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Retired publishing executive ecstatic with the idea of spending most of his time on the coast of Maine

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Allagash Wilderness Waterway: 8/31/15 - 9/5/15, Day 3

Day 3 – Cunliffe Island to campsite Hosea B

     We were up and at ‘em by 6:30, ate breakfast of juice, coffee, bacon, eggs, bread grilled on the open fire, with butter and jam, and were on the river by 8:30.
     We paddled about 10 miles to the southern end of Round Pond for lunch at Back Channel campsite. The map marked a long stretch of rapids but they didn’t seem as bad as the previous day’s, or maybe we’re getting better.

                                           Typical AWW campsite    
     Just before Round Pond was the second of only two bridges over the river, looking very out of place, especially when we saw a log truck roll over in a cloud of dust after we had passed underneath.
     After lunch, we saw the same couple approaching us at Back Channel (and that was the last we saw of them). After some discussion about the weather (there was a little thunder and dark clouds moving quickly from the west), we headed out into Round Pond for what was intended to be a fast push to the next campsites if weather forced us in. Unfortunately, the wind picked up mightily as we got half-way across and M nearly lost control, unable to turn into the wind, and we had to paddle hard to catch him.

                                      Storm clouds over Round Pond    
     The storm passed us by, with just a bit of refreshing shower (it was a hot day), the only rain on the trip, and we decided to go on farther. We met the Round Pond ranger who was about to police his campsites, and he offered to guide us through the rapids after the pond. The smell of his outboard-powered canoe was a little disconcerting, but we were grateful for the help and hung up only once.

                                    View from Croque Brook campsite 
     After another couple of miles we stopped at Croque Brook campsite for the night, or so we thought. Twenty minutes later, after we were partly set up, a party of three canoes and six older men came up and stopped at the same site. It’s still not entirely clear (although see Day 4 for some speculation) why they choose to be right next to us (although it was a two-cell site) on a long river, with almost no traffic, with a plethora of sites on offer. E/M wanted to pack up and leave. I was advocating staying, but then walked a little way toward the other cell and heard how loud the men were, even across perhaps a hundred yards of space full of bushes, and realized that we would have to share one privy, obviously especially trying for E, and voted for going on. As we left, someone in the group did apologize for kicking us out.

                                          Re-packing at Croque Brook
     We were very glad we moved: Croque Brook was probably the least attractive site we saw, being open and tree-less (no hammocking!) and the extra six miles was well worth it, for Hosea B campsite was lovely and simple, nicely elevated, lots of trees, with a small cold brook nearby to replenish our water supply, the river calm and deep and by evening time, glassy-smooth.
     That was one of the joys of the trip: the multitude of faces the river showed, from gentle riffles, to slow deep currents, to fairly serious rapids and every complexion in-between, not to mention the endless anticipation of what was waiting around the next bend.

                                       Evening at Hosea B campsite

     Besides seeing the one log truck on the bridge, hearing another on an access road near the end of the trip, and some rumblings of machinery in the distance for an hour or two, the only evidence of logging was a clear-cut hill in the distance, with a weird stand of big trees left at the crown.
     Speaking of annoyances, I should say here that our trip was remarkable bug-free: a few no-see-ums, a few mosquitoes, a few biting flies in the canoes that took advantage of our attention to nothing but the water ahead. Even though it turned out to be quite a warm and muggy night – hardly needed a sleeping bag – the bugs were not a bother.
     My little tent was a joy. Just (about) seven feet long and four feet wide, it was composed mainly of a fine mesh that allowed views up to the starry sky, on one side woods, on the other river. And I could hear everything, from the ticking of tree bits falling, unidentified sounds in the woods, footfalls of bear or toad perhaps, creepy, crawling things headed over, under, or around. For someone like me not used to camping, sleeping in tents is intense, a combination of fear and joy, relaxation and worry, resulting in an insomnia that was wonderful to bear.

                                                   Hosea B campsite
     I was very glad we had no rain, for the tent’s rain fly looked to be a claustrophobic cocoon.
     Dinner, still defiantly guilt-free: steak on the grill, potatoes and butter, carrots. In bed by 8:00. But right after going to bed, we heard several loud, deep splashes in the river, like someone throwing very big rocks. Our best guess was that they were beaver slapping their tails (were they annoyed at us?) especially since the next morning just a few minutes after putting in, we saw a beaver swimming near a lodge.
     Distance: about 20 miles

     Wildlife: great blue herons, lots of eagles

Next: day 4

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