Day 4 – Tues – 9/20/11 –9:10pm:
They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder. That is true in the fact that the longer I’m away, the more I miss everyone at home. Sometimes we get so caught up in everything, that I think we take things for granted at times. I felt that absence today the most so far. I hit an emotional low late this morning. (Rule # 3 – When solo tripping, there’s nobody to keep pushing you, you need to M-O-T-I-V-A-T-E yourself!) The morning started off well enough. I woke up around 4:30am & poked my head out of the tent. I figured if it was calm water & the moon was shining that I’d get a moonlit start to the day. That didn’t happen because the water was too choppy & the wind was howling. I went back to sleep for a while, then broke camp by 6am & everything had calmed down by then.
After getting started, I made good time this morning making my way toward Little Eagle. I pulled up along the opposite shore of Little Eagle to stretch out & to explore a bit, but then it started to rain. I paddled the short way across to Little Eagle which was vacant & it was early in the day, but I figured it would be a good spot to gear up for the rain & assess the oncoming weather for the day to make sure no storms were eminent. Depending on how bad the weather got, at least I was at another site in case I needed to settle in if the weather took a turn for the worse. I knew from where I was that it would still be a good long paddle to get to the next site at either Scofield Cove or Scofield Point so if the weather got ugly, I wanted to have a place to be for the day. After putting my rain gear on, the rain seemed to slow, then it stopped. It looked like the sun was trying to come out but then it remained gray, drab & overcast intermittently with spurts of sunshine trying to work it’s way through the clouds.
I made my way to John’s Bridge, taking my time going past another Round Pond, keeping an eye out for any signs of wildlife along the way, but didn’t get to see any. I think I’ve seen just about every type of animal scat there is out here & other signs of wildlife, discarded mussel shells from otters, scratch marks & tracks from other critters, just haven’t seen many of the critters themselves.
Just after passing John’s Bridge, it started raining more steadily & the sky seemed much darker than before. I knew I was between Little Eagle & Scofield Cove, so there was no point turning back but I still had about a mile & a half to 2 miles to paddle to the next site. The trip started to take a bit of a toll on me at that time & I couldn’t stop thinking of home. I was hoping it would help me push through it, but it only made it worse because it made me sadder to not be home. It was cold, wet & I was still a mile from the next site now & I was starting to feel miserable about the situation, worrying that the sky was going to open up on me. I felt vulnerable sitting out on the lake in the dark sky hoping lighting wouldn’t present itself sitting in my fiberglass boat with aluminum gunwales & aluminum paddles. I felt like a sitting duck. I was wondering what I was doing being out here by myself. (Rule # 4 – When paddling on an open lake, objects are not closer than they appear.) I had to stop thinking of home & just get it together to motivate myself to keep paddling. Luckily, I was more worried than I needed to be, no lightning reared itself & I made my way to Scofield Cove & even decided to paddle right past it to Scofield Point, which looked more interesting to me. I settled in there & even set up camp. This would have been a perfectly fine spot to end the day here. This would leave me with about an hour and a half to paddle to Churchill Dam in the morning, so I knew I’d make it there by noon tomorrow. I got a fire going & threw a tarp over all my wet gear. (Rule # 5 – A big ass tarp would be handy to place over the tables.) The tarp I had was good enough to cover my stuff as I tacked it down to one side of the table keeping it clear of the rain which was blowing sideways, but it would have been a luxury to have a much larger tarp to have more dry space around the picnic tables during a rainstorm. I had a hot lunch & gathered some more wood for the fire. I thought this would lift my spirits & occupy my mind. Luckily, it worked & campfire baked potatoes & rice pilaf never tasted so good. I’ll have to remember that those 1 minute rice packs work great heated in a small camp pan. It was just what was needed & the potatoes were so good they didn’t even need salt or pepper. They warmed me up after being so cold & wet all morning.
After lunch I walked around the beach on the point. This was all before noon. I spent the better part of the morning throwing rocks into the water ala my 4 year old son Nolan, he loves just sitting by the water & throwing rocks, nothing more to it, there’s something in the simplicity in it that I enjoyed myself even. I even saved a few of them to bring home for him even though they don’t look like anything special, but he can add them to his rock collection. I walked around some more & took some photos.
Saw some large tracks in the loose gravel between sections of water at the furthest point I could reach by foot. I believe that they were bear tracks but can’t be certain only because it was very loose soil and there was not enough definition to the tracks but based on what size & print was left, (I’m almost certain that they were black bear tracks as they didn’t resemble any other tracks I’ve come across or have been able to look up in comparison). I tried to follow them as far as I could looking for a good track but the rest of them were in the water so it was even more difficult to make out. I don’t believe they were moose prints only because I had seen several of those already to see the difference in the prints. I started to head back toward camp because I had noticed that the rain had subsided & it looked a lot brighter than before, so I contemplated going on a bit further. As I approached my camp, I saw another canoe going by slowly in the water. It was a man & woman. The man in the back raised his paddle in the air to acknowledge that he saw me & I waved back. I decided to break camp, thinking I could make it a little closer to Churchill Dam.
The water was choppy intermittently, but it was very manageable again in general. (Rule # 6 – Always be alert while paddling on open water since a wave can come out of nowhere from behind & really rock the boat.) The water came up over the sides of the boat a few times but I steadied it out. It was just because the water would calm down every few minutes & I would start fiddling with the camera & when the wind & waves would pick up, they caught me off guard a few times. Then the day changed for me for the better, the water began to work with me for the first time this trip, slowly pushing the boat forward. It was still early in the day. I let the water just push me slowly along, giving my arms a much needed break from the prior day’s work. The water was rolling me forward, only sometimes becoming still. (Rule # 7 – When paddling an open lake, you can see the wind before you hear or feel it. If you watch the surface of the water ahead of you, it is very distinguishable by seeing the ripples coming toward you from the distance.) I can tell which way the boat will be pushed momentarily now. I made my way toward another High Bank & noticed the couple I had seen earlier had taken up residency there, so I paddled across the narrow thoroughfare to The Jaws. A ranger was there tidying up the site, there were 4 cells here & they were all vacant. I talked with him for a few minutes then unloaded the canoe while he finished up raking & emptying any ash from the fireplace. The ranger was pleasant to meet & speak with & he provided some good info. He would turn out to be the only person I would come in contact with today. He pointed out that that there was some freshly chopped firewood in the furthest cell, so I thanked him, helped myself to some & started a fire. So, today I’ve been setup at 3 different sites. I left Farm Island around 6am, spent the late morning & early afternoon at Scofield Point & I’ll be sleeping at The Jaws. This was my best fire yet this trip that sparked right up due to the birch logs that were available to me. I am only a 30 minute paddle to the dam now & I’m still not decided if I’m going to run Chase Rapids or not. The ranger pointed out that the water was still pretty high & moving fast, so it shouldn’t be that bad. My concern now is that I noticed either late yesterday or today that there is now a stress crack across the center of one of my paddles which leaves me with one good paddle for the rest of the trip. I don’t want to have to rely on the cracked paddle, so I’m using the other one now. My spirits soared as the day progressed to the point where this turned out to be my best day so far even though it started out rough.
Oh, on a note of good news, I found my paddling gloves stashed in a pocket of my backpack that I had overlooked. I was uplifted at having found them late tonight. It sounds like the wind just picked up, this is the strongest I’ve heard it gust yet since I’ve been here. Tonight seems a little warmer than the past few nights but it is just starting to cool off a bit. The ranger mentioned that there is usually a moose in the cove directly across from where my tent is facing, hopefully it’ll be there tomorrow morning. A chipmunk tried stealing some of my food tonight after removing it from my food container. I only turned my back for a second after removing some food from my food storage container to find a chipmunk sitting next to my bags of trail mix & nuts with bite marks in the top of one of the bags, luckily I turned right back around or it would have probably gotten into some of the nuts. If everything stays on track, then I’m probably looking at 4 more days now. I’m actually pleased with my progress so far. Hopefully the weather will hold up. I’ve got a new favorite campfire food too, naan warmed up & eaten right off the fire.
-Good Night from The Jaws, Churchill Lake, The Allagash, ME
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