Summer Journal Day 3
Monday, August 3
This is my first chance to write since last night. The weather turned bad with very heavy rain and a lot of wind during the night. There were times that it seemed the tent would give way, but it stood up and got us through the storm.
Before the really bad weather moved in last night I took the opportunity to take a bath in Horserace Rapids. The water just behind the dam leading down Caucomgomoc Stream to Black Pond is called the Horserace. The stream is filled with white water plumes that resemble the raised tails of horses, thus I’m guessing is where the names comes from. It was quite the power wash and a bit chilly, but felt good and because of the fast moving water, no leeches. We played Yahtzee again before bed and I won again, but not by much.
We got up at seven this morning to blue sky, the storm had passed. Everything was soaked and there was a big puddle six inches deep in front of the tent flap. Most of our equipment is in plastic containers, which keeps it dry. But the tent is very wet and the ground surrounding it is flooded. We took it down wearing either no shoes or in our water shoes.
The mosquitoes this morning were amazing. They didn’t swarm, they just attacked and hit like little kamikazes. For a while as we worked to get the tent down I was killing at least four with every swat. It was too buggy to make breakfast, so we got everything in the truck and broke camp. Once back across the dam and away from the bugs it dawned on us that we didn’t know where we were going. We had no set destination. There was only one way out of the dam, so while I drove Chris studied the map.
From the dam we headed around the top of Round Pond to where there were a couple of places to camp. Both spots, while on the pond with nice views, were rivers of mud. Even the road in spots was all water. Last night’s storm had left more washouts.
We kept driving until we came to a bridge, but that had been washed out. I don’t know if it was from last night’s storm or something earlier. Chris found a road on the map that went off in a southerly direction to the right, so we found that hoping it would take us around the washed out bridge.
What we had hoped would be a quick detour didn’t work out. The road we followed continued deep into the woods and gradually got smaller and smaller as we went. We knew this wasn’t a way around the bridge and began looking for a place to turn the truck around. As we crested a small rise I stopped. There in the road in front of us was a bear.
He was just as surprised to run into us as we were to see him. I think we were probably beyond his ability to see us, as they have poor eyesight. He lifted his nose into the air a couple of times trying to figure out what we were. He seemed to study us for a bit from a distance of about 100 yards. We got off a couple of pictures before he suddenly bolted off into the woods to our right.
We continued on for about another half mile before finding a place to turn around. There we stopped for a few minutes and sat on the tailgate in the sun and had an early lunch, as we had missed breakfast. We had bagels and cream cheese and Cokes as we studied the map.
We knew we could always just follow our tire tracks out, but we still needed a way around the missing bridge. Off in the distance to the north something was howling as we talked things over.
Chris came up with another plan and off we went following our tracks and eventually, after initially missing it, we found the small logging road we were looking for. We bumped down this road for a few miles before striking a larger road that appeared to run west to east. Chris thought it was the Grande Marche Road. He turned out to be right and we followed the road east hoping to strike Chamberlain Lake.
The Grande Marche Road turned southerly and put us on course for Umbazookus Lake. There were a couple of campsites south of the lake on Umbazookus Stream we thought we’d check out.
Chris saw a bear off the side of the road on an old logging cut, but when we went back it was gone. We saw our third bear that day at a distance as it lumbered across the Grande Marche Road in the distance. This was a big male. Just as well it was about 300 yards up the road.
We found Umbazookus Lake and walked down a trail to the lake and an old dam. After a brief visit we continued on searching for a place to camp. We found a spot on the west side of Umbazookus Stream, but there was somebody there. This was bad for us as it was a beautiful spot. We drove over to the other campsite we had seen on the map, but there was a river of water running down the road. With that much water pouring down on us, it didn’t bode well for what we’d find up that road so we continued on.
Back out on the Grande Marche Road, which was in tough shape even by the standards of these logging roads, we headed for Chamberlain Lake Bridge. When we got to the bridge and the ranger station there were a lot of people and vans towing racks of canoes. This is a favorite starting place for the Allagash Wilderness Waterway canoe trip and several groups were getting ready to put in. When Chris and I canoed the waterway two years ago it was just us and over eight days we never saw more than probably a dozen people including the rangers. This was too much. I had planned to stop at the bridge to cook lunch, but this many people, several dozen at least, made us keep right on going.
We drove on to the Coffeelos Ponds, another place on our itinerary, but a place where we had planned to spend our 10th and 11th nights, not the second. There were washouts everywhere along the road and in places where there had been attempts to repair the road, the landowners had dumped a couple of loads of shale down and roughly spread it around. The shale comes from pits along the roads and is something like slate, but with the edge of a flint. It slices tires very easily. The logging trucks run 10-ply tires and the North Maine Woods trucks that travel the roads have heavy duty extra-ply tires. I had a new set of All-Terrain 4-plys and crossed these shale sections very carefully.
The campsite we found on Coffeelos Pond was grassy and clean, but right next to the road and not even within sight of the pond. Being near the road wasn’t necessarily a problem, as there would be no traffic, but in walking down a trail looking for the pond Chris came across a big fresh pile of steaming bear scat. We figured we’d take a look over at Little Coffeelos Pond.
Getting around to Little Coffeelos was tough. The road must have washed out and recently been repaired as for long stretches at a time it was all shale. We held our breath. This too was a nice grassy spot, but it was at least a quarter-mile walk through the woods to the pond. It would be too difficult to get our canoe down there.
Neither of us was very happy with what we found at either of the Coffeelos Ponds. So we worked our way back out to the Telos Road and headed to the northwest. We came upon a logging truck with the hood raised, so we pulled over.
“No, fine,” the driver said in response to my question as to whether everything was all right. “Every once in a while I stop to check and see if everything is still in the right place. These roads really knock the snot out of you.”
We agreed, although we hadn’t experienced the snot problem, and got back in our truck and turned up the Pinkham Road.
We still had no destination in mind. Our plan was now useless and any thought of figuring the gas mileage was a waste of time. The Pinkham Road was in great shape allowing us to get up to 35 mph, but to where we didn’t know. We did know that we had used too much gas and would have to adjust our plan, but we were heading east and in that direction were the towns of Ashland and Patten. If necessary, we could refuel there.
We needed a break and stopped at very picturesque spot called Munsungan Stream.
We pulled off the road and actually found a very nice place to camp near some falls. Munsungan Stream drains Little Munsungan and Munsungan Lakes and Chair Lake and carries a lot of water eventually feeding into the Aroostook River. In the Abenaki language Munsungan means “humped up island.”
Chris scouted out a place to fish, while I broke out the food. Before I could get anything cooking he was back. There was no place along the stream to cast his line and with the falls and fast water; he didn’t expect to find fish. After our night of listening to Horserace Rapids, we weren’t in the mood for another loud night, so we said goodbye to the Munsungan and the falls and climbed back in the truck heading east.
We pulled off onto a side road for lunch and made sandwiches on the tailgate. Back in the truck we continued down the Pinkham Road coming to an old logging camp. There were no signs of people anywhere, but the camp was in good shape and was probably used at some time, probably in the winter when it would be more difficult for the loggers to get into the woods. There were about six buildings and some scattered logging equipment.
We stopped and were looking it over when a cow moose casually wandered in for a drink of water. We took some pictures.
By now Chris had found a place on the map that he liked so we headed for the Machias River. Just off the Pinkham Road we found a spot to camp near the river.
It’s late in the day now. The tent is up and we’re pretty much settled in. I’m sitting in the sun listening to the logging trucks out on the Pinkham Road, especially when they cross the wooden plank bridge over the Machias River. The campsite is nice and grassy and we can easily get water from the river. The river is about 20 yards wide here, but looking up and down it from where we are, it varies in width and has cut its way around small islands. The current is quick, but we don’t see any whitewater.
We had a chance to dry out our tent before putting it up, which should make tonight a bit more comfortable. Chris has the fire going and I suppose I’ll get dinner ready. So far no bugs. I don’t expect we’ll get through the night without them finding us.
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