On Wednesday I had the opportunity to drop our Girls Allagash Canoe Trip off at Lobster Stream, the beginning of their three-week canoe trip. We had the van and canoe trailer loaded by 8:00AM and departed Chewonki Neck.
It was a beautiful day to be driving north; bright blue sky was dotted with puffy cumulus clouds and the girls were in great spirits. As we drove north I was reminded of the hundreds of drives that I have done over the years on the first day of a wilderness trip.
No matter how many times I head into the wilds I still feel the same combination of excitement for the adventure ahead tempered with just the right amount of nervousness. After three hours in the van we turned off Interstate 95 in Medway and had our first glimpse of Mount Katahdin shrouded in clouds. A while later we crossed the West Branch of the Penobscot at Abol Bridge and soon stopped for lunch at Chewonki’s Big Eddy Campground. At Big Eddy we met Site Manager Don Lamson and ate our sandwiches on the shore of the famous Big Eddy, known throughout the world for it’s exceptional landlocked salmon fishing. Our Maine Woods Explorers soon joined us, as they would be spending the first few days of their trip at Big Eddy using the campground as a base from which to explore nearby Baxter State Park and the Debsconeag Lake Wilderness Area.
Soon we were back on the road for the final hours drive to Lobster Stream further upstream on the West Branch of the Penobscot. We pulled into the Lobster Stream put in around 2:30. As the girls readied their canoes to float downstream a couple miles to their first nights campsite, I was excited for the adventures that await them during their trip.
It is rare in today’s world to spend three weeks on a wilderness trip, moving under your own power and totally unplugged. The Allagash route will take the group through a vast region of rivers, lakes and unbroken forest.
The West Branch that the girls will travel for the next week is protected under a conservation easement. A week from now the group will portage into Allagash Lake and enter the Allagash Wilderness Waterway. They will see moose, hear the song of loons and hermit thrush, and if lucky, perhaps get a fleeting glimpse of a black bear. Most importantly they will experience what author Sigurd Olsen called the “Magic of the Paddle”.
For the parents reading this I can tell you from experience that they will return to you as changed individuals, perhaps with a few scrapes and a bug bite or two, but more importantly with a confidence that comes from time spent outdoors learning new skills, forming strong friendships and being appropriately challenged.
Today our Thoreau Wilderness Trip is finishing their paddle to the north end of Moosehead Lake and will portage across Northeast Carry to the West Branch of the Penobscot River. North Woods Canoe is also on the West Branch of the Penobscot a few days travel ahead of the Thoreau Trip and tonight they plan to camp at Pine Stream Campsite before heading to Chesuncook Lake tomorrow. Our two Maine Appalachian Trips are in the 100-mile wilderness and Maine AT #1 is headed today to Sidney Tappan Campsite and then up and over Whitecap Mountain tomorrow. Maine AT #2 is headed to Chairback Gap Lean To. Our Umbagog Whitewater has settled into their basecamp campsite in Sunday Cove on Lake Umbagog and today they will spend their first day on moving water on the Rapid River. Maine Coast Kayak is now paddling to Harbor Island in Muscongus Bay. The time goes so quickly and we begin our first resupplies in two days!