Allagash Forestry Trip

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Sep 26, 2013
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Colrain MA
One of the members of this summer's Allagash trip was a forester for the state of Mass. He really liked the Train/Tram area and wanted more time checking out the whole operation.

A quick overview of the trip.
We put in again at Indian Stream(#6), checked out the tall pines (#1)SE of Pillsbury Lake and camped at Smith Brook Campsite(#2&4).
Day 2 decided to spend another night there and we paddled up to Soper Brk (#3)to see an Old Growth grove near the falls then paddled over to the Pump Handle to check out an Old Hardwood grove, then back to Smith Brk.
Day 3 paddled to the Train/Tram, carry over to Chamberlain and on to Lock Dam (#5)
Day 4 Cart the 2+ miles back to the start.

Tis is our 'SPOT' map for the trip



The stream was low but deep enough to line down, there is a new board walk that has been built that starts 4-500' beyond the brook. Most of it is 3 boards wide and is suitable for wide wheeled carts.



It was even tough trying to get out into Eagle Lake at the end of the stream.





Google Earth had given me a pretty good idea of where the tall White Pines were along with a written account of SE of Pillsbury Island. They were right where they were supposed to be and weren't hard to find.


Nick brought his forestry tools and we recorded a pair of trees at +36" in diameter and 120' tall.






Then on to a great camp at Smith Brook. The squirrels were active and the tarp was under a constant bombardment of Spruce Cones


We had a great sunrise




Hoops recipe for Bush Coffee worked great



But bacon in a reflector oven, not so much.


On the way up to Soper Brook we dropped a few beers to the bottom on a float by the time we returned they were ready.


At Soper Brook we ran into stone fish mounds. One of the rangers earlier this summer told us they were built by White Fish.




There's 10 in this pic


We had to walk the last 1/2 mile of the brook to the falls but never did find a stand of Old Growth trees. I did find an orchid going to seed. I've seen this orchid budding and going to seed, but not in blossom.


We paddled over to Pump Handle to see the Hardwood grove. I wasn't expecting much out of this grove, we have a lot bigger trees around here then were advertised. I was first surprised with a Red Oak. Not a very big one but just the first one I'd seen that far north, and then we came to the overlook.

From Katahdin in the SE around to NW into Russell Cove.


We fought the wind coming in on our broadside on the way back.
Sunset with Geese


Day 3 another paddle with wind at our broadside to the Trains. Earlier this year we had put ashore past the spot I took this pic.


We checked out the Locomotives



and the Boarding House, the Potato Field, the Lombard they used as a Pre-heater and the other end of the Tramway







I finally figured out what the dogs between the trucks were for.



The carry here between the lakes is now tough on carts. With the improvements on the south end they have added several water bars that require the lift of the canoe and cart.

We got to Chamberlain at the wrong time of day, we arrived at low tide.



But found that if we walked around to the right we were in better shape to load


We had an uneventful paddle to Lock Dam, which was a good thing after the mornings struggle to the trains. We checked out the low water carry around the dam.

The next morning we made a few changes to our carting system, securing it diagonally and in route found that it was better for both of us to pull from the front.



The road back to the gate started out grassy, muddy and rutted with moose tracks but after about a mile turned harder





On the way home we stopped off in Waterville, ME to see the gas Lombard there

A tough trip but worth the effort.
 
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Joined
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Vermont
Nice trip. Great time of year. I've never put an Allagash trip together quite like that. Is there a reason not to put in at Chamberlain Bridge?
 
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Ontario
Great report. Very interesting to see those abandoned locomotives. Must've been a real treat to see those massive white pines too.
 
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I am a forester myself and always on the lookout for big trees and unusual species. I rarely bring any mensuration tools, but like to estimate, height, diameter and age. Usually there are some stumps with rings to count. Fall colors and low water is a great time to be out. The old steam powered logging trains were a totally integrated system. They burned the waste wood from logging to power them. My girl's grandfather ran steam locomotives around Enumclaw, WA. southeast of Seattle. The big logging booms in the US started in the eastern white pine belt you just visited, then they migrated west into the upper Midwest of WI, MI where white pine was also king. They ended up in the PNW in the late 1880s. The Northwest trees are enormous even compared to the big white pines. Douglas fir, western red cedar and western hemlock were a serious challenge to the axe and saw. In the 1970s it was still common to see "one log loads." Old growth logs that filled a log truck or a railroad car.

It is interesting to see the old steam powered donkey engines used for skidding logs with cables in the woods.
 
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Colrain MA
This RR ran from 1927-33 to haul pulpwood and the locomotives burned oil. They were afraid of fire with wood and oil was easier to bring in from Canada then coal using the Lombards.
 
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Raymond, ME
Nice TR! We are almost home. Allagash lake via the carry trail from Round Pond. I was wondering about water levels on Chanberlain at the bay to the trains. Last time we were there in October the tide was out too!
 
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We only had 4 days and everything we wanted to see was right there.

I know how it is. Been there and done that.

One of the things about the regulations that ended the log drives is that the landowners brought in roads galore to truck the logs to market. For paddlers that might seem to be a good thing at first but in reality the impact was quite destructive for us. There was a time when you come down into Round Pond early in the morning and be confident that there would always be a place to rest your weary bones. Not so now with all the roads. People can jump onto the river from dozens of different road crossings. This causes problems for people who are traveling the classic Allagash trip.

One thing about the Allagash trip that made it so special was the length of the trip and the variety of the paddling. Few trips have such a wonderful combination of lake and river travel. The classic trip once began at Moosehead with a paddle up to the northeast carry, then down the West Branch of the Penobscot to Chesuncook and then over the mud pond carry into Chamberlain, lock dam to Eagle and on "down" to Allagash Village. Or, even better, take a side trip up into Allagash Lake and then come back down into Eagle. A compromise is to put in at Chamberlain Bridge and spend a night or two on Chamberlain before dropping into Eagle. Its tough when we can't get the necessary time off and I totally understand and I have been there myself. But trips of longer duration allow us to pull away from our busy urban lives and settle in to the rhythm of canoe travel.
 
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I don't think so.. Access is still quite limited. Visitation is way down. There is real danger in losing the Waterway to other interests because the paddlers are not there.

People cannot simply jump in the river from dozens of road crossings legally.

Here is the list per the State A. Unless otherwise provided for by these rules, access by motor vehicle to the watercourse shall be prohibited except at the following locations. Limited access at John’s Bridge is as provided in section 2.11.
  • Chamberlain Thoroughfare Bridge, T6-R11;
  • Indian Stream, T7-R12;
  • Churchill Dam, T10-R12;
  • Bissonette Bridge, T10-R12;
  • Umsaskis Launching Area, T11-R13;
  • Henderson Brook Bridge, T13-R12
  • Michaud Farm, T15-R11;
  • Finley Bogan T15-R11;
  • Twin Brook, Allagash Plantation.
When logging is done the roads are unmaintained. Johnsons Pond Road is barely passable these days.

All the other nine campsites on Allagash Lake were empty last week.

Interestingly the last time I had trouble finding a campsite on the river was 1973. That was the heyday of the "new" Wilderness Waterway and everyone wanted to go.

Nowadays outfitters are having a tough time making a living up there.
 
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I agree with yellowcanoe in principle. Logging roads provide access in remote areas, and are often the only road network on vast acreages. They are not maintained and usually not that intrusive.
 
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Ok, I exaggerated. 10, not dozens.

Actually 11, if you count the Johnson Pond road. Used to have to fly in there. Well, now that I think about it there are more - there are the roads that provide access to Chesuncook, and the West Branch etc. The whole area is littered with roads now. Used to be very wild country. Now there is the illusion of wildness and I do love it - but there are roads everywhere.

Might be that the outfitters would be better off if the waterway had less access, not more. Also, maybe an area like this unfortunately only supports one outfitter. I know its not good for the economy up there to say such a thing. The economy up there would definitely benefit if they opened up the entire area to four wheelers and snow mobiles etc. It would completely ruin the experience that I am looking for, but there are a lot more four wheelers and snowmobile folks then there are people like me so in the end that will probably be what happens.

You are correct tough - the usage has fallen off. Maybe the whole point of a "wilderness" or "wild" area is that it does not get a lot of human traffic. Once you get a lot of human traffic you lose the wild character of a place. I'll admit if it were up to me, and its obviously not up to me - I don't even live in Maine, I would eliminate all the access points except maybe Chamberlain Bridge. The area would probably get even less traffic and in my view the world, (and the State of Maine), would be better for it.

I realize there are disputes about how best to make use of the area. I have my own views on that and others differ. I guess that is what makes the world go around. No doubt there will be a political compromise.

But my main point is that longer trips give you a different experience - it takes a few days to get into the groove of a trip and to stop looking at your watch all the time. The Allagash was once a place where you would go if you were seeking a trip of a week or more - short trips were not possible.
 
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The outfitters have to deal with what the public wants. And the public probably wants more vacation. But work doesn't allow that. It seems to be becoming more expected that you are always connected. Ray and Leslie Cooley at Loon Lodge are not connected.. No phone! Yes slow sat internet. And they have to deal in cash...

Kayaks are not prohibited on the Allagash so I fail to see where that has any bearing at all.

Ha ha.. now there are roads everywhere. We just failed to navigate The Guy Allen Road. With a name in the De Lorme Gazetter its now fallen into disuse and has been reclaimed in one spot by a horde of beavers who have flooded it for a long way.

The outfitters have had to deal with what the public wants in terms of trip length. Its rare now that your boss will let you go for ten days.

You do know the reason for more roads? Its got more to do with skidder payroll vs the cost of new roads. Its cheaper to make new roads vs paying more overtime for the skidder operators to get the logs out of roadless areas. I don't like it either.

But the alternative is kingdom lots. Littered with NO Trespassing signs.
 
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Yea, we just see it differently. I'd like to see the Allagash as a wilderness area. I think we should make it harder, not easier, to paddle the trip. But, as I said, I am not a Maine resident so its not my call.
 
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Yea, we just see it differently. I'd like to see the Allagash as a wilderness area. I think we should make it harder, not easier, to paddle the trip. But, as I said, I am not a Maine resident so its not my call.

But you are a user.. I am a user. Makes us equally important. It's important that we have a pool of paddlers. If its short term trippers so be it. Otherwise the input will all come from motorized ATV users and other interested groups.

This day and age the Allagash comes about as close as anyone can get to a wilderness area in the US.

IMO we paddlers are awful in uniting together. We spend a lot of time debating kayak vs canoe and making pokes at the other dark side whichever that is. Really we are shooting ourselves in the foot.

If we could think of a way to support paddling outfitters with long duration trips it would be wonderful. I have no idea how to implement that aside from dictating a mandatory six week vacation for Americans and Canadians.

I can dream...
 
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