Monday, May 21, 2007

Maine, Finally

We crossed Rangeley Lake this morning in a light rain, but by the time we had reached the opposite shore, the clouds had begun to clear and blue sky appeared- Saddleback Mtn could just barely be seen in the distance. When we reached the public landing, the sun had come out and the rain had ceased. We had not seen the sun in over a week.

The last few days have been difficult, not necessarily due to the terrain, but more due to the astoundingly terrible weather we have had. Yesterday, we could only paddle for forty-five minutes before being forced to shore. The wind had not picked up, but, rather, we were simply too cold to paddle. Our fingers did not work. We stopped, set a tarp, got a fire up in the pouring rain, and waited for the weather to improve. All that changed was our attitude, and we got back on the water and busted out twenty-five miles to Rangeley Lake State Park and, to our surprise, hot showers.

We portaged most of the Androscoggin, paddling only about seven miles of the flatter sections. Either way, we did it in a day and enjoyed seeing cars flat over flooded sections of the road. Errol brought elk burgers and beer, and Umbagog a welcome relief from upstream paddling and excessive portaging. We celebrated crossing the border into Maine by continuing to paddle in the rain and then portaging around one of the premier whitewater runs in the state.

From Umbagog to Richardson Lake runs the Rapid River, and we were going up it. The portage runs along the north bank for about five miles. It was our first real bush portage since New York, and it really kicked us in the pants. A Class I rapid ran down the first section of the flooded portage trail, while about ten feet to our right standing waves six or seven feet high danced and broke without stop. Once on the carry road, it did not get any easier. We have become accustomed to pavement, and the rough trail reminded us what real portaging is like.

As we passed through the Rapid River Fly Fishing camps about halfway through, we met up with the owner and one of his employees. We had been talked most of the day about whitewater trips in the area, and Ben, a kayaker, was interested in running the river in the future. We talked about two of Chewonki's trips that run the Rapid, and sure enough, the only employee of the camps at that time was soon to lead one of those trips for Chewonki. We chatted for quite awhile about the river, about the people we knew in common, and how our trip was coming. It was nice to meet someone that has something of the same training, roughly, as me; he even used the same knots. This was one of the more unexpected meetings we've had, but welcomed it all the same. Colin was a good dude, and hopefully we'll see him again.

Mooselookmeguntic gave us a light headwind and a pouring, driving rain that only let up when we made our last crossing to the start of our portage. Moments after the rain stopped, the winds picked up. Even by the standards of the lakes of Maine, the chop that resulted was shocking. The wind only had about a mile of fetch on the water, but it still managed to give us the harriest seas I have ever paddled in interior Maine. It was one of those kiss-the-beach moments when we reached the other side.

The weather is rapidly improving, though every few miles we still see piles of snow in the trees. For now, the radio has us expecting gorgeous weather for at least the next five days. Finally. I would write more, but we are using the computer in a business downtown, as the library is again closed on the one day we pass through. Sun! Downstream! Maine!


MLM and JHM said...

Zand-We are so proud of you and the progress you are making - after what you went through at the beginning of the trip. I bet you are so looking forward to sunny days and light winds and no rain! You have made great progress and are now back on the original timeline-unbelieveable. Love reading the blogs and getting the phone calls!

maple806 said...


Thank you SO much for the birthday card - the elk are beautiful. I've been reading your blog and would love to try and see you and Ben in Stratton for a meal on me at the end of the month(I may be the only person that drives by Sugarloaf to get home) - let me know if that works, and push on! The fantastic weather is supposed to continue for a while, live it up.


Chris said...

And so the sleigh ride begins. Downhill from here - well mostly at least. So loving the vicarious living I am doing via your blog. Enjoy the black flies if you aren't already.

Deb Riley said...

Just read your last entry and I shed a few tears for the amazing, witty, insiteful, appreciative thoughtful adventure that you have just successfully completed. You are one amazing guy Alexander! I am so proud of you and a little jealous of your tenacious pioneering spirit! Love Deb

PS Look up Ben McCall - a freshman at Bates this fall - nice kid!

Hina said...

You write very well.