|Machias River, Maine|
All winter long we looked forward to running the length of the Machias River in downeast Maine, that is, Scooter, Hal and I, on the third week in May. And all April and most of May we agonized about the water levels. It was one of the drier springs on record, and not a single shower had graced Maine for nearly a month. We were psyched to see each other after a long two years since we last got out on a river together, and we were going no matter what. So we rendez-vooed in Machias-by-the-sea, and drove the forty or fifty so miles to the put-in.
The stream up to First Machias Lake was narrow, deep and level,due to beaver dams holding back water. We used our poles in the narrow stream.
We had a pleasant five-mile paddle upstream in easy water to First Machias Lake, and camped on a sandy beach on First Machias Lake. We relaxed for the first afternoon, catching up on old times and new.
This young moose had no idea we might pose a danger.
The upper stretch of the Machias river is a beadwork of five consecutive lakes, some small, others quite long and many-bayed. The connecting river stretches are not that wide, at least they seemed quite narrow, especially since the rocks were poking up just about everywhere.
The ledge drops were rocky, but there was just enough water to scrape down, at least the first day.
Scooter guided our boats over this stream-wide snag.
Scooter and Hal had an easier time than I did, they prefer to snub downstream, standing up and picking a narrow path through the bony rock gardens with their 12-foot aluminum poles.
My wooden pole was only eight feet long, and I sat mostly in my seat to push my way downstream. It got so shallow I left my paddle in the boat, as there just wasn't enough deep water to grab with my blade.
We attempted to raise the water level by opening a beaver dam, but there were so many and it was such work we abandoned this tactic after the first day.
We enjoyed a sunny day on Third Lake, and Hal sketched and doodled in the sunset's soft light.
Third Lake has several deep bays and the outlet is not easy to find.
We enjoyed perfect weather our first two days on the Machias. Then three days of wind and rain.
It took us five days to work our way down through the lakes connected with bony rock-choked boulder gardens, including one day waiting out a rainy and blustery nor-easter on Third lake.
By the time we got to the first bridge marking the half-way point of our trip, we were out of most of our food, water, dry clothes and other provisions, and the river was only getting lower and stonier. Just one rainy day before we went and we could have floated over so many rocks.
There was only one way out ... a twenty-mile hike back to our car. I volunteered to make the trek, while Scooter and Hal packed all our gear for the return trip to Machias town.
Fortunately, the rain had stopped, and the road was level and dry. I must have gone about a couple of hours, up and down hill, when a U.S. Forest Service truck, coming from the other direction, stopped and offered me a lift back the rest of the way to my car.
What a good guy he was. Goodness, I might have spent several more hours trudging along, if he hadn't shown up. We chatted amiably, sharing river stories and woods lore, until he dropped me off beside my car. I thanked him sincerely, and promised to pay it forward someday myself. Thank goodness for the good old boys!
Mitchell shares pics, and video, of his spring 2014 run on the lower Machias.
On the Machias River
the snag stands lonely in the marsh
and dreams of seasons he has seen
of countless winters long and harsh
and summers sunlit and serene.
once he gleamed in Lincoln green
spread his branches high and wide
graced the banks of the alder stream
tall and proud on the riverside
now his boughs are bleak and bleached
his flanks all draped in old man's beard
where once his strong arms skyward reached
a shriveled splinter has appeared
then Hal walked out onto the shore
“are you writing a poem Nanook?”
this poem was lost forevermore
thanks a lot, ya paddlin' schnook!
Nanook of the Nashwaak
Reach out and touch a rock
Hal says,"Well, it coulda been worse. That poem might have gone on for another dozen stanzas."
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