Day 49: Jaws on Churchill Lake to Sams on Long Lake (17.3 miles)

Today…the story in photos…

Still thinking about that cornbread. Heidi promised to send me the recipe, which came from a famous chef in New Orleans. She came down this morning to watch me go and spotted a moose.
All poised to run Chase Rapids, with my gear, feeling butterflies. I decided not to use the gear shuttle service. Josh, the ranger, released 1,000 cfs from the dam this morning, to bring the river to 2,000 cfs.
Looking back at the first rapids. I bailed five gallons of water from my boat after the first two, due to the size of the standing waves. From my journal: “My boat is forgiving and tough and brought me through quite confidently.”

PADDLER’S NOTE: The Saranac River in flood stage was much more powerful and the rapids on the Moose River trickier with less water than Chase Rapids.  I was glad I decided to keep my gear, which gave my boat the same feel that it has had for hundreds of miles.  The first mile of Chase Rapids has all of the Class II rapids, with a chance to catch your breath between each.

Bank after bank of Joe Pye Weed lined the shores.
Look who I met! NFCT interns Jared and Paul on their last day of work, finishing a stone staircase at Meadows. Paul spotted a moose and, earlier, I had seen a mother and calf on Heron Lake. My count is now 9 and theirs 45!
Umsaskis Lake in a time of afternoon stillness. God’s presence seemed to abide here, surrounding me with peace. Uncannily, ten years ago this day was my first on the Allagash, as Chris brought me here for our honeymoon.
Almost forgot my end-of-map photo, but the American Realty Road bridge was still in sight behind me.
Finally, a great blue heron poses, abandoning their usual shyness.
Last moose of a moosey day…this cow didn’t even know I was there as I observed her feeding for a long time. I thought how content she must be – mostly underwater, away from the bugs, and indulging her enormous appetite for tasty aquatic plants. The tan sandy bank on the far shore is typical of the appearance of a campsite from afar.
This is that moose, shaking herself just like a dog!

What an awesome day, what an awesome place, the icing on the cake of this incredible journey!


Day 33: Maine Forestry Museum to stealth campsite on the South Branch of the Dead River (15.9 miles)

I believe Janie and Paul could actually fatten me up while I was paddling and portaging long distances every day. Today, homemade waffles to begin what I knew would be a challenging day.

Gave Noah (taking photo) and NFCT interns Matt and Evan a huge thanks for their hard work and the promise to return sometime to help with a work trip.

Noah encouraged me to paddle some today.  What’s unusual about that?  Typically, this time of the summer, the South Branch of the Dead River is dead (water too low for paddling).  And not knowing, many through-paddlers do not attempt any of this section, instead taking a shuttle or walking 23 miles!  I had my heart set on at least trying and then sharing the results with other paddlers.

PADDLER’S NOTE:  I successfully (with some effort) paddled about 9 miles of the South Branch of the Dead River.  Walking to the Dallas Carry put-in from the museum was 3.5, not 2.5, miles.

From Dallas Carry to the Fansanger Falls portage was 2.4 miles, including parts like the Nulhegan and parts like the deeper Clyde.  Obstacles included over and under a couple of fallen trees, Class I rapids that were also shallow, and out of boat for perhaps 8 boulder gardens, worse near end.  This section took 1.5 hours.

Today’s flower identification puzzle…thanks to Chris Gill and Janet Dempsey for supplying the name of Swamp Candle, which I also saw in profusion today.

Wouldn’t it have been sad to walk by this?

PADDLER’S NOTE:  Some kayakers thought I could put in at the bridge a mile before the Langtown Mill bridge, but there was a large fishing audience, steep bank, and I continued walking.

The 6.7 miles from the Langtown Mill bridge to the Kennebago Rd. bridge gets deeper, calmer, and less rocky as you progress.  The first three miles included a huge tree across the river that required a actual portage; fast, sweeping turns with strainers; some fun rapids; and at least a dozen times out of the canoe walking.

The day ended excellently with a perfectly-mown stealth campsite complete with approximately 10,000 black flies and mosquitoes.  I cooked and ate my burritos from the tent.


Day 32: Haines Landing, Oquossoc to the Maine Forestry Museum, Rangeley and the Hartman’s cabin again (10.1 miles)

Another great Cup o’ Tea tradition is signing the wooden steps, which still bear the marks of Paul’s father’s measurements during construction.  I added this year’s adventure under my 2011 Paddle for Hope signature.


Paul served omelettes made to order, mine with cheese, tomato, and pepper, along with toast and raspberry jam that Janie had made from local berries…yummy!  We ate on the porch, the lake a mirror, while fog still hovered on the mountains.  

I could happily live on this porch!

I was glad I had paddled all of the lake yesterday and could relax and enjoy the fellowship.  I was graciously invited back for another night, but carried all my stuff with me to be honest.  On the drive to the Oquossuc Carry Rd., which Janie walked with me, we saw a fox!

Rangeley Lake was bursting with friendly people kayaking and enjoying their docks.  It was the essence of summer fun and jubilant moods.  One woman in particular asked me how far I had come, then laughed when I told her 445 miles.  Until I introduced her to the NFCT, when she proceeded to cheer as I paddled away.  Reactions like hers are very energizing!


Official photo at Lakeside Park, commemorating the completion of Rangeley Lake and Map 8.

“Laurie,” came a shout as I was navigating the parked cars. Amazingly, it was Beth and Paul Whelan (2014 Through-Paddlers), who didn’t have any trouble spotting me out walking my canoe. Wonderful to get a hug and know that they have been reading along on my blog. I’m already looking forward to the Maine Canoe Symposium next year.

PADDLER’S NOTE:  My GPS only measured 6.8 miles, less than the map indicated, on Rangeley Lake.  The very nice women at Ecopelagicon verified the new portage route, but really had no information on river conditions.  

The new portage through Haley Pond is a welcome improvement – good signage, pleasant trail with sturdy bog bridges, and NFCT interns Matt and Evan were at the museum shelter ready to install a moldering privy near the lean-to during this week’s NFCT work trip.  

A mountaintop experience to end the day, as Paul and Janie drove me to the top of Quill Hill, 12 minutes up a purely scenic road built by a generous soul who made a fortune in construction and logging. Check it out if you are ever in the area.