Day 47: Mud Brook on Chamberlain Lake to Priestly Point on Eagle Lake (14.0 miles)

On Chamberlain, rays of sun bring a spirit of prayer to the peaceful lake.

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.

Lock Dam is a short and simple portage…just be respectful of the “DANGEROUS WIRLPOOL” (sic) warns a new sign.

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!

From 1927 to 1933, a real railroad operated in this remote wilderness, its tracks stretching from Eagle to Umbazooksus Lakes. It was worth fighting the wind into the southwestern corner of Eagle Lake to visit these abandoned giants, which are surrounded by a graveyard of other artifacts from that logging era, including the earlier tramway.
I made more wonderful friends today, when Zayda and Zeb and their family and friends camped next to me at Priestly Point. Here is their fort, with all the comforts of home, constructed in an afternoon. My favorite features were the candy dish (ferns in a hollowed rock) and the custom s’more toaster with rack to hold it.
More instantly-comfortable friends…Zayda and Zeb with their parents Amy and Chris in the back and friend Mary in front (Heidi is missing). Do you have any idea how grateful I was to share a hot dog and a dish of home-grown green beans under their tarp? (It rained again).


Day 46: Umbazooksus Stream West to Mud Brook on Chamberlain Lake (7.9 miles)

Nancy Spencer drove in yesterday, on a journey of rediscovery, visiting places where she grew up camping with her family. We shared the deserted campground and stories of times gone by in the places that have become dear to me.

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.

This rock cairn restored by Team Moxie in 2011 marks the start of Mud Pond Carry.
After carefully carrying my canoe almost half a mile over downed trees and slippery rocks, I was then able to float it almost that same distance, at times with my gear inside!
Look, I discovered a lunch spot on high ground!

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.

Mud is demoralizing, creepy, and uncomfortable, packing itself painfully into every crevice of your shoes.
What story lies behind this orphan abandoned along the way?
Remnants of the ancient boardwalk, looking back along the carry.
Frogs of every shape and size inhabit the murky depths.
I was pleased to reach Mud Pond after 5 1/4 hours, just in time to watch some ominous clouds skirt around me. Here I am waiting on the whim of the storm before entering Mud Brook, the fast-moving stream that leads to Chamberlain Lake.
Ah, my campsite at last…a well-earned collapse, comforting warm campfire, and a perky chipmunk for company.