My inner self is relaxing. There are so many layers of civilization and responsibility to peel away, to quiet the mind. I rose willingly and ventured forth into a day of clouds and sun, clouds and sun. Just me beneath the ever-changing sky, able to cross the tranquil waters on a straight course, a gift for rising early. To me, Lock Dam is the logical portage, just a quick carry over the hump of the dam, although I paused and actually got out my stove to make a second breakfast of potato soup with bacon, my tent drying while the sun was out.
The rushing stream into Martin’s Cove is a manageable and picturesque half mile of fun and the entrance into Eagle Lake. I paddled along by Pillsbury Island, where Thoreau once camped, under a steel-gray cloud, hopefully watching the sun shine on distant Farm Island. Well, the cloud won this time. The skies opened, with gusty winds, an instant drop in temperature and a crazy pummeling of rain on all the world. Committed at that point to bathing suit and shorts, it was a little late for a rain jacket. I simply kept my speed up, burning calories and racing toward that distant sun, still there. As the squall passed, I watched the sun move along the shore, rippling toward me tree by tree, until we met, all my bare skin instantly warming. Heavenly!
Everyone knows exactly how many times they’ve done it – usually either once or never. “Done it once, don’t need to do it again,” was one through-paddler’s assessment. (Although I once talked with an Allagash ranger whose count was 9.) Would mine reach two today? Twice traversing the treacherous 1.9 miles of Mud Pond Carry, the historic gateway to the Allagash?
The feet of generations have worn the path deep, so that it is never dry, just clear and rocky in places and murky and mysterious in others. To reach its start, I paddled up Umbazooksus Stream against a storm-strengthened current, pulled myself under the dam through a scary trough of waves, and crossed Umbazooksus Lake to the landmark rock cairn.
As the water grew deeper, each foot was placed with care. Invisible under the often ankle-deep murk hid rounded rocks, the remnants of an ancient boardwalk, and a deceptive bottom that might be solid for your left foot and a sucking vortex for your right. Today the portage yoke proved its worth yet again. In fact, carrying the boat was actually easier than lugging the second load’s weighty bags, trying to keep them above the mud.
The scariest moment came when my right foot suddenly slipped between two of the hidden boards, then wedged at an awkward angle. Luckily, I was slowly maneuvering bags at the time. As I wiggled it out, I shuddered, imagining the possible outcome if I had been carrying the heavy boat with a lot of forward momentum. Soon after, the bottom firmed up, the water cleared again, and I realized that, yes, I was going to make it. My count would indeed reach 2. “Did it twice, don’t need to do it again!” says this aspiring through-paddler.