Window to the Woods with Rhon Bell
Posted: November 19, 2013
Week-long Canoe Trip (Stranded) | Chesuncook Village | Part 4
Up Next: Wine tastings: Try something new for the holidays
Coffee begins percolating over the propane flame around 4:45am. The evening had a chill that the sleeping bag simply couldn’t cut. Luckily, this Coleman stove is slowly unthawing my finger tips at the picnic table. The darkness begins to clear from the sky and it’s that perfect dusk where you can’t quite make out the shapes in the distance. “Is that a stump in the middle of the river?”, I ask Gab. Now I say river, but this is the widest section of the entire trip and I’d guesstimate it’s 900 yards to the far shore. “I know we passed one on the way to this campsite”, she replies. We watch for a few more minutes as the stump keeps floating and then it’s legs touch bottom it’s full bull-moose height is revealed from above the water line. Gab, excited to realize that drift wood has sprung to life, yells, “That’s a big moose!”.
A golden sunrise begins to light our way around camp. I like to pack up everything not related to breakfast as soon as I wake up. There is nothing worse (to me) than tearing down camp. I love setting it up, but I always hate to work to leave. Plus, that leaves the best part for last – eggs, bacon and more steaming black coffee.
Today we’ll leave the mouth of the Penobscot River and enter into Chesuncook Lake – the state’s third largest. I’ve had bad experiences on this lake. Wind quickly and easily picks up into some very large whitecaps. Like most guys who have spent a lot of time on the water in small boats – it can get very choppy. At a few miles wide and 22 miles long, it’s not a place you want to topple a canoe.
Three years ago I was out here with a buddy of mine – it was my first time on this waterway and we lost our way. We paddled 40 miles that day. It’s a day I’ll never forget. We spent a night in the wilderness without any way of communicating with the outside world and we didn’t see a soul all day for directions. Lesson – buy, study and carry a good map.
Today would hopefully be different. We stop at Chesuncook Village at the Store in the Woods. Not really a store – more of a home – with a porch – and a refrigerator, full of homemade root beer and fudge. I’ve been here three times and I think the root beer packs a punch that it probably shouldn’t – but it tastes great. Any cold soda tastes great after drinking river water for four days I suppose. Nonetheless, I love this little place and the history behind the village.
A few hours of paddling and we make our way about 15 miles down the lake to a small sandy beach camping spot. The view here of Katahdin is like none other. It’s complete solitude and a literal heaven. If the world ended, you’d find me camped out here. We toss the tent up and get an early dinner started.
As I toss out the sleeping bags, I realize I only see one set of keys and a stray thought enters my mind. You see, we brought two vehicles out here. Gab is the pick-up vehicle at the finish point. She’ll drive us back up river (40+ miles) to my truck at the launching ramp. The plan was to drive out together and back home.
“Hey – where are your car keys?” Silence filled the air as she thought – never a good sign. “WHERE are your car keys?”. “Your truck”, she says. Stranded in the middle of nowhere…. Stay tuned….