As with my oldest son, when my youngest son turned 13 it was time to take Nate on a father/son kayak adventure on in Maine’s Allagash Wilderness Waterway. While Nate is more adventurous over than Chris, he’s not as much an outdoor lover like Chris. That, mixed with tall tales his brother had told him about the “horrors” of the trip had Nate not very excited.
Turns out, he had a right to be concerned about the trip. Unlike two years ago, when the water levels on the Allagash were high, this year it was miserable. The discharge level was less than 400 cubic feet per second, or below the 25th percentile. Place that Chris and I had faced whitewater, Nate I and were nearly dragging out boats. In fact, we had to get out countless times each day just to drag the boats through the shallow water, sometimes for 100 yards or so at a stretch.
We also faced really high headwinds on Long Lake. We were constantly getting pushed back and at one point it took us 10 miles of paddling to travel 8 river (lake) miles.
But Nate did great, only complaining the first day as he was getting the hang of the most efficient way to paddle. I could tell he was discouraged on Long Lake (I was too) but he didn’t give up and kept pushing forward even when it was hard. I have never been more proud!
The first morning waking up on the Allagash, I woke up to sounds outside the tent and sat up to see a giant moose 10 feet away. I tried to get my camera and wake up Nate at the same time but she ran away before I could snap a pic and before he was aware. We saw another moose eating in the river on our last night while we were taking a bath. We also caught a beautiful 8-inch river trout, but sadly we had already eaten dinner so he lived another day. We also saw a bald eagle sitting in an Elm tree at the entrance to Round Pond.
Even in the moving water, we were only managing to travel a couple miles per hour, when the current is typically 2.5 mph or more without even paddling. When we got to the Michaud Farm Ranger Station a couple miles upriver from the waterfall we asked the ranger what it was like down river. His response was “more of the same and worse.” We decided that wisdom was the better part of valor and had him call our transportation at Pelletier’s Campground (sidenote: do NOT use any Allagash transportation service other than Norman at Pelletier’s! He’s been doing it for decades and is absolutely wonderful! You can also stay at the campground before or after the trip.)
I struggled with whether I was making the right call in cutting it quits after only 43 miles but in the end I know we made the right choice. Nate said he was ok with it (he may have been relieved) but it would have taken us two more HARD days on the water. I do feel bad that he never got to see the falls but I hope someday the three of us can go back and do it together. Who knows, maybe even Suzy will come.