A great day! Finally made lots of progress, 25 miles, I think. Off of map 12 and on to 13. Last night I ceremoniously removed Map 12 from the mapcase, put it in my spot for maps completed and placed 13 inside the case! TaDa! Last map!
Was in the boat by 6:35am. Paddled off into the mist and fog. Very pretty and peaceful. Hard to describe how it feels to be out in this pre dawn amorphous landscape. Watching the sun come up to gradually showcase what must be some of her finest real estate. Lucky, maybe that is how I felt. Later, I passed the time singing old Joni Mitchell tunes, apparently the only artist whose lyrics I know beyond the first verse. (First Blue, then Court and Spark …. sorry birds).
Around 8am, two kayakers passed me by, about 20 ft. away on river left. It felt like a sacred place so I can understand not getting a big shout out or hello, for the same reason you don’t yell out loud in church , but these guys did not even glance in my direction. They kept their eyes forward and paddled without a break in their stroke for the next mile or two until they all but disappeared, turning into tiny dots on the horizon. If was afternoon I would have thought they were racing me to the next campsite. People come out here to get away, for a break in the everyday noise, but a nod or a wave, even from a stoic fisherman, is customary river etiquette. Weird.
When I was a mile or less from Chuchill Dam a small white powerboat approached at a slow pace. I waved my paddle, making sure he saw me, rather than correcting his course he seemed to come right at me. This boater wanted to talk. It was a ranger, Ranger Patrick, he said Hello and made some small talk, asked if I was doing the trail, where I had camped last night…..and then, do you know if your boat is regulation size? What? When I was planning the trip, many months back in the dead of winter, I had checked out the regulations for The Allagash WW. At this point I had a vague recollection of measuring the boat and coming up an inch shy on the width and then thinking who’s going to notice an inch. I really had pushed it out of my mind completely which is why the question caught me so off guard. “Well it’s classified as a recreational boat and since this is a recreational waterway I assume it is regulation size.” I said this with more bravado then I was feeling. My palms were sweating and my heart racing. I am so close, so close!
Patrick said the Rangers at Churchhill Dam had gotten a call, he did not have a name or details, but the caller said that I would be coming through in a non regulation size boat. My mind was racing, who would do such a thing, I thought someone was trying to sabotage the trip…but who, why? Patrick said, “I have a size chart and a tape measure, would you like to know now or wait until the Ranger measures it at the dam?” “Let’s wait, ….. no I can’t stand it, hand me the tape measure.” It came up an inch shy width wise. I asked Patrick if the Ranger in charge of the dam is nice. He smiled and said yes, but quickly added something like yes but…..( no promises). At this point he also reports that someone has arranged for a regulation sized kayak to be brought to the dam so that I can continue along the trail. I am just totally confused now. I have no cell service and haven’t spoken to family or friends for days. This latest news makes me feel supported not sabotaged! There is some piece of the puzzle I am just not getting at this point. Patrick leaves me to paddle the next ¼ mile to the dam and the ranger with his tape measure and his power to “mess with my program”.
Here is a funny side bar which happened amidst all this drama: As I was pulling up to the dam, filled with trepidation, the two furtive kayakers who had passed me by earlier had arrived, pulled their vehicle down to the ramp and had just placed the boats on the roof when I touched down. I thought, well now they will have to acknowledge me since I will pass within 5 ft of them while they tie the boats down. To my amazement they jumped in the car and took off, no tying down….guess what happened next? You got it, the yaks went flying off the roof as soon as he hit the gas. What the heck? I can see maybe one person forgetting to tie down one boat, but two people, two boats? You would think one of them would have said, “hey don’t we need to secure these boats? “ They got out, sheepishly. I nodded and then politely averted my eyes but suppressing that giant grin was really hard. Something else I just didn’t get. Maybe they came up behind me while I was singing and were just desperate to get away..who’s to say.
Beached, walked across the dam to an empty Ranger Station, turned around and walked back over the dam. I could see the Ranger and an assistant maybe? Gathered around Sparky, I took a deep breath, waved, when they noticed me notice them, and kept putting one foot in front of the other. The younger Ranger came up to meet me, he was nice and politely asked me how I was to which I replied, “Is my boat regulation size?” He looked a little taken aback by my bluntness, (lack of grace), but I was really uptight at this moment. He said no but I believe there is some wiggle room. I breathed a sigh of relief, I hope I gave that young man a smile, I was a little rude, he was not. Headed down the ramp and shook hands with the head Ranger. Ranger Ken was very nice, he got right to it, “your boat is an inch shy of regulation width, my normal policy, in cases like this, is to give a verbal warning, tell you not to come back through in this boat and send you on your way. There, consider that your verbal warning.” I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Thank you Ranger Ken. He even helped me carry Sparky over the road to the put in on the other side of the dam. I paid my camping fees for the past two nights and got an official written warning since we were filling out paperwork anyway. When Ken handed me the warning he said, “For your memorabilia.” A sweet and funny comment.
As the ranger and I were talking about the rapids and conditions ahead Chris and Hope pulled up with a regulation size kayak for me….seems I had some guardian angels out there that I did not know about. Chris was from Greenwood, ME, I think and said some of my paddling friends were worried that my boat was way off regulation size and might be confiscated, a trip ender, my biggest fear just 20 min. ago. They were so nice, I was concerned, did you come far…”No just from Greenwood.” That was Chris, he delivered that line as if Greenwood was just around the corner, later found out it had been a three-hour drive. I should have been nicer, I was uptight, I wasn’t rude just like, ok got to go, thanks. I did not realize they had driven 3 hours just to give me a kayak that I barely even glanced at. I did not understand what was going on and at this point I just wanted to finish successfully, plus there were rapids ahead!
I decided to run the rapids without gear because, what the heck, the gear transport service exists, it is more fun to run a boat empty, (less anxiety about keeping the gear dry) and the fee will help support the AWW. The rapids were fun, fun, fun, so nice to be going fast and catching an adrenaline buzz, not the stressful adrenaline rush I just went through at the dam but the kind of excitement that comes from pure physical thrill. On to Lake Umsaskis, still had a slight current going my way and a gentle wind helped push me along. The weather was perfect. Ended the day at Lost Popple Campsite on Long Lake. Goodnight.