by Tony Bogacki
After driving with Tat Yuen for 8 continuous, beautiful and apprehensive hours, we arrived at Pelletierís Campground and met the crowd: Mike Jacobs, Joe Correia, Verniel and Dick Morin. This is after many hours of preparation, anxiety, work and forethought. Letís forget the hard part.
We got together and said hello and asked each other all the usual questions: How was your ride up? Wasnít the scenery beautiful? Did you see Mt. Katadihn in the reflection of the lake? Finally we got to thinking; hey itís close to 6 PM, itís suppertime. That is when we started getting out the coolers and the plastic 5 gallon cans and look for supper. Mike decided to walk a half-mile to wash the potatoes in the St John River. We tried to start a fire. Everybody had a try, but no fire. Finally Tat played and played and the fire was going. We learned lesson one. We needed a big bag of birch bark to make sure we could light fires. Supper included chicken soup, salad, home fries, steak, and peach pie. After supper we decided to get ready for a good nightís sleep.
The next morning we had our big breakfast, mixed bread, and picked up camp. By 9:15 AM we were all packed up on and in Norm Pelletierís van. We paid Norm for the night in his campground and the trip to Churchill Dam. On the road we went. We traveled a couple of miles of hard paved roads and then we traveled on the unmarked dirt roads. It was a good thing our driver knew the way to Churchill Dam. Even with maps it would have been difficult on our own. We arrived at a shack in the middle of nowhere. We paid the road and camp fees to the North Woods and on we drove to Churchill Dam. We saw a couple of deer.
Finally, we arrived at Churchill Dam. Itís all in shambles. Construction people are all over the place. But very little water flowed to allow us to run Chase Rapids. So, we drove to the headwaters of Umsaskis Lake. There is a road leading to the end of Chase Rapids and the head of Umsaskis Lake. Here we unloaded from the van. Loaded up the canoes and then had lunch. Off at last, we put paddles to the water. We paddled, and we paddled. Freedom arrived at last. We are paddling away from the wild life of reality, into the life of relaxation, looking for moose, deer, eagle, and duck.
We entered Umsaskis Lake. Hey, this is a big lake. Which shore is best? East or west? We were heading for Sandy Point campsite. A group, that left ten minutes before we did, was also headed for Sandy Point campsite. Good thing we were prepared with enough maps and info. On the east shoreline, across from Sandy Point is another campsite called Ledges Campsite. We headed there. On the way we stopped at a sandy beach to dump water. The high, wind swept, lake waves were filling the boat.
Once at the Ledges Campsite Dick and Verniel decided to bathe at the sandy beach. They backtracked to the beach. Then Tat took his turn. But he returned with a load of fresh water clams.
We set up camp. Included at the campsite were a big table with a bar across the top for an awning, stone firebox and plenty of tent sites and an outhouse. Supper included the clams. (They need some spicing up. We will know better next time.) We had a fantastic first meal: farmers Borsht, poached salmon, couscus and coleslaw, carrot cake and cream cheese frosting. Later we baked the bread. It was almost all gone before we went to sleep. We shouldnít have been tired enough to sleep. We only paddled for a couple of hours, but sleep we did.
(Iíve read you can see the camps far away by the ridge pole above.)
The next morning we had a good breakfast, mixed bread, and tore down camp and packed the canoes. Down (up) the river we paddled. Under a Bridge. Bridge? What is this stuff? Hey we drove over this bridge. That was "REALTY ROAD", the only legal road through the district. Long Lake was our next destination. We paddled through Long Lake. Finally we arrived at Long Lake Dam. We portage the dam area on the right, and continued to paddle to Sweeney Campsite. The next site is 6 miles away, too far. Mike served caipirissimas. Excellent drinks: rum, sugar, and lime. I could have downed about four more of these fantastic drinks, but I didnít want to put Mike out of business. I will bring something next time. Supper was again a "gourmet meal." Pork chops, pasta and broccoli, tomatoes and feta cheese, chocolate pudding and bananas. Bread was baked by around 8 PM. Again it was wiped out before we retired. Around 10 PM a moose walked through Dick and Vernielís campsite. This moose bedazzled Tat so much so that he woke me up.
The next day we made it to Round Lake and Inlet Site. There we talked to campers and they told us about a fresh water spring. We found it and loaded up with water and paddled back to Tower Trail SiteĖacross the lake. Five of the group hiked up to the fire tower at the top of an unnamed hill. Sounded like the thing to do. To get to the top of the tower you had to climb a ladder (@70feet). Most did not climb the ladder. Mike claimed he saw me at the foot of the trail. We got back in the boats and paddled to Croque Brook Campsite. We set up camp quickly because it looked like rain. Sure enough, it showered. Afterward there was this beautiful triple rainbow. I even have a picture of the end of the rainbow.
Tat and I went looking for gold and even dug for it. I am still working for a living Ö No Gold. Another gourmet meal.
The next day, we paddled to Michaud Farm to out register. We saw a couple of American Bald Eagles guarding their meals Ė a couple of coveys of ducklings. Then we paddled on to Allagash Falls. We camped there and it started to rain. My boat also started to leak pretty badly. I was down emotionally because I felt I was going to be a burden to everybody else. We made camp and had supper. While we slept, it drizzled. The next morning we portaged the Allagash Falls (@ 1/8 mile) and put in. We took some pictures below the falls. As we continued down the river the leak got worse. Eventually it got so bad we had to stop. The leak was directly under my seat. So Tat and Joe taped and braced up the leak. We turned the boat around and proceeded down river with the now stern fully loaded and taking on water over the gunnel. At least I could bail this much out.
I looked up on the left bank and saw two men replacing a sign identifying the end of Allagash Water Way. We stopped and told them of our dilemma. They radioed to Michaud Farm, who in turn called Norm Pelletier who picked us up at Twin Brook Rapids Campsite (first site out of Water Way). Within an hour we were at Normís campsite. We ended the trip and started heading home. Tat, Dick, Verniel and I headed to Old Town Canoe Works for a visit. Picked up some emergency gear and a nice idea what a 17í Penobscot looks like.
As we left Norm, he mentioned that the right time to paddle the Allagash is over the 4th of July week. I am trying for it this year. I will be arriving at Normís campground on June 27th.
By the way, the average tripper spots at least 50 moose and deer. I guess we were a little unlucky. We saw no moose, no deer, no bear, and no coon near the water. We will try again this year. Hopefully we can photograph a couple of moose.
Copyright 1998, Tony Bogacki. All rights reserved.