Allagash Canoe Trip


Earlier this year, way back in early June, I took my dad on canoe trip through the Allagash Wilderness Waterway. This is a 92 mile waterway stretching over several large lakes and going down the Allagash river until you reach a little town near the top of Maine. After traveling by road for hours, including hours on some well used dirt logging roads we unloaded the truck, loaded the canoe and set off on the water. This was myfirst real canoe or water trip in the outdoors, and I got to share it with my dad who had always talked about doing this trip.


A fifteen minute paddle and we were heading in for land to setup camp at one of the first primitive campsites along the waterway. I say primitive, but this place had a picnic table with posts setup for rigging up a tarp, fire-ring and a privy. The next morning we woke and began paddling across Telos and Chamberlain Lakes. The water remained really flat most of the day. Quickly we learned that sitting in a canoe for long periods of time flattens your butt, and becomes painful. We took few breaks, but were taking a nice relaxed pace. This evening, after we already ate dinner, we went out for a bit of fishing and I caught the biggest fish of the trip, with my flyrod that had a fly and leader from at least 10 years sitting in storage.


The following day was a bit different, the morning started well, I even tried the back of the canoe, but struggled to keep up with the power-plant of my dad, so it was best to leave him in the back so I didn’t burn out. We were cutting from point to point across these huge lakes, and it had been fine and dandy, until it wasn’t. A little more than half way to the other side of one of these crossings the wind picked up. Waves lifted quickly and even had fairly good sized white caps around. To aim directly at the point we wanted, would let the waves hit the canoe broadside and would surely send us swimming. We paddled, hard, into the wind aiming for a point that, if we could hit, would allow us to stop for a break.


We did manage to hit that point, but just 20 feet more and it could have continued in the rocky waters. The picture above doesn’t quite show how wavy the water was, but a nice shot of the wildlife. The campsite was great, tucked into the pines. I got a fire going using my Morakniv knife and a ferro rod, something I started practicing nights before the trip and continued to practice throughout. We camped with another group one night, sharing a single campsite table/fire ring. That is where the lakes started to end and the rivers began.


Canoeing over the lakes was peaceful, slow going at times, or quick if the wind was at your back, but nice and easy. The rivers posed many more challenges, shallows, rocks, sticks, rapids. The best part is the inability to see the rock, they are under the surface, but not so far under that, scrape, “oops”. Yea, oops. My untrained eyes learned some of the basics, but my neck was constantly moving as my head pinged from left and ponged to the right.


Sure there were some rocks easily seen, even below the surface I was able to get a handle on some of them by watching for little V’s at the water, meaning a rock is a few feet in front. But even when I could see the rock I couldn’t always choose to go left or right soon enough! No really, looking down river and see a field of rocks, where do you go! Even better sometimes you can go over the rock just fine.


It had been raining more steadily towards the end of the trip, and the fires were getting slightly more difficult to light. On the final night, the wettest of them all, I found a dead standing stick, sorry it wasn’t big enough to have been a tree, and processed it down. This meant I split it up and even made a bunch of feather sticks. I probably spent more than 30 minutes just playing with my knife. Using some birch bark collected at lunch, and kept in a pocket to dry, I lit the fire with the ferrocerium rod. No struggle. It really is about the preparations.


The final day was a bit misleading. You start the day a few miles from “the end” of the Allagash waterway. But you still have a few miles to go before getting to anything remotely called civilization, like a road. My dad and I made it down the river in one piece, and had a hell of a trip. It wasn’t quite injury free, my dad managed to hook himself really good, so while I caught the biggest fish, he definitely caught the biggest sucker!

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