WEDNESDAY: STROLLING THE NORTHERN FOREST CANOE CARRY TRAIL
I say strolling, because this hike the fourth day into the trip was like none I'd experienced before with Tom and Mike. From the near vertical climb of the White Mountain Zealand Trail, to the ice storm damaged Chochorua trails, these childhood buddies have previously shown remarkable confidence in my hiking abilities; not that those trails weren't well worth the accomplishment, but now I'm skeptical, to say the least when a hike is in the deal.
This, however, turned out to be a delightful walk in the woods along what was obviously used often as an ATV road. The topo maps we brought along showed a trail starting at a point behind Sunday Cove, so Shawn ferried us over in his canoe.
A lunch stop on the Rapid River provided unique views of the powerful monster we dared play with two days before.
Exploring everything along the way, the trail took all day; but just as we were about to turn around, we had that lets-see-what's-around-the-bend curiosity hit us and WALA!
The Northern Forest Canoe Carry.
The Northern Forest Canoe Trail is an ancient water route a very prepared paddler can navigate from Old Forge, New York in the Adirondacks, to Fort Kent in Maine. It has long intrigued Tom to kayak its lakes and rivers beginning to end.
The canoe carry itself took us to Pond In The River; looking more like a lake and totally remote.
It was beautiful and MADE the hike, not to mention giving us some further enthusiasm for what beauty awaits us in future paddling adventures.
A reddening ski loomed above the distant hills upon our return. We ferried back to the campsite.
The air and water temperature were in the 50's and 60's, and a dip in the shallow shores warmed all day by the sun was too tempting to resist.
That night, as was the routine, we ended a good day with a great campfire.
An old book Mike brought with him, written by Davey Crocket about his trail blazing and wildlife adventures, became an amusing read we all looked forward to.
WIND AND WAVES
Mike thought an exploration expedition to the southern shores of the lake or Spillman and Glassby coves seemed in order, but it was not to be. This was a day that brought back memories of some of our Hawaiian club day paddles; chop and wind, chop and wind! But provided great opportunities to see what our kayaks could do. Meeting the 11 a.m. showdown that day were a fleet of experienced paddlers ready for a challenge: 25-knot winds! Gusts up to 35 knots! Woohoo!
We barely made it past Pine Point.
Taking refuge on one of the many islands for lunch gave us some enjoyable down time. I walked around admiring unusual rocks, enjoying the shimmer of the trees when the wind turned their colorful leaves inside out.
The guys took shelter from the wind in a campsite hidden by the woods. Tom and Mike played hacky sac, Shawn took a nap, and Joe played with his new digital camera.
After almost an hour I realized the white caps were calming down, and yelled, "Ahoy There!" to the rest of the fleet. We gathered again to launch. Even Joe, hardened by almost weekly paddles into Hawaii's trade wind seas, commented that maybe we should turn around. He and Mike went on, however, for a challenging trip across the bay, to Tyler Point while Tom, Shawn and I rode the swells back to camp.
That afternoon the weather radio reported what we already feared: More wind on the way. South West, 35 to 45 knots at least. Dropping temperatures with sleet and snow were predicted.
We decided to cut our week short, although reluctant. Joe had come a long way for this and all of us had been looking forward to a full week on the lake all year. Common sense won out, however, and we prepared to head back early the next morning for the Androscoggin.
Did I say early in the morning? Slap me! Well, as it usually happens with group paddles, that is the grand plan. (see "Group Paddling Techniques" by Tom Holtey)
Friday, about 12:30 p.m., the last kayaks left the shore.
Wind: 15-25 knots and building.
Don't expect any on the water pictues in this section. It wasn't worth the heroics.
Tom and I waited at Pine Point for a rendezvous with the group. Even though we hadn't seen any motorboat traffic on the lake, crossing together is always a good plan so you can coordinate navigation strategies and make sure everyone is all right.
Being concerned I'd run out of energy before the crossing, I decided to go it alone, ahead of the rest. Tom and I considered the compass notations he'd made weeks ago while charting the trip and chose a range of two tall pines and the hill behind them that they framed.
Keeping this hilltop in site between those trees I was gone like a shot as fast and as hard as I could paddle, feeling the wind and watching the chop pick up. The shoreline was familiar from Tuesday's Magalloway paddle. This helped me tremendously. The way back always looks different than the way ahead. One of the first things yelled to me from my instructor as a new kayaker years ago were the words "Check the view behind you!"
Wind: 25-35 knots.
The radio strapped to my life vest crackled with voices back and forth from our fleet. I couldn't take my hand off my paddle to reach my radio long enough to find out what was going on without losing valuable ground and being pushed sideways. Now, two thirds of the way, I thought the best thing I could do to avoid capsizing was to march on.
Wind: 35-45 knots.
Tom did hear what was going on behind him and turned back to find Joe sprinting toward him. Shawn and his canoe were pulling up the rear fighting the now roaring winds. At that point they must have been as high as the predicted 35 to 45 knots. Despite Shawn's skillful maneuvering of his old dependable friend, it's high sides made for a challenge. They decided Joe would take the Dolphen in tow from Tom while Tom and Mike paced themselves to act as sweeps, just as a precaution.
Meanwhile, I arrived at the mouth of the Adroscoggin, and was out of the wind. A sandbar full of seagulls had me stuck in an effort to maneuver my kayak into the river's flow.
Just then, Joe's voice came in loud and clean over the radio. We joined in a search for a safe passage past the shallow shorelines then radioed the guys about the conditions. I held up my paddle in signal to "come to me." Soon they appeared and were right on course.
FLOWING BACK ON THE ANDROSCOGGIN
We were all pretty exhausted, but this lazy river carried us almost effortlessly down the three miles back to the take-out.
Kayaks and canoe unloaded, then reloaded to the tops of our cars, we were off to a great Italian/Greek sub shop for the victory meal.
SATURDAY: THE COLDEST SPOT IN THE USA
Home again and making the most of Joe's brief visit, we heeded the call of our local outdoor club and showed up for a morning hike to the top of Mt Kathryn. Tree and Ecology experts spoke along the way while we drank coffee and munched on Dunkin Donuts.
As the group moved slowly along we feared Joe would miss the pretty fall scene, as the sky was clouding up and fog filling in the views; Finally at the top, it was socked in! We took pictures of each other anyway, and turned to leave.
Just then a haunting sound came rushing toward us. I don't know if she was trying to apologize or just bid aloha to Joe, but that old faithful wind frontiersmen like Davey Crocket named Mariah, blew up from the valley below.
The fog lifted like a curtain on a well-landscaped stage, gathering up from the farms and hills to reveal Mt Kathryn's best fall foliage views.
I looked at my watch: 11 a.m.
We finished the day with a drive to the Flume Gorge. Joe was in digital photo heaven.
That night we heard that Berlin and surrounding area, ie: Umbagog, was ranked as the coldest spot in the country. Wind and snow, wind and snow!
But instead of crouching around a campfire, barricading ourselves from the elements, we were sitting around a warm dinner table with friends.
There are some things we'll do wiser next time, but we were glad that night we weren't too proud, inflexible, or foolish to alter our course. We did, after all, meet the final goal: to enjoy some great kayaking, good fall colors, and the best of company in friends.
Paddling Season: When the waters are free of ice: May - October
Busy Season: July - August
Bug Season, lots of them: May - June
Fall Foliage Peak: Late September
Hunting Season: September - October
FOREST CANOE TRAIL Map 7
GREAT NORTH WOODS: NEW HAMPSHIRE: Connecticut River to Umbagog Lake - Map seven of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail series flows through New Hampshire on the Connecticut River to Umbagog Lake.
FOREST CANOE TRAIL Map 8
RANGELEY LAKES REGION: MAINE: Umbagog Lake to Rangeley Lake
Northern Forest Canoe Trail website
Group Paddling Techniques by Tom Holtey
Cold Weather Clothing and Paddling Tips by Tom Holtey
Quiet Water Canoe Guide: New Hampshire Vermont by John Hayes and Alex Wilson Make sure you get the latest printing.
Quiet Water Canoe Guide: Maine by John Hayes and Alex Wilson
MyTopo.com MAP OF UMBAGOG LAKE
USGS Quadrangles: Umbagog Lake North, Umbagog Lake South
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