Week 6 of my Northern Forest Canoe Trail through-paddle presented many highlights, as well as a couple of devastating obstacles.
Having successfully made my way through Spencer Stream, I thought I was in the clear. That is until I found the hole that Spencer’s rocks had presumably gnawed into the hull of my boat.
While dragging my kayak over a beaver dam on Fish Pond, I noticed that it was feeling unmanageably heavy. To my displeasure I discovered my bulkhead was flooded and my gear swamped.
I worked quickly, pulling everything out, spreading the items across the beaver dam to drain and dry. Luckily, the only casualties were foodstuffs, but now I was stuck in the middle of nowhere on a beaver dam with a broken boat.
My stress level was high. I did the only thing I could: grabbed my roll of duct tape and began meticulously patching the hole. Unsure of the effectiveness of this remedy, I took great care going forward with my tail end. Disaster avoided for now, I carefully continued onward.
The next move was a required logging road portage to the Moose River. Here, I found pleasantly adequate water levels, lovely intermittent ponds and lakes and eventually some light whitewater before making my way to Moosehead Lake.
I was welcomed to Moosehead by the demanding cliffs of Mount Kineo and uncomfortably high winds. After a resupply in Rockwood, I was able to make an evening crossing to the Kineo peninsula. The next morning, I was up at the crack of dawn greeted by a bright pink sky.
I made the short hike up to the top of Mount Kineo before taking off for the day. When I reached the top, I could see the enormous, unsheltered expanse of water I would need to cross for my journey. It was already rampant with whitecaps. I should have known: “Red sky at night, sailors delight; red sky at morning, sailors take warning.”
The crossing wasn’t going to happen, so I succumbed to my second zero-progress day of the trip.
This stroke of poor weather continued into the following day, when I attempted to push through the unrelenting winds but was stopped in my soaked tracks, ultimately losing progress. I would be forced to spend two days pinned down on Kineo until the weather cleared up on the third day.
I was able to continue my journey across an eerily calm expanse. It was an unreal experience, gliding through the vastly open and exposed mileage of the now-sleeping giant. I was all too familiar with the potential energy and chaos that could be raised from its depths and was happy to finally be in the clear as I reached the take-out point.
I portaged over the historically significant Northeast Carry at the northern end to the West Branch Penobscot. That is where I find myself tonight. A bit delayed but happy to be making progress again. Life is challenging but always full of adventure on the Northern Forest Canoe Trail.
Editor’s note: Collin Blunk, a contributor to MaineToday Magazine, is on a month-long solo kayak trip on the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. The 740-mile trail starts in New York’s Adirondack Mountains, passes through northern New England and Canada and ends in Fort Kent. These are his dispatches from the wilderness.