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 Peter & Sylva completing the NFCT
Yesterday

Day 27

33.4 miles

Friday 14th June

Round Pond - Allagash Village

Tomorrow

Day 27 route on Google Earth imagery

Last night was warmer than the previous night, but uncomfortably chilly nonetheless. I had wondered about the wisdom of stringing my hammock across a narrow trail that led out of the woods, and this concern was vindicated in the middle of the night. I became aware of approaching hooves, the steady plod of something large and unhurried. Being aware of the reputation that moose have earned of not being deterred by obstacles in their path, I sat up to take action. The sound of this was sufficient to spook the moose, and it crashed away through the brush, not through my hammock. Crisis averted!

By the time I rise, Peter and Manfred are already up and about. I use some wood to cook breakfast, my last supply of oatmeal, and gather more wood to carry with me in order to be able to brew tea. Soon after 7:00 am I'm on the water, paddling through a light mist that hovers over the calm surface. Eventually the sun breaks through, dispersing the mist, and the day warms up.


Mist over the Allagash


Allagash riffles

There is good paddling to be had, great scenery, moose, deer, eagles and more, occasional riffles and helpful current. For some reason, though, I'm lacking energy today. Although I'm making good progress, it doesn't feel like it. I eat trail-mix at intervals, but this doesn't help. The Ranger at Michaud Farm checks my paperwork from Churchill Dam – all is in order. He also offers me the latest weather update: no chance of any rain today or tomorrow. It should be dry all the way to Fort Kent, but my scepticism, born of experience, tempers my celebration.


No, it's not upside down!


More Allagash reflections

Despite the warm sun, a cold wind funnels up the valley, creating a headwind anywhere from north-west to east, in other words a headwind for most of today's paddling. It's enough to offset the help of the current, and even strong enough to upset my lines in riffles. This last is frustrating: having set up a perfect line, I then find that the wind has caused a sideways drift such that I'm now aimed directly at the pour-over which I was deliberately avoiding. And I don't have the energy to fight it today.

Before midday I reach Allagash Falls; the gentle rapids above belie the thunderous drop shortly downstream. This is the final carry of the trip, another momentous occasion to reflect upon. I recall how much my legs complained, unaccustomed to the heavy load, between Fifth and Sixth Lakes on the first day, how I have reached the point of being able to carry with ease distances of a few miles, how many miles I have have carried pack and canoe, something that I may never be able to measure accurately but will settle for a figure of over 50 miles in the last four weeks. Now with a light pack and strong legs, the couple of hundred yards of this carry are a breeze. I deposit the canoe at end of the carry and then return up the path and the rocks for a closer look at the Falls. I have heard stories, maybe apocryphal, maybe not, of paddlers unwittingly or out of bravado going over the Falls, and cannot but think that some wild rides are better not taken.


Time to take out above ...


... Allagash Falls

Downstream from Allagash Falls the sky darkens as a thick band of cloud makes its way across the sky. For about an hour I have intense showers, once more calling the rain gear into service. My nicely dried pack now soaks up rainwater from the bottom of the canoe. I struggle to understand how a meteorologist can fail to see such a system on radar images. This is not a pop-up thunderstorm which cannot be predicted; it's a huge band of moisture-laden cloud making its way across the region.


Riffles and clouds


Rain's over

The sun returns as I approach Allagash Village. Houses appear along the banks, announcing a return to human civilisation. Just around a bend I see, at the top of a steep bank, a sign for the Two Rivers Diner. Thinking that a drink and some non-trail-mix food might help, I pull out on to the rocky shore and climb the bank. It's just before 3:00 pm as I enter the funky little place, crowded with photos and stuffed animals or animal parts which spell out the word “hunting”. I'm too late: closing time is 3:00 pm. That's bad news for now, although I still have trail-mix and the ability to make tea, but, more importantly, it's bad news for dinner. Maybe my emergency reserve half-portion of mashawa will be used after all.

I return to the river, now looking for a camping site. A little downstream I spy a sign which announces the place I am seeking, so take out once more and climb up to the house. Deborah McBreairty confirms that I've found the place, but that it's best to paddle round the horseshoe bend to the bridge to take out and camp. Her mother, Evelyn, died last September at the age of 94, but for now she is maintaining her mother's tradition of allowing camping for the nominal sum of $2. I paddle round to the bridge, take out and find a place in a pine copse to hang the hammock, before returning to check in formally. We talk for some time, during which I can feel my blood sugar getting lower and lower. In the end I have to break away to find food.


The bridge in Allagash Village


Allagash meets St John

Deborah directs me to the “General Store” across the bridge, but doesn't know if it will be open or if there will be anything in stock. As I enter the store, I understand what she means. The shelves, largely empty, sport a very limited selection of anything that I can possibly cook. Nevertheless, I pick up some packets of M&Ms as well as some Hershey bars, blood sugar now being a priority, and the store owner, seeing that I am struggling to find something to eat other than sugar, raids his own supply and offers me some Ramen noodles. It seems that every item costs $1.

Back at the camp-site the feasting begins, but not before I heat some water for tea and then spill the entire potful, which not only delays everything but also requires another 200 yard round trip to the river to collect more water. Fortunately there is a huge supply of wood available for the wood-stove. The hors-d'oeuvre is a packet of M&Ms, and then the main course is a couple of packets of Ramen noodles with the remaining half-portion of mashawa thrown in for good measure. A Hershey bar acts as dessert. My blood sugar returns to normal, and I'm feeling strong once more. Who knows what was the source of my weakness while paddling today?

I then spend some time doing something that I've almost never done on this trip – to lie on the ground in the sun and relax. It feels good, but my body craves action, being unused to this idleness. Besides, the blackflies have found me, so my reverie is far from restful. Before long I'm firing up the stove once more to cook a military MRE (meal ready to eat) which Peter from the Round Pond camp-site insisted that I take. The smoke from the wood-stove does an admirable job of keeping the bugs at bay, and the beef stew and rice taste remarkably good. More chocolate washes it down, together with copious quantities of tea.

Feeling replete, I laze around into the evening, watching the sky clear and darken, thinking back over the last four weeks and how far I have come, both geographically and emotionally. There's probably a good sunset, but it's hidden behind the copse. Tomorrow this odyssey comes to a close; beyond that lies living with the achievement, and I have no idea how to approach it. But that's for another time. In the meantime I wish to relish every remaining minute of the Trail. So far I have been absorbing every moment of the trek, so much so that I can replay in my mind very large sections of it. I don't wish the closing moments to be excluded from this mental record. A journal can help others to share some details of the journey, but it is what resides in my head that is the real experience that I shall never adequately be able to share.

Yesterday

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