Last Paddle of 2011

Greg Nolan

Last Sunday I took my final paddle of the season in our Old Town 15’ fifty-pounder. In the bow was Neal, who lives next door in Dover-Foxcroft, home for Thanksgiving from Norwich College in Vermont. An avid camper, climber, and paddler, he was nonetheless unfamiliar with nearby Onawa Lake, a small lake sitting between Borestone Mountain and Barren Mountain. Borestone Mtn. is an Audubon Society sanctuary; the part of the Appalachian Trail known as the 100-Mile Wilderness crosses Barren Mtn. The lake is fed by Long Pond Stream, a quiet meandering stream coming from the north, blocked by beaver dams and the odd dead fall. It is drained by another stream running south under Maine’s tallest railroad trestle, from which great views of the lake and both mountains may be had.

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So we decided to fill the gap in Neal’s knowledge of local paddling spots by putting in from the public boat landing at about 8 a.m., paddling a bit more than two miles up the lake to Long Pond Stream, and thence ways up the quiet stream. While we were proceeding up the lake, some water started leaking in the area just behind the bow seat, and after about twenty minutes I was wondering if a detour for a duct tape application would be needed, but the leak spontaneously stopped just before we reached the stream, into which we paddled for maybe a mile or a bit more. We turned back at the first blocking dead-fall, because the water was both low and cold. If it were warmer, we would have hopped out, got the canoe over or around, and continued. My wife Deborah and I have gone quite a bit further up, carrying around or over deadfalls and beaver dams, when the water was warmer. But at one point Sunday Neal and I detoured into a small, still backwater only to be surprised by a sudden crunching sound – we were slicing through ice about a quarter-inch thick that was covered with a thin film of water, quite invisible until broken by the canoe’s bow and our paddles.

We heard a loon call twice, but otherwise encountered no wildlife other than a jay, a robin, and a few indeterminate sparrows. Entering back into the river, we found that the wind had come up a bit. Though Onawa is small, the wind can be fierce on even a nice day – apparently the two mountains form something of a wind tunnel. But Sunday the wind stayed reasonable and we had no trouble with our return down the lake.

Still early in the day, after loading the canoe back on top of the car we drove a bit further up to the little settlement of Onawa, to walk the railroad trestle. The tracks are still in use, but a substantial walkway along the tracks makes it safe enough. After taking in the view, watching three loons swim about, and snapping a few pictures, we drove out to Monson for lunch at one of Maine’s real treasures, Spring Creek Bar-B-Cue.

So the OT fifty-pounder is back in the garage for the winter, keeping company with a w/c rowboat, a kayak, and five other canoes (most of which are restoration projects.) Maine winter is setting in, and when I get up there again at Christmas, the shell ice that surprised us on the stream will have grown several inches thick, and both I and the canoe will have to wait for ice-out in the spring.
Thanks for sharing a nice day out there in Maine...very enjoyable read and pictures.