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Collin Blunk

Collin Blunk lives for adventure. He spends every possible free moment in the great outdoors; paddling on the ocean, hiking trails, climbing mountains and spending as many nights under the stars as he can. Collin is a writer for where he has dedicated his life to the pursuit of the outdoors. Moving region to region, he tackles every worthy excursion he can find and documents them for readers. As an authority on outdoor equipment and outfitting, Collin is the man to know when it comes to adventure in your region. Visit to see his experience tackling the New England Adventure Bucket List.

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Posted: October 11, 2016

Week 5 on the Northern Forest Canoe Trail: Low water persists, but the pace quickens

Written by: Collin Blunk
Paddling to the base of Grand Falls. Photo by Collin Blunk

Paddling to the base of Grand Falls.
Photo by Collin Blunk

The beginning of Week 5 brought beautiful scenery and easy miles as I paddled through the open expanses of the Rangeley Lakes.

Moon rising over Mooselookmeguntic Lake Photo by Collin Blunk

Moon rising over Mooselookmeguntic Lake
Photo by Collin Blunk

I was blown away by the beauty of Lower and Upper Richardson Lakes and their inviting beach-lined shores. I was exhilarated by the magnificent mountain-ringed Mooselookmeguntic Lake, and I was tested by a stormy Rangeley Lake.

I was able to finally move efficiently once again and found myself covering mileage at an astounding pace relative to the previous few weeks.

After a quick resupply in the town of Rangeley, I hit the road for a required portage north to the South Branch of the Dead River. Here, I was unfortunately reunited with my untimely fate of low water. The South Branch is a flashy and very seasonal whitewater run that remains unnavigable for most of the year. I spent three-and-a-half hours one morning dragging my boat over two miles of rocks before deeming it impassible, portaging out to Route 16.

Camping along Flagstaff Lake. Photo by Flagstaff Lake

Camping along Flagstaff Lake. Photo by Flagstaff Lake

I carted my boat up the road until I reached the town of Stratton on Flagstaff Lake, where I spotted my first two moose of the trip. Flagstaff Lake is what I would consider to be my home court and, having made multiple trips to the area over the past years, I was very excited to get to spend some time along the pristine and beautiful Bigelow Range.

I opted for an evening hike up the four-mile trail to Avery Peak to catch a glimpse of where I’d been and where I’d be heading. Here, I crossed paths with a couple of Appalachian Trail thru-hikers, which came as no surprise, since Flagstaff is the one and only place the two trails coincide. After covering the length of Flagstaff, I made my way around Long Falls, paddled some exciting but brief whitewater and continued up the much deeper North Branch Dead River.

The North Branch eventually brings paddlers to the magnificent and thunderous Grand Falls – a portage for sure! From here, I would again make my way upstream.

The rocky Spencer Stream Photo by Collin Blunk

The rocky Spencer Stream
Photo by Collin Blunk

This time, it was up the rocky and arduous, Spencer Stream. I was warned about the difficulties Spencer would present me: rocky, consistently low and very remote. There is no existing route around this obstacle, so I was forced right into it. Six-and-a-half miles of dragging and navigating upstream through a rock garden was a nightmare. I had to just drop my head and dig in, walking and banging my way across an endless and slippery rock bottom.

That is where I find myself at the end of Week 5. The sun has given me all it has for today, and I have been forced to find a makeshift camp in the middle of the stream. My home for the night is a rock island, clear enough for a tent and uncomfortable enough for an early start tomorrow.

Although the day has been grim, I am happy with life and the ever-changing challenges it throws at us to become better people. If I can make it through this, I can make it through anything.

891365-nforestcanoetrail092Editor’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.

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