Most people come to Baxter State Park in Maine to hike, but it's also a really nice place to canoe. The park service rents canoes for $1 an hour. My son and I had this mini-island all to ourselves for a picnic. For dessert there were wild blueberries.
Matagamon Lake was dotted with islands and ringed by mountains. The large scale was impossible to capture with a camera. We paddled for three hours and spotted only a couple of canoes and no power boats or houses. We kept company with loons and a bald eagle.
My son once spent 6 weeks paddling and poling (when you stand and push off the riverbed with a pole, like punting) up the Allagash and Penobscot rivers, following Thoreau's journey to Baxter. He did this trip through Chewonki Wilderness Experiences two years ago. Back at Baxter with me this July, he was my stern-man and guide. In a reversal of roles, I felt safe in his care. My "boy" just turned eighteen and is no longer a minor!
We paddled for an hour and a half looking for an island with low banks, where it would be easy to come ashore. After lunch we headed back before the afternoon winds got too strong.
Even with a map, we missed the turnoff to Trout Brook but found it soon enough. The banks somehow reminded me of the Thames in England, only wilder and buggier. My son guessed that camping at Trout Brook Farm wouldn't be too pleasant. Bug nets were necessary even at midday, although the lake downstream wasn't buggy at all.
Our campsite was at a smaller pond, South Branch, nestled in the mountains.
Another easy trail led to a waterfall.
We camped in a lean-to in case it rained, but the only time it did during our 5 days at Baxter was driving 2 1/2 hours between campsites.
We came prepared in mid July for bugs. The black flies were especially bad in the evenings. They breed in slow moving water, like the the stream feeding South Branch Pond. A smoky campfire kept them it bay and our bug nets made for better sleeping.
We also shared our campsite with nesting Merlins, a fish-hunting falcon. On our last day, the fledglings decided to take their first wobbly flight. The ranger was very excited when we showed him the nest. I'm sure the Merlins chose our campsite for the spectacular view. It was a lovely place to swim and wash away the grime of camping. We couldn't use soap as this was our drinking water too. Every day we pumped or boiled many pints.
There were canoes to rent at South Pond too. The placid, small pond would be ideal for inexperienced paddlers and young children. I relaxed in my camp chair, watching the wind ripple the the reflection. The golden light still glows inside me.