Day 3 – Monday – 9/19/11 –8:41pm:
Got off to a late start this morning. Woke up early hoping to make some good headway today, hoping to get to Little Eagle or further, but never made it even close to that. Poked my head out of my tent first thing this morning & the fog was so heavy & thick that I couldn’t even see 5 feet in front of me. Had to wait this out for several hours before the fog even started to thin out, because I had to cross Chamberlain Lake today to get to the Tramway Carry to portage ¾ mile to get to Eagle Lake & didn’t want to steer too far in the wrong direction in the fog since it would be about a mile and half or so to cross the lake & I needed to find a specific spot on the lake which would prove to be hard enough to find with no fog. Little did I know how difficult it would have been, because after waiting a while until the fog started to clear, I had already broken camp & I was ready to go, but it wasn’t easy finding the Tramway Carry portage.
I got to where I thought it should be but couldn’t be certain. There were no signs of it, but having double checked the map I knew it should be staring me in the face. I was in a shallow cove unable to paddle any closer to shore. I got out of the canoe & was in mud up to over my knees that was keeping me planted in one place & made it difficult to progress toward shore. I walked toward where I thought the trail should be & just as I thought, yep, it was there alright, but not noticeable at all until you’re right up on the trail. There was no way to see it from the boat whatsoever. Once you’re up over the tall grass, you can then see that there is a flattened section with a beaten path, but you need to get out of the boat & explore that spot to find it. The portage proved to be much more difficult than I had imagined it would be, trying to get the canoe & all my heavy gear to the shoreline with the thick, soft, deep mud making it very slow & tiring work getting from the muck to the trail head. The portage required several trips over the ¾ mile trail, going back & forth from Eagle Lake to Chamberlain Lake hauling as much gear as my arms could carry each trip. After struggling with getting the canoe out of the mud, I didn’t have a whole lot left in my arms to get the canoe to the other side of the carry, but just like Bill Murray in “What About Bob”, I did it in “baby steps”. I just kept muttering “baby steps” all along the carry letting out exhales of exhaustion all along the way. I got everything to the Eagle Lake side of the portage & loaded the canoe as fast as I could.
Something I hadn’t counted on was how much trouble I would also have launching the boat. I was standing in mud up over my knees again, and my Nike ACGs were wanting to stay embedded in the mud adding to the relics over another generation left behind at the Tramway. In trying to push the heavily loaded canoe into the low water to get it moving, I had gotten my left foot stuck in the mud pretty good. (I ended up hurting the left toe on my left foot which would end up hurting the rest of the trip. In hindsight, I wished I had worn my Merrell’s for the carry, and would end up wearing them most of the rest of the trip, even though they would become water logged.) Using whatever strength I had left, I finally freed the canoe!! Stopped shortly after this along the lake to rinse some of the mud off my legs, I felt caked in it. Somehow, I managed to lose my paddling gloves along the portage. Finding this out really got to me, because they had been helping me out a lot. They were just my old Specialized ¾ finger padded cycling gloves that I chose to paddle with since they helped to prevent any blistering from the paddles. I wasn’t about to go back for them, especially not knowing exactly where I had lost them after fighting with the mud for so long. My shoulders & arms were pretty sore & I still had to paddle to find a place to sleep for the night. The portage took me well over 3 hours to complete from one end to to the other & that was a fast paced, workout filled 3 hours at that. I decided that because of the late start to the day & the long portage, that I would paddle straight ahead to Farm Island & stop there for the night, this way I wouldn’t be setting up near dark again & I could get some rest.
The weather has been good so far & I sure hope it continues. Right now, I’m right on target to make it an 8 night trip which is what I’m shooting for. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll have no fog in the morning & can start out early. I would like to get as close to Churchill Dam as possible tomorrow to be sure to be there by noon the following day so as not to miss the opening of the dam by the rangers between 8am-12, to allow enough water to make the river be able to be paddled to Umsaskis Lake. Without the dam opening, there wouldn’t be enough water to make it all the way to the lake from the dam. I haven’t decided yet if I will only have my gear portaged or also my canoe at Chase Rapids. I’m not familiar with any kind of white water with the canoes & I’ve been told that the water is really moving at the dam because of the recent rains. I had bumped into 3 guys from RI upon landing at Farm Island who got there from Churchill Dam using their larger fishing canoes with motors attached. I guess I’ll decide on Wednesday whether or not to run the rapids after seeing them for myself. According to one of the guys I spoke with, “with the water moving as fast as it is moving, you’ll find yourself at the Canadian Border in no time flat.”
For wildlife, I did see another eagle fly by on Chamberlain. I also saw 2 red belly snakes near the Tramway Carry trail head and along the portage trail I came across several ruffed grouse. There were a ton of animal tracks along the muddier part of the portage trail as well as a massive pile of pooh which looked pretty fresh right in the middle of the trail near the start. I was going to take pictures of all the tracks but I had taken my camera to the other end of the trail first & didn’t bother going back for it, feeling a little pressed for time. I saw lots of deer tracks, moose tracks, coyote tracks & I did spot some lynx tracks as well. From what I could tell, it didn’t look like this portage got used too often by people anymore, since Lock Dam is supposedly a much easier carry to Martin Cove, next time, I would probably choose Lock Dam myself. There were no fresh human tracks to be found anywhere in the mud, so not sure when was last used. This portage probably wouldn’t have seemed so bad if it weren’t for going solo & having a ton of heavy gear.
I’m still glad I went that way because I was able to take a minute after portaging my gear to take some quick photos of the old locomotives that had been abandoned there in the woods from the 1930s. I wished I felt I had more time since there was a lot to explore & photograph there. It’s surprising to see how many relics are still there intact from the old logging days. It’s sort of like exploring an outdoor natural museum in the woods. You can even see the tramway cable that runs over the forest floor from one lake to the other.
I should have rented a satellite phone to just be able to check in at the end of each night or every couple nights if nothing else. I’ve tried turning on the cell phone several times over the last few days but there is just no signal, (Rule # 2 – Next time, rent or bring a SAT phone!) although even they apparently don’t always work out here as the oldest of the 3 guys from RI that I had ran into was attempting to use one from Farm Island with no success. I’m sleeping on an island in the middle of Eagle Lake called Farm Island. It’s a 3 cell site, the 3 guys from RI are in one of the other sites & the other closest to me is vacant.
I setup camp & made some Mountain House Louisiana Rice & Beans but was too full to finish them as it made a whole lot of food, so I walked over & offered what there was to the RI guys, but they had also just finished their supper. They declined the offer but in return offered me some hot water which they had just finished boiling over their blazing campfire. They had large coolers & were clearly stocked well for the trip. I talked with them for only a few moments, they seemed nice enough but I wanted to let them have their privacy & I was about ready to turn in for the night myself. They had mentioned that they used to do a lot of backpacking throughout the White Mountains until they discovered canoe camping and now they come out to Farm Island for a week every year. They had a decent amount of camping gear and large tents. They said I reminded them of the old days when they went minimal & lightweight, seeing me eating my freeze dried food that I packed in with me. The funny thing is that I’ll be starving from paddling all day long, but when it’s time to eat, I can’t eat nearly as much as I could if I were sitting at home doing nothing, doesn’t make much sense to me. I had hoped to sleep on Eagle Lake one of my nights here as this is where 4 guys had spent a night in the ’70s & were allegedly abducted by aliens, so I figured if nothing else, it might make for an interesting night. Their story is told in the book “The Allagash Abductions”.
-Good Night from Farm Island, Eagle Lake, The Allagash, ME
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