Seven of us navigating in four canoes and an expedition kayak were camped adjacent to the remains of washed out Long Lake Dam on the Allagash River. We were on day three of a five-day voyage down remote Ross Stream and the Allagash Waterway. The descent of Ross Stream was finished the previous afternoon and about 45 miles remained to Allagash Village.
After a cool night, the sun was shining when we arose. Our goal for the day was to reach Round Pond and possibly climb Round Pond Mountain. For some of us, the entertainment began with a plummet through the short steep rapid created by the former dam.
A welcome tailwind and high water facilitated our travel north through a continuum of easy rapids in a seemingly endless conifer forest. After turning abruptly east, waters calmed as we approached Round Pond. Solo canoeist Brent Elwell stopped to gather fiddleheads while the remainder of the group navigated varying routes through a cluster of islands to the pond.
Round Pond Mountain could be observed on the opposite side of the pond. We consulted maps and took a compass bearing to a clearing on the shore below the mountain before battling a blustery 1-mile traverse to what turned out to be Tower Trail Campsite.
After establishing camp, we hiked an obvious trail northeast toward Round Pond Mountain. Although a couple of muddy areas and a few blowdowns were encountered, overall the 2-mile trail was in good condition. A steep section preceded arrival at the summit dominated by a lofty tower. “Climb at your own risk,” warned a sign on the stanchion next to a tall ladder. I invoked one of my over-70 rules — I don’t climb tall ladders. The remainder of the group ascended into the cab that offered spectacular views of the surrounding area. Upon return, we feasted on a dinner supplemented by delicious fiddleheads, courtesy of Brent.
Gale force winds diminished overnight and day four began with blue skies and calm conditions. We decided on a long paddling day to Allagash Falls. After exiting the pond, lengthy Round Pond Rips led to Musquacook Dead Water where a curious young moose posed for photos near the mouth of Musquacook Stream. A tailwind helped propel us to Five Finger Brook Campsite where we stopped for a break. Warm sunny weather and pleasant surroundings stimulated an impromptu yoga session.
Left to right, An impromptu yoga session occurs while taking a break at Five Finger Brook Campsite on the Allagash. Participants on an Allagash canoe trip climb Round Pond Mountain Fire Tower. A paddler takes a break to fish at the foot of Allagash Falls. Credit: Courtesy of Ron Chase
While advancing north in quick water and easy rapids, we encountered a ranger who instructed us to sign out of the waterway at Michard Farm Ranger Station. A steady current continued for several miles to Michaud Farm where everyone carefully studied the updated weather forecast. Rains were predicted to begin late afternoon and continue into the night. Intent on setting up camp before precipitation arrived we had an enhanced sense of urgency. The relatively short remaining paddle to Allagash Falls was hurriedly completed.
A caution sign announced our arrival at the hazardous cataract. While unloading gear, I met an old paddling friend, Andy Abello, who was assisting in the portage with his group. We complimented one another on remaining in the game despite our advancing years. The Maine paddling world is a small one.
There are several campsites at Allagash Falls. We selected the closest one and set up camp with tarps in anticipation of rain. The Allagash Falls portage trail is a good one. Boats were soon transported to the bottom. At my urging, my son Adam and our friend Christian Patrick carried a kayak cart in their tandem canoe to assist with the portage. While some marginal benefit was derived, overall it was a disappointment.
Left to right, A young moose poses for a photo on Musquacook Dead Water on the Allagash. A tandem canoe team paddles a section of the Allagash. Credit: Courtesy of Ron Chase
The magnificent falls provide a remarkable location to camp. Everyone in our group spent time at the falls savoring the spectacular beauty, contemplating paddling routes they’d never try, or fishing at the base. Fortuitously, the rain didn’t happen.
Our final day began with some surfing in a wave train below the falls. Another tailwind facilitated our 14-mile cruise to Allagash Village, completed in less than three hours. While unloading, we predictably discussed possible trips for next year.
Read about more tales of adventure on the Allagash and an expedition down the feisty Musquacook Stream tributary in my book “Maine Al Fresco: The Fifty Finest Outdoor Adventures in Maine.”