Day 30: Peace of Heaven Bed and Breakfast in Millsfield (after Errol dam portage) to Spaulding Cove, The Narrows (15.8 miles) 

Sonja takes hospitality seriously, sharing her phone, scissors to make a fresh pot cozy, and fixing a generous breakfast of fruit, zucchini bread, eggs, bacon, and French toast. That should get me to the Richardson Lakes, my goal for today.

Here is a fascinating fact you surely do not know.  Our bed and breakfast (Peace of Heaven) is the official Town Hall for Millsfield, NH, where citizens vote in the bedrooms behind closed doors.  In 2014, the Secretary of State visited Sonja to see how it all worked.  Check out the ballot box below, which is waiting for the primaries.  Look for them on national news in September.

Heavy rain, that made me think of Lake Champlain, pounded the river as I finished the last three miles of the Androscoggin into Umbagog Lake.  Fittingly, though, the sun was emerging as I crossed the state line into Maine and continued to where the lake narrows as it approaches the Rapid River.

This section of the wildlife refuge has the feel of a wild, remote river.  Happily, I had retrieved my binoculars (missed them too much) and had them close at hand.  There, in a dark tangle of branches on a fallen log, something moved.  A brown body slid into the water.  An otter, I discovered, the first of the trip.  It moved around the boat, its glistening periscope head emerging several times to study me, chattering a complaint at my presence.

At the Cedar Stump campsites, any feeling of remoteness quickly vanished: kids in whitewater kayaks, rafters, fishermen…it was a full houseI

PADDLER’S NOTE: I carried the canoe and gear separately for the first half mile.  After that, the rest of the Carry Rd.was barely wheelable with much perseverance – rocks, deep soft puddles, and ruts.  I used Pond in the River, but think it added extra work.

A couple of miles into the portage, I came upon Sydney’s canoe resting there without gear, wheels, or friends. I soon found them, discouraged and justifiably tired.  The new wheels had failed to arrive and the rigors of the Carry Rd. were too much for the old ones.  I offered to try to send back a pickup truck to help.  Finding no one at Forest Lodge, I went on to the camp at Middle Dam, where they said they would send a truck.  I will be anxious to hear how it all worked out!

Forest Lodge, once the home of Louise Dickenson Rich, author of We Took to the Woods, lies along the Carry Rd. and in 2011 was owned by Aldro French, who invited me in for a bountiful breakfast. I had hoped to learn how he was, but no one was home.

“No worries” is an expression much loved by Megan’s generation and a blessing to hear from two generous young women offering to share their campsite.  I was quite tired, the first glimpses of lightning had arrived, and all the campsites in The Narrows between the two Richardson Lakes were full.  Gratefully, I squeezed my tent into a little area just made for it and ate my backcountry Thanksgiving dinner while they had their chili.  I will introduce you tomorrow!


Day 29: Androscoggin River campsite to Peace of Heaven Bed and Breakfast in Errol, NH (7.9 miles)

A rainy morning that started with a very early walk along quiet Route 16 to Mollidgewock State Park and the last few miles of the Androscoggin.

Today I became an NFCT Section Paddler, which means I have now completed all of the NFCT in two different years.  I’m also almost to Maine, my home state, the state with only 7 miles of upstream trail!  Today’s plan of rising very early to walk newly-paved Route 16 without traffic worked like a charm and I was in Errol and finished with the portage around Errol Dam in time for breakfast.

Ricky at The Errol Motel went above and beyond in holding a room and storing my boat until I could get in touch with Mom and Dad.  Turns out the motel had been full when Dad called for a reservation, so we are here at the Peace of Heaven B&B enjoying Sonja Sheldon’s friendly hospitality.

Signing in at the Errol kiosk, finished with Map 7.
I ate three delicious meals at the Northern Exposure Restaurant in Errol and their Black Bear Pub, where they let me write for hours.
We all loved Debbie down in the pub, who kept us laughing all evening.


Day 28: Cedar Pond Campground to stealth campsite on the Androscoggin River (15.3 miles)

Another upstream river?  Are you crazy?  Did the Abenaki really go up all these rivers?  Well, I like to think so and also that they would approve of my decisions as to when to do a little extra walking, like today.

Many through paddlers extend the official portage between the Ammo and the Andro by walking farther to Pontook Reservoir, avoiding these rapids.
Susan and Gordon…did you move back to New Hampshire and not tell us?
The Androscoggin River was broad and beautiful, except for when it was rushing and shallow and full of rapids. The mile and a half above the reservoir was incredibly slow and difficult, with strands of slippery green algae covering the rounded river rocks.

I want to tell you the story of day’s end.  After the 4-mile walk and the easy paddling and the horrible 1.5 miles and some more easy paddling and a short portage around Seven Islands Bridge.  The day was supposed to end with a long walk to a state park to camp and be poised to meet Mom and Dad tomorrow in Errol.

Here is another critical trail skill – creative problem solving.  I had passed the bridge, had the boat perfectly balanced on the wheels, and was ready to walk as long as it took to get to the state park.  Not to be.  Route 16 is being repaved and has CLIFFS at the edge and tons of traffic.

So back to the river I went, somewhat reluctantly, but paddling strong until I passed the group of young adults unloading canoes at Osprey and a couple of fly fisherman drifting in a rowboat.  Now I could collapse.  The site I picked was perfect, except for the fact it was so close to the road that I had to wait until dusk to put up my tent.  In the meantime, I cooked pasta and salmon and looked for bears.  As soon as the tent was finally up, I was sound asleep!