The lake was like glass when we left this morning at 8 AM. We arrived at Churchill Dam at 9:10, covering the 4 mile distance in short order.
Here we had to portage left around the dam and the put in on the Allagash River itself, and begin the river portion of the AWW.
There was a ranger here, a young man, who met us and outlined our options. For just $10 , he could transport all our gear to a spot 4 miles down the river, below Chase Rapids, a Class II section that was reported to be the most challenging section of the River.
We decided not to decide what to do yet, and really enjoyed a tour of the Chamberlain Museum, complete with bateaus, other old boats, railroad paraphenalia, old photos from “ the day”, and archaic native artifacts.
Eventually, Mike and I went down the river a bit to observe the beginning of the rapids. Here is a video of the first of what would be many sets. Mike and I realized that we would instantly be over our heads in these conditions. Just a month ago we entered a set of rapids on the St. George River on a shakedown cruise and ended up capsizing the canoe and suffered in the 37 degree water. This looked just like that, and we were in no condition to endure 4 miles of rapids, on a 50 degree day, with ice-out only two weeks ago. The ranger confirmed that it really was chancy running the rapids anytime before Memorial Day, and related a story of two men drowning in Chamberlain Lake two years ago on Memorial Day .
Mike and I rode off into the woods in the truck with our canoe and gear and considered that we had each wisely spent $5.
We also agreed that we would get schooled in whitewater canoeing to gain more skills.
The ranger dropped us off at the Bisonette site, where there used to be a bridge.
Mike and I fished a bit before we moved on, but had no luck.
Soon we encountered many whitewater challenges: dodging boulders, rocks, submerged ledges, strainers ( trees in the water), and started communicating about how we would work together to maneuver the canoe.
At 3 PM we had a few cookies, a drink, a little more fishing and then pushed on to our final destination for the day, the Jalbert campsite, on the east side of Long Lake.
“I haven’t missed anything, not one damn thing. So far this whole trip has been like a dream”, said Mike.
We finally reached the empty Jalbert site in late afternoon and whipped up a meal of biscuits, grilled chicken, and no bake cheesecake.
Just as we were settling in for a quiet couple of hours before bed, Mike said, “ We’ve got company coming”.
At 6:35 the flotilla landed. Eleven canoes containing 23 young native Russian urbanites from New York City and Washington, D.C. beached ashore.
They were mostly speaking Russian to each other, but all were competent in English as well. They were very apologetic about ruining our wilderness experience, and some of them assured us that they were so tired that it would be an early evening for them as well. Mike and I had a blaze going, and one slight young woman who was obviously still soaked from running the rapids earlier in the day, was quietly crying as she huddled against our warm fire. She asked Mike and I whether there would be any more rapids. ”We fell into the water many times!” , and told us that “One of those canoes we rented broke in half on a big rock!”.
One of the spokesmen, Maxim, came over and schmoozed us down. “We are organized into three teams who cook gourmet outdoor meals. You will see! You should come over and eat with us. We have Russian vodka, some whiskey, maybe some smoke even ?”
Maxim told us they had just three days to make the remaining 60 miles of the trip, when they have to rendezvous with Katahdin Outfitters.
“ We have to do 25 miles tomorrow, because we only did 15 today! It will be no problems for us!”
Mike works at Maine Sport Outfitters, where two staff members strongly advised Mike to wear a wet suit on this trip. At least one woman here was exercising a less restrictive clothing option. In amazement, we observed a proportionately-fleshed woman exit her canoe, and strut up to the shore in a bikini bottom that might have been crafted from a cut down bandana, where she plunked down in the dirt, surrounded by black flies, and proceeded to smoke a cigarette oblivious to any discomfort that she might have been experiencing.
Later a couple of the men were fishing on lures and caught a couple of tiny chubs that were not even 6 “ long. “ This one is six inches. We can eat it!” And they later did, bones and all.
I took an awesome sunset photo.
The story we were told was that these individuals are in the habit of having outdoor experiences, and generally take to the Adirondacks for a similar trip every summer. Later, it was mentioned that the one thing they all have in common is that they attend Burning Man in Nevada where one can “ enjoy Irrational Geographic, relax at Bianca’s Smut Shack, find your love and understand each other as you walk slowly under a parasol. You’re here to celebrate. On Saturday night, we’ll burn the Man. As the procession starts, the circle forms, and the man ignites, you experience something personal, something new to yourself, something you’ve never felt before. It’s an epiphany, it’s primal, it’s newborn. “
Well, on this particular Saturday night, it would be noisy, and impossible for us to sleep.
Before bed, Mike and I went over and shared our remaining cheesecake , which was devoured in 30 seconds. We were pressed to try their gourmet dinner, which turned out to be boiled buckwheat with some ketchup in it. “ Put much salt on. It will be better for you!”
One of their group came over and talked to us for a long time. He was an organic chemist who was in year three of what he felt would be a lifelong job working at the US Patent Office in D.C. Where he analyzed potential pharmaceuticals that were seeking patents. “It’s a great job. You know sick days? We get those, but my boss even lets me take a sick-of-working-here-day once in a while when I have a bad hangover and he lets me write ‘Man problems”’on the form. Next year I will be making $140,000 ! Nobody who is there four years ever works on a Friday even!”
Mike and I tried to sleep, but the Muscovites were getting louder and louder singing in arousing Russian timbre to the accompaniment of a guitar and later a loud drum that sounded like sticks intermittently whacking a sheetrock bucket. And there was some screaming.
At 10:30 PM I had had it, when a boom box started accompanying the guitar, yellings and carousings. I walked over and asked them to shut the boom box off, that we were unable to sleep. Much apologies, and off went the electronic music.
Even without the techno background music , these folks were still going strong at 1:30 in the morning when now Mike had reached his boiling point and exited our tent to effect his principal thing, somehow finding something to say to them to end it all.
As I finally drifted off to sleep I told Mike that they were not going to camp with us again, even if I had to throw rocks and their canoes to drive them off. If I would appear to be a crazed man it would be no act.
We took our turn with these characters.