Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Machias River

Nanook of the Nashwaak, Hal the Gullboy and myself have been talking about running this river for years but it has eluded us with water levels and schedules.  This year everything seemed to line up in our favor and we went for it even though the water dropped but then the rain came and it all looked good.  Here's my tale of running this river!

May 17, 2013

I headed to Hal's camp where we would load up his car for the ride up to Machias to meet Nanook.  I had planned on taking my Courier but in the end opted for my OT 158, the Hogged Back Saint.  I know this boat like the back of my hand and have so many miles on her I just feel like I'm settling into home when it comes to loading and paddling her.  We, of course, made a late night of it despite needing to make an early start.  Typical Scooter and Hal!

 May 18, 2013

After a three plus hour ride we finally hooked up with Nanook, did some shopping, loaded all of our gear and boats on his ride and headed out to the putin.  That was one packed vehicle!

Three Boats and Nanook
Lots O' Gear
Just Enough Room for the Skinny Guy
The plan was to put in on the connecting stream between 4th and 5th Lakes and make our way to the 5th lake.  Our putin was at a large culvert where the river was wide enough for a couple of  hulls but that was deceiving as the the river turned into a narrow channel and poling became the norm.  The bottom was a bit mucky and one did have to switch between a paddle and a pole at times.

Heading Upstream
First Obstacle
We came to one beaver dam that was just a hair to high to pole up so we decided to pull around it in the muck.  That short push was well worth the effort as we soon came to 5th Lake.  It was a gorgeous place to be.  Pushing out onto the lake the view was beautiful and we started looking for a place to set camp for the night.  We found a great site with a fire place and plenty of property to pitch our tents well away from each other and the snoring that would come later in the night!

Beach Campsite
Now of course I forgot my chair so I had to resort to my bucket which is ok in a pinch but not for a week long trip!  After searching for wood Hal came to my rescue and walked out of the woods with what I needed to relax in for the rest of the evening!  What a guy!

Oh Scooter, look what I found!
We spent a great evening with a nice fire, good food and just sat around laughing at the most ridiculous things while enjoying the views of a lake I've never been on and perhaps won't again.

Being Philisophical
Another Bad Joke
Loving my new chair!
"What's the meaning of life Hal?" ask Scooter
Nice View To End The Day

May 18, 2013

Woke up to a sunrise on the lake that just made me sit and watch instead of packing.  What a pretty sight.  Although is was a little chilly the suns rays were warming me up quickly.

Morning View From The Tent
When I finally got around to packing Hal hissed at me and pointed up the beach.  A deer who seemed to be unaware of us was walking down the shore.  Nanook who was of course rootin' didn't see it.  I was lucky enough to get a couple of shots of it before it ran off.  It was a great way to start the day!

It was the start of a perfect day.  The sun was out, the wind was light and the views were fantastic!  We made our way back down the stream and headed out to 4th Lake.  This stretch would be a long one down a thin line on the map.  We stopped at the car to off load some stuff and then headed out.  I was in sweep and finally caught up to the boys stalled in a turn in the river being quiet and taking pictures.  A baby moose was in the river and Mama was off in the thicket but not far away.  In all my years of plying the rivers I've never seen a baby moose, plenty of the big ones.  It couldn't have been more then a few days old and could not seem to figure how to get out of the river to Mama.

We didn't stay long as it was crying and swimming towards our canoes.  Mama was just too close and the baby was distressed.  Moving on the river was just a poler's heaven.  It was windy with drops and a fair amount of rock dodging to do but snubbing down was just fantastic!   We did have to pull apart some beaver dams to make it easier to work our way through.  Nothing that took more then a few pulls on sticks.

We finally came into 4th Lake and found a campsite as the wind started to build and the clouds moved in.  We got camp set and dinner cooking in short order but neglected to set up a tarp of any kind which was a mistake.  About that time I started feeling kind of sick.  I was beginning a cough, runny nose, sneezing, and my stomach felt like shit. I think I was in my tent early that night.

Camp at 4th Lake

May 19, 2013

During the night I kept waking up feeling like I was going to puke.  Then the rain started and it came down steady.  I had not put a tarp over my tent to keep it as dry as I could and knew it would be a wet affair in packing it up.  We had a wet breakfast and packed as quick as we could.  Hal wanted to go back up the lake to find the Eastern Canoe Trail.  As we paddled back up the lake the wind kicked up and I turned to head to the outlet.  Nanook soon did the same but headed way out into the lake.  My mistake was keeping closer to shore and the wind soon was gusting enough to make whitecaps and was quartering into me.  I soon got blown almost into shore and was shipping water.  As well the rain started coming down. 

I knew I had pulled into another campsite and decided to check it out.  There was a large berm of sand from the waves, a testament to the power of the wind and water.  Behind that was a lower area with a nice wide open area with two fire pits and some protection from the wind.  I didn't know about the the other boys but I wanted to stay at this place as I started to puke my guts out.  In all the years I've been paddling I have never been sick, sore yes, hurt a little yes, but sick like this NO.  I was miserable.  In the meantime while waiting for the others the wind kicked up big time.

Nanook landed first and said paddling should be done for the day.  Hal soon joined us and it was decided to make a fluff day.  We did maybe a half mile. We moved the firepit further into the woods and setup several tarps to ward off the rain.  We soon had a good fire going, some food cooking and tents up.  I will have to say if I recall correctly Hal and Nanook decided on making a mixture of chicken soup with a can of Dinty Moore Beef Stew mixed in.  It almost drove me over the edge while they chuckled and guffawed and shoveled the mix down their maws declaring a culinary delight. 

May 20, 2013

Woke up to another wet and over cast day.  We packed early to try to beat any wind and headed to 3rd Lake.  The wind never came but the rain did.  Not that hard rain but a mist that seemed to trickle into every open area and make you moist.  As in past trips with this type of weather wearing glasses just turns into a nightmare.  One can't see with the lenses all misted over and one can't see when you need them to see but put them away.  This section of river was quite easy and we made the lake early in the day.

Once on Third Lake we started looking for campsites, one disappointment after another!  I saw a long beach across the lake and Nanook and I headed for it.  It turned out to be a nice spacious site and we decided to make it home for the night.  Now due to being sick as hell the day before I was stupid and didn't setup tent right nor the tarp over it so I woke to a damp wet/damp sleeping bag and tent.  To me there's nothing worse then at the end of a long day climbing into a wet bag and tent.  It was on my mind all day long!  We pitched camp setting up tarps over the cooking area first then our tents.  I was hoping the wind would help dry things out but it was just too damp out and didn't put my odds on it.

 Sometime in the afternoon the sun broke out in force and looked like it going to stay around for a while.  We all started to lay out damp and wet gear on the boulders lining the camp and shoreline.  It was joyous sitting in face of the sun and just soaking in the warmth!  It may sound like a simple thing but on canoe trips in crappy weather these are the times one daydreams of and waits for so we planted our chairs in the sun and basked up the heat while slowly drying out.  It was a slice of heaven.

Hal Enjoying the Sun
Nanook As Well
Through the Trees

What Hal's Looking At
This day I spent time and spread my tarp over my tent.  I do this so when I pack it in the morning it is "dry" with only a wet tarp to stow.  A beautiful sunset came later and the temperature started dropping.  We had gotten a good wood supply ready and soon were sitting around a roaring fire.  It was a good evening!

Tarp Adds An Extra Vestibule!
Each Pic Is Taken By One Of The Three Of Us

May 21, 2013

Sometime in the night I woke to sound of rain on the tarp.  Goddamn It was all I could think and slowly nodded off again.  When I opened up my eyes again it was a steady rain and just couldn't bring myself to get out of the warm bag despite hearing someone rooting around.  I laid there for a long while just trying bring myself to face another shitty weather day.

When I finally got up it was coming down steady and I made coffee while Nanook packed up his gear.  Hal wasn't in camp which was odd as he's an early riser.   I took my cup of joe and headed back to my tent and sat in the doorway looking out at the weather and thought to myself that perhaps I was getting old for this.  I was down to one layer of dry clothes for another three days, the water on the connecting streams between the lakes was falling, and the rain was really killing me. I had already done enough of these "wet" trips in my lifetime!  It was one of those depressing mornings.

We finally packed up and paddled back up the lake to the a gut to reach the arm of the lake that would take us to the outlet and headed down that.  When we got to the river we could hear moving water but no signs for portages.  Hal was in the lead and pulled over.  Ahead lay a rock chocked mess with not enough water to find a clean run just enough water to pin a boat or hurt a paddler in a flash!

Hal Says, "Hummmm!"
Fast Water
Hal Lining...Again!
We started lining down as it was really the only way now.  This was a tough one as the rocks were covered by slippery growth and the current was strong enough to make it almost more than a challenge.  Nanook went first and got past the first gnarly drop and then at the second lost his footing on that slim and was in!  I'm not sure how he did it but he stayed upright and with his hull and got to shore.  He said later his boat took almost no water.  

Hal went next and swung his canoe out into the rollers but kept getting the boat hung up on rocks.  It took him a while but he finally got around it and then found a place where he could climb back in and shoot on down.  I was still at the top and started lining and almost did the same thing as Nanook slipping on the veggies on the rocks so opted to stick closer to the shore and dragged my boat over a few rocks, but still have to kick the boat out into the current again to line it round.  Now during my lining down session another party of two came barreling down out of control and I had to let go of one my front line so they could pass almost hitting my boat.  Damn but boat was almost out of my grip!  I managed to grab my line back and pulled her back in.  I finally found a place to run the tail end of the rapids.  Even then I bounced over and against rock after rock but managed to stay upright and dry.  The other party swamped but managed to get their boat to shore.  

Taking a breather at an eddie we waited for the other party to show, I guess to make sure they were ok.  Turned out they were a father and son deal and they were having a worse time then us on this river section.  As we talked I could see that I could see my own breath, it was chilling off.  The three of us took lead again and it was more rock dodging, no path on the water to speak of.  

Hal and Nanook were ahead of me when I heard some yelling and then a familiar sound, the sound of a boat hitting a rock hard followed by some swears!  Someone was in the water!  I came around the bend and there was a drop with a chute cutting hard to river right and it was a jet stream.  Hal decided to pole through and careened into a boulder and flipped.  As I approached the top of the drop I could see his bucket getting sucked into a hydraulic and then spit back out into an eddie on river left.  I ran the drop clean and got his bucket and looked across shore to see that Nanook had collected most of the yard sale.  It took Hal a bit but he bailed out and came across to where we were.  It was time for a powwow.  

We stood on the bank of this thin stream while Hal repacked only to have two D-rings rip out while he tightened down his straps, bailed our own boats, had a can of liquid courage and had our discussion.  The facts were the river was dropping even though it was raining steady, we came packed for better weather and no one had a lot of dry gear left, and yet again the weather was shit!  We were above Second Lake and headed for it where we decided to take out on Stud Mill Road at the top of First Lake.  It took a couple of hours to get there where Nancook would walk back ten miles back to the car.  In this neck of the woods anyone driving by would certainly help out and give a ride and were hoping on that.  Hal and I bulldogged all the gear and canoes up to the road and began what we thought would be a long wait in wind and spitting rain.  We had decided to go back to Hal's camp where there was heat, a washer and dryer and Nanook had never been before so it was a done deal.

Within an hour and a half Nanook was back with the car.  It turns out that a Game Warden checking beaver dams came across him and gave him a ride back to his car.  That was sweet!  We loaded up and picked up Hal's car in Machias and started our road trip back to Cousin's Island.  

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