On the first weekend of September 2013 I had the good fortune of being invited on a camping/paddle trip with some friends. Some friends I knew, and some friends I would get to know better, which is always a good thing. We were to meet at Umbagog Lake State Park by noon on Thursday so we could load our gear on the state owned pontoon boat which would ferry our gear to and from the remote campsite at the far northeast corner of the lake. I was thankful for this service as the water was quite choppy, the wind cold and steady as we loaded enough gear for us to survive at least until the lake froze in early winter and we could snowshoe back to our cars. The sky was as beautiful, full to the brim with fluffy clouds, and the lake as deep blue as I have ever seen, a truly magnificent day in the wonderful Great North Woods of New Hampshire.
Ten and a half miles northeast of our starting point on the southern tip of Umbagog we fought the wind, waves and drifting of the boat as we unloaded the same gear we had finished with a half hour or so ago, this was getting monotonous. There is no way we could have brought all that gear that far on our own, thereby making for an extremely comfortable weekend despite the wind and low temps, so everyone did their job helping and there was soon a camp set up which would have served twice as many people with ease. The site was big enough to accommodate twice as many people as well, so there was plenty of room for our tents and a large central kitchen are near the fire pit. A steady northwest wind came directly in off the lake on the northwest point of the peninsula where we re set up and kept things mighty chilly, but we were able to retreat to the southeast side of the campsite where the sun shone hot and the wind couldn't reach us, it was like two different climate zones.
Thursday night the stars were as bright as I have ever sen them, and I was told the temperatures had dropped into the low thirties, but I never felt cold or saw my breath. For supper that night I had brought chicken and we grilled it for Caesar Wraps. I had brought enough for several more people. It fed the four of us that night, and then the six of us for lunch Saturday afternoon. Next morning Mtn. Pa and I went out for a paddle just after sunrise on the still glass lake as the fog lifted. There is nothing quite like the sublime serenity of floating on water in such a scene, listening to the waking birds. In a tree to my right was an unfamiliar call and I paddled closer to see if I could get a look. As he called again I was sure I was under the correct tree, but try as I may, I could not spot who was making the call. When I finally gave up and began to paddle upstream he flew out over my head, a juvenile Bald Eagle. I managed just one shot of his tail feathers as he flew straight into the sun.
That afternoon two more campers arrived. With less gear they had paddled across the lake from where the Magalloway River empties into the lake and the Androscoggin departs. For supper we again had chicken, this time Buffalo Chicken on cheese rolls from a local bakery with spinach and bleu cheese, and a corn/avacado and tomato salad, delicious. I get used to this roughing it! That evening we watched the sun set as the wind died down. Mtn. Pa had brought along his flag and pole to practice for the upcoming http://www.flagsonthe48.org/
It was set up on the northwest tip of the peninsula where it got plenty of lift over the weekend. After sunset we were able to have a larger fire, this time in the iron ring fire pit near the kitchen. At night I entertained myself by finishing up a book Jen had lent me called "Halfway to Heaven" a pretty hilarious account of an old fat guy like me taking on the Colorado Fourteeners in one summer, I could relate to most of the challenges he faced, except the actual mountain climbing. Mountains I have climbed do not rival the Fourteeners, at least that is what I am told...
Saturday morning Pa and I went out agin, this time beating the sunrise, though there was less fog and warmer temps then the day before. We paddled upstream on the Rapid River as we had done the day before. I wanted to show Pa what I had discovered a little further up the river, an island for sale. There was an old dock and we pulled in. There were no structures on the island, but plenty of paths and a few open spaces suitable for camping. As we left the island and continued upstream to circumnavigate this awesome little spot on the map, we came upon a cow moose grazing at the far eastern end of the island. She occasionally glanced our way as we floated at a respectable distance. I shot about one hundred and fifty frames as she went about having her breakfast. As we waited and watched the sun came out from behind a cloud and bathed her in a brilliant light, truly a beauty to behold. Mike took video as I paddled around taking shots form different angles. By the time we returned to camp I felt as though I had already had a full day. The girls made a breakfast fit for the King's Court.
As Saturday afternoon approached we made up the rest of the Caesar Wraps and we all headed upstream, stopping again so everyone could get a tour of the newly named "Talbot Island", as I had promised them if it were within my means I would be buying it. Well, it isn't and I won't be, but it was fun to dream for awhile. We paddled further upstream past where Pa and I had watched Mrs. Moose have breakfast, apparently she was full and had gone off to a shady spot for a nap. We stopped further upstream and had lunch on a ledge in the sun as the rapids that give the river its name splashed past us. we had a nice little walk along the river, a good lunch, and another great paddle. That evening we watched sunset again and went about cooking up lots of things, Mojito Lime Shrimp, delicious marinated pork loin, chicken sausage, and of course lots of beer. Glad we were roughing it! The first two nights had been moonless and the stars were tremendous, but this night had clouded up, we stayed late by the fire, and as they had done each night the loons cackled and called out on the lake.
A gentle rain fell at dawn, slowly increasing and decreasing. When it seemed to stop I began gathering all my things in the tent and packing them away. Clothes, sleeping bags, headlamps, odds and ends, all packed away in water-tight bags. Sleeping pad, sleeping bag and tent in another waterproof bag. After coffee and a light breakfast we each set about gathering our things and helping pack up the community gear such as the easy up, grills, coolers, chairs and so on. I was again amazed at the amount of stuff we had roughed it with. On the return trip Pa and Jen paddled back across the lake to retrieve cars while the rest of us stayed behind to load and unload the pontoon boat when it picked us up and brought us back. When we were all together agin and each car loaded with each campers gear, we headed into town for one last, quite excellent meal together before making the long drive home. Hey, anytime you guys want to rough it on a remote campsite again, be sure to let me know!