I woke up with a startle after I remembered that it was my 37th wedding anniversary and that I had just spent the night in a tent with Mike Gundel instead of my wife Marcia. Or was it tomorrow?
We had our last breakfast together.
Gus and Beck had eggs, and Mike and I each had another wagon wheel pancake with bacon.
The river this last day was holding maximum water, with many more audible feeds streams swelling the flow rate. It broadened out as well.
Mike and I had many chances on whitewater today, as we successfully dealt with two major sections of Class II rapids in the 12 miles of river this morning. In the end, we only had two really close brushes with swamping our canoe, along with the usual numerous near mishaps. Both times Mike and I abandoned the canoe, jumping out into the rushing waters. We eventually pushed, pulled, and leaned the craft over enough to slide off the partially submerged ledges. A few times, we careened off serious boulders that we did not have the time, experience, or both to avoid.
We’ve finished the trip in 8 days.
Canada is in sight. The takeout is right before the bridge in the village of Allagash on the Canadian border, within sight of the confluence of the Allagash and mighty Saint John rivers. After we hauled the canoes up to shore, we walked up a hill. The first house west of the river is Evelyn McBride’s place. Even though it was approaching noon it was cold out.
We knocked on her door as instructed by the shuttle service. The local outfitters park their customer’s cars on Mrs. Mc Bride’s property so that the cars will be near the landing when customers finish their trips. Evelyn charges $2 per day for parking and $1 for landing. Mrs. McBride lives alone.
She told us that her husband died 30 years ago, had been in the lumber business, and that she was 92 years old. She was a Pelletier, and the Pellitiers had owned this river frontage for several generations and formerly operated the ferry across the river where there is now a bridge and the canoe landing. Mrs. Mc Bride appears to be to be related to most everyone in town.
After we placed the canoe on the rack of Mke’s car, he reviewed some visual history from our trip on the river.
“Damn, I lost the crown of my tooth!” exclaimed Mike, just as he was enjoying the the cheeseburger special and fries at Rock’s diner in Fort Kent.
We were eating an early lunch.
Mike and I had been reviewing the partial list of challenges that we have faced over the course of the week: the remote location, lack of personnel to rescue us if we encountered an emergency, black flies and mosquitos, below freezing temperatures, incessant wind on the big waters, rain, wet feet ( daily), cuts on my hands, hot temperatures and humidity, a sleep deprivation experiment involving a wild mob of 23 Russians, black and blue hip from slipping and falling on the rocks ( Mike only), bare miss of hitting a canoe broadside that had crossed out path at the last minute while we were exiting a rapid, reversed waves on the river due to high winds, at least one day of steady 30 MPH winds that halted our forward progress at 10 AM.
The Allagash trip would pose most, or all, of these challenges to anyone. Note that the list above does not even include our lack of technical skills needed in the rapids. Mike and I worked very well as a team, and Mike revealed that after taking in Gus’ s advice he sometimes was reciting the Lord’s prayer after only counting to three.
We both feel that we’ve received much more from being in the outdoors than we expected. Up here, Mike and I strengthened an already deep bond that began way back on that rope belay on Hurricane Island when Mike held me from the end of the rope on the ground, and I swallowed hard, leaned forward , gave it all up, and flew into the sky.