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2019 Penobscot River West Branch / Chesuncook Lake Solo Trip

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    2019 Penobscot River West Branch / Chesuncook Lake Solo Trip

    It was the summer of 2018 when I first navigated the wilds of the Penobscot River West Branch and Chesuncook Lake with a take-out at Allagash Gateway Campground. I never properly wrote a trip report but did include my trip as a response in Goonstrokes trip report here: http://www.canoetripping.net/forums/...-de-gero/page2. The weather was challenging, wind was ferocious and for my childrens first wilderness paddle trip, I was hoping for more forgiving conditions. My father and I focused most of our attention on maintaining their comfort and hence it was exhausting for us as well. All in all they braved the elements and although exhausted by trips end I strongly believe that they learned a new found respect for mother nature as her sheer power was humbling throughout the duration of our trip.

    So, 2019 rolls around, and I needed a season ending trip, so I quickly planned another go-round with Chesuncook lake and the West Branch. This trip was primarily to serve as a trip of pure nostalgia from the previous years journey. So here it goes:

    It was a 3 night / 4 day trip that started at Allagash Gateway Campground and ended at AGC. I was shuttled on September 17th to Lobster Stream put-in where I observed a full parking lot. This was a bit disheartening since I was told at the Caribou Checkpoint that I would have the entire river to myself. I immediately thought that all of these vehicles must have registered at the Twenty Mile Checkpoint. I was hoping that these occupants of these vehicles and canoe trailers were heading up Lobster Stream to enjoy Lobster Lake. Anyway with the canoe loaded I was on my way. Water flows were high due to recent rains which made for quite an easy paddle. My goal on this trip was to observe as much wildlife as possible, retrace the steps of the previous years trip and just relax. 10 minutes into the paddle I witnessed the first (and only) bull moose of the trip. I was trolling and making adjustments as a loud crash prompted me to look up and stare at a monster moose. He was big!!! He didn't stay for long....not even long enough for me to get my video camera focused in on him. His abrupt departure and less than delicate exit from the river through the woods indicated that I may have startled him a bit. I said to myself. "This is a good sign of things to come....hopefully!" The weather was beautiful and as I was meandering down to the Big Island I realized that for moments just like this is reason enough to get outdoors and enjoy the wilderness.

    From the put-in to the first bend prior to reaching the Big Island I did in fact have the river to myself. Couldn't have asked for better conditions from a weather perspective to ultimate privacy....Until, I rounded that last bend and discovered tent city!! There must have been 15 canoes anchored in the river and each and every campsite in close proximity to Big Island was occupied by large groups. I hung my head and obviously continued on the right side of the Big Island. My true intention was to settle in at Ouellettes Campsite to commence my retracement of the previous years trip, but that wasn't going to happen today. Luckily as I continued my travels I discovered "The Pines Campsite" on river right which was not occupied. This site is approximately 1/2 mile out of sight and out of mind of the Big Island and this is where I would settle in for the night. This campsite is a two cell site and is higher on the river bank. Overall a very nice site. There was plenty of firewood in the vicinity and I immediately started a fire to start cooking my meal (Dehydrated Chili and Rice...diy). I enjoyed this meal and maintained the fire for quite some time as I set up camp and then settled in the camp chair (a luxury on this trip). Watched a beautiful sunset and drifted off to sleep to awake to a chilly morning.

    Day 2. Started the fire and prepared eggs, bacon and english muffins. As always the coffee was the first priority. I use the Stanley French Coffee Press (Works great). Sitting in my camp chair while staring across the river, I was blessed with a close encounter of a cow moose slowly emerging from the Northern river bank. She slowly touched down in the river and lethargically crossed the river to the campsite river bank approx 50ft upstream of where I was sitting (I have this on camera while ducking behind a tree not to be seen). Pretty cool to say the least. After that pleasantry and a filling breakfast I was packed up and on my way. I would complete the river section on this day and Camp at Gero Island No.2 campsite, but not after first catching a couple salmon approx 15" in length. I released them as I still had a bit to go. Beautiful fish. Stopped at Pine Stream campsite to check that out and did the same at Boom House Campsite. I enjoy exploring the campsites for future planning. One thing I noticed is that many of the campsite markers have been removed from their stanchions. I was curious to know if they were stolen or removed intentionally by the PRC (hoping for the latter). The weather was fully supporting on this day with moderate wind and I made it to Gero 2 which was another resting place of last years trip. I was tickled silly to have this location to myself. Brought back many great memories as I worked on my recall of the trip. Sunsets from Gero Island are amazing and I witnessed another great one on this evening. I have a time lapse video of the sunset which I have not downloaded yet. When I do I will follow up with this post and provide an external link for viewing. Dinner was homemade, dehydrated chicken and rice and some non homemade beef jerky. My menu for this trip was lighter than usual and I was ok with that (with the exception of breakfasts, I always need a big breakfast). As soon as I was settled in on Gero the wind picked up for a couple of hours and before long there were breakers on the beach. It doesn't take long for this lake to kick up and it served as a clear reminder of past experiences. Had a nice fire and drifted off to sleep.

    Day 3 Awoke to an amazing morning. Mirror like water and temperatures perfect for paddling 50 deg. Packed up and said goodbye to this nostalgic site and paddled off to the western shore of Chesuncook. I was determined to find Sandy Point on this trip as we could not find it in the dark last year which prompted us to make an impromptu camp on the shoreline. I eventually landed at Sandy Point tucked back in a cove with a steep inclined beach and then toured the grounds. I found this site to be quite nice with great views. Stayed for a bit to stretch my legs, laughed a bit about our night time chaos from last years trip, and then headed off once again. In my mind I was considering finishing the trip on this day to make it home a day early but then the wind decided otherwise. I made it as far as Mouser Island where I would settle in for the 3rd night. Mouser island is a mutiple cell site which is much larger than how it appears from the lake. 3 cells reside on this Island. I had plenty of time in the evening to prepare my meals, which tonight I decided on breakfast sandwhiches (eggs, sausage, block cheddar cheese & Sriracha). Had to use up the eggs. I was hungry and it was delicious. Had three of them. Set up camp normally and thought that I would get to sleep early for an early start to the morning to beat the wind but sleep didn't come easy. Just couldn't sleep and I am glad that I didn't because on this night I observed probably one of the most beautiful sunsets that I have personally seen to date. Breathtaking oranges and reds. Simply amazing. Another reminder of why getting outdoors and enjoying nature truly serves the soul. After videoing and photographing the sunset I started a fire and actually listened to some music for the first time on this trip (Ben Howard). Eventually my eyes grew tired and I headed off to the tent for what was a great nights sleep.

    Day 4 - On this morning, I woke up early and had an egg, beef jerky and cheddar cheese omelet with english muffins. Packed up camp and paddled off onto flat calm lake conditions. It would not take me long to paddle to Allagash Gateway Campground to finish my trip as it was only about 5 miles to the finish line. My reflection on this trip is simply......wow...what a difference of weather conditions on this trip vice last years trip. This lake can be paddled in pure relaxation and enjoyment when the conditions support or it can be absolutely hell. I am glad to have experienced both as I have learned a great respect for this lake and all larger size lakes. Great solo trip and I am happy that I was able to do this trip before life got busy again.

    Goonstroke has planted a seed in my churning brain and my next trip will most likely be the Allagash / Mud Pond Carry Loop. Having a blast talking with him about his experiences and planning for this trip. Helk, I think I may even be purchasing a new solo canoe. Once again based on what Goonstroke uses for a canoe (Wenonah Wilderness T-Formex) my research leads me in the direction that this boat may be best suited for me as well. Maybe next canoeing season I will be floating in a nice new shiny Wenonah Wilderness.
    Last edited by dcloots; 12-12-2019, 03:06 PM.

    #2
    Mouser is probably the most used/abused cluster of sites on the lake. It really ought to be closed to allow some natural regeneration . I have always noted the sites around Big Island are always most used especially with groups. I love Big and Little Ragamuff.. never seem to be occupied. But we do make camp early and break camp early.

    As far as Mud Pond carry since it is usually a water filled narrow ditch the lightest boat is a good idea.. especially if water levels are down at the end of Mud Pond. I have several non Wenonahs that fit the bill perfectly.. my choice would probably be the Colden Nomad. Anyway happy shopping.
    Last edited by yellowcanoe; 12-12-2019, 05:26 PM.

    Comment


      #3
      Wonderful report and photos! The sunsets...just incredible! (Also, you just made me hungry for breakfast sandwiches.) I think Big Island is crowded in September because that's the place where the salmon are thickest so the fisherman congregate there. 2 Septembers ago I almost could have walked across the river at Big Island by stepping from one canoe to the next anchored in the river there (and not the long way, either). This year it was a little less like Grand Central Station, but still Big Island was crowded compared to the rest of the river/lake. In fact once my partner and I got below Big Island 2 Septembers ago,we had the river/lake completely to ourselves all the way to AGC. This September with better water levels, we saw a handful of fishing canoes a littler further down river from Big Island; but I'd say after a mile and a half, the river/lake was again ours alone all the way to our take out at Chesuncook Village. Can't wait to go back to the area again.

      Comment


        #4
        Nice write up, never been there but it looks like a nice destination, your pics of the sunsets say a lot about your trip.

        Comment


          #5
          "Another reminder of why getting outdoors and enjoying nature truly serves the soul."

          Amen. Thanks for the reminder dcloots, very much appreciated.

          Comment


            #6
            Originally posted by yellowcanoe View Post
            Mouser is probably the most used/abused cluster of sites on the lake. It really ought to be closed to allow some natural regeneration . I have always noted the sites around Big Island are always most used especially with groups. I love Big and Little Ragamuff.. never seem to be occupied. But we do make camp early and break camp early.

            As far as Mud Pond carry since it is usually a water filled narrow ditch the lightest boat is a good idea.. especially if water levels are down at the end of Mud Pond. I have several non Wenonahs that fit the bill perfectly.. my choice would probably be the Colden Nomad. Anyway happy shopping.
            YellowCanoe, I am all ears to learn about the other canoes you feel would make a great all around tripping canoe! Need a decent lake paddling boat and one that will also handle rivers/rapids up to class II. I am pulling my hair out trying to find the right fit. The Wenonah Wilderness seems to fit best but there are not many if any out there on the used canoe market and I am not ready to pull the trigger on a new canoe. I almost purchased a Wenonah Wilderness from Wisconsin until I saw the shipping quote..... $500....yikes!

            Comment


              #7
              It was a BLEM so I was excited about the discount.

              Comment


                #8
                Its hard to recommend tripping canoes though its generally accepted that 15 feet is a good length for a variety of reasons including seaworthiness on large bodies of water. What works for one may be totally useless for another. I have never paid to have a boat shipped nor bought untried so have no experience at that. I have a big Wenonah tandem ( the Odyssey) but never have cared for the few others I have paddled due to their cross section hull shape with the wide part down low. Waves seem to ride up the side of the hull and if you get off flat hull they are tender with their flask shape. Northstar makes the Trillium which is sort of small and the bigger solo Northwind Solo. Both have shouldered tumblehome which I find helpful in waves on that big C lake The widest point of the hull is quite high up toward the gunwale and that aids seaworthiness and stability.
                Best you can pop over to Contocook Canoe near Concord NH. to see or order. They have Wenonahs also as does Hemlock Petes barely in VT on the CT river. You shouldn't have to pay $500 for shipping!

                You are right in feeling fit is critical. And it is personal.

                I also like Swift canoes but the nearest dealer is in CT.

                I have had a Hemlock Peregrine but it is a little straight keeled. The SRT by Hemlock fills your requirements. There is one for sale used http://www.hemlockcanoe.com/used--demo-canoes.html

                I have done the big lake in a Colden WIldFire and DragonFly but with the winds that can come up on that one symmetrical rocker is not my friend under those circumstances.

                The Colden Nomad is my favorite but Paul Meyer does not have a dealer network and I daresay they are not found used.
                http://www.coldencanoe.com/nomad.html

                My old yellowcanoe is a Swift Heron that I no longer use. Its a fast boat but its outfitted for kneeling( and I cannot kneel anymore). The seat needs to be dropped for a sitting paddler. It is sitting in my barn if you want to use it. Those who have sat in it with the high seat have found themselves counting fish for the most part

                Comment


                  #9
                  There are more choices in composite boats than royalex/t-formex. As always, the best choice is to have a barn full of boats!

                  Plastic boats are great when you know there will be a certain amount of rock bashing. Another good plastic boat in the class is the Penobscot 15. They're much less common than the bigger Penobscots, but they do come up for sale from time to time.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Put together my first YouTube video for this solo trip. Had fun doing it. Check it out if you’d like. Looking to do many more in the future.

                    https://youtu.be/3TiB8CzUD-g

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Well done! Enjoyed the video!

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Nice vide, unbelievable weather on Chesuncook

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Originally posted by yellowcanoe View Post
                          Its hard to recommend tripping canoes though its generally accepted that 15 feet is a good length for a variety of reasons including seaworthiness on large bodies of water. What works for one may be totally useless for another. I have never paid to have a boat shipped nor bought untried so have no experience at that. I have a big Wenonah tandem ( the Odyssey) but never have cared for the few others I have paddled due to their cross section hull shape with the wide part down low. Waves seem to ride up the side of the hull and if you get off flat hull they are tender with their flask shape. Northstar makes the Trillium which is sort of small and the bigger solo Northwind Solo. Both have shouldered tumblehome which I find helpful in waves on that big C lake The widest point of the hull is quite high up toward the gunwale and that aids seaworthiness and stability.
                          Best you can pop over to Contocook Canoe near Concord NH. to see or order. They have Wenonahs also as does Hemlock Petes barely in VT on the CT river. You shouldn't have to pay $500 for shipping!

                          You are right in feeling fit is critical. And it is personal.

                          I also like Swift canoes but the nearest dealer is in CT.

                          I have had a Hemlock Peregrine but it is a little straight keeled. The SRT by Hemlock fills your requirements. There is one for sale used http://www.hemlockcanoe.com/used--demo-canoes.html

                          I have done the big lake in a Colden WIldFire and DragonFly but with the winds that can come up on that one symmetrical rocker is not my friend under those circumstances.

                          The Colden Nomad is my favorite but Paul Meyer does not have a dealer network and I daresay they are not found used.
                          http://www.coldencanoe.com/nomad.html

                          My old yellowcanoe is a Swift Heron that I no longer use. Its a fast boat but its outfitted for kneeling( and I cannot kneel anymore). The seat needs to be dropped for a sitting paddler. It is sitting in my barn if you want to use it. Those who have sat in it with the high seat have found themselves counting fish for the most part
                          Yellow canoe, never responded to this and wanted to thank you for offering one of your canoes for use. This board is amazing in that as a complete stranger I was offered a boat to try. Thanks again. However, I am in the process of building Gil Gipatricks Wabnaki cedar strip canoe and that will be my wilderness tripping boat at least for the foreseeable future. At 16' and with the same depth as my Mad River Tahoe I believe I have a winner. I created a Youtube page "MaineTripper" where I have uploaded the first two parts of the build. Part 3 should be released by Wednesday.

                          Thanks again for offering one of your canoes. Very kind!

                          Comment

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