On a six night seven day canoe adventure on the Allagash River, the trip did not take long for the adventures to take place. When you are out in the wilderness for six nights, you know that there will be some difficult moments and most likely some bad weather. On a canoe trip, bad weather comes in the form of head wind and rain. The Allagash River threw both at us in the first two days.
Big lakes on the Allagash River
I had no idea what to expect with this trip. I did see a Maine Rivers presentation from Bull Moose Patrol at Canoecopia, but you never really know what you are in for until the paddle is in the water. The first surprise for me was that the beginning of our trip consisted of some big lakes. I guess that is why the area is referred to as the Allagash Wilderness Waterway as well as the Allagash River.
The first two days saw us paddle through Chamberlain, Eagle, and Churchill Lakes. The waterway does narrow into a river beyond Churchill Dam, but we did not enter this phase until the third day. We began under partly cloudy skies. We initially had little wind. I am not sure if this was because we were protected in our initial paddle or if the wind picked up later in the day.
Three registered Maine guides and ten other paddlers begin
Our group consisted of 13 paddlers including three registered Maine guides. Chip and Lani Cochrane were our official guides as they own and operate Allagash Canoe Trips. Scott Oeth from Bull Moose Patrol is also a Maine guide, and he helped set up and recruit paddlers from the Minneapolis region. We also had a few paddlers from the Southeast region who signed up through either Scott’s Facebook or directly through Chip and Lani.
Our first put in option was a creek that was too low to paddle, so we jumped back in the bus and headed to an alternative put-in. We were paired up and provided paddles. I was in the stern and given a beautiful wooden paddle with a big handle.
Head winds and a rain squall
The sun soon left us and was replaced with clouds that turned into a driving rain storm. Fortunately, it did not last long, but it seemed like the rain brought on the wind. We had to play around a bit with the paddling partners to make sure we were all evenly matched. A few canoes had trouble keeping up in the strong headwind that developed, which was understandable because it was not easy dealing with the wind in the big lakes. We also had one canoe do an oh no moment and capsize in the wind. Fortunately, they were able to right themselves without too much trouble.
It soon dawned on Chip and Lani that we would not make our initial campsite with the strong wind, so we looked for alternatives across the lake. The wind was kicking up, so we had a tough paddle across the lake to our first campsite. It just so happened that the first campsite included a great view of Mt. Katahdin and Baxter State Park. Just two days prior, I was almost on top of this famous mountain. On top of Mt. Hamline I could see a distant waterway and lakes, which was the Allagash Wilderness Waterway.
We had the good the bad, but no ugly
Despite the tough conditions on the first day, the scenery was beautiful. The hills surrounding the waterway were on fire with orange, reds, and yellows with a little pine thrown in. Fall color was in full swing in the Maine wilderness.
No portages but. . . . .
We did not have any portages, so we could load the Old Town Canoes with a ton of provisions. Each canoe had a wanigan, which was a big wooden box with handles that fit in the middle. We also each had a personal pack with our tent, sleeping bag, clothes, and other personal provisions. My bag had a bottle of whiskey and two bottles of Popov vodka. I like the fancy stuff.
On the second day we did have to push the canoes through a shallow stream and up and over a beaver dam. This took about a half hour. Later we had to carry our canoes over a small portage. Instead of carrying our equipment individually, we just teamed up and carried the canoes with everything in them. It took four to six of us to carry each canoe. While these were not tough Boundary Waters like portages, they did add to the tough first couple of days where we had to paddle through tough headwinds and rain.
The food was even better
Since we had not major portages, we had the luxury of carrying an extensive stash of food. Allagash Canoe Trips excels with a great menu. We had three incredible meals each day. The first night we enjoyed steaks and fresh salad. We began the first morning with blueberry pancakes and consumed eggs, bacon, and fried potatoes the first morning out on the river. We were even treated to baked cakes in a reflector oven including a carrot, a chocolate cake, and even a strawberry shortcake.
The weather takes a turn for the worse
We had rain and wind the first day, but the rain only lasted a short while. The second day the rain began around noon and continued into the night. Everyone pretty much got soaked. Fortunately, we made most of our miles in the morning before it started to really come down. It never really poured, but it was just a dreary, miserable day.
We paddled in about an hour of rain before we made camp. We put up the tarps and hunkered down. It did let up a little at one point, and we made a move to put up our tents. We even managed to have a bit of a campfire in the rain before turning in.
Rain, wind, and no moose
The first two days could be summarized with rain, headwinds, and no moose. No one who is canoeing in Maine wishes for conditions like this. One moose would have made things a lot more tolerable. Fortunately, we scored big on that front over the next couple of days.
Spoiler alert: Moose madness on the Allagash River
Forecast calls for an end in the rain, warmer, sunnier, and then colder
The extended forecast called for an end to the rain followed by a warmer sunnier day, then colder sunnier days. After a day of rain, the weather forecast looked great. The next day we were to paddle through Chase Rapids, so a warm sunny day was just the ticket for this next stretch. Plus, we definitely needed to dry out.
Despite the tough first days, everyone’s morale was high. Perhaps it was the scenery, the tremendous food, or perhaps the fact we had plenty of booze left. I think we all felt a sense of accomplishment for making it through some tough conditions and looked forward to what the trip would bring us next.
If this trip interests you (and believe me it got way better) then check out Allagash Canoe Trips for a true Maine adventure. The trip was awesome and future posts will attest to this fact. Also, check out the Bull Moose Patrol website and Facebook page.
The goal of this site is to inspire people to outdoor adventure travel and then provide tips. If you liked this post then sign up for the email newsletter. Notifications go out once or twice a month with what is new with Traveling Ted’s adventures. Your email will not be share and you will receive no spam. Other e-follow options include Facebook (click on the like box to the right) or twitter (click on the pretty bird on the rainbow above).