Glamping, Northwoods style, on spectacular Fish Pond in Jackman

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Fellow adventurers Bill and Mary Bausch were among the group who camped together last week up near Jackman, Maine. Bill’s panoramic photo above captures the spirit of aptly-named Fish Pond, where we had a small campground all to ourselves, for five days and nights of campfires, swimming, berry picking, and more.

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The crew (from left) were Phil Blomquist, Mary Berger, Bill and Mary Bausch, Dad, Linda Blomquist, Kathy Buhl, plus me and Mom, who was staying in a cabin on Big Wood Pond

“40 degrees in the ME woods yesterday as we woke!” Mary Bausch wrote after arriving safely home. “The crackling fire Phil started @5 got us up out of our sleeping bags and into the hot coffee, chocolate and oatmeal (with fixins). Three hours from here to there doesn’t take into account the 30+ minutes it takes to get out from the campsite on 13 miles of a dusty dirt – dodging the huge trucks hauling – logging road! But well worth the hazardous road to get to this lovely campsite on Fish Pond, connected to Spencer Lake. We did two long paddles to fab lunch sites on the local lakes, enjoyed an actual fish fry one evening thanks to the avid fisher people with us! Our fare was clearly gourmet – “glampingly” so, since we had our cars near our tents, plenty of coolers. Finally ran out of ice and paper towels this morning. Not much of a hardship. And we saw TWO whole moose(s) across our Fish Pond. Altogether a successful adventure.”

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Up early to welcome the sun on our first morning
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Mary Berger wets a fly in the cove by our campsite
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This chair was one of many perks that would never come along on a river trip
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Almost ready to paddle island-studded, mountain-ringed Attean Pond
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Yoga? – No, Kathy trying to entice a gray jay closer to camp
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One morning, Phil discovered a stowaway in his kayak, peeking out from behind the foam in the bow. After being evicted, the tiny gray shrew swam valiantly (and safely) to shore.
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The “before” photo: Dad starting out on a solo adventure, a two-night trip down 14 miles of the NFCT, starting in this tiny inlet to Fish Pond and ending on Spencer Stream near Grand Falls

Continuing his quest to section-paddle the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, Dad brought along portage wheels and a pole and set off to tackle both lakes, plus the rapids and rock gardens of Little Spencer and Spencer Streams. On his first morning, camped below Spencer Lake,  a party of fisherman came by just after dawn and included Dad in their stream-side bacon and egg breakfast. That may have been the high point of what turned out to be a challenging day of climbing endlessly in and out of the boat on slippery rocks. Dad made it, though, and was waiting as planned when I arrived to pick him up.

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The “after” photo: A broken bone in Dad’s right hand and a new story to tell around the campfire

How quickly life can change! Instead of an August trip down the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, Dad and I will be finding lots to keep us entertained at home. Right now we are in the midst of a grand family reunion, with cousins, aunts and uncle, kids, and dogs. There’s nothing as sweet as gathering with loved ones in the glorious Maine summer!

Going back…to some of the NFCT’s treasured corners of Maine

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Paul Heintz (third from right) was on the thru-paddlers panel at NFCT’s 2015 Freshet Fest.

Last summer, I kayaked in Honduras, Norway, and the Netherlands, but not anywhere on the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. Surprising indeed, since every other summer since moving to Maine in 2003, I have. I think I first heard about the trail in 2008, at the Lobster Stream boat launch, where Mom, Dad, and I met thru-paddler Paul Heintz. Paul was a cheerful guy, tall and bearded, with a canoe full of an impressive amount of gear.

In those early years, I paddled the NFCT many times, without knowing it. For sure, I was on Mooselookmeguntic, the Richardsons, the Allagash, Flagstaff, the West Branch of the Penobscot, Moosehead, and Chesuncook, all without benefit of NFCT’s great maps. This year, I promise to do better. In fact, I already have one NFCT sojourn in the books.

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Paul and Janie Hartman welcomed me to their Mooselookmeguntic cabin, Cup o’ Tea, for a couple of days of kayaking, restful reading, chilly swimming, and, of course, their amazing and warm outdoor shower. Janie has the perfect apron for the hostess of Cup o’ Tea.

The Hartmans’ cabin was my home for one night during Paddle for Hope in 2011 and two during my 2015 thru-paddle. A week or two ago, I returned for a more relaxing visit. Paul and Janie have owned their place for almost fifty years and have a lifetime of natural discoveries to share with visitors. This year we hiked to Angel Falls, off nearby Bemis Road, not far from where the AT crosses the road.

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Paul and Janie rock hopping at one of several stream crossings on the way to Angel Falls
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Angel Falls, with a 90-foot drop, is among the top three highest waterfalls in Maine. Janie says that it used to be called Angel Wing Falls, until a stone “wing” cracked off decades ago. Some online sources say that the shape of an angel’s wing can still be seen in the moving cascade.
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Most of the crew for the next planned NFCT adventure, up in the Jackman area. Phil, Dad, Mary, Bill, Linda, and I (taking the photo) warmed up with a paddle on the Pemaquid River last week. Don’t you love the color palette?

 

Messing Around in Boats

Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing around in boats.

Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

If there’s a special young person in your life, between the ages of 10 and 14, please consider the NFCT’s Nothern Forest Explorers Program for them this summer. Five days of wilderness paddling under the expert care of a registered guide and accompanied by an environmental educator interning with the NFCT. The cost is fair at $500 for 5 days; some scholarships are also available. No paddling experience is necessary.

Click the Northern Forest Explorers link for additional information and to apply. Down below the photo are quick descriptions of the trips.

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Wilderness paddling gets in your soul and brings you back to the river, creating memories like this day on the Allagash with my father and my son Taylor, who took his first wilderness trip at age 7.

Currently, there are openings on all five of the Maine trips, including the 34-mile Moose River Bow Trip near Jackman, which was my first solo wilderness paddling adventure back in 2010. Here are all five options, the third and fourth only open to Maine residents:

July 5-8 – The Moose River Bow Loop Trip led by Adventure Bound

July 18–22 – Western Maine’s Mountains, based on Flagstaff Lake and led by Adventure Bound

August 1–5 – Thoreau’s Maine, led by The Maine Winter Sports Center, paddling the waters of Thoreau’s journeys in The Maine Woods. 

August 8–12 – Maine’s Wild Allagash, led by The Maine Winter Sports Center, paddling the Allagash Wilderness Waterway from Umsaskis Lake to Twin Brook.

August 8–12 – Richardson Lake Explorers, led by ELC Outdoors and expanded to include an adventure ropes course and whitewater rafting, based on the Richardson Lakes.

If I was 10 to 14, there’s nothing I’d rather do this summer!

Gettin’ lots of love (the NFCT through-paddler’s guide)

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Katina and her husband Sam stopped by my house to visit on their way home to Wisconsin in 2011, just after Katina completed her NFCT through-paddle and before she became an author!

“You’d get lots of love,” Katina wrote, if I put my blog out there for the public to read. I’d been wavering. Posting that first post is a statement…hey world, look what crazy thing I’m going to try to do! And that funny, unbelievably varied group of people called “the public” that would become my readers. Who would they be? Was it safe to put my story out there?

Well, last time, back when I was writing my blog for Paddle for Hope in 2011, one of “the public” turned out to be Katina Daanen. I first saw her name when she donated to the Maine Children’s Cancer Program through the Paddle for Hope website.  At the time, hers was just a name on a financial report, but I sure was excited to have a donor who had found us through our online presence.  Later, I discovered her blog and realized that Katina was planning a through-paddle. It was fun to leave notes for her in the trail journals along the way, including one that she found on Hurricane Island in Flagstaff Lake.

Later, using her super-detailed trip notes, Katina authored The Northern Forest Canoe Trail Through-Paddler’s Companion,   032615 Katina's book   first published in 2014 and already updated with a 2015 second edition. Invaluable as a planning resource, this book describes the over 160 miles of upstream paddling (or portaging, praying, and persevering) from the perspective of someone going in the wrong direction. The NFCT maps and guidebook (logically) assume that most sane paddlers are going downstream.

Those going the right direction or just for a day or weekend will still learn much.  Wondering how “wheelable” a portage will be?  Hankering for a cheeseburger or a real bed along the trail?  Then this resource is for you. And, as you’re munching or tucked up under the covers, you can discover a bit more about the crazy world of through-paddling. In the months to come, you’re sure to hear more about Katina, who continues to send me great paddling encouragement and advice!