Summer Journal Day 7
Friday, August 7
Today would have been my mother’s 83rd birthday had the cancer not taken her back in 1973. Happy birthday mom and thank you.
It was cool again last night for August. We were in the tent early as it started to rain about 5 pm. The showers lasted only about an hour, but did make things wet. We had already packed most of our things.
Last night we had snacks for dinner and played several games of UNO. I worked on my Allagash walking stick before we climbed into the tent. We both read for a while. Chris seems to be enjoying his book. He has never been a big reader, but seems pretty interested in this book. I read some essays I had brought along by Sigurd Olsen.
It was nice to lie in bed last night and be entertained by the loons. There was much more activity on the pond last night compared to the night before. They were calling to one another and singing most of the night.
We took baths at the dam this morning. Wow, was that water cold. I poured a bucket of water over my head and washed my hair. We use a biodegradable all purpose soap. The ponds and lakes up here all have leeches. They lie in the shallows and wait for movement. When they sense it, they come out and attach themselves. It doesn’t hurt, but it’s unpleasant. You can’t pick them off as they have the consistency of Jello and are firmly attached. The best way I’ve found is to scrape them off with a knife, as if shaving.
Chris followed and took a bath as well. We still have that wood smoke smell. It may take awhile to get rid of it.
I shaved for just the second time in a week while Chris took his bath down by the dam. I have a little mirror. All I can do is wet my face with water and soap up with the biodegradable stuff, but it still hurts. I just take it slow. It’s a butcher job.
The sun is out this morning and sparkling off the surface of Perch Pond. It is all lit in shimmering gold, but it feels like an autumn morning. I made more coffee and we each had a bowl of cereal for breakfast. I walked down to the dam and sat with my second cup of coffee and enjoyed the quiet. The hot coffee in the cool morning air by the dam was the perfect setting. I tried to take a picture, but the sunshine reflecting off the water was too bright. It is such a privilege to be able to be so far out here in the woods and to have it all to ourselves. Of course we do share it with the animals, birds and fish, but they don’t seem to mind. They go about their business each day as if we weren’t here. There have been plenty of animal signs around camp such as scat and tracks, but none have entered our camp at night, at least that we know of.
Friday, August 7
An eventful day. We left Deboullie on the Hewes Brook Road as we planned. We stopped at a plank bridge over the Fish River so Chris could do a little fishing. I took some pictures and walked down the road. In the 30 minutes or so that we stayed at the bridge, no one passed by. It was perfectly quiet. Chris caught a small five inch trout and released it.
We left the woods again at the Fish River Checkpoint. The woman at the gate said that she hoped we had enjoyed our trip. She seemed puzzled when I told her we were just going into town for supplies and planned to be right back. Our wandering style seems different to the people we encounter, especially those in the checkpoints. But with our season pass we can come and go as much as we like. They like people to have a plan and printed itinerary with a definite destination in mind. There is a lot of room to get lost and in trouble and they don’t want to have to go looking for anyone. It always seems to raise eyebrows when I admit we have no idea where we’re going. I know that’s not what they want to hear, but I’m tired of making it up. They could stop us and not allow us in, but each time the person at the checkpoint has looked us over and passed us through. Maybe its just that we smell so bad they’d rather we moved on.
We took Route 11 south toward Ashland. While Ashland is small, Portage is even smaller. They have gas and ice, but we didn’t feel like stopping. And the woman at the Fish Rive Gate said the prices would be better in Ashland.
We found a gas station and topped off the tank, got ice, beer and soda. Trash had been a problem, there is no place to dispose of it and while we burn everything, we still have to pick things out of the fire pit when we leave. It helps to throw it all in the fire as it removes the smell that might attract animals.
At the bridge over the Aroostook River we found a pull off and a public trash barrel. Everything, even in the towns is sealed with metal lids to keep the animals out. There was plenty of room in the barrel for our trash. What a relief to get rid of that.
We went back into the woods at the Six-Mile Checkpoint. It was the same routine. The gate attendant asked where we were headed. I shrugged, looked out the window and said the St. John River. That got her attention as it’s about 100 miles away over dirt logging roads. She looked at our passes, looked us and the truck over and smiled, then told us to have a nice day. We headed west on the American Realty Road. We stopped at Machias Dam for lunch and Chris had a couple of casts, but had no luck.
About 25 miles down the road it started to rain hard. Everything in the back that wasn’t in plastic boxes got soaked, including our tent which we had neglected to put in one of the boxes that morning. When the logging roads get wet it is like driving on ice, which just adds to the excitement of running into a fully loaded logging truck. We came across a couple of moose at different times. The second time we tried to get some pictures, but we’re very successful. Just as Chris was about to take the shot, the big creature leaped into the woods.
We were looking for Second Musquacook Lake as a potential campsite for the night. Chris was trying to pick it out on the map. About the spot where the road to the lake should have been we found a turnoff. We took it, but ran into an old abandoned and falling down logging camp of about a half dozen red painted buildings. It didn’t look right, but Chris was sure this was the way. We continued down the road, which was just two tire tracks in the mud between overgrown bushes and trees. About a mile down we came across a pine tree that had fallen and was blocking the road. We could have cut the tree back with our saw, but decided instead to head back to the Realty Road and continue heading west.
Musguacook means “muskrat place” in Abenaki.
We stopped at Sandy Point on the Allagash Wilderness Waterway where we had camped for a night two years ago. That morning a moose wandered in our camp and wouldn’t leave. It was browsing in the shallow water off the beach in front of where we were. We had planned a late start that day as the sun was out and we were drying gear. We made breakfast, a lot of noise, had a fire and loaded the canoe, still the moose refused to move. They look harmless enough, but they’re still wild animals. Chris got close enough to take some nice pictures, maybe within 30 feet. These animals are quick and can run 30 to 35 mph. When we finally pushed off into the thoroughfare, the moose was still there.
There is a ranger station here at the thoroughfare between Umsaskis and Long Lakes and smoke was coming from the woodstove pipe on top of the cabin. It was getting cold and still raining. We though about staying at Sandy Point, but would have had to hike in with our gear. In the wet conditions we chose to keep driving. The temperature was down to 50 degrees.
We were about 65 miles down the Realty Road and it was beginning to get dark. It was still early, but with the clouds and rain it looked like much later. The rain once again came down hard and the truck was sliding all over the road in the mud. Fortunately there were no other people or vehicles of any kind on the road. In fact we had seen very few people.
I had noticed a sign nailed to a tree with an arrow that said Ross Camps. I knew Ross was a sporting camp, but not much more. When we came to the turnoff I asked Chris if he was up for checking to see if they had any room for the night. It would be nice to get inside and out of the cold rain, especially since our tent was wet. But it looked to be a long drive and if they were full, we’d be up the creek. We agreed to try, so about 70 miles out of Ashland we crossed our fingers and took a left onto Poulin Road.
Under the conditions it took about 45 minutes of traveling the winding, mudding roads. It was getting dark and still raining. We checked a couple of spots to camp if we had to turn back and they were all very wet. But we really didn’t want to consider the fact that they might not have room.
When we finally arrived at the Ross Camps there were no signs of life. I pulled the truck over to the building that looked like the main camp and got out. Chris followed, but at a distance. The door was open, so I walked in. It was the kitchen and there was a guy sitting at the table talking with a woman. They both turned to look at me.
“Hi,” I said, “We’re just passing through. Have you got room for two more tonight?”
The guy just sat their looking at me. The woman said nothing.
“You’re just passing through?” he repeated somewhat incredulously. We were after all quite deep in the woods and that statement clearly required further explanation.
“Yea,” I continued. “Our tent is wet, everything is flooded and it’s getting cold. We’d rather stay inside tonight if you have space.”
“Where did you come from?” he asked.
“Oh we’re just wandering around in the woods,” I said. “We were heading for the St. John, but the roads are getting bad and its getting dark.”
“Passing through,” he repeated and looked at me. “Sure we have room. There is no one else here. I can give you the camp on the lake for $31 a person per night.”
We were so relieved I immediately said yes. It turned out that the camp on the lake slept 13 and we each had a double bed. The camp had a kitchen and a wood stove. It was very comfortable. I paid for two nights.
Once we got our gear inside Chris got the wood stove going. I lit the oven and started dinner. I made a ham with rice and corn. We had pudding for dessert.
After dinner, looking out our windows at the big lake, it appeared that the weather was beginning to clear and the moon was poking through. Two guys showed up and were staying the camp next to us. They were from Massachusetts as well and were on a remote, two day North Maine Woods fishing trip. They were surprised with how long it took and how hard it was, with the rain and mud to get to Ross Camp. They blew a tire on the logging roads, shredded it into pieces and had to put on their spare in the cold rain. They asked our host, Don Lavoie where they could get it fixed, he pointed out that we were about 80 miles from the closest town. They were going to have to make it back without a spare.
Jake and Garry invited us over to their camp for a beer. Chris had a Pepsi. They were surprised to hear about our wandering and had plenty of questions for us. They were fishermen and got talking about it with Chris. I sat back and enjoyed the warm wood stove and the beer. Don says the temperature tonight will drop into the mid 40’s.
Jake and Garry plan to spend two days fishing with Don as their guide. They’ll start tomorrow on Chemquasbamtocook Lake, or Ross Lake as it is often called, and the next day fish the St. John. Jake is a history buff and before long we got talking and had conversations late into the night.
When Chris and I got back to our cabin we played cribbage and then Chris grabbed his book and jumped into bed. It was warm and dry and what a treat for each of us to sleep in our own double bed.
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