Peter Macfarlane's 2018 Solo East-West Through-Paddle of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail
in a Cedar-Strip Canoe by Otter Creek Smallcraft

NFCT's Map of Overall Route Peter & Sylva completing the NFCT

Day 2

24.6 miles

Tuesday 15th May

Chamberlain, St John River - Cunliffe Depot, Allagash


Day 2 route on Google Earth imagery

Sleep last night was variable. It was getting light around 4:00 am, and 20 minutes later I was up, making breakfast. Compared with my 2013 trip I simplified breakfast, requiring boiling water only for tea and no pot to wash. I had made my own breakfast bars: home-made granola glued together with home made nut-butter. These weighed heavier than the bags of oatmeal that I had previously carried, but they packed a serious nutritional and calorific punch. Later, some warm weather was to melt some of the butter and coconut oil, making them rather messy, but after a cold night they were solid, tasty and filling. The sun was rising behind hazy clouds as I ate breakfast.

All of the eddies that yesterday were conspicuous by their absence appeared today. There is an exquisite joy in planting a paddle into deep water and feeling resistance, even more so when this has failed to happen for much of the previous day. I waded along the edge of some rapids, and before 9:00 am reached the mouth of the Allagash. One of the nine upstream rivers could be struck off the list. I waded along the edge of the Casey Rapids in Allagash Village and pulled out on the bank below Two Rivers Diner. It was time for breakfast number two: I deliberately chose the egg and bacon option for the protein content. This, together with my home-made chicken jerky, was going to ensure that I did not suffer the protein deficiency that hit me last time.

Why no photos today?

Answer on day 5.

Back in the river, the mix of paddling, poling and wading continued. Wading was often frustrated by a steep drop-off by the bank and brushy vegetation on the bank. At McGargle Rocks I was able to eddy hop the first part and then to ferry-glide to the other side and continue paddling uninterrupted to the top of the rapid. Moments like this offered sublime satisfaction. By noon I was at the top of the Twin Brook rapids, progressing well, and at a pace which was in keeping with my somewhat aggressive schedule.

Another four or more hours of the same focussed progress brought me within sight of Allagash Falls. The rapids below the falls were larger than I recall seeing before. I made my way upstream by the right bank (river left) and, once opposite the take out for the portage, nosed into the rapids and rode waves across to the other side. Pausing only to take the obligatory photo of the falls, I then completed the carry, the first formal carry of the trip, in very little time. The uphill was a wake-up call for my legs, which complained somewhat, not least because I had been kneeling on an off for several hours by then. At the put-in above the falls, the eddy was secure enough, but, once outside that haven, the current was inexorably pulling towards the falls. Once more, with intense focus to ensure getting nothing wrong, absolutely nothing, I edged my way upstream, and, having escaped from the gravitational attraction of the falls, sent a SPOT waypoint as an indication that I was now away from the danger zone.

It had been largely cloudy today, and a few spits of rain fell as I left Two Rivers Diner, but not enough to qualify today as a “rain day”. The wind was generally from the south, of course, my general direction of travel. As afternoon gave way to evening, the sun put in an appearance and the wind briefly altered course to offer a little assistance. Today's wildlife sightings included beaver, musk-rats and a couple of eagles and no biting insects.

After time spent meandering through islands with their flood-plain silver maples, I arrived at Michaud Farm, the first opportunity to check in with the Ranger. No-one was in, so I signed the register, detailing my proposed itinerary for the next couple of days and promising to pay dues at Churchill Dam. The last couple of miles to Cunliffe Depot camp-site were hard, but delightful in the evening sun. I even took some video, having crafted a means of attaching my camera to the gunwale, to demonstrate how strongly I was still paddling at the end of a 12-hour day.

Once at camp, atop a high bluff, I cooked a portion of curry, but added too much water. The resulting soup, I figured, would help with rehydration. I am notoriously poor about drinking enough water, although was making a special effort to rectify that. As a result it's probably true to say that I was less dehydrated than usual. Dinner was cooked on the wood-stove, but the supply of suitable wood was insufficient for breakfast, so I was glad to have packed the gas stove and cylinder as a back-up. The sky cleared in the evening and the temperature began to drop rapidly, suggesting frost. I was glad to have a good under-quilt for my hammock, fashioned to accept an extra insert under my torso to create a double layer. I also wore my warmest clothing to bed. It felt good to be on schedule, even if progress through the day required sustained hard work. I could feel some muscular stiffness and aches in my shoulders and torso, but nothing out of the ordinary.


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