Sweet liberty

“I sent my book to the editor yesterday!”

How long (twenty-one months) I have waited to say those simple words! For a couple of weeks, someone else will meticulously read and reread the manuscript – moving commas, detecting typos, and double-checking the spelling of Caucomgomoc, Seboeis, and Wassataquoik. Meanwhile, I can do the fun stuff, like finalizing the photos.

Snowy Katahdin

Taking off from my house up north, I spent my first day of freedom exploring. Snow still clung to the high peaks. At the greenhouse in Patten, buying cages for the peonies I’ve uncovered in my wild, untamed garden, I asked about the recent freezing temperatures. Local wisdom, it turns out, says frost can be expected until the first full moon of June. For 2020, that will be on June 5th.

Shin Brook Falls

The descent to nearby Shin Brook Falls is made possible by an indispensable system of ropes beside the steep trail.  Climbing above the main 30-foot drop, the trail follows the tumbling stream past a succession of smaller cascades, equally lovely.

Ropes to Shin Brook Falls

Above Shin Brook Falls

My goals for the day included: (1) finally hiking a portion of the Seboeis River Trail, (2) visiting the Christianson family at Matagamon Wilderness, to see how they were faring amid the cautious reopening, and (3) spotting a moose, of course.

The moose spotting took the longest. Pleasantly weary from hiking and pleasantly full from cheeseburger-eating, I drove up to the Francis D. Dunn Wildlife Management Area. So far, I’d seen moose tracks and moose poop, not to mention bear poop, a ruffed grouse, and a garter snake. The marshy Sawtelle Deadwater that comprises this state WMA has always looked moose-y to me and that afternoon it was. A small bull with fuzzy antlers emerging was accompanied by two cows, all looking shaggy and scruffy. Only one caw was brave enough to continue feeding while I watched from afar (too afar for a photo) through my binoculars.

My first day of liberty had been well rewarded.

Fading trillium
Painted trillium on my two-hour Seboeis River Trail hike
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Summer has begun at Matagamon Wilderness, where my friends are “bearing” up well. While I was there, I dropped off a fresh stack of books for the busy months ahead.
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Giant, immensely heavy relic abandoned along an old road

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

Today…the story in photos…

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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.
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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.
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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.

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Bank after bank of Joe Pye Weed lined the shores.
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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!
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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.
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Almost forgot my end-of-map photo, but the American Realty Road bridge was still in sight behind me.
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Finally, a great blue heron poses, abandoning their usual shyness.
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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.
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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!

TOTAL MILES: 670.1

A moose makes BIG TRACKS

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Deer tracks for comparison
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Are these moose tracks?
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Same size as my snowshoe!

The warmer weather (upper 20’s) and sunny skies made for sparkling snow and early morning shadows to highlight tracks in the woods out back.  I was out several times this weekend for 1 to 1 1/2 hours each, getting in some cardiac endurance training.  These photos from Saturday morning show what I think are moose tracks.  We do not often see moose here in Lincoln County.  In fact, in the twelve years we have lived here, our family members have only seen one or two or three “local” moose, depending on the individual.  In contrast, 20 is our record for a short Allagash paddling trip of less than a week!  This afternoon I said goodbye to the snowy beauty for a week, as I am off to Virginia to visit Megan.  And take advantage of her graphic design skills to spruce up this blog, I hope.