Quest Updates

Big Island to Chamberlain

By on May 25, 2016

Big Island campsite is perfect surrounded by water and a nice sunrise over the spruce trees. Made my way to Chesuncook Village looking for the little store I had heard about for purchasing the things I was unable to get at Raymond’s Country Store at Northeast Carry. Unfortunately, it was not open because it was preseason. However, I made friends with a group of four men from outside of Boston who own a cabin on the lake. As it turns out, two of them went rafting on the Penobscot River with my rafting company about 20 years ago. I was impressed with the details that they remembered and it was a lot of fun chatting with them. They invited me for lunch and gave me some snacks to take with me on the trail. In some ways it felt like they saved my life – I was really hungry and really hoping to buy a beer from the store. Not only did they come through with lunch and snacks, but beers with lunch and a couple to go.

I paddled across Chesuncook Lake, past Gero Island and up Umbazascook Stream to Umbazascook Lake for the fabled 2-mile Mud Pond Carry. It lived up to its reputation. Known for lots of biting insects and thigh deep mud, this portage is a real joy. Seriously, if you have your mind in the right place you can actually get through it and enjoy aspects of it. Once on Mud Pond, I found the outlet which was just barely boatable. I paddled most of it but needed to track the last third because it was so shallow. The Mud Pond is the first time I have used a Hadnet to keep the biting insects away. I had to keep wearing it across Mud Pond and down the outlet into Chamberlain Lake, which is the beginning of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway. The bugs were so thick, black flies in particular, that I was unwilling to stop at the Mud Brook campsite for the night, so I kept paddling until almost 9 o’clock. Not only did I want to put on some extra miles but I know that black flies are union workers and are not allowed to work at night. As well, it’s a bit chilly for the mosquitoes. So I knew if I waited until after dark to make camp and dinner that insects would not be a big part of my evening.

As I paddled out onto Chamberlain Lake, the sunset was spectacular. The sky was clear and a big red sun sank over the Lakeside Forest. At the same time, the moon rose over the silhouette of Mount Katahdin on the horizon. It was truly spectacular and one of those moments one will never forget and that photography could never adequately capture.

While making dinner I was struck by the rustling of insects in the leaf litter. This went on for about two hours and all I could find, looking for the source of the sound, were dime-size spiders with iridescent backs.

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John Connelly
Kayaking in Maine

In April of 2016, I’ll launch on a 75-day river/ocean odyssey that will carry me over 2 countries, 4 states, 22 streams, 58 lakes, and 1500 miles. As leader of L.L.Bean’s Outdoor Discovery Schools for 10 years and a former member of the US Canoe & Kayak team with numerous whitewater first-descents to my credit, I believe I am uniquely qualified to meet this challenge.

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