Summer Journal Day 2
Sunday, August 2
It was nice to listen to the loons out on the big lake last night. We also had a barred owl in camp that sat right above the tent. He was loud.
I didn’t sleep well. I guess I got to sleep around midnight. It’s a sunny morning. At least it looks like it could be a nice day. Chris is still asleep. I’ve got the coffee pot on the stove and once I have some coffee I’ll get breakfast started. I think we’ll have scrambled eggs with sausage today. The coffee is percolating nicely. It’s time for a cup.
Sunday, August 2
The coffee smelled too good. I couldn’t wait to let the grounds settle so now I’m spitting coffee grounds, but it is worth it.
We’re getting our first taste of mosquitoes in the morning. They were around last night too. Hopefully once the sun climbs above the tall pine trees surrounding our campsite it will warm up some and the mosquitoes will call it quits until tonight.
I was thinking about our gasoline situation while lying awake last night. This is going to be the key to our trip. If we run into washouts and road closures, everything changes. Billy explained that unless a road is being used for logging and the trucks need it to pass, it won’t be repaired if it washes out. Also, we don’t want to get ourselves into a position where the only way out of someplace gets washed out while we’re there. Billy said that the rain has been so heavy at times that there have been occasions where a road has washed out overnight and low areas have flooded.
Yesterday was our first day in the woods and already I had to use the 4-wheel drive because of mud and deep water.
We’ll talk with the guy at the Caribou Checkpoint later this morning and see what he knows. It sounds like there is a good chance that we may have to adjust our plans and that’s going to affect the range we have with our gas.
Speaking of caribou, up until 1912 there was a caribou herd in Manie, but over hunting and parasites killed off the animals. Attempts a reintroducing the caribou into the state have failed.
Sunday, August 2
Our first full day in the woods and is seems that our plan is trash. We headed west on the Golden Road toward the Caribou Checkpoint and once there picked up our passes. The guy at the gate wanted to know our destination, so I showed him our itinerary, which indicated that we would be spending the night at Lost Pond. He seemed impressed with how well we had thought everything out.
We crossed the West Branch of the Penobscot River as two canoes passed below. The water is running high and they were moving quickly in the current. The other bridge across the West Branch down on the Lobster Loop Road is going to be closed for construction beginning Tuesday. The official word is that it could be closed until the end of the week, maybe the rest of the month or possibly for the remainder of the season or longer. That’s how things go in the North Woods.
We followed the Golden Road to the intersection with the 490 Road. We stopped at the bridge over Russell Stream.
It’s a weekend and there isn’t much traffic. The logging trucks only run on weekdays. You really have to be careful when they are on the road, as they own it. The roads are graded so as to drain to the sides leaving a crest in the middle. These trucks are piled high with tons of logs and if they swerve to the side to avoid you they could easily topple over, killing the driver. Also, if the driver tries to slam on the breaks, he might get the truck to slow, but the load of logs would keep on coming crushing him in the cab. Therefore, they keep on trucking and if you get in the way, the odds are they’ll take you out. When you see the dust cloud rising from the trees in the distance, it heralds an approaching truck. That’s when its time to get as far off the road as you can in a spot where the driver will see you in plenty of time. Rainy days without the dust clouds add to the excitement.
About a half mile up the 490 Road I stopped the truck, got out and gave the wheel to Chris. He’s learning to drive and needs the experience. He drove for the next 12 miles.
We came across a doe and her fawn in the road at one point and stopped to watch. Neither of them moved. They just stood in the road and stared at us. I told Chris to take his foot off the break and let the truck roll forward. The mother deer broke for the woods with a sudden leap, but the fawn continued to stare. Finally, as we got closer, the little deer turned and began to leap down the road. Chris followed at a roll, but the fawn stayed in the road. After about a quarter of a mile the little deer jumped into the woods. I suppose they have away to find one another.
We turned onto the Russell Mountain Road and crossed two plank bridges. The bushes and trees were crowding the road, which was just two tire tracks with a grass strip up the middle. Chris did a nice job.
I was navigating and admittedly, I don’t do as well as Chris does in finding our way. We got disorientated because of the new logging roads that had been run into the woods for cutting after the map had been published. The DeLorme Maine Atlas has most of the roads, but it is impossible to keep up with the logging and all the new roads that can sometimes appear overnight.
Not being sure, and the road clearly not being well traveled, we decided to turn back and luckily found a place where we could turn the truck. This cost us about a half of a mile of gasoline, that’s important as we have it figured pretty close. We sat in the road and studied the map, finally determining that we where in fact on the correct road. Getting lost in this 3.5 million acre maze of logging roads is easy. There are no street signs, in fact very few signs of any kind and what there is only means something to the loggers who work out here. I’m sure this is only the first of many more times when we’ll wonder where we are.
Back we went up overgrown Russell Mountain Road. I took over the driving as we had to step the truck carefully over the rocks and holes in the road. This wouldn’t be a place to damage the truck, as it sure seemed that the road didn’t see much traffic.
Almost accidentally we found Lost Pond, but the road in was unusable due to washouts and rocks. To stay here we would have to leave the truck by the road and carry our equipment 300 yards to the pond. We’re truck camping and have a lot of stuff. Three-hundred yards was too far, we couldn’t do it.
The map showed the road as continuing over the top of Little Russell Mountain and down to the landing on Caucomgomoc Lake. It looked to be about five miles. We had hope to climb Little Russell Mountain as there is a fire tower built in 1920 at the top, but our plans had changed, we had to find a place to spend the night.
Once we crested Little Russell Mountain at about 2400 feet our troubles multiplied. Russell Mountain Road down the north side of the mountain was gone. It had washed away leaving in its place what looked like a rock slide.
The decision was easy. It was getting late, we needed a place to stay, Lost Pond was out of the question and to stay on the mountain promised only a rocky night with the prospect of getting down to face in the morning.
Very carefully and very slowly we began to work our way down the rocks. I stepped the truck tires gently into each rut where the water had left culverts as deep as two feet. We didn’t need the 4-wheel drive here as gravity was pushing us, at times too quickly as rocks slid beneath the tires. Thank goodness for the truck’s high clearance and skid plates.
It was difficult but we made our way down, happy not to have slid off the rocks into a place from which we might not get the truck out. We found Caucomgomoc Lake Landing and there were a couple of places to camp, but we where still pumped up after coming off the mountain and decided to drive around the lake to the dam.
The weather had been nice for most of the day, but as evening closed the clouds gathered and began to darken. The trip around the top of the lake took longer than we had thought. It began to sprinkle with rain. Chris did a nice job navigating as there were a number of turns and roads that weren’t on the map. Crossing Ciss Stream, a waterway we hoped to paddle, we found the water level up to the bridge. The stream was actually as high as the planks on the bridge, which would make it impossible to get a boat under it.
Once we got to the dam we decided to set up camp. We got the tent up fast. The showers have passed, but the overcast looks threatening and the wind is picking up. Chris tried to fish, but it’s just too windy to cast.
Sunday, August 2
We just finished dinner; a cheeseburger each. Chris did the cooking on the tailgate under the canoe. It has been raining steadily since 5:15 pm, so we ate in the truck. We didn’t want to bring any food into the tent. The wind has died down, hopefully whatever this weather is it will pass soon.
Caucomgomac is another Abenaki Indian name. It means “lake abounding with gulls.” We didn’t see any gulls, but did find a flock of Canada Geese on the road next to the spot were we camped.
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