explaining that we should attempt to help with the dinner chore of fetching and cutting firewood. Knowing that tonight was Pasta Night and the special scented and flavoring wood that only Chip could locate would not be needed to just boil water. We decide to fetch the wood. But we would need an axe. An axe, that meant going into Chip's tool-bag and getting HIS axe. We again talked about how we thought he would need our help and assured ourselves that we would take extra care of Chip's axe. I reached into the army olive green duffel bag and slid out the old wooden handle axe with its leather sheath that was tied on with a rawhide string.
Jim and I walked from the campsite, into the thick and moss covered floor of the forest. Back through the thick evergreens, over the old dead and brown decaying trees. Into a forest that was thick, green and lush with nature. Its kind'a like driving out of town, it not very long before you leave the town behind and the forest takes over. I paid attention as to where I was going, because I wanted to definitely get back. Jim and I would stay in earshot of each other as we moved about looking for standing dead hardwood or spruce trees. After a while we selected a few and with the sharp axe started chopping them down, after they were down we chopped it in half and each of us carried out a section of the logs on our shoulders. After returning to the campsite, we took out his bucksaw and cut it to length. Stacking the wood next to the fireplace, so that Chip could start dinner when they arrive.
Well, after all that hard work it was time to take another Allagash bath. The wind was a bit chilly and Sarah could affirm that it was cool as she was already in the water with Eileen. Just dive in and get it over with is my motto. Why slowly torture yourself when lowering your warm body into cool water. Dive in, feel the shock and start to enjoy the water. Ya, I felt good after cleaning and shaving! I changed into what Jim called my Hawaiian shirt and he wanted me to wear my Elvis shorts. The shirt stayed and the shorts went back in the backpack. Jim told the others that a strange circle in the grass was from the UFO that left the Elvis shorts for me to wear. I guess that after the spring I deserved the Elvis shorts.
I packed everything I thought I would need to survive by myself if some catastrophic situation was to arrive. That's why my backpack weighed in at eighty pounds. With nothing but warm dry weather, most of the things were still in their neatly sealed watertight bags. I even brought a small two-quart pan for heating water for cool weather washing or laundry. Jim would use this pan today to do some laundry. He hand washed a few things and hung them out to dry around the tent.
Chip, Lani and Harry all arrived together. I was curious as to Harry's performance climbing Round Pond Mountain and Lani said "Harry was super, he kept pace all the way up!" Steve added that he had doubts that Harry would even begin to make the climb. Steve said that Harry reached the toughest part of the climb and he just ran-up the grade and Steve could not keep up with Harry.
Chip asked about the water and we told him "No problem, we found it ok." Then he noticed that the firewood was all cut and split and ready to go. We explained that we thought that with Harry being with them they would be later than expected and this would ease the dinner rush hour. Chip again thanks us very much and told us we did not have to do all that. I explained that it wasn't that much. But, there was something he needs to know. He asked what that was and I told him we took his axe. He loudly said: "My axe, you took my axe!" I explained that we had taken great care not to bruise, nick or dull his axe. He checked his axe and again thanked us for our labor.
Chip and Lani prepared spaghetti with red meat sauce, salad, and Parmesan cheese with freshly baked yeast bread from the reflective oven. Chip took the time to show me how to make this wilderness yeast bread. I also had an Aunt Marie that took several attempts at teaching me how to make the family's favorite Canadian White Bread. I never did attain the ability to make Marie's bread and most likely, I would fail making Chip's bread.
After another fine dinner that I over indulge eating., Jim and I took the Tripper out onto Round Pond to watch the sunset and do some fishing. The water was still and calm, we quickly and smoothly paddled over to the eastside of the lake and fished the small coves. Jim was catching a few Chubs and we watched a cow moose eating on the north-end of the pond. After the sunset, the stars filled the sky. Saturn was on the southeast horizon and the absence of city lights made the night sky very clear and the stars seem so much closer.
This evening would be the first attack of mosquitoes since the trip started. My brother Mark passed-up and all expense paid trip with me on this trip. He was concerned about having to live with the mosquitoes for a whole week. Too bad, I really wanted him to come on this trip.
We slowly made it back to our campsite and in a short time we told others that it had been a great day and we would retire to the tent and watch the sky through its screens.
Thursday, August 16th, 2001
During the early morning while my eyes were still shut tight, I could hear the coyote songs. Coyote's common name for a carnivore is closely related to the wolf. At first I thought it was a Loon and then I realized that it was the coyote's. Others in the group also heard the coyote's song.
Chip told us we needed to eat a good breakfast, because we would have a long and tough day of paddling. So Chip had cooked us scrambled eggs with ham and cereal. We all packed the gear into the canoes and we began paddling in the early morning mist that shrouded the pond and sky above. Englaze (Thomas) was playing his harmonica in the fog and it resonated and sounded very mystic over the fogged in lake. Thomas was a little shy of his ability playing his harmonica, he was however an experienced musician and all his harmonica tunes were very well done and I always stopped and listened to him playing. My father (Osias) loved to play his harmonica as he would rock in his rocking chair till the very end of his eighty-three year life.
Round Pond Rips was challenging due to the fog and low water, making the rocks in the river an ever-growing obstacle to negotiate. The Allagash below Round Pond widens still even further as several brooks enter the river. At this years low water the rocky rips slowed our progress and then followed by the Musquacook Deadwater, which is a flatwater section. In the flatwater we would see more Bald Eagles, Moose and our one and only doe deer. The rips resume their on-again off-again style till Michaud Farm.
We stopped to sign-out of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway Park at Michaud Farm gate house. We also had lunch at Michaud Farm, which was one of the farming sites, which supported the log driving industry of former years. Some of us where showing the strain of the tough paddling through narrow low water rips and wanted to know how much further to Allagash Falls. Chip wasn't much for fibbing, so he sort of rolled his eyes and swaged his head from side to side and said, "About an hour or so, we should be there".
The paddling scenery was still breath taking with giant River Maple's and old cabins long left abandon blending into the riverbank. Chip had been standing up in his canoe for most of the river trip. This gave him the ability to see farther down the river. This would allow him to see the green river grass in the bottom of the river laying over in the current. He also could see the surface foam as it moved were the current was and was stagnant were there was no current. The years of river reading skills that this person has could not be fully understood in only seven short days. I believe that the eyes of a craftsman do twice the work as their hands. Chip is definitely a Master Craftsmen on the Allagash River.
We could hear Allagash Falls way before we could see it. What I like to refer to as the waiting beast. Waiting for those foolish enough to come close enough to let the beast reach-out and grab its prey. Jim's face had that look as my other paddling buddy Jeff has when we face situations like this at the Limington Rips. The look that says; "You're trying to kill me and I hate you!" Now the Allagash River with its narrow plume of moving water with all the large rocks and tight turns to negotiate just above the beast (Allagash Falls) the roar of the beast gets louder and louder as we paddle closer and closer. I remember another time in the spring run-off last year that Jim and I were approaching Kezar Falls Dam on the Ossipee River in Southwestern Maine. Kezar Falls Dam had that roar and Jim had that look as he started to back paddle against the sound. I laughed at him back paddling and told him we needed to paddle ahead and portage around the dam on the leftside (Fear Factor).
Jim and I were not looking around for wildlife right now, we were looking at the mouth of the beast and the froth of white at the base of its mouth, while it inhaled all that it grabbed. Jim and I were making sure we made all the right moves and we quickly followed Chip and the others into a small cove just above the beast and we all pulled into this spot and no one seemed as if they thought we belong here.
Chip told us that we were great paddlers and that he was proud of our skills. I think Chip was overcome with the fact that no one crashed or got caught up with the beast.
Chip told us this was Allagash Falls and we would make our campsite here for the evening. We were all rather tired from the day's journey, about twenty miles we had paddled through tough, rocky and low water rips. We started to unload the canoes and carry all the gear up about one hundred yards to the campsite. Chip immediately went to fetch drinking water., while we carried the canoes up on shore. We would take a brake and drink lots of cold water before we carried the canoes down the trail to below the forty-foot waterfall.
Allagash Falls is un-runnable but a magnificent forty-foot waterfall. A 1931 edition of the Maine Woods, a Bangor and Aroostook Railroad publication, relates this colorful fable:
Allagash Falls, where Indian legend has it that once a year, on the anniversary of her death, the ghost of a beautiful Indian maiden appears in the mist at the head of the sluice to poise a moment, then plunge into the maelstrom that boils at the foot of the falls, to disappear again for another year. Shades of Minnehaha!
The portage was about a hundred-yards. This was the first time we would carry our canoes for such a distance. Lani picked up a seventeen-foot canoe all alone and raise it to her knees, grab the carrying yoke with both hands and flip it over her head onto her shoulders. Try that someday with eighty-pounds, I can't do it. I carried the Tripper down the trail and on my return trip, I found Tom struggling with one of the twent-foot canvas over wood Old Town Canoes. This Old Town canoe weights about one-hundred and fifteen pounds. Tom was glad for the help and I carried the front and Tom the rear of the canoe down the sometime rocky trail.
Chip declared that all the canoes and gear had been moved and it was now time to enjoy a guided swimming trip at the falls. We all followed Chip & Lani along the rocky edge of the falls. I thought I was fifteen years old again when I found myself climbing some goat trail high on a cliff. The forty-six year old still shivered from the height and poor footing. Chip just hops up on to this rocky point overhanging the pool of water leaving Allagash Falls. Chip warned us of some diving hazards and dove in, followed by Lani. They were quickly on the other side and calling the rest of us (still in shock) to dive in and swim over. I had sandals on my feet and quivered my way to the diving point and with a big swallow of spit, I launched my two hundred and twenty-pound body into the moving water ten feet below. When I surfaced from the deep water, I had to wonder what I was in shock about, it was wonderful to play like a teenager again. I now was another person prompting the others to dive in and swim over. I called out "It's great, come on over! Thomas dove in and was swimming under water like a fish to the other side. Jim dove in and quickly surfaced on the other side. I was confused about Jim, the last I knew about Jim was he could not swim. Well maybe he took swimming lessons I thought to myself. Galina, Jessie, Sarah, Tom would also be fool-hardy enough to follow Chip up the no foothold black granite walls to the maelstrom (A large and violent whirlpool) at the foot of Allagash Falls. I feared that I would slip and fall into the rocks or pool as we inched our way along.
Chip said we were going into the Allagash Falls Spa. This is a rock that lies in the path of the foaming water as it finishes tumbling down from the top of the falls. I stood on the rock and reached my arms and hands high into the air and started an Indian chant to the waterfall spirit. Ni-hi-nay-he-la-do, Ni-hi-nay-he-la-do! This is something that I have done at ever waterfall since Takakkaw Falls in Yoho National park in British Columbia. Chip was demonstrating how he could lay backwards into the quick flowing white-water and hold his head under the water and it would cause an air pocket that allowed Chip to breath while being totally under water out of sight. Looked like some type of Rambo trick. I was quite content to just sit on the large rock and feel the power of Chip's spa surging wave after wave of white-water like no spa could ever do. I started to sing "I'm singing in the rain, I'm singing the rain. I'm so happy, I'm singing in the rain!" Lani started laughing at that site and sound of me singing in the waterfall.
By now all the others had made their way over to the spa. We all sat as we watched Chip play in the water and had Lani trying to do the Rambo thing. Suddenly Lani had a look of fear on her face as she splashed in and out of the white-water. Chip was still next to her, but it was apparent with her cry for Chip to save her that she was having trouble (Could Lani be the beautiful Indian maiden). Chip let her squeal a little longer (payback for the bees?) and he pulled her out of the whirlpool and up onto the rock, so Lani could catch her breath.
Chip kept telling us that we could slide into the pool and we would slide out into the larger pool (Like an aqua-boggan park). I was telling myself I could do it. Then I also thought that the view was just great from the seat I had and why play Aqua-man at this time. The water surges that splashed over our heads had the sound of thunder and were almost deafening. Chip was talking and I could not understand what he was saying. I thought that twenty-two years of machine shop noise had taken some toll on my hearing. While I was enjoying the view a large surge pushed me off the edge of the large rock. I found myself sliding helplessly down into the spa. Once in the spa, I was being held down under from the force of the water, I struggled to stand-up and suddenly felt my body sliding sideways along the rocky bottom and over the underwater ledge of the spa into the large whirlpool. I was some surprised by the situation I just experienced. I could have easily found myself squealing for help. Instead I started swimming and the undertow would pull my head under. I kept assuring myself while holding my breath under-water that fat floats and I should have no problem floating to the top, if I remained calm and patient about it. No time at all I was drifting down the current like Crisco on water. I decided to try to save some face and I swam back across and upstream to the backside of the spa (rock). I pulled my way up onto the edge of the spa with the others and Jim took one look at me and said, "I'm not having any part of that!" and started walking back down stream along the rocks that brought us up here. Chip was instructing Tom as to how to do the Rambo thing. Tom looked as if he was getting into it. Now Galina and Jessie were playing in the spa. I figured before I get myself into something I could not handle that I retreat to the safety of the lower gorge. I bided good bye and slide down into the current and floated down to a safe spot.
I dove of the point into the pool for practice and to assure myself that the first time wasn't just some fluke of fear or luck. Looking over to the other-side I noticed Jim was sitting there. I thought he might need some help so I walked down and Sarah had already swam over to Jim and offered assistance. He told Sarah that he should be ok and just keep an eye on him while he swam back over to the opposite side. I asked him if he could swim? Jim said, "a little." I asked Jim, "You swam over once?" Jim said, "I dove off the point and just came out on the other-side and I thought that from the base of the falls I would just float over in the current to the other side." Jim told me he would be ok and I said ok and walked back up to the point. I kept a cautious eye on Jim as he slowly swam against the current to get to the other-side. Sarah swam just behind Jim and played safety woman.
I watched for fifteen minutes as Galina, Jessie, Lani, Tom and Chip wandered over the face of the falls finding new places to play in. The view of the whitewater filled falls was mesmerizing, so much so that looking at Chip and Lani in the face of the falls, looked like Tarzan and Jane in some African waterfall (magnificent and a lifetime memory).
After the terrific time at Allagash Falls, Chip and Lani began the task of feeding fourteen hungry persons dinner. They both went off to fetch cooking wood. Tom would start a small fire for boiling water for hot tea or the word. We were all enjoying tea when Lani and Chip returned carry a large and long log, they each carried one end of it. Steve, Harry, Galina and Jim would all struggle to try to get the mammoth log cut-up with the handsaws. They would have to leave a piece of it uncut.
Meanwhile, Chip was in his fire-suit and pacing around, he started to mutter that the fire was wrong. He than dove into the fire with his gloves on and like a bear tearing into a beaver hut, pulled the fire out of the fireplace and stated that he was getting upset with things being out of order. Like the wannigans were not lined up to his liking and the fire was not built like a log cabin, it was more like a teepee. Teepee fires are ok for rainy weather, but log cabin fires burn over a wider area and produce a hotter fire. I interrupted with "Hay big guy, breath in, breath out. We can fix anything and there is nothing to get wound up about." Chip, kicked the dust in front of the fireplace and said, "All we need to do is turn some of the wannigans around and line them up in order." Chip started his log-cabin style fire and started chatting about his worse ever canoe trip.
Chip was just a teenager when his father and mostly family had an Indian guide them down one of the Canadian Rivers. The map and river notes did not seem as if it was for the river they were on. The water was very high and turbulent. Several of the canoes capsized and most of there gear was lost. They dove down in the river trying to retrieve their cookware and tableware. But most had been lost. They did have flour and ate pancakes off the rusty metal plates. The Indian jumped out at some point and in poor English told Chip and his family that he would be back to pick them up. Chip and his family waited three-days for the Indian to return with a truck and canoe trailer to get them back home.
Chip, told us about some old guide manual that he had read, that stated if you are ever faced with a bear and you have tried everything to keep him from eating you and he's about to eat you. Spit in its mouth! Chip did not understand what that would do for you, but his grandfather surmised that anyone that would be brave enough at that point may scare the bear off. We all from that time would tell Chip that we trying to hawk-up spit to scare Chip off. I do not think the spit thing would work on Chip.
Chip and Lani would cook up ham, sweet potatoes with cream corn for dinner. After dinner we washed the dishes. Jimmy and I went back down to the falls and tried fishing, nothing. We took some pictures of the sun setting over the top of the falls. We explored down the river looking for something natural to bring home. We found the Jell-O spring, this spring water is so cold that you could make Jell-O set in it. Jim and I filled our canteens and return to the campsite. It wasn't long we were fast asleep.
Friday, August 17th, 2001
We all slept in this morning with no rush to get going. Compared to yesterday, today would be a very short day. Most canoe trippers would finish out their day in the town of Allagash from Allagash Falls. We have had such great weather and a helpful wind that we would be allowed the leisure of loafing around and doing some canoe polling this day.
Today breakfast was oatmeal and pancakes. The description of breakfast has been shortening, but let me assure you the quality and quantity was still the best.
The day started with over-cast skies and humid temperature. We had to carry all our gear and the wannigans down to the river. Several trips had to be made to get it all together at bank of the river.
We all took the time to paddle up-stream to the pool that Allagash Falls runs into. Before shooting out of it. The sound of the falls diminished as we canoed away.
Now that the falls were nothing put a memory, we needed to focus on the rocks ahead. McGargie Rocks was like trying to canoe through a crowed cemetery. The river was very low and we all followed Chip, like a train, we stayed behind him and followed his track. We were in a steep forest valley and could see the river twist and turn as it disappears down hill. Many of us would run our loaded canoes up onto rocks that lay just under the surface of the water. Like mines waiting too penetrate the hulls of the canoe. There was a distinctive sound when canoes got mined and everyone knew what that sound was and what it would mean for those in the canoe. Sometimes it was just a matter of sliding off to one side or the other of the rock. Other times it would stop you dead in your track and then tip you and spin you around so that you were facing up-stream.
Ghost-Landing was an area that Jo-Ann and Sarah got to know. After hitting a rock, Jo-Ann got out of the canoe and walked it down stream a few feet. Suddenly like a ghost, the riverbed disappears and she was left clinging to the side of her canoe. We all thought that she would be able to get right back into the canoe. But, some time passed before she was able to get her feet on the bottom of the river to get back into the canoe.
Chip had his own haunting situation in Ghost Landing. Harry and Chip were leading us down river and Jim and I were third in-line. Chip turned right to cut across the river and found himself (for the first time) piled-up on some rocks. He was getting out of his canoe to walk it pass the obstructions. I told Jim, "We are not going to follow Chip into those rocks!" I may as well been planning to spit in the bears mouth. Jim and I paddled on and the second canoe that was following Chip, piled-up with Chip. Chip yelled over something and Jim replied, "Plenty of water over-here!" as he pointed down below our canoe. The thought of not following Chip down the river was bad enough without adding insult to injury.
Chip was now the bear! Chip yell's over, "We will walk our canoes ten feet and you guy's will have to carry yours a hundred yards! You better stay all the way on the left of the islands if you're going to make it!" I asked Jim if he had any spit? I was bound and determine to do this right. I had seen what looked like better water flow just ahead and the water turned hard to the right. I told Jim, "Be ready to paddle left after the turn!" We made the right turn, but ended up snagged on a rock. I told Jim, "Be ready to paddle, I will get out of the canoe and push us into the current." I did and we were free and moving in the current down pass Chip and the others. I did not want to seem precocious. So, as soon as we cleared the bear size rock, we slipped in behind it and surfed there a while and waited for Chip and the others to get free of the rocks.
Chip looked at the course we had taken and said, "That was a better way to go." Jim and I just nodded to confirm Chip's commendation.
It was hardly eleven a.m. when we arrived to Twin Brook East Campsite. We were on the opposite side of the Allagash River away from The Michaud Farm Road. Only now after several days could we hear our first man-made sounds. The sound of trucks rumbling down four miles of gravel road to the town of Allagash.
Light showers would come and go as we unloaded the canoes. I was suffering from the physical aspects of the journey. Fatigue had set into my tired muscles, my hands were burning from the strain of paddling everyday for days. Chip covered the picnic table with a tarp to give us shelter from the rain. We all setout to get our tents up. For the first time Jim wanted to put the tent in the wooded part of the campsite. Probable not a bad idea with inclement weather on the way.
Thomas had started a small fire at the other picnic table, to boil water for tea and every-one was joining in for finding firewood and building up the fire. I asked why over here? Thomas said, "I'm not going to spit in the bears mouth and make a fire over there!" I said, "why don't you use his buck-saw to cut the wood?" Thomas said, "I'm not touching his tools!" We had just started getting the fire going when Lani and Chip came back from setting up their tent and wanted to know why we were making a fire over here. After hearing the reasons, they insisted on makeing a fire, so we could all have coffee, tea and the word. We didn't argue with them and moved back over to our campsite.
Chip and Lani put lunch out on the table for us to eat. We got Chip reminiscing about his youth on the river with his Grandfather Herb Cochrane. Chip told us that he has improved the meals that his Grandfather use to make. Herb would cook with out much seasoning, he would make paddle bread. Paddle bread was nothing more than white floor and water, mixed into a real stiff batter. They would take the dough and dump it out, onto a over-turn canoe than slap the dough with the paddle to flatten the dough. After flattening they would cut it into strips and bake it in the reflective oven. Paddle Bread could keep for weeks properly stored.
Chip told us about one trip, they dared a teenager to jump on the back of a Moose. So the young man sneaked up behind a small moose and with the other's egging him on, jumped onto the back of the moose and found himself thrown off and laying in the water as the moose trotted off into the woods.
Chip asked me how I knew Jim? I explained that Jim and I had worked together for twenty-years and when my brother declined the trip, Jim jumped at the chance to do the Allagash. I told Chip that Jim was just as hard a worker on this trip as he is at work.
Jim is a forty-six year old Maine born native. Jim's not much for story telling, but he sure knows how to laugh. I found Jim to be a wealth of outdoor and natural knowledge on this trip. He could hear a chirp and declare "That's a fractured wood-pecker." Or see some red headed duck's huddled together in the middle of the river and say, "That's a Hooded Merganer
Chip gave us a canoe poling class. Poling was very popular a century ago. The explorers and later loggers would use poling to get upstream and to have better control going down stream in rocky situations. My seventh great-grandfather Eustache Lambert in 1651 paddled and possibly even poled his canoe in the rivers around what today is known as Quebec, Canada. I wondered what he would think of his great-grandson paddling and now practicing canoe poling skills? Chip jumped into one of the canoes and poled his way out onto open water. He than demonstrated several different poling skills. He invited any of us to join him on the river and practice the art of poling. I got into one of the canoes and picked up the twelve-foot aluminum pole. I started to plop the pole along as I struggled to get the canoe to go straight up river. The best I ever did get was at a slight angle. Give me a big motor for going upstream!
After the poling workout it was time to head for the outhouse, privy, pit-toilet, shit-house, stink-pit, what ever you fancy to call it. If you're ever on this river, remember to bring lots of your own toilet tissue. All the facilities that I used (Lots of them) on this journey were clean and reasonable to use. But not a one had toilet tissue.
Sarah was resting in her tent and was still suffering from side cramps. After awhile Sarah emerged from her tent. We asked Sarah if she was planning on snow in August. Sarah thought it was cold enough to snow. We assured her that it was not going to snow. She moved over to the campfire to warm herself.
After hot tea, coffee and hot chocolate (not the word). Chip and Lani in a light rain began dinner. Steve was always hungry and hovered around the kitchen waiting for scraps from the table. But with Chip in the kitchen there were no scraps. Chip and Lani cooked chicken parmesan, peas, cranberry sauce and fresh baked date-nut bread.
Jim and I would walk up the river a ways and took our last Allagash River bath. I was just starting to get use to not having my hot tub and it seemed as if our journey was coming to an end. My wife Cathy had asked me to bring her back something from nature. Well I found a few nymphs skins and but them in my tackle box for her. I also found a rather strange piece of rock that looked like jaws. It was golden brown porous granite on the inside, with white quartz teeth on the outside. I wasn't sure if this was what she thought as nature. But after all I was on a river and not on the side of some mountain. I always wanted to bring her a beehive for the living room.
Lani asked Chip to tell us the story about the word. Chip told us as a young man, he and his grandfather would not say the word, they could say hot chocolate but not co-word. Chip told us he would not and we could not get him to say the word. I could tell by the look on his face that he was serious. Chip told us that in the early years of doing outdoor camp for three weeks with his grandfather. If someone accidentally said the word, they would get a sprinkle of water in their face. If you said it intentionally, than you would get a pale of water. One time there were a couple of girls on a trip and they kept saying the word over and over again. The girls planned on being punished for saying the word and taped their zippers on the tent so no-one could open it. So, in the morning they slowly opened their tent up and four boys were waiting with buckets of water to douse them down. Chip said that sometimes it takes months before someone walks out of their home and finds buckets of water coming down on them from the roof of their home. Lani told us how Chip tricked his brother into saying the word by asking him. "What would you call a co-pilot's pilot?" His brother answered "A co-co pilot".....
I went to bed before Jim this fine evening. I made my trip references into the small hand held tape recorder. This would help me write my journal after I returned home.
The last day, Saturday, August 18th 2001, I found myself up before Jim today. This was a first. My body ached (Allagash wawa) all over. It was raining out lightly. This did not stop Chip & Lani from cooking us breakfast. We had oatmeal and fresh baked apple pie from the reflector-oven. This wasn't ordinary apple-pie with a piecrust. This apple-pie was more like apple-crisp where it is mix all together and baked.
We only had seven more miles to the town of Allagash (550 ASL) from Twin Brook Campsite. We packed the canoes and this time the wannigans did not weigh as much as when we began. I thought for sure that all that weigh was in my stomach. I had over eaten at every meal and I did not miss any of them over the last seven days.
We were rather quiet as we headed into the current this morning. Must have been the sobering feeling of the party being over. Chip was leading us again and Jim and I was in the rear. I think we were like little kids dragging our feet so we wouldn't have to go home.
The river was still twisting and turning as it disappeared somewhere ahead of us. The rain was steady and most were wearing their raincoats. You could hear the rain over the trees and than the rain was in your face and the river had a coat of white. Chip declared as he stopped, "I can't see and I can't tell were the current is." So, we slowly moved ahead with caution.
We spotted several canoes ahead after we made a bend in the river. Jim and I would paddle up along side of Chip when the channel in the river was wide enough. I asked Chip if we were going to pass those canoes ahead. Chip said, "We are spread out, if we could tighten up we should have a good chance." I could tell that the racer in him wanted to pull ahead. But, the guide in him slowed his pace. It made me think about another Journey in my life.
Chip worked his way around the stragglers of the other group and in short time was talking with the group leader. We had pushed our entire group pass the young church group that was hitting ever rock along the low water area in the river.
We now worked our way through Eliza Hole Rapids and could see the St John River Valley ahead. The spruce covered mountains were spectacular in the background of the valley. We paddled pass our first advertising sign erected along the edge of the river. The sign had been there for several years and it advertised staying at some lodge for great food and accommodations.
As we entered lazy waters only a mile and a half from the town of Allagash. I could not help but recall what got me to go on this trip. My ninety-two year old Aunt Albertine Brin Rodrique had passed away in May of this year. She left me her 1984 Buick Century that I nicknamed Albertine and drove to Greenville. Albertine and Rene would take me into the wilds of Maine. Like Fort Kent, Eagle Lake and too many other places to mention. So after her death, I had decided to take a vacation to some out of the way place in honor of her memory. So, here I'm!
Jim, pulled me from my thought's, when he said, "Here come the Englaze!" This woke all my painful joints, muscles and me up. I had not paddles eighty miles down this river to end up in anyplace but first. Jim and I picked up our pace and I asked Jim to save himself for the final dash. We continued to paddle directly behind Chip. We were making our final s-curve in the river. Chip yells out, "Casey Rapids are ahead and I have no idea how to get through it. So it's everyone for themselves!"
He did not have to say that twice. Jim and I were at full speed ahead. My hands were burning to the elbows with pain. We would keep shoveling the coal into the boiler. We took a quick look at Casey Rapids and I asked Jim if he could see a good path through the rock littered rapids. Jim was still thinking when we took the path of least resistance. I'm not sure how we did it, but all the others were piling up on the rocks behind us and all Jim and I could hear was the sound of canoes riding up onto the rocks as we paddled for the take-out area..
I stood up in the rear of the boat and started dancing a Canadian Jig. Hands held high over my head and yelling up to the trucks that were stopping on the bridge ahead. Jim and I were number ONE!
I told Jim to take a picture of all the others behind us before we pulled up to the take out area. Where Chip's van and canoe trailer were waiting for us.
As the other boats pulled up to the take out area, I pulled out my bottle of Champagne, that I had stored-away in my backpack, just for this occasion. I popped the cork out of it and shook the bottle vigorously with my thumb over the end and made a fine spray of sweet smelling Champagne mist fly over the entire group.
Chip couldn't understand the Champagne thing. I explained: "Chip this was your eightieth trip down the Allagash and this was my first and I did not think I could make it...."
On shore it was handshakes and congratulations. I handed Chip and Lani their hard earned and well-deserved gratuity. I personally thank them both for being great guides and gracious host.
We all finished re-packing the Ford van and jumped in for the five and a half-hour ride back to Greenville, Maine. That is were the Albertine was waiting to take Jim and I back home to Sanford, Maine.
As we drove back toward Greenville I thought about Ma'tante Albertine, she was born and raised on a farm in Quebec, Canada. In 1923 she moved to Sanford, Maine with her family to find work in the textile mills. After Christmas dinner last year, I was driving Albertine back home on a twenty below zero day. I asked her, "Ma'tante, ninety-two years of living, all the things that you have seen." Albertine quickly responded with, "Radio, electric light!" I said, "TV, computers and a man walking on the moon!" What one thing have you appreciated the most in your life? INDOOR PLUMING, Albertine replied in a snap. I laughed and repeated, "Indoor pluming?" She replied with a scowl, "If you don't think so, go put your ass on a cold log out there and tell me you would not appreciate indoor pluming!"
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