Peter Macfarlane's 2013 Solo Through-Paddle of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail
in a Cedar-Strip Canoe by Otter Creek Smallcraft

NFCT's Map of Overall Route amp; Sylva completing the NFCT

Day 23

32.0 miles

Monday 10th June

Lobster Lake - Caucomgomoc Stream


Day 23 route on Google Earth imagery

After some heavy rain before midnight and some strong north-west wind driving waves onto the shore of Ogden Point, enough to make me worry about the canoe, I wake to a clear dawn, a very pleasant surprise. The mosquitoes have kept up a whining all night, and this intensifies as I start to move. I'm not the only one intent on breakfast. I lie in until 6:00 am, and then cook breakfast as mosquitoes by the dozen commit suicide in my tea and oatmeal.

Big Island in Lobster Lake

Moose number 1 of the day

Within an hour I'm on the water. I take advantage of a beautiful morning to have a tour of Lobster Lake, circumnavigating Big Island. It is, indeed, a beautiful lake, as I've been told. This takes a couple of hours. I take off my cagoule and the sun strikes my back on a black shirt – it's heavenly! Then I set out for real, missing the exit into Lobster Stream at the first attempt, but soon realising my error. Paddling down Lobster Stream is easy with the flow, and my perspective of the West Branch of the Penobscot undergoes a radical re-appraisal. It is flowing well, maybe due to a dam release upstream, and is beautiful under a blue sky. I strip down to T-shirt and shorts, relishing the heat of the sun and the lack of a cold wind. The scent of balsam fir pervades everything, adding to the sensory delight of today.

Perfect reflections on the Penobscot

Local industry on the Golden Road

Today is a good day for wildlife spotting. I see eight moose, including a cow with twin calves, a bald eagle, an otter (I'm fairly sure) and an osprey. I claim bonus points for seeing a bald eagle and a moose at the same time. As I pass Thoreau Island, it occurs to me that, so far, I have had precious few deep and meaningful thoughts of the type that extended solo travel is supposed to engender. My brain has been pre-eminently occupied with the everyday decisions of route-finding, survival, camping, finding alternative shelter and so on. Maybe this is why writers and philosophers go to a remote place and then stay there, not moving on every day. This frees up brain space for loftier thoughts. Maybe this is one of my loftiest thoughts?

Thoreau Island

A rare sight?

Some gentle rapids carry me around Big Island, the second Big Island of the day. Then the current slows as the river wanders out into Chesuncook Lake. I'm lucky here with the wind. It's fairly calm, just as on Moosehead. I dawdle round to the boat launch and immediately see a lot of good stove-wood, so set about collecting it. It's worth making this particular brand of hay while the sun literally shines. A fisherman then points me towards the Chesuncook Lake House where I hope, despite the good weather, to spend the night. On knocking at the door, it's clear that I'm probably out of luck. They're not expecting anyone, suggesting that either I should have booked in advance, not really possible on the Trail, or they're not really open for the season.

Mt Katahdin in the distance

I'm then told that, including an evening meal, it would be $145 for the night. This is way outside my budget, about double what I paid for excellent B&B in Richford, so I ask for a weather update for tomorrow. The latest is: 30% chance of showers after 1:00 pm. That sounds OK. I'll camp.

Back in the canoe, I head north-west, looking wistfully at the route to Umbazooksus Stream. I have mixed feelings about departing from the “official” route, but console myself that the circuit via Allagash Lake is considered an alternative. So I head up Caucomgomoc Stream, and have trouble pronouncing it. It's not part of the route that I've spent time reviewing, so I'm going out on a confidence limb here. Over the ensuing days I will practise saying the name to myself so that I don't embarrass myself when talking to others. I soon come to the first campsite, Canvas Dam, and take the site which faces the lake, hoping to have a breeze to keep the bugs down.

The Emberlit in action

Home for the night

Hammock up, I set about cooking dinner, taking advantage of a dry day to collect more firewood and birchbark. I cook a double portion, now having some spare. There's no point in taking it home. I also brew up a whole pot of tea – luxury.

A motorised canoe comes along, the occupants clearly looking for a campsite. I offer to share, forgetting that there is more than one site in this complex. They set up next door, then Chris from Rhode Island comes to chat. We talk for a long time. She and her friends have various ailments which prevent them from paddling large distances, so they use the motor to cover distance and then paddle locally. It gives me a new perspective on motorised vessels, and I'm a little embarrassed by my prior snobbery. Later in the evening the wind gets up. I have everything under cover, just in case. The water gets stirred up. I hope it settles by morning so that I can use it for breakfast.


Website design & Photography © Peter Macfarlane 2013

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