Summer Journal Day 16
Sunday, August 16
I’m back in the tent sheltered from the bugs. I made breakfast, eggs and potatoes with coffee and juice. The bugs are very bad. We are just a mass of mosquito bites. The only way to eat was to walk along the lake while eating. That way fewer bugs were able to land. The bugs were in my eyes while I was cooking.
The loons had quite a chorus out on the big lake last night. They sang us to sleep. About 6:30 this morning a loon was calling only to be answered by its echo. It kept this up for about 10 minutes.
The heavens were glorious last night, what a show with the stars reflecting off the water.
Chris has a smudge fire going so that we can take down the tent. It’s hot and very humid this morning, but there isn’t a cloud in the sky.
Sunday, August 16
Another long day of exploring. We got on the road a little after 9 am. We stopped at the campground office and bought cold drinks and talked with the woman there in the little store. Apparently nothing momentous has happened in the world lately.
We had no plan, other than to continue our trek along the Golden Road.
After was crossed the Seboomook Dam I pulled over and asked Chris to run down the portage trail to the backside of the dam and take a picture. While I sat in the truck an old man walked up.
“Can you help me? I’m old, in my 70’s and so is my friend,” he said pointing over to a truck backed into the woods. I hadn’t seen it when we pulled up. “We can’t get our canoe back on our truck. It’s heavier than we thought. Could you help us lift it?”
There in the woods behind the second old man I could see a white canoe.
“Sure,” I said. As soon as my son comes up from the dam we’ll be over to give you a hand.”
The old man thanked me and slowly shuffled back to the black and red pickup truck. When Chris returned he hopped into the passengers side of the track.
“Got it,” he said of the picture. “Let’s go.”
“We’re going to help those two old guys first,” I said pointing at the pickup. “They can’t lift their canoe onto their truck.”
Together we walked over to where the two old guys stood behind their truck.
“It’s much heavier than I remember,” the first guy said.
“And we’re older than we were the last time we put it up there,” the other added with a sorrowful smiled. “It’s hard to get old.”
I knew exactly what he meant after my Gulf Hagas experience.
Their canoe was a 20 foot long wooden boat.
“I built this canoe 30 years ago,” the first guy said. “I could lift it then.”
Chris walked around to the back of the boat and I grabbed the front. Each of the old men grabbed a side.
“We can get it guys,” I said.
The second guy released his grip, but the first one held on.
“We want to help,” he said.
Together we put the boat up on the racks and slid it forward.
“We’ll tie it on for you,” I said motioning to Chris who was in the back of the truck.
“We can take it from here,” the first old man said as he walk up to me and extended his hand. “Thank you. We’ve been sitting here wondering what we’d do.”
“Our pleasure,” I answered. “How was the fishing?”
“Oh,” the old man paused. “We haven’t done any fishing. You see, for a long time we’ve been taking these summer fishing trips, just the two of us. We’re getting up there in years, but we figured we’d keep it up as we really love it. Maybe its time we reconsidered. You see, once we got the boat off the truck, we knew it was too much for us to get down to the water. We set up our tent and we’ve just been sitting here wondering what to do.”
There was real sadness and pain in his eyes. The second old man reached out to shake my hand. “Thank you very much,” was all he said.
Chris hopped off the truck tailgate. Each of the old men shook his hand.
“Done any fishing?” the first guy asked him.
Chris nodded that he had.
“Catch anything?” he asked as the second guy moved closer to hear.
“Mostly trout,” Chris answered.
“Did you cook ‘em up? They’re good eating,” the old man asked.
Chris nodded again.
“What are you two doing up here in the woods?” he asked turning to me.
“Just wandering around, camping, hiking and doing some fishing,” I said.
He just smiled at me and then looked at Chris.
“Thank you again,” he said, nodded at us and walked over to the side of the truck and began tying on the canoe.
I drove out to the Golden Road and turned the wheel over to Chris for the next 34 miles. Within three miles we passed the intersection of the 490 Road where we had turned north back on August 2.
We crossed over the West Branch and it looked like the water was slowing down. It hasn’t rained hard for a few days now. At the Caribou Checkpoint it was the same guy who was there when we had first gone into the woods two weeks ago. He remembered us. He asked about Lost Pond and we told him our story about the washed out road coming down off Little Russell Mountain. It was the first he had heard about it. There are not too many people out here and probably no one has been out that way since. He asked what else we had done and we gave him a quick synopsis. He didn’t say anything, just looked down and shook his head.
“That’s wonderful,” he finally said looking up with a smile. “You covered a lot of ground and probably have some great memories.”
He shook our hands as we left. Chris climbed into the driver’s seat, so I walked around to the passenger side.
We stopped along the way to pick more blueberries. Katahdin was once again majestic to our left as we drove across the Abol Bridge. I wanted to stop at Katahdin Air and see Jim Strang. He was the one that flew us into Johnson Pond last summer for our canoe trip on Allagash Lake, but the Cessna 206 wasn’t there. It’s Sunday and he’s probably busy.
We stopped again at the trading post across the road and poked around. I bought the Sunday Maine Times newspaper. Chris and I talked coming down the road and Tuesday is my wife’s birthday. We’d both like to be home for that.
Rather than take the road back into Millinocket, we stayed on the Golden Road bearing to the right at Ambajejus Lake. Not far down the road was a sign forbidding anyone from continuing without the permission of the landowner. This is Pelletier land. They are one of the larger logging operations in the area and their main facility is on this end of the Golden Road. They also have an operation at the Telos checkpoint.
It was Sunday and the loggers were off. I wanted to drive the full length of the Golden Road so on I went.
This end of the road, even though close to Millinocket is forested like the rest of the Golden Road, with the exception of the Pelletier buildings. There are a few sites that have been cut within the last few years but not much else.
There is a set of railroad tracks that cross the Golden Road just to the west of the Pelletier facility. Here in 1979 occurred what people around Millinocket still refer to as “The Great Train Wreck.”
A heavily loaded single trailer pulp truck delivering its load to the Great Northern Paper Company was traveling east towards Millinocket when its driver was blinded by the morning sun as he approached the train tracks. At the same time a Bangor and Aroostook Railroad freight train was about to cross the road. Shortly before the impact of the truck and the train, the driver of the truck jumped out his door and escaped major injury. Both engines and several of the cars derailed. The truck was destroyed and its load of pulp wood scattered.
We reached the end of the Golden Road without incident and exited onto Route 11 at the small Millinocket Hospital.
I turned toward town as we need gas. We really didn’t say it, but we were thinking the same thing. It was time to go home. I stopped and filled the tank. Chris checked the canoe and everything in the back to make sure it was all secure and then climbed back into the truck.
“Should we get on the highway?” I ask.
“Okay,” he answered.
We headed south. It took two days to get home, but we made it in time for my wife’s birthday.
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