Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness Area Canoe Loop Solo

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Recently set out on my Debsconeag Loop trip Solo May 15th, 2019. The trip was a two night three day trip that took me from the Grant Brook Road Bridge down through Ambajesus Falls, Ambajesus Lake, Pemadumcook Lake, 3rd Debsconeag, 2nd Debsconeag, 1st Debsconeag then into the West Branch of the Penobscot (Debsconeag Dead Water) and eventually the take out back at Grant Brook Road Bridge. Winds throughout the trip were tolerable but variable with gusts reaching 25 mph - 30mph. Wind made the paddling a bit challenging but seeking protection of the coves and tacking as necessary allowed forward progress. Weather during each day had intermittent rain showers with heavy cloud cover blanketing the skies. Minor glimpses of the sun struggled to break through. I completely underestimated this trip to say the least. Mainetrailfinder.com considers this trip strenuous and I must agree with that assessment. This was my first paddle of the year and the old body wasn't in the best of portaging or paddling shape. Water temps were extremely cold at approx 40 degs due to recent ice out exactly one week prior. Utilized my newly acquired Ocean Rodeo Soul dry-suit throughout the trip to provide that extra bit of security if immersion had occurred. Luckily I didn't have any of that.

My original plan was to camp on the Eastern end of 3rd Debsconeag Lake on Day 1, but as I stated earlier I underestimated this trip to a certain extent. Winds held me up and placed me in lockdown so I needed to head for Moose Island where I resided for the first night and observed spectacular evening skies. Moose Island was quite hospitable with a wide open camping space, decent fire pit.....and well the Thunder Box was quite questionable and borderline disturbing, but what the helk this is camping right? Day 2 awoke early had a delicious pancake breakfast with maple syrup and cinnamon sugar. Honestly, this tasted just like a Cinnabon and of course the coffee was the first thing that was prepared on this chilly morning. Packed up and continued my journey Northwest towards White House landing where the portage trail begins for the portage into Third Debsconeag. The 1.25 mile or so portage from Pemadumcook to Third is somewhat challenging mostly due to the fact that I had some cart issues, but once I figured that out it was smooth sailing. Although a significant portage, especially on the initial incline, the second half of the portage is mostly downhill and leads up to a nice level put in to Third Debsconeag. Originally I had planned to camp at the campsite on Third about .25 miles from the put in but recognized this campsite is up a fairly steep bank without a soft landing since the shore was strewn with decent sized boulders. I decided to move on and paddle the length of Third and search for the portage trail to Second Debsconeag. Paddled the North shore of Third Debsconeag against a stiff wind but eventually made the end of the lake and finally found the portage signage. An orange something or other that was battered and broken. Originally scouted a trail to the left of this sign since it was the first trail markings that I found. Low and behold it was not the right trail. I believe the other trail was some type of snowmobile trail of some sort.

After the portage from Pemadumcook to Third Debsconeag I thought that the carry to Second would be a breeze, however, what I had failed to consider is the amount of travel I had already accomplished up to this point and was more tired than I had realized. I found the carry to Second Deb to be challenging due to my level of fatigue not necessarily because of trail difficulty. The trail was in pretty decent shape with some blow down across the trail at certain points. I wanted to clear these obstructions but I did not and I apologize to the next person for not lending this type of service. I was physically at the point where I was just ready to make camp and hunker down on the Northern campsite on Second Debsconeag and needed to ensure I was going to get there. Second Debsconeag was a beautiful site to behold and the Northern campsite was just as pleasing. Had a nice campfire and listened to the stream that borders the campsite. The stream is fed from Big Minister pond that I was hoping to explore but I didn't. Shortly into my stay at the campsite I was visited by a black cat of some sort (not a house cat!!). Black cat, not a cougar, not a lynx...panther?? Anyway I made some noise and was not bothered by this elusive sighting. Slept like a baby as temperatures were in the low 40's but comfortable. Awakened on day three to a beautiful morning had a light breakfast with coffee and I was on my way. This was the first day of sunshine but it did not last long. Paddled the length of Second Debsconeag and I missed the portage signage. I continued down the stream through some quick water and pulled into an eddy to scout what was further ahead. Tied off the canoe and did some boulder hopping to discover that further down there were some major sweepers in the stream which made me conclude that this stream is not navigable and I made a mistake by going to far downstream. I was able to paddle against the current and make my way out of it and low and behold as obvious as the hardness of woodpecker lips I saw the portage sign that I should have seen from the get go. I guess my eyes aren't what they used to be. I was scratching my head on how I missed this portage, but for those who intend to do this trip the portage is on the south eastern end of the lake not on the northern side of the lake for which I was searching. This trail is a nice trail. I actually have video, but I do not have photos but the trail is pretty straight forward with an initial climb and then a straight path to a crossing which leads to a bridge for a great view of this raging stream of the Second Debsconeag outlet to First Debsconeag. This crossing is approximately the 3/4 way point of this portage where the trail leads to a nice soft landing at First Debsconeag. My plan was to stop for lunch at one of the Eastern First Debsconeag campsites but they were occupied so I paddled forth onto the Debsconeag Deadwater. Temperatures dropped dramatically and I felt my hands going numb and at this time I was not wearing my drysuit so I eyeballed a decent location to don the suit prior to the first set of riffles upstream of Passamagamet Falls. Followed the swift water to the right of the island. Water was moving quickly but it was a nice ride down through to an awaiting pool which then brought me back out to to the river where I needed to carefully place my canoe on the island that I would eventually end up portaging around Passamagamet falls. Passamagamet Falls was a violent boil and although some may brave the standing waves on these rapids I chose to play it safe and carry across the island.

I was now on my final leg of day three and was soon able to see the starting point as Grant Brook Road Bridge lurked in the distance. Water flowage under the Grant Brook Road bridge clips along at a pretty good rate. I had concerns about making a mistake and not eddying out properly so I carefully scouted a take out upstream of the bridge and I discovered a blue and pink ribbon dangling from a tree with what appeared to be an upstream take out prior to the bridge. This ribbon was probably 200ft upstream of the bridge. This was my target and this was even kind of tricky due to the river current here. Eventually I made it to shore and pulled my canoe up onto the bank and completed my final carry to my vehicle. TRIP COMPLETE! I had an amazing adventure and although I found this trip strenuous, I also found it be rather enjoyable and relaxing. My recommendation would be to take more time to enjoy more of what this great land has to offer and spend some time fishing which I didn't do. Strangely I did not see any Moose or deer, but plenty of signs of their existence with hoof prints and scat everywhere. I guess they heard me coming. Hope you all enjoy this report. It is my first and hopefully not my last. Next trip Allagash Wilderness waterway with my Dad (73 yrs old) my three children, my cousin and his son. Coming in June!
 

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Nice trip report and photos! Since the Ocean Rodeo dry suit is on my wish list, can you say a little something about your first impressions? Thanks.
 
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Nice trip! That water looked cold, and that hot fire looked good! I also would like to know how that suit performed. Curious about the big black cat.
Thanks for sharing your trip dcloots!
 
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Nice trip report and photos! Since the Ocean Rodeo dry suit is on my wish list, can you say a little something about your first impressions? Thanks.

alsg glad you liked the report. Been camping for years but have never written my own personal trip report. I read many trip reports and comments on this site and it serves as a great comic relief in most cases. This site is a great community and I consider myself fortunate to have found it. In regard to the suit I was fortunate to have found this suit on Amazon which is normally priced at $899 for $276. Not sure how this happened but the only size where this price was applied was for the XXXL size. I am 6'2" and weigh 245 lbs and the suit fit great. Maybe a little tight on the arms but it did not affect mobility. I prefer a slightly looser fit but the rest of the suit fit perfectly with room to spare for my gut to grow outward in the years to come. I tried to portage with this suit on and what ensues is an internal storm of self produced rain water collecting in its coffers. The latex seals are extremely snug and the suit traps that body heat. I then tried the standby mode which allows for the neck seal to be released and this added relief but not enough relief. My recommendation would be to do what I did and get out of the suit for lengthy portages. The suit also serves as a great set of rain gear and wind barrier as you will stay perfectly dry in those sudden weather changes and ultimately stay warmer. I rate this suit a 9 out of 10 for aesthetics and functionality.
 
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Nice trip! That water looked cold, and that hot fire looked good! I also would like to know how that suit performed. Curious about the big black cat.
Thanks for sharing your trip dcloots!

Odyssey the water was extremely cold and fire was warranted and enjoyed at the end of each day. In regard to the suit please see my response to alsg. This is a great trip and with the help of Goonstroke, Fitz and BobMills I learned quite a bit about the trip before I set out. I applaud the resources available on this Canoetripping.net website. Greatest thing since sliced bread.
 
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Odyssey, I failed to respond about the cat sighting. I was not sure exactly what it was so at home I started my research. Heck....I was so tired at the end of this day that I would have invited him/her to have dinner with me. To be honest, other than a few loons, lots of ducks, hawks and smaller birds the black cat was the only 4 legged creature I saw during the trip. I watched this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6przuR7ITfY and maybe it was a black bobcat from the information provided by this documentary.
 
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The drysuit looks like the answer to all things cold wet and unwonderful especially on a solo. On a scale from 1 to 5, 1 being easy peasy, 5 being a sumo wrestling match in a shoebox, how difficult is it to take off/put on? I've never considered one before but they appear to be a safe answer to shoulder season soloing. Can you peel off just the top half for portaging, tying the loose arms around your waist? Just a ponder on my part. Thanks for your feedback on this piece of gear. And your TR too.
In a region called The Near North here in Ontario there have been sightings over the years of what some people are describing as a big black cat, maybe a "panther". One family member of mine swears she saw it. There have been newspaper articles too, but we can't always believe what we read in the news. Ha. A bobcat sounds reasonable, and there are cougars here too, but my bet is skinny malnourished black bears are being occasionally mistaken for something far more exotic and mysterious. Thanks for that youtube too.
 
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The drysuit looks like the answer to all things cold wet and unwonderful especially on a solo. On a scale from 1 to 5, 1 being easy peasy, 5 being a sumo wrestling match in a shoebox, how difficult is it to take off/put on? I've never considered one before but they appear to be a safe answer to shoulder season soloing. Can you peel off just the top half for portaging, tying the loose arms around your waist? Just a ponder on my part. Thanks for your feedback on this piece of gear. And your TR too.
In a region called The Near North here in Ontario there have been sightings over the years of what some people are describing as a big black cat, maybe a "panther". One family member of mine swears she saw it. There have been newspaper articles too, but we can't always believe what we read in the news. Ha. A bobcat sounds reasonable, and there are cougars here too, but my bet is skinny malnourished black bears are being occasionally mistaken for something far more exotic and mysterious. Thanks for that youtube too.

I will meet you in the middle and call it a 3. Seemed to be easier at times and more difficult at other times. All depended on just how warm I was inside the suit. There was one particular time taking the suit off that I struggled with that thing and if anyone was watching I would have looked like a madman cursing and flailing my arms around spinning in circles. I am sure the widlerness beasts were laughing at me like crazy pearing through the deep forest and saying we don't need to worry about this lunatic. However, I would imagine you could loosen the suit and tie off around the waist. There are particular precautions associated with the zipper assembly though that you do not want to pinch the zipper or bend it in an abnormal way. I was very careful about protecting the zipper since it is new to me. I would just take it off and use that time to air dry. Takes about 3-5 minutes to complete the changeout.

The cat was long and slender and "Quick as a Cat". I am convinced at this time from what I have watched and read that it was a black cougar.
 
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Hmmm, rubbery zippers to contend with. I never thought of that. Not much point in closures if they malfunction.
We went to an International Women's soccer game yesterday in the big city; a tune up game in preparation for this summer's World Cup. Canada vs Mexico. Great game seen from up in the nosebleed section, although the stair climb before the game was a workout I was determined not to repeat. But of course I had to. Whilst in the men's room the all important button on my slacks my wife had thoughtfully resewn earlier in the day for me let loose and rolled across the floor. I will never pick anything up off the floor within a country mile of a urinal, unless it has a really really really important Prime Minister or President on it, but even then it's a disturbingly yucky thought. I left the button right where it lay. Having a trusty leather belt was a Godsend, but even that only just held things in a respectable position for that long climb up. One hand on my britches as I marched. And of course (yeah!!) our team scored not once, not twice, but thrice, meaning I jumped up and down with all the vim and vigour and patriotism I could muster...with one hand holding up my dignity. Gravity is a funny thing. Jumping up and down reinforced that, and so too did the jarring steps down down down at the end of the game from nosebleed level to field level. It never felt so good sitting down again for the long drive home.
Closures that work are a good thing.

I wouldn't doubt you for a second if you said you'd seen a big cat. They're out there somewhere.
Best wishes for the Allagash this summer!
 
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There is a pretty good difference in the size of panther vs fisher. I have seen a panther in Florida in Big Cypress albeit briefly and see fisher cats around home.. As a matter of fact last night...their screams will send you under the bed.
But you never know. My nearsighted neighbor saw a new dog in her yard. She thought it was a Newfie. On closer too close inspection it was a Blackie . Ursus.. Small confused adolescent.
 
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Nice write up and the pics with the captions where an added bonus. Thanks for map too. I agree, a slower trip to explore those lakes sounds good.
 
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Nice write up and the pics with the captions where an added bonus. Thanks for map too. I agree, a slower trip to explore those lakes sounds good.

Thanks Robin! Appreciate the kind words. Had a great time. Next time I will give myself a couple more days of exploratory options for sure. What is most disheartening is the fact that the trip is over and I am back to the daily work grind.
 
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..... What is most disheartening is the fact that the trip is over and I am back to the daily work grind.

Yea, that happens. Looking forward to hearing about your Allagash trip in June with your dad and family. Lots of us here would probably love a trip with our Dads.
 
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Yea, that happens. Looking forward to hearing about your Allagash trip in June with your dad and family. Lots of us here would probably love a trip with our Dads.

I will be sure to write up a report. With a daughter heading off to college and the other daughter becoming a senior I feel I am running out of time with them and I know for sure that my Dad will cherish this trip as much if not more than I. I feel I am sharing something bigger than all of us when we take time for these trips. Not sure when I will ever get the kids and my father together again inclusively so it will be a special trip for sure. Trust me Robin, I will always remember this upcoming trip with my Dad. Fortunately I have my son at home for a couple more years before he heads off so the mind is constantly at work to coordinate some great trips with him.
 
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