Monday, November 22, 2010

Bangor to Portland Maine By Canoe

The Adventures of Scooter and Hal, July 2009, Bangor to Portland, Maine

June 26-09

The Beginning:

We arrived at the Veazie Salmon Club after 9 p.m.  I had met Hal at Sandy Point on Cousin's Island where we off loaded his gear onto my car and left his vehicle at the camp.  We set up the tent in the parking lot, had a few beers and it was off to sleep.  I had stopped at LL Beans in hopes of finding flares and a tarp.  The place is so big even the employees had trouble finding stuff for me.  Finally gave up.  I will say that the drive up after Freeport was beautiful as usual.  I know some people who think this stretch of I-95 is hell but I love the views and the quiet of it after all the southern traffic. 

June 27-09

In Which We Commune With the Fish

Woke up to rain.  How surprising!  Slept in for an ungodly long time considering Hal is usually up at the crack of dawn.  We we finally roused ourselves we found some of the good ol' boys who frequent the club already there. Apparently they rouse themselves much earlier than we do and find their way to the Club and play Cribbage and then head home. 

One gentleman came out and invited us in for a coffee even though we were brewing up a fresh pot.  We took him up on his hospitality and took the chance to fill all our water containers.  Next on the agenda was a visit with the gents who work for the Fish Commission collecting Atlantic Salmon that come up the fish ladder at the Veazie Dam.  A Game Warden by the name of Jim Faye had set this up for us but couldn't attend as he was rocking to Jimmy Buffet, a Parrothead!   Who'd of known?  With some mild confusion we finally found the road to the head of the dam and were let in.  

We hopped onto a large barge like boat that was attached to a cable with pulleys that motored out just above the top of the dam, a creepy feeling crept into my gut as we made our way out to a piling with a cage built onto it.  This is where the salmon are “bagged, tagged, and moved” to holding tanks on pickups for transport to the dam above Old Town.  Not being a fisherman nor blessed with spending time with fish I was absolutely amazed at the size and tenaciousness of these fish.  We spent a bit of time with these gents and the fish and after they released us through the gate we made our way back to the Club and after a nasty putin were finally on the river.  The weather was overcast but the rain was holding off.  Our trip had officially begun.

The Trip Begins!
 We made our way down to just above Winterport and Hal was feeling the effects of the job, the drive up and was looking for a site.  I had been watching the shoreline and the tide line the entire way down as Hal had a hammock and I had a tent.  Well, we found a spot and I ended up pitching my tent just above the tide mark but only after climbing up the steep, crumbling bank that was much like a local dump site and said naw, taking my chances with that tide line.  The tide was low at this point and according to Hal the tide would be high around 4 a.m.  We got a fire going, cooked up dinner and as the night moved in Hal called it quits and retired to his hammock.  I stayed up for a while eyeballing the tide moving in but finally got tired of that job and climbed into my tent.  Sleep came quick.

Campsite on the riverbank
June 28-09

Mother Nature is Older Than I Am, I Should Listen:

Sleep may have come quick but it was short lived.  I woke at around  two in the morning to find my bucket floating and knocking me in the head, my headlamp underwater.  I'm surprised I didn't wet my pants as my sleeping bag and pad were almost underwater.  The tide had come in!  I started grabbing all of my gear and clambered out of my tent dragging my water logged bag and pad and waded almost knee deep in water to the canoes.  These were tied off to a huge log with the bows still on dry land.  I draped my bag and pad on the log and climbed into my canoe finding my choto boots and some dry socks to put on.  I made my way back to the tent and opted to just open both doors and let the water flow out instead of trying to break it down.  

Back at the canoe I began the waiting game.  Making a pot of coffee to warm myself I kept checking the tent with my headlamp to see if it was going to wash away about every ten minutes or so.  In the meantime the water kept coming up until the boats were totally afloat held on only with our painters. As I sat there I had visions of a laundry mat somewhere downstream with my name written all over it.    Somewhere around four-thirty the sky began to get light and the water soon began to drop.  At five-thirty I walked down to the tent and started looking for my Crocs figuring they were probably miles downstream.  As I waded down the bank I found one hung up in a branch, the other was no where to be found.  Hal heard me sloshing around and ask what was up.  “My tent is underwater!” I replied.  Nice guy to start my morning laughing at me.  The only bonus was that he found my other Croc but did refer to himself as the Croc Hunter after that.  Nice wit!

Even though the water had receded my tent had enough water in it to merit using my bailer to purge it.  A beautiful layer of silt lined the floor and once again I those visions of a dryer flashed through my head.  I must have been talking out loud without knowing it for Hal said he already heard me say that, he was to get used to this during the next few hours. 

We didn't dally around and were on the river by just after six.  The tide was flying out and we had a good tail wind and we made good time.  Buoy's in the river were bent over at obscene angles at at one point while being a bit inattentive I almost collided with one which would have sent me into the river in the blink of an eye.  We made Bucksport and at the public dock Hal asked about a laundry mat and store.  Like the Salmon Club the elderly gents of town where hanging out sharing what I'm sure were the same stories that they had all heard a hundred times.  They gave us directions all within walking distance and within and hour or so we were back underway crossing by Fort Knox.  We headed down to Sandy Point with sails up and following the tide and then the rain moved in.  Just as we hit the beach at Sandy Point the rain came down in buckets.  Using Matt's sail we set up a nice shelter and had a couple of beers while waiting it out.  Did I mention that the weather was overcast, rainy, and foggy? 

Multiple use for sails!

When the rain let enough to continue we sailed down into Fort Point Cove and the winds really kicked up.  Hal was ripping and I could hear him hooting and hollering as he headed for the point.  In the meantime I hadn't put my leeboard on and started side slipping like crazy.  I was burnt, wet, and fading after my two in the morning wakeup call.  I never made it near the point.  Hal seeing my bad way turned and sailed like a bastard into the cove and beached while I struggled to make a landing.  Hal sure made things look easy this day.  We ended up doing a short portage over to Stockton Harbor.  When we got to the new putin and started setting the sails up I found I had left a mast piece behind and had to walk a mile back, find it and then huff it back. From there we sailed and paddled out to Sears Island looking for a bootleg campsite as the day started to fade.  One promising site after another avoided us until we got to the end of the island and found a hole in the wall.  It was enough, we had done worse in the past.  From our site we could almost see Turtle Head Island through the mist and fog. We pulled everything up the bank including the boats, set up our new sail tarp with my 10 x 10 tarp as the roof, a three walled shelter, and called it a night.  I was so spent that I could barely eat and had trouble going to sleep.  Not soon after I faded off the rains came and it poured with howling winds waking me. You could hear the waves just crashing onto the shore and debris from the trees above kept hitting my tent.  This went on for hours but I somehow got back to sleep.  

The three walled shelter made out of sails and a tarp
June 29-09

The Fog, Is This a Movie?

We got a late start due to my sleeping in.  Hal just hung out drinking coffee and giving me time to recoup.  He faired ok in his hammock but did have to do some mucking around with his whole set up in the middle of the night.  I finally felt hungry and wolfed down a bunch of food and then we packed up and dragged our gear and canoes over the rocks and set off for Turtle Head.  Since this was a fairly big crossing, about 3 miles to round it off, we donned our wetsuits and of course we had a headwind.  No sailing this day.  The fog was thick and we stuck close together for the crossing and then headed down the coast to Ram's Island where we stopped for a bit.  Hal had heard we could stay there if need be and there was a sign to that effect but ya know it was just too early in the day and the cabin was pretty much trashed meaning there was a lot of trash around for the mice to make themselves at home.  Nah!
Cabin at Ram's Island
 We headed out into the fog and mist, large sail boats were appearing out of the haze like ghosts and I felt like I was in a movie.  I knew they probably couldn't see us as were hugging the shore, gunkholing so to speak, as we moved past Seal and Flat Island on our way to Warren Island. 

 During this stretch we had the sails up and made some good time but as we headed toward Grindle Point the winds either got to sketchy or were against us and I dropped my sail and started the long slough paddling.  We headed for Warren Island and made it around dusk.  We pulled up and found a water logged campsite but just above that was one that was fairly dry.  Checking in with the Ranger we paid seventeen dollars for the campsite and an additional two for all the wood we could burn with free kindling in a fantastic firepit.  In no time we had our three walled shelter up, a fire roaring, food cooking and took some sponge baths to wash the grime off.  I don't know how long we enjoyed that fire but we sure didn't waste a penny of our two dollar wood!  

The 3 sided shelter

June 30-09

Racing the Ferry, The Portage Through Rockland, Waiting to Get Famous or The Day From Hell:

We packed up and left Warren Island around eight-thirty under a fog and a light drizzle.  The Ferry was running and we would be somewhere out there perhaps in its path.  I was nervous as a cat in a dog pound as this would be a three mile crossing.  We had to depend on Hal's GPS as we headed for Lincolnville.  The tide was running and we had to head at a forty-five degree or so and changed our heading to Ducktrap Cove in order to make Lincolnville without getting washed down to Portland during the day!  I got to hand it to Hal, and I'm not to shy about being a basket case with these crossings, he made us stick close for this and for most of the day.  The fog never lifted.  We missed the ferry but it made us both nervous until we could see it coming through the haze and mist. If it hadn't been for that Hal said we could have used the tide more to help us down the coast as there was no wind so we hugged the shore.  My day consisted of paddling from one point to the next and they seemed endless so I gave up looking at the map.  The mist from the fog and the passing clouds of drizzle made my glasses useless and I finally gave them up after spending more time cleaning them than paddling making for a tough vision day.  We did see, I think, a bald eagle and had a couple of seals bark at us.  The waters were as smooth as a baby's ass and we just kept a steady cadence of paddling going all day long.  I certainly longed for some sun and a clearing sky but hell this is Scooter and Hal you're talking about and was about exactly what was to be expected. 

Typical weather for Scooter and Hal, overcast, foggy and misty

Finally we hit Rockland and I was spent.  Knowing there was a portage ahead and then a search for a campsite I offered to pay for a hotel room with an early start in the morning for the run down the St. George River.  Kind of  fell on deaf ears.  Rounding yet another point Hal declared that there was a breakwater for about a mile out that we had to round, there was no way to find a way to carry over.  We just did it as there wasn't a choice.  We had quite an audience with onlookers on the breakwater, some taking pictures others asking about our sailing setups and where we were going.  Didn't much matter to me, I was wiped at this point.  We had to hunt down the boat ramp and got ready for the portage.  I offered again for a hotel but Hal was hell bent on getting to the George River.  I conceded and off we went towing and pushing our boats through the narrow streets of Rockland on our little portage carts.  Hell, we had to stop at crosswalks and push the walk button.  People beeped their horns at us and at least one guy stopped, got out of his car and took pictures of us. 

We trudged  up Route 1 for what was supposed to be a three mile portage ending up being around five miles.  Along with the fog the humidity was trekking in and the march became a sweating mess.  Finally we found the Fish River and just down the road was the boat ramp for the George River in Thomaston.  We were supposed to head to a State Park but ended fighting the tide and settled for a muck hole campsite.  I was pretty pissed off and there wasn't a whole lot of talk for the remainder of the evening.  The privacy of my tent was welcomed.
Not So Happy Camper

July 1-09

Shooting the Gut, Bookmarks, and the Rainbow Outhouse:

Woke up to a clammy damp tent with rain falling.  In layman's terms another shitty day.  We packed up and paddled back to the main river stopping at a store where we stocked up on many beers.  I was still in a foul mood from the day before and talk was again lacking as we set up sails for the run up the George River.  Of course the wind was against us but the tide was cranking out and we were making almost 8 mph according to the GPS.  Even though it felt like I was fighting the current I wasn't but was tired of looking at nothing but fog and ghosts of islands shadows, it was depressing.  Just too many days of this same sullen scenery. 

Somewhere around Bird Point the winds shifted in our favor and we hoisted our sails and started sailing again.  It was heavenly for me and a phenomenon occurred, the haze and overcast drifted off for a bit and I broke out my sunglasses.  The breeze was enough to make speed without paddling but not strong enough to fight with while screaming along.  I enjoyed a beer while motoring along watching Caldwell Island getting closer.  

We found the opening to Pleasant Point Gut and sailed on in and through it at low water.  It was fantastic, we were sailing and looping around moored boats, along the exposed rocks and shoals.  It was refreshing and like in times past of some hard times on the trail I let those ugly thoughts go and found some solace in doing this new thing, dodging traffic in a canoe.  We came out of the Gut and sailed into Friendship and Hatchet Cove on the way with our new tailwind tying off our canoes with our sails faces out from each canoe, I think this called Bookmarks, and just relaxed while taking turns steering.  

 Friendship didn't have much to offer to so we sailed our canoes out the crowded harbor again playing dogdeball with the moored vessels.  It was so much fun to come so close and then just peel away and catch a breeze that caught your sail and yanked you forward at a respectable pace.  We were now in Muncongus Bay and headed to an island that Hal had heard about.  We found it and skirted around to the end of it where we found a path.  I beached and walked the trail finding an outhouse and and the other end an octagonal structure, screened in with a working door and a nice bench that looked out over the mouth of Flood Cove.  I reported back to Hal and we called it the spot to camp.  Paddling back up we found a place to take out, tied off the boats, carried all gear up and Hal laid down in the gazebo and fell sound asleep.  I spent time tying off cloths lines and hung gear until I was green in the face.  Sitting on the bench I sipped a beverage and with wonder admired the view, I could actually see the opposite shoreline, a couple of island far off on the horizon and realized that my sunglasses were still on.  I enjoyed the alone time even though my paddling buddy was not fifty feet away.  

A good hour passed and I realized it was time to take advantage of the local commode!  Enough of this digging, hell even my dog doesn't have to do that!  I took to the trail and soon found the outhouse.  As far as outhouses goes this was a rather nice one.  Fresh wood, level, nice cleared path to it and in front of it.  I had to admire it but my admiration would grow for as soon as I opened the door I found the first one third of it was painted with rainbow colors.  It was quite unique to find such an outhouse for the colors almost caught my attention enough to forget about the true behaviors and special odors of such a structure, almost!  Still it was a welcome relief.  I do not think I will ever forget the colors of that outhouse!

The rest of the night was spent caring for the drying gear, cooking up a slew of meals, making a few cocktails, admiring the views and enjoying a day of no rain.  With a good feeling I packed all of my drybags with dry gear and was rested for the first time in days.  The lesson for the day is that crappy beginnings can make way for better opportunities. 
Two Old Canoes docked at Ames Island

July 2-09

How I Came Back to Religion Again or I'm Out Of My Comfort Zone:

It was a lazy morning getting ready.  Perhaps it was the rainbow outhouse calling, or the fact that is was once again fog and heavy mist, again.  We started out to Turners Corner and a portage from there but as we came out of Flood Cove the wind was not in our favor so we changed headings again and headed out to Pemquid Point to the Damarisoctta River.  We headed to the lower end of Bremen Long Island and then headed across to Hog Island and into Muncongus Sound where we followed the shore again.  The wind once again favored us being mild at first but after we came to the end of Louds Island the wind picked up some.  Until this point the waters were glassy and we were cruising at around 4 mph. We passed Round Pond and headed for New Harbor.  

Making Our Way to New Harbor
Making about 4 knots with the wind
Finally in New Harbor, looking out to where we sailed in
Now, I'm usually up for some adventures but this one put me way beyond my comfort level and I wondered by the end of it if I would be looking for a priest or a church to find my mind again.  As we got into the open waters unprotected by all those island the seas picked up.  Now mind you, the lobster boats think nothing of these waves, nor do most other boats that exceed sixteen feet, have motors and aren't sailing with home made sails and just paddles to steer.  The landscape on the shore was the classic cliffy type thing that you see in Maine pictures of the seacoast. 

The swells coming in off the sea were colliding with the rock face and bouncing back out at us and the incoming swells.  It became very confused and I could only concentrate on the sail, the water and where to point my bow.  I was very concerned about the freeboard of my canoe as it is so low and took that into account with my every move of the paddle.  It took a very short time to see that my canoe was very, very small.  I was bracing, steering, paddling, using my body weight to keep in the direction I wanted.  In order to keep things on a better keel I moved further out from the shoreline where things were more consistent, it wasn't my favorite choice but was the wisest thing to do considering.  I kept looking back to see where Hal was and it wasn't far.  At one point in the swells I could only see a section of his sail and just his shoulders and head.  For an hour and a half we kept this up and I could only hope the priest had more than a glass of wine for me. 

I was looking for signs of New Harbor and finally saw in the distance a large rock outcropping and a buoy, a bright beautiful orange buoy and to my left the opening to the harbor with boats moored there.  I can't begin to say how grateful was was to see that.  Turning into the harbor the waves built up some and my canoe began a nice surfing action, the whole bow out of the water with a loaded canoe. Blazing past a moored boat I looked for the nearest dock and let my sail go waiting for Hal.  I could only say one thing to him, “That was outside my comfort zone!”  With a shaky feeling we headed for the boat ramp and unloaded for the portage. It was then that Hal mentioned that we didn't have our wetsuits on nor was any of gear tied in to our boats.  It certainly could have been a nasty event if one of us dumped.   

We decided we deserved a nice lunch in a restaurant and headed for the nearest one by canoe.  Avoiding a mile walk we were sipping a beer within ten minutes.  Lobster and seafood casserole were the choice for food.  It was good to be out of the weather for a while with a hot meal and cold beers nursing our throats and bellies. Now of course we were waiting with baited breath for a hot shower at the Pemaquid Beach town facility.  We began our portage stopping to buy some grub and beverages and in route stopped to pick up a bag of dry wood for the fire later that night.  Coming to the beach we found it closed and I can tell you we were both mighty disappointed.  I was looking forward to washing some of the crustaceans off  me.  Instead we turned around and found the point and loaded up our boats. 

The wind was picking up and as soon as I pushed off and out into it my sail was ripped out of my grip and I almost tumbled in to the water.  I pulled in my boom line, reef?, and it was all I could do to get it a quarter of the way in.  The boat took off like a bat out of hell but not where I wanted it to go.  There was a lot of swearing going on!  In the end I had to drop the sail and start the long paddle across the mouth of the John's River to the Gut to the mouth of the Damariscotta so we could make our way up it to Fort Island.  Having to stop to lower our masts for the drawbridge that didn't acknowledge us took a few minutes and then we were sailing again making fantastic headway up the river.  It was amazing how fast we were going.   Just before the island the wind got confused and the current at the tip of the island made for some crazy boils.  Somehow I was able to sail right into the beach. 

As we were off loading the winds picked up coming from upstream right into our site and it chilled off enough that I ended in layers of fleece. Hal got a fire going with what was around and then we added the logs we bought.  He had built a up the fire ring and with the 20+ mile an hour winds we had a blast furnace going eating through our logs like they were paper.  My Crocs that had been rescued ended up being to close to the fire and next thing I knew they were on fire!   I soon called it a night and headed for my tent as the winds started shifting from the south and the rain came.  Then came the lighting and thunder and then the rain really started.  My tent sounded like a drum!  As I fell asleep I was wondering about those tall thin pines swaying in the winds next to my tent. 

July 3-09             

Crappy River Shoes, Thump, Thump, Thump, and The Middens:

Hal was up when I crawled out of my tent.  He wasn't real happy.  Apparently the heavy winds and rains had wreaked havoc with the tarp over his hammock and it flew off twice during the night forcing him to get out in that rain to secure it again.  Of course he got wet as did his sleeping bag.  I guess it was his turn for a long night.  I went to check on the canoes and they were filled with at least two inches of water with our loose gear floating around.  Man, that was a rainstorm!

We finally got on the water and paddled up the Damariscotta gunkholing again, just hugging the shoreline and fighting the tide.  We finally crossed the river at a narrow section and then the wind made its appearance and we were able to hoist sails again and make some headway.  Hal mentioned we were just doing about 2-3 mph but I didn't mind, it was better than paddling. Then an amazing thing happened!  The sky cleared and the sun came out!  It was magnificent, to feel the heat from it, to be able to see the views that were offered!  I was happy.  We pulled into the boat ramp with a restaurant overlooking it and within five minutes had located a laundromat, bank, and place to buy new shoes.  There was no way in hell I was going to spend the rest of the trip in my knee high Chota's, been there, done that and my feet don't like it unless it's twenty degrees out.  We back tracked to the boats and got some wet gear, mostly Hal's, some money and off we went shopping and scouting for a portage over the bridge that spans between Damariscotta and Newcastle.  The tide was running out and damn if there weren't at least a heavy class II rapid in there. 

While the cloths were drying we ventured into a store called Remy in search of shoes for me.  I wanted another pair of Crocs but this was a tourist town and all I could find was overly priced ones with fur on them so I settled for a thin pair of river shoes that reminded more of a ballet slipper but hell ten bucks is a lot less than thirty bucks.  We headed for the restaurant for a beer to kill time and checked the tide chart Hal had on his cell phone.  If we waited for a while we could catch the tide coming in which would help us up the river and under the bridge.  So we opted for a meal and it was one of the best I've ever had.  Haddock that was so damn thick and juicy it was like a steak!  By now the tide was rushing in and keeping an eyeball on the river we finally determined the time was right to make our attempt.

We paddled down below the bridge and hoisted our sails and of course mine jammed about half way up.  The wind caught it and the current was pushing me hard so with some swearing going on I went for it.  As I approached the bridge I was looking hard at the top of my mast, the bridge, my mast, the bridge, my mast...OH FUCK, OH FUCK, OH FUCK, I kept repeating loud enough that I'm sure the folks on the restaurant deck could hear.  My mast was going to hit the bridge girders and all I could think of was the carnage and clean up of all my gear which of course was not tied in again!   The top of my mast, a piece of PVC rigged for the lines hit the girder but just barely and slid as the pole/mast bent backwards, thank god for aluminum.  THUMP, against the next girder, THUMP, the next and so on until I cleared the bridge. I think there were six or eight of the buggers, all I could do was pray!
I looked back and Hal was keeled over so his mast never hit once.  As soon as I rounded into an eddie and pulled on my line to raise the sail it went up smooth as silk, go figure!  I wonder what all the folks on that deck were saying watching us go through, I don't think it's everyday you see a couple of canoes sail up and under a bridge like that one.

We sailed a bit more but the wind petered out on us and we were once again paddling and made our way to the Middens.  Middens are hugh mounds of oyster shells left over from the Indians over thousands of years.  It was an amazing thing to see even though it was grown over .  I could see where the waters had eaten away at the mound and it was nothing but crushed shells, white, brittle, a piece of history.  We paddled up further to a point called Glidden Point and ended up there for the night.  Upon later investigation we think it was also a Midden...Glidden Midden, has a nice ring to it don't you think?  Not needing a fire and still stuffed from lunch I enjoyed the bench that was there, the view and a few cocktails and finally called it an evening as the rain started to move back in although I did find myself chuckling every once in a while and muttering, “THUNK, THUNK, THUNK!”

July 4-09

In Which We Meet a Fellow Tripper, Are Awed By A Ladder, Watch a Renegade Power Boat:

Happy 4th of July!  We got on the water around 8 a.m.  Just in time as it turns out we were camped on a trail that lead from the road to the point.  A couple of people hiked out into view as we were paddling out.  Our destination was Damariscotta Lake.  Within a mile we had to pull over break down our sailing rigs and begin our portage to the first fresh water we would see the entire trip!  While we were loading up the portage carts and boats a gentleman came strolling down and thought he was going to give us grief.  Instead he said he had been watching us and knew we were paddlers as we both knew how to use a bent shaft paddle.  He introduced himself as Mark Becker and said he and some friend had paddled from Ft. Collins, CO to Sheabag, ME back in 87', I think.  They were out for 145 days!  They used a MR Lamoille for the trip. Hal and I shook his hand and stood there in awe!   Cripes, I think we stood there talking for over an hour, compared routes, got some info and advice and finally started our portage.

We headed up the road, a hill, and within five minutes ran into Diane and Russ.  Diane asked what was up and where we were headed.  It turns out we were there for another hour as their backyard is a fish ladder for alewives and is slowly being rebuilt.  To date they have raised donations enough to do a about half of the ladder.  The rebuild began last year and it is beautiful, rock work that is amazing to see as it jigs and jags across the drops.  She said that last year over 100,000 fish made it and they are estimating that when it is done they will see over 400,000.  The ladder is definitely one of those have to see to believe sights.  I could only admire the craftsmanship! 

We moved on and within no time were on the lake and the sun was out, the skies were blue, the wind was down and it was warm!  Hal headed for a small island not even a mile away and pulled in, beached and by the time I got there was swimming, washing, and smiling from ear to ear. First bath in over a week.  With this weather and considering the island that offered a sweet campsite we made camp.  Hell, I think we covered a grand total of three miles but that was A-OK.  We strung lines and soon had all of our damp cloths hanging in the sun, our tent/hammock drying and ourselves stretched out soaking up the day!  I love fluff days!

A few hours of this must have made Mother Nature notice us, she hadn't picked on us since the tide flooded my tent.  The clouds built and soon we could hear thunder and see some lightening and we packed up our now dry gear and headed to our shelters just in time for the rain and a heavy wind to move in.  I was mighty happy to be huckered down instead of paddling in this.  It seemed to be one small strong storm after another.  In between I heard Hal on his phone, it sounded like he was reporting something.  Now this seemed odd to me as here we are on an island.  Crawling out of my tent I asked him what was going on and apparently he had called 911 as a power boat, dock, and swimming dock were drifting loose and by the island.  Going to the other side of the island there it was, a very interesting sight.  I guess Mother Nature doesn't like power boats anymore than she likes Scooter and Hal.  The rest of the day was spent dodging storms, hanging out in the shelters and towards evening got a good fire going.  It was a good day to show you that there are some real interesting folks out there in the world. 

July 5-09

The River From Hell or Following A Thin Blue Line:

We got an early start on the water, around six.  We paddled up to the power lines where we found the cottage that Diane and Russ had told us about that would take us out to Rt. 213.  I'm not sure if they either knew about the driveway or they were in cahoots with Mother Nature for the driveway had just been graded and with all the rain that this region had seen was soft to say the least.  We started up with the canoes loaded and the portage carts doing their thing and then not too far up the road the mud did its thing, it sucked in the thin tires of our carts.  It didn't take long before we were tandem pushing/pulling the carts/canoes up the driveway.  We did not need a tire rim failure at this point in time.  We came around a bend and saw an old driveway that looked a whole hell of a lot more stable and switched over to it and made better time but there were washouts that we had to tandem on which is why there was a new driveway!  You could see where the water had cut through the marshy areas out at least thirty feet out from the road.  That is some power!

We finally hit Rt 213 and just up the road was Rt 215 and our river was just on the edge of that.  Hal had seen this blue line on the map and thought it would be good idea to take it, it would be a shortcut over to Marsh River and that would take us out to the Sheepscott.  We soon found Deer Meadow Brook, what a nice calm name, idyllic so to speak and it was it was and yet deceitful.  It was beautiful, a twisting and winding stream that one could only take in this higher water levels we were in.  Hell, I lost sight of Hal more than once in this section and saw the back of my own head more then once.  The lilies were all over the place and the sun highlighted so many colors. 

As we came into the wooded area we came to our first logjam, no problem as we are veterans of these. 
Just below that I could hear the sounds of gushing water.  Being in the lead I came around the bend and ponder the narrow shoot, the river narrowed to maybe twenty odd feet wide.  I saw a rock I needed to dodge on the left and one on the right as well and in the shade it all looked fine, hell I've run this stuff for years now.  I looked it over once more and went.  What I did not see was the black rock just underneath the water.  My bow hit it and that rock forced my bow right into shore wedging it against the shore and a rock, the stern swung down and wedged itself against the rock I was trying to avoid and the midship of the boat decided that a muckleup with the rock would be appropriate!  My boat was jammed in covering over half the river.  I jumped out thigh deep in water and tried with all my strength to get it out but it was useless.  The water started climbing up the upstream side and then spilled in.  Of course once again nothing was tied in and everything started floating out of the canoe as it filled.  In a panic I grabbed gear and started throwing it to shore but as quick as I was some gear started floating off  but I could see there were a couple of eddies below that would hopefully catch them.  

I started yelling for Hal to stop and he finally heard me and pulled over.  Coming down he one look and said we needed a log to pry it up and over to get it out.  We both scurried around looking for one and Hal finally found a beefy sucker about twelve feet long and we floated it down and muscled it under the canoe and then walked it up tipping my canoe till it drained out enough to get it out.  Holy Crap, there was an interesting new twist to it.  This took us about an hour to do and when Hal came through he ran it fine but he knew where the rock was but still couldn't see it.  He collected all my floating gear and waited for me to load up and continue on downstream.  It was later that I would notice that my bag holding my wetsuit and Chota's were gone and despite going back to look for them they were gone. 

This would prove to be the theme of the day and this river tested us like we have never been tested before. These nice boney, narrow, logged choked drops would haunt us all day long and to throw in a little variety,  logjams provided more carry overs than we could count.  I stopped after fifteen.  Several times we had to pull the canoes up on shore, off load them, carry all our gear about fifty feet then go back and drag the canoes, reload and move on only to find yet another obstacle another hundred feet downstream.  It just got plain ugly and our tempers were wearing awfully thin.  It got to the point where we were lining for most of the time and it was easier to do it while in the river often wondering when the hell you were going to break an ankle from wedging it in between rocks.  My new ballet river slippers did ok but I sure wished some better padding for the bottom of my feet.  Hal was having a hard time with his Crocs but not having a lot of toenails makes it all the more painful.

To make this a perfect day the newly healed back I had started with tweaked and once again I was in pain, bad pain.  When you are in situations like this you just have to keep going despite these things. 

We finally reached the halfway point, a bridge that was log choked but only about ten feet wide.  Another insult to us as we unloaded, dragged the canoes across and then reloaded.  I knew it was bad when Hal slipped on the greasy slope and flopped hard onto his back.  I couldn't help myself and broke out laughing.  Apparently Hal didn't think that was funny as he hurt his shoulder, a previous injury. and ended up throwing his paddle hard, not sure if it was at me but he was pissed off.  It turned out to be a potentially serious thing as he had trouble with drag overs, and even paddling. 

This river really sucked us in psychologically, well at least it did for me, for just when I thought we were nearing the Marsh River we'd hit another nightmare.  Ah Gawd, I thought to myself that this would never end.  Well, to make matters better during all this our good friends kept coming in to visit us and they were there every step of the way, mosquito's, blackflies, and horseflies.  My guess is that no one had been stupid enough to run this river in years and they knew it.  They took advantage of us like a starving man at a free buffet.  They must have sent couriers back to the mother nest to tell the rest of the crowd that we were out there.  It got to the point where I just didn't care anymore as I figured I had donated more blood to these tiny vultures than I had in my entire life to the Red Cross.  My tantrums subsided and I just let them have their way.  Poor Hal was wearing shorts and I kept an eye on him thinking he'd be going into anemic shock from loss of blood at some point.  If he did I figured I'd slide his canoe into the woods, weight his body down in the river, hell no one would be out here for another hundred years, take all of his good gear and cash and call a cab when I reached the nearest road to take me back home! 

Finally we came to a road and the end of the river and of course the last challenge of this long and brutal day.  As I rounded the bend in the river, of course lining, I could hear the familiar sound of more rapids but a bit more intense.  There was a cement structure, not a culvert, that was under the road with banks leading up to the road as steep as the Matterhorn.  Making my way up I crossed the road to found the final insult to the day.  On the other side was at least a six foot waterfall and the river descended with steep rocky walls and thick woods with the Marsh River within eyesight.  I did not have the courage to make this last trek.  Hal soon joined me and agreed that a portage was the way to go.

We clambered down the bank to our boats and began perhaps the most nasty chore of the day, hauling all our gear and boats up the Matterhorn.  It wasn't pretty and we swore enough to kill enough trees to almost make a clear path up and we soon found ourselves on the side of the road once again loading up the portage carts.  It might have been a mile down the road where we found a side road that would lead us to the Marsh River and took it.  As we were unloading a car stopped by.  Ed, his name was, asked if we were having a good time.  Not today I responded and asked if there was a place to get some water.  Hell, we were going to start pumping water before we got onto the Marsh which is salt.  In view of the house was his neighbor and he called her but she didn't answer and he told us to go up to his house, just up the hill and fill up at his hose.  As soon as he left the door of the house opened and an elderly woman shouted out Ed's name and did someone need help.  Wet, limping, grubby, weather beaten we approached and asked for water.  Her name was Susan and was a sweetheart, she filled everyone of our jugs and asked in detail about our trip.  People like this fill the worst days with a little ray of sunshine and hope. 

We got onto the Marsh River with the tide going out, it was dropping fast. We looked at spot after spot and finally found a place about twenty feet above the river and for last time of the day we carried our gear up a greasy marsh mud encrusted rock faces and then did the same with our canoes and called it a day.  As the sun set the wind died and just as we were cooking dinner our friends from Deer Meadow Brook came down to visit us yet again coming out in droves.  I finally retreated into my tent after eating a couple of pounds them in retribution.  It was a long day and we lost the battle of running a river.  What should have been a five mile two hour jaunt turned into more hours than I could count. I know that I will think twice the next time Hal says, “Hey, look at this little blue line on the map!”   

July 6-09

Wiscasset, Financial Rape at the Store, and the Back River:

Another early start and we had the tide against us again.  It was slow but it made us work none the less.  After we left the mosquito's quit us but their relatives came to visit in force, midges, no see ums just making their selves at home...on my neck, my ears, my eyes and with no wind to fight them off I spent more time slapping myself then paddling.  We kept up our pace though and finally entered the Sheepscot River and a whole new watershed.  We kept up the pace and finally made Wiscasset and tied off at the local dock.  We walked along the waterfront and only found the tourist shops and had to ask where a store was that actually sold food, beers, and white gas.  No problem, just a mile walk or so but we did it and found what we needed.  We got to the checkout and my eyes nearly bulged out of my head when the bill came to over sixty bucks!  Christ, suddenly we are both digging into our wallets to see what we had for cash.  As we walked out one of us said, “So, we just got raped!”  My wallet was empty.  Everything fit into one small box. 

Glad to be done with Wiscasset we headed out and pondered whether to take the Sheepscot with an out going tide or the Back River with an outgoing tide.  I still can't figure out why I wanted to do the Back but we did, I think Hal said it would be shorter.  Worked for me but then again I can tend to the lazy side.  As we headed down the river the water was against us, didn't make any sense to me as it should have been flowing the other way.  We were far enough along to be committed but with hindsight we could have easily set up sails and caught the current back to the Sheepscot but no we just headed on down into fighting the current and it was brutal.  My lower back was a mess, felt like grated glass grinding and I was hurting worse than I had in a year.  I grew frustrated and had some tantrums but in the end I just kept paddling.  Tantrums are nothing more than swearing at the top of my lungs or under my breath, throwing my paddle down hard enough to bounce it off the gunwales, and looking for a boat ramp where I can call a taxi to the nearest bar and a bus home. 

We made it to Castle Island  and I decided that the Back River is called that name for a reason, the current comes back upstream while the Sheepscot flows out or it knew Scooter and Hal were coming along!  The island has a sweet site, part of a camp but we had it to ourselves.  Tent platforms were in abundance and we set up a tarp over on for a cooksite while I claimed on for myself.  Hal rigged up his hammock in perhaps the most wind blown piece of real estate on the island.  It worked out good as all the visitors from Deer Meadow Brook had followed us and were hovering on the other side of the island.  The wind was steady as we hung out on a rock outcropping looking at where the Sasanona River flowed by.  It was a no fire site so we just huckered down behind the tarp and made some dinner and then fired up water for soup and the likes.  The weather was for more rain to move in and a cold spell as well.  As I faded off to sleep I could hear the rain move in and I was wondering about the morning.  My last thoughts for the night were that the Back River was breed for motorboats!

July 7-09

Soup, Oatmeal, Wind, Coffee, and Walks:

When I woke up I could hardly move.  It took me a minute to figure out how to get off my back and into a sitting position Hal was up already and getting ready to pack from all appreracnes and I blurted out I was to hurting to paddle and let's take the day to let me heal some.  No argument at all from Hal.  I think our vow from years past about this type of thing stuck.  I give Hal a lot of credit.  I spent a good part of the morning just laying down and stretching as much as possible.  There was a tailwind blowing but I can't say much about the tide.  After a few hours I ventured out of my tent and tenderly walked around.  I was quite happy about the platforms as I could stand instead of squatting to cook up some grub. 

With the wind blowing hard, the cool temps, and the rain coming on and off we cooked.  We emptied out our food bags and cooked up Oatmeal, Soup, Coffee, Tea, Dehydrated Meals trying to keep warm in our bellies.  We were wearing a lot of what we had for cloths it was that chilly and damp.  Naps were the theme of the day as well as walks around the island.  The walks helped me with my back as long as I took it slow.  Somewhere along the way Hal asked if this was fun anymore and I could only answer no.  The weather had beat us down somehow, my back was a garbage pit, and the forecast was for more rain.  One of us mentioned taking out at Bath and calling it quits. I think the agreement was mutual  even though we were so close to Portland.  It just wasn't worth it anymore.  A call to our friend Andy to find us the next day for a ride back to our cars secured it all.  To make it a night we mixed up the last of our cocktail mixes and toasted ourselves for making it this far.  The rain came down hard as I settled in for the night, a perfect ending to the last night and trip I thought to myself.

June 8-09

Sasanoa River, Upper Hell Gate, Bath and Bars Going Home:

With the pouring rain I slept terrible waking at all odd hours.  The wind was up when I finally got the gumption to crawl out of my tent and face the world.  We packed up and headed out to find the section of the Sasanoa we needed to find.  Of course if we had waited a few hours we would have had the tides with us but we were to eager I guess.  We fought the ebb tide and as we ascended the river I had to go from point to point again and tucking into the eddies to make any headway.  Hal was on the other side of the river doing much the same.  We came to what I think is Upper Hell Gate and I ferried right below so Hal and I were on the same side.  I was in the lead and tired to paddle up against it.  What folly!  Despite all my paddling, swearing I was denied any upstream motion.  I was scared to death of losing any forward momentum.  In the end we both literally crawled our way over the kelp encrusted boulders lining our boats up the current. We fought the river hard and did come out ahead but whose to say who the real winner was in this fight. 

Now, in the meantime the rain came in and it was a gusher.  We both had to pull over at one point to bail from the downpours, about two inches of water from the skies in an hour and a half.  In the skyline we could see the cranes of the Bath boatyards and we made for them.  Coming out of the mouth of the Sasanona into the Kennebec we made our way upstream to a dock with a pavilion near it.  We pulled out there, the rain still coming down. 

In the end we piled all of our gear under our boats on the dock and went to a restaurant for breakfast lingering as long as we could to kill time.  I swear the waitress seemed to be wanting to get rid of us, I thought with all the rain we would be smelling at least like rainwater!  Our ride wasn't coming in until 4:30.  With the rain still coming down hard we looked for another place to hole up, we choose the library.  Reading periodicals for a few hours worked until we grew bored with it and a beverage was on our minds.  Donning our soaked raincoats and steady downpour we headed out and found a local establishment that catered more to our needs and wallets.  We found one and called it our home for the next few hours.  Our bartender, Roxy, was great.  When we ordered a shot of Capt Morgans we didn't get a shot, we got a glass for the price of a shot. Perhaps it was our tale to her and our river rat appearance that made our stay tolerable to her! 

A four-thirty call found us down at the boats again, a few beers to hold us over when Andy showed up.  We loaded up and within forty-five minutes we were in Freeport at my car.  We offloaded and headed to Cousins Island to get Hal his car.  Done with that I was on my way home. 

So, in the end we paddled, poled, and sailed almost 140 miles from Veazie to Bath, Maine.  We were out for eleven days, nine of them being in rain, mist, fog, more rain and winds.  Trying as it was it was fantastic to be out there. 

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