Day 6 – Thurs – 9/22/11 –9:50pm:
Man, today rocked!!! I thought it was going to suck ass, but it turned out to be my best day by far. First I have to tell you why I thought it was going to suck. Last night after climbing into my tent & starting to write about my day, I had thought nothing more of the mother & young moose that had passed into camp. They had walked off into the woods & that was that. There was a brook about 100 yards from my tent & I already knew it would be a prime wildlife spot from all the animal pooh I had spotted earlier last night. I turned in right after writing & fell right to sleep. At 1am, I was awakened abruptly to find that I had sublet a space in Moose Town, USA. I was startled awake at 1am to find out I was sharing my living space with a moose! I was scared shit-less when I woke up. My piss cup came in handy in the tent last night though, because I wasn’t about to leave the tent and go walking 300 yards to the outhouse in the woods this night, which would pass directly through rowdy Moose Town. In my best estimate, there had to be about 5 moose throughout my campsite, after sitting there terrified, listening & waiting without moving a solitary muscle for 3 hours straight. Based on where the sounds of the moose were coming from simultaneously, there had to be at least 5 of them, I figured. (Actually, that brings up a question I had while paddling… how far does sound travel? I don’t know but I’m curious because sometimes I can see activity happening, but can’t hear it. I know it’s far off whether it’s people or animals, but can’t hear any sound from what I’m watching. When I’m doing something, I feel like I’m making a lot of noise even though I know what I’m doing can only be heard so far away, but it led me to wonder how far does sound travel???) Where was I? Oh yeah, Moose Town… What happened is that I had picked a plot of grass that was just big enough for my small 5×7 tent, in a U shaped spot of grass. The sides of the tent met trees on both sides of the tent with the door facing the wide open hillside leading down to the river. Behind the tent there was about 2 feet of space between the tent & the line of trees behind it, so basically a 2×7 spot of grass, not a whole lot of space, I could have laid on my side and would have just about filled the spot to give you an idea. I chose this spot because there was another big spot of open grass, but I had thought while setting up my tent still that the couple I met yesterday still may show up & I knew they had a bigger tent & more gear so I figured I’d leave the big spot open for them since I didn’t need that much space. It looked like a perfect fit for my tent in between all the trees not leaving any space to walk along the sides of the tent at all. I didn’t suspect that I had left enough space behind the tent for a moose to hang out in for 3 hrs behind my tent to be able to strip the vegetation off the trees & chomp it in it’s mouth & in my ear all night. In any event, what scared me awake at 1am was the loud snorting sound I had heard earlier that night, only MUCH LOUDER!!! The reason it was so loud was because it’s head was right next to mine. I could actually smell it’s hot, stinky breath as it exhaled while snorting as it’s head brushed up against the tent when it lowered it to snort. It’s head brushed against the tent & I could see the shadow of it if in the moonlight. I sat there unsure what to do because I could hear that they were all around camp also, so I didn’t want to get out of the tent & spook them. I heard a lot of snorting, moaning & they would often times charge each other, causing the ground to tremble a bit & you could actually hear trees cracking & thudding to the ground. I was petrified in my place, terrified of the thought of being trampled by one of the large beasts unknowingly. I felt so vulnerable in that small thin tent with such a large animal rubbed up against the back of it. I felt like there was nothing to stop it from severely wounding me if it decided to charge over or through my tent. I was even worried of the moose getting tripped up in the guy lines of the tent, which stretched straight back to the trees a few feet, then falling on me. So, for a solid 3 hrs I listened to this moose party going on & I waited for the midnight muncher to move on. I about died when I had to sit there quietly listening to this moose farting & pissing right next to me all night, but I remained still. I could hear the steam from it’s piss when it would hit the ground, & thought it was bad enough to have to listen to it chewing on the branches & leaves in my ear. Fearful of spooking the moose & being trampled, it had been many years since I’d been religious but I found my self praying for the moose to be on it’s way & to my surprise within just a few minutes of that, they all went on their way & there was not a sound left of them. I was so relieved but it quickly brought me to a new low point again. Being alone & away from it all, you really start to feel vulnerable to the elements & everything around you. I’ve realized from this trip just how small I am in the world again. When you are sitting alone out on open water for example, in the cold & rain & you are miles from anyone or anything, it gives you a whole new perspective on life. You understand that there is a lot you take for granted & that anything can happen to you at anytime. It makes you want to cherish every minute you’re alive. I digress, after hearing the woods go quiet again, I’m not sure how, but I managed to fall asleep from just after 4am until 5:15am. I opened my eyes & just sat a moment listening to make sure nothing was outside the tent. I figured the moose would be back for breakfast, but it sounded like the coast was clear. I poked my head out of the tent, it was still dark, but the view of the stars was amazing! They were so brilliant on the night sky shining so much brighter than they would be at home. This was the first time I saw the sky all lit up like this on this trip, the pinhole like of the stars mapping out the night sky so perfectly that I felt like I was staring up at the ceiling of a planetarium, it was just too perfect looking. It was so easy to spot objects in the sky, because they felt so close to me. I just sat a few minutes watching the crisp, clear sky enjoying the sheer beauty of it, hoping to glimpse the Aurora Borealis, but I wasn’t that lucky, & I wasn’t expecting to see it so was not let down. I started picking things up in my tent while it was still dark so I’d be ready to pack & load the canoe for the day. There was a moment from the night before that I felt like I didn’t have it in me to finish the trip. I had half a mind to head for the nearest ranger’s station to find another way home. This was one of those moments when I had to motivate myself. After having dumped the canoe on Chase Rapids, bruising my leg, my toe still hurts pretty bad from getting stuck in the mud at the Tramway Carry, cracking the boat & springing a leak in the middle of a lake, & then spending last night awake & scared of being trampled by the moose, I felt like I was done. I just pictured myself being portrayed on one of those shows “When Animals Attack”, where there would be a guy huddled up in his sleeping bag & a charging moose plows through his tent busting him up & leaving him paralyzed, or with broken limbs, a punctured lung, or better yet, a crushed skull, after all they weigh almost a ton, right?
I got the boat packed & loaded & there was no morning moose activity. I hadn’t tested the ding stick repair so hopefully the canoe wouldn’t leak today. I set out from Jalbert at about 6am. I wanted to get a lot of mileage in, but knowing there was a 70% chance of showers, I geared up for rain for the day. The sun began to show itself, it’s been rising & setting at 6am & 6pm each day. I’m already not looking forward to winter when it will be dark well before 5pm. After about 30 minutes on the water, it started to rain & it was a cold rain, but it didn’t look stormy. At least I was prepared for the rain today. I knew it could possibly slow me down today & limit my mileage. It rained almost all the way to Long Lake Dam, but it did stop & I was shivering even though I was dressed for the rain, because it was so cold still. Shortly after the rain stopped, I saw a rainbow.
I got to Long Lake Dam & portaged to the other side shivering as I went. I had some snacks before launching. I thought of making breakfast here, but was too cold to fumble through doing so, instead I got back on the water with some snack food in hand. Soon, the sun came back out & the intoxicating smell of fresh spruce & pine filled my lungs again & uplifted my spirits. I hit several more small rapids but nowhere near as big as Chase Rapids. I’m actually pleased that is the only spot that I overturned this trip, if I was going to tip the boat, at least I did it on the most difficult part of the river. All the other rapids have just been Class I or Class II rapids or called “rips”. I’ve managed all of these just fine & they have come to be a lot of fun now. The water was moving fast & was pushing me along.
I continued to paddle, even in the fast water. I had left Long Lake Dam at 9am & before I knew it I was at the inlet to Round Pond at 11am, so I knew I was cruising right along. I thought of stopping at Tower Trail for the 3 mile hike to get some photos & to get an overlook view of the waterway but there was a strong tailwind pushing me toward the opposite shore, so I decided to pass on it & let the water carry me along Round Pond past the ranger station on the left. There was nobody there & I took that as another sign to continue. At this point, I had already been enjoying the day fully anyway. I cleared Round Pond in about 30 minutes without even paddling, just steering.
It was a beautiful spot along the river & would be the chosen destination for most people coming through here for the day, but it was before noon & I wasn’t ready to set up camp. My arms felt good & I felt in harmony with the river. I exited the outlet for Round Pond & cleared the Round Pond Rips, having a blast all the way. The weather would be nice now the rest of the day. It was warm & sunny with only some clouds & not too hot, it just felt good. I paddled several miles downriver seeing Great Blue Herons, Hawks & some more Eagles. There is so much I would have liked to have photographed along the way but it wasn’t always easy maneuvering the camera on the water while moving on the water. I resolved to shooting mostly landscape shots early on, hopefully some of them came out alright & at least depict some of the beauty I’ve seen up here. When I came around a bend in the river somewhere near the Musquacook Deadwater & came across 2 playful river otters, this made my day! They are one of the animals I hoped to see up here in their natural habitat, so my trip was highlighted right there on the Deadwater. The 2 of them swam backwards downstream on the river facing my boat for about a mile or so. They would go under, then pop their heads up & crane their necks to look at me. They sounded like they were talking. I named them Ernie & Bert, because every time they came up & made a sound, it sounded like they were saying “Bert, Bert, Hey Bert!” It was a lot of fun to watch & I wished they followed even further. I don’t think I got any good photos though because the zoom lens was up front in the Pelican case at the time & my other lens was a bit fogged up.
I floated along down the river looking at my map to see where I might end up for the night. I couldn’t believe it, but it looked like I would make it to Allagash Falls that night. I hadn’t expected to get here until the next day at the earliest. I realized that I would have covered about 25 miles for the day, I was really moving along. Before getting to the portage for the Falls, I got to see a muskrat dip into the river & I saw a mink along the riverbank.
The portage was coming up on the right, so I wasn’t able to get a picture of the mink because I didn’t want to overshoot the portage since the Falls are not passable by canoe. There was a group of 6 guys set up in one of the cells & I ended up talking to one of the guys. He mentioned that they were up here from PA. I had an inkling that they were from PA because I noticed one of the guys was wearing a B-104FM t-shirt & that radio call sign jogged a memory having grown up in PA for a while. None of them could believe that I had been doing the trip solo, they were really surprised when they realized I was alone. Come to find out, they put in at Churchill Dam on Monday morning & I had just left that same area yesterday morning. They were shocked to hear the distance I had covered today. It felt good & I knew I had a power day today anyway. I portaged my boat & gear to my site for the night & set up my tent. I boiled some water for supper & went down to take some photos of the Falls while my freeze dried supper was steeping in it’s water. I love JetBoil & Mountain House, they rock! The best one I’ve had yet was the Pasta Primavera that I was having tonight. I hoped to have another campfire baked potato & rice pilaf after a long day on the water, but I wasn’t going to have enough time to collect firewood before dark. After coming back from the Falls, I sat on top of the picnic table eating & a nice looking snowshoe hare hopped into camp & grazed on some grass looking up at me while I grazed on my vegetarian pasta primavera. It was delicious after a long day on the water. I had some choco-trail mix for dessert. It’s nice to be able to hear the rushing water of the waterfall so close by. I know it will help me sleep tonight.
Who needs CDs with night sounds & waterscapes when you can go into the forest & sleep next to a waterfall in person? That is one of the things I’ve really appreciated about this trip has been the lack of all things digital. It’s earthy & just plain good to be out here. I know I must stink like campfire & wilderness but it feels good at the same time. There have been no distracting beeps, clicks, whistles, alarms, phones & horns (how I hate the sound of honking horns). There’s also nobody trying to cut you in line or push you out of the way to get where they are going, nobody giving you the middle finger on the freeway. I’ve met a few people up here, throughout the week, but everyone has been super cool.
I know that I will greatly miss the daily calming sound of nature all day long, when I get back, but I am looking so forward to seeing everyone at home. It looks like I have about 13 miles left before arriving in Allagash Village at the take-out. I will probably be off the river sometime tomorrow afternoon. Today, I pretty much covered 2 days worth of paddling. I had given myself 2 extra days in case of bad weather, but even with that time frame I felt a bit rushed to make good time each day, not knowing if the weather would turn for the worse at anytime. If I were to do the entire trip again, I’d plan more time to be able to explore Allagash Lake & the ice cave, to be able to hike the towers, & to have more time to relax & just enjoy camp life. I’ll call you once I’m off the water & regain cell service by entering back into “society”. It looks like I spoke too soon, it just started pouring out, so we’ll have to see what tomorrow brings.
-Good Night from Allagash Falls, The Allagash, ME
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