Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Canoeing in Baxter State Park

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.


tina said...

What a lovely camping trip. Happy Birthday to your 'boy'! My boy turns 18 this weekend! Where does time go?

A Cuban In London said...

That blue from both the sky and the water is so intense that it's almost unreal. The last photo is such a beauty that at first I thought it was one of your paintings. Many thanks. I'm pleased you had such a wonderful camping trip.

Greetings from London.

helen said...

What a beautiful place.

Anonymous said...

Sarah, I wish you to keep inside that golden light as long as possible! :)

The canoe trip must have been great, your photos and especially the mini-island in the first picture look invitingly. Did you have your own canoe or a borrowed one?
And it's interesting to see the bug net, were you also using any insect repellent?

SG said...

The pictures tell the story of what a wonderful trip you've had! Every time I visit some place like this, or read about someone's trip, I'm time and again fascinated by the beauty of nature. Yeah, that golden light withing is almost a divine feeling!

Anil P said...

Beautiful pictures. There's something about lakes surrounded by mountains that Sea cannot quite match.

6 weeks paddling and poling up the Allagash and Penobscot rivers, following Thoreau's journey to Baxter is very interesting. Adventurous of him. Did he keep a diary of the entire duration? Would make for very interesting reading if he did.

David Cranmer said...

We sure do live in some beautiful country, Sarah.

troutbirder said...

Oh my. What a wonderful post, Sarah. It brought back fond memories of my time canoeing the BWCAW (Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness) in the Arrowhead region of northeastern Minn with my two teenage sons...:)

Les said...

My kind of trip, except for having to deal with the insects. $1 per hour is a steal!

Rose said...

I am in awe of the beautiful scenery in your state, Sarah. And everything looks so pristine and unspoiled; you must have had the feeling that you had this wilderness all to yourself. What a wonderful experience you must have had, especially sharing it with your son! As he goes off to school, the two of you will have very special memories of this time you shared.

Jacoba said...

In a cano there is this silence and you are so close to the water and nature. Wonderful post, I so enjoy seeing all your pictures.

Donna said...

How beautiful. Canoeing is one of my favorite physical activities. I'd love to go canoeing on that lake. Your pictures (as always) are so nice to look at!