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  1. Skip report; go straight to slideshow Anyone who has been multi-day tripping with me knows well that I will try to squeeze every available minute out of the day(s), and this river and inland sea safari would be no different. The original plan called for me to meet Mari after she finished her Baxter SP hiking, but a rainy weekend had us flip-flopping the itinerary. We drove up on Sunday in the cold and wet, with my intention to treat her to an original Pat’s Pizza in Orono, but we were happy to settle for Pat’s in Yarmouth for lunch; we would savor juicy Amato’s Italians for supper! Pops was not happy with the already-been-changed Big Moose Inn/Campground reservation for a lean-to on this cold, damp, night. Luckily, an upgrade to a cozy cabin was available, and we flipped on the heat straight away. As would be the habit for the next several days, we were up at Dawn’s crack, for the long day that included a car spot at the finish line, an arduous, 2-hour drive on the Golden Road, pack and launch, and finding a suitable campsite. We were expecting to find competition on this warm mid-to-late June day, and not a little surprised to find the primo Ogden South site on Lobster Lake unoccupied. (Even more surprising was that we came across only one out of 23 river- or lake-side sites occupied during the entire trip). Having most of the day in front of us, we savored another round of Amato’s, arranged sleeping quarters, and paddled a good bit of the lake south of the point-a very stress-free day. Mari cobbled up a wonderful meal with her new cast iron skillet, over the wind protected fire ring: sautéed peppers, mushrooms, onions, and summer squash, combined with delicious mushroom ravioli. The sun lingered, but went to bed, followed by the awakening of the magical star show over the quieting waters. The cold night brought a blanket of morning fog, and I would be navigationally challenged yet again (last trip, 11 years ago HERE). At length, we located the sharply-angled Lobster stream portal to the lake and paddled onward to start our early morning entry into the Upper West Branch of the Penobscot river, accented by this dining moose; we would see two others on the trip. We would spend our lazy second day meandering down this most scenic Riverway, occasionally boosted with a 2kn current. Like a siren‘s song, we were drawn into Big Raggmuff stream, and her noisy, cascading falls, where we dunked into the amber-stained pureness, and later, warmed up by the veggie egg sandwich and sun at the adjacent site’s picnic table. We talked about the possibility of spending the night on the river; I had my sets site on Gero island, where I had spent a few nights many years ago in a lean-to. We compromised by settling into Pine Stream, the last riverside site, and a short distance from the Big Lake, and an easy jumping off (?In) point for the next day. The classic Maine campsite setup with picnic table and overhead ridgepole (tarp support) was a sentinel to this site, easily seen from ~1 mile away. Many of the lakes in northern Maine (Umbagog, Richardson, Moosehead, Chesuncook), given their orientation, are prone to dangerous conditions, with even light winds resulting in challenging waves from the miles-long fetches. We were on the water by six on day #3 and, regrettably, we were “welcomed“ to Chesuncook an hour later, with a light southerly breeze. We knew we were “in for it,” and began the long, 8 mile slog to our next stopping point on Sandy Point. Our strategy was point-to-point, taking advantage of any available lee from the wind and waves. At Cunningham Brook campsite we would encounter the only people shoreside-four men, two canoes, and two large, wind-battered tents. Without a breakfast invitation, we soldiered on, and, by degrees, nestled into Sandy Point’s broad, flat lee. Mar quickly gathered fuel for a fire and spit-spot assembled a gastronomic delight-open faced egg sandwich with avocado, hummus, sautéed onions and mushrooms, and goat cheese, all atop a slab of dense, homemade, multi-grain bread. A refreshing postprandial nap necessarily ensued, and we spent much of the day drying our gear, playing cribbage, and mostly, fretting about the consistent wind. As anyone in the position of leader/parent/more experienced knows, there comes a time when one has to either “poop, or get off the pot,“ and by 7 PM, it was that time. Camp in place, and risk an unabated wind, leaving an 8-mile paddle to the car/landing tomorrow, OR, determine that the wind had lessened enough to make slow steady progress to the next campsite, a six-mile trek, with nightfall approaching? The leader/parent, after weighing all the risks, decided to get off the pot, on the water, and trust his steadfast, yet-unnamed Mad River Explorer 17, to carry them through the quieter wind, but persistent, dead-ahead waves, to the safety of the next–closest campsite on Caribou Point, across the lake. Off we go, with one last stop at “bird turd islet” for rest and pee break, before making the crossing in diminishing light, on this longest day of the year. They only aids to navigation that we relied upon were the light spot (?house, ?big rock) across the lake, and the dark shadow of the shoreline near our intended destination. Over miles of lake, no lights were to be seen, save for the reliable stars overhead and on the horizon, the latter twinkling magically through the denser atmosphere. Upon reaching close to the shoreline, we paddled in an easterly direction, anticipating the campsite near the corner of the peninsula, before heading southerly. GAIA was at the ready, with Google Maps as a back up. Luckily, with high magnification, both Gaia and Google maps featured the detailed shoreline that brought us spot-on to Cardiser Point at 11 PM, after the 4-hour travail. The last, and 4th day of our river/lake trip was upon us, and we were quietly visited by a curious deer, meandering about our campsite. We had slept late ‘til about 6 o’clock, in no hurry to depart, and made our way to the opposite, easterly shoreline in the still-southerly breeze. On to the landing at the Museum (closed) and Ranger Station (nobody home), unload gear, wash/rinse boat, and store everything out of the way. We started the long drive to pick up my car at the launch. Not much memorable to say, except that Mar’s Prius was successful driving on the Golden Road. We creeped along the Northeast Carry Road, with numerous potholes and an occasional full-width puddle. After a long drive back to the landing, we lunched on the porch of the museum, watching the ever-stronger winds, then enjoyed a postprandial nap on the closely trimmed lawn. A quick stroll to see the moonscaped skeleton of Ripogenus Gorge, nearly lifeless following construction of the dam that raised the water level 40 feet, backed up for 25 miles. Back on the road to our stay at Big Eddy Campground, a lovely spot, where fishers, as if in a carnival ride, were either paddling, drifting, or anchored in these oddly-shaped boats, apparently enjoying themselves, despite any evidence of fishing success. We bathed in the chily eddy, the 2kn current pushing us upstream. We retired in the POC #1 cabin-double bunk for me, overhead single empty, and Mari on the unpadded porch floor, of course! Most of Day#5 was spent on the Lower West Branch, launching from the power generating station in a raft provided by Northern Outdoors. Absolute bliss, except to say that some old man in a ?drysuit (claimed to be a sea kayaker) was tossed from his overturned raft in a Class V rapid, and rescued a furlong downstream, unharmed. Side note: Always eager to determine if/how we are connected, I generally probe people about their background. As it turns out, our rafting Guide is the daughter of a woman who was a friend in my high school class! We had a good chat about Casco Bay, where she has sea kayak guided in the past. What is her favorite island? Jewell, of course! I was sad to leave Margreta after supper that day, but also eager to get back to Susie and the kitties, then take a load off (I had pushed my luck to the brink!). Mar would spend the night at Big Moose Campground, and complete a solo, CCW loop of Katahdin that included Hamlin and Baxter peaks, on yet another glorious day. REFLECTIONS: -If you incorporate plans to paddle a big lake like Chesuncook on a CANOE trip, be aware of the inherent dangers, and consider alternate plans that may include a layover day or 2, and nav skills that might allow a night paddle, in the right conditions. -Mossies and black flies are around in great numbers, dawn and dusk. Wear pants and long-sleeved shirts, and a cheapo, not vintage, head net. -Consider bringing a smallish cooler-ours lasted a full 3 days with a frozen 6L dromedary inside. -Strive to be on the water early, which leaves you time to “chill” (by the fire) at the end of the day. -Shuttle service is tough to secure. Only 1 outfitter was willing to provide a 2-part, person/gear-only shuttle from Greenville, quoted @ $415. Additional fees for any trip include road entry/access to North Maine Woods, and camping. -I can’t recommend the best time to visit this beautiful region, but can say I’ve had supreme luck before July, after Labor Day. -Don’t rely on the NFCT Map #11 for detailed navigation. The “North” symbol, askew, if assumed magnetic, is off by 10°, westerly; the declination here is 16° W, not 15° (on map). Also, no Lat/Long reference marks! I’m going to blame the map for my screw-up on Lobster Lake! -Overview of our paddling/rafting/climbing area:
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