Peter Macfarlane's 2023 Solo Paddle of a Circuit of the Androscoggin, Kennebec and Dead Rivers
in a Cedar-Strip Canoe by Otter Creek Smallcraft


Day 6

14.0 miles

Tuesday 23rd May

South Gardiner ME - Augusta ME


Day 6 route on Google Earth imagery

When I peeked out of the hammock at 4:00 am, the river was glassy smooth. As I arose a little over an hour later it was riffled, and proceeded to get ever more so. Today promised to be into the wind and against the current.

Setting off at about 7:00 am I hugged the right bank, river-left, aiming for the Arnold Museum at Colburn House. This was where Reuben Colburn provided the ill-fated bateaux for the expedition. An hour later I was near where it should be, but discovered that there was no public access to it from the river, the whole bank being lined with private property. Arnold himself did not suffer such inconveniences, and had stayed in Colburn House for a few days. His inconveniences were different in both detail and degree. Unable to fulfill this part of my plan, I pushed on to Gardiner, where I was due to meet Paul and Sharon, friends of Ray and Hildy. They had offered to pick me up, let me use the shower and do some laundry.

In the shade of the morning sun

Beachball, even when I don't need it!

Arriving at the boat launch in Gardiner at 8:30 am, I sat waiting in the cold north wind for half an hour before I deemed it an acceptable time to call. Paul assured me that their day had started much earlier, probably something like mine, and he immediately set out to pick me up. Having loaded my canoe into his truck, we travelled the 7 miles or so to their home in West Gardiner. There I showered, laundered most of my used clothes, was fed copious tea and lunch, and I visited Paul's workshop. He and Sharon are fine builders of wooden boats, having a company name of LaBrie Small Craft. Pleasant though the visit was, by about 1:00 pm I was beginning to itch to be back on the river, so Paul drove me back to the Gardiner boat launch, and snapped a few photos as I set off once more, clean, refreshed, under bright sun once more, and, of course, still into the wind.

Setting off from Gardiner
(Photo: Paul LaBrie)

Setting off from Gardiner
(Photo: Paul LaBrie)

My route took me north through Hallowell, the Kennebec valley still resplendent in its spring greens, and more eagles flying overhead. At one point I could see three simultaneously. I caught up with a kayaker, an elderly gentleman on his way home. He was about to take a break on an island, so our conversation was cut short. I peeled away around the island and used the boom piers above it to slingshot my way upstream, using the eddy at each one as the launching point to tackle the next piece of fast current. There was a bakery in Hallowell, but my cravings had been satisfied by a couple of servings of rhubarb and strawberry pie.

Viles Arboretum, Augusta

The current opposing me

Before long I was in the outskirts of Augusta, the capital of Maine, the Viles Arboretum adorning the east bank. I couldn't help but think that there must be abundant places to hang a hammock there, but maybe that would be frowned upon. I passed under Memorial Bridge and another, and then was on my way out of town. The next obstacle was the old dam. This had been removed, allowing fish, including sturgeon, to navigate farther upstream, and now only a few remnants were the sign that any structure had existed there. My route on river-left brought me to some shallows, where my poles came into use, and then to some rapid flow which was too deep for poles and too fast to paddle against. My only option was to get out on a small island and to track the canoe upstream. My expertise at tracking, manoeuvring the canoe upstream by means of bow and stern lines, is limited, but this attempt was, if not pretty, at least successful. I re-entered the canoe and continued to paddle and pole as water depth dictated.

Entering Augusta

Leaving Augusta

The former dam at Augusta

Remnants of log drives

The camping options were beginning to look rather grim, but just above the Augusta by-pass bridge I found an easy take-out, some open ledge a little way up the bank and some mature trees above that. A disused railway along the top of the bluff suggested that I would not be disturbed, other than by the traffic on the bridge, so I hung my hammock in the trees, then returned to the ledge to sit in the evening sun and make dinner on the wood-stove. A visit from a scarlet tanager, close enough for me to recognise it despite my red-green colour deficiency, was a highlight of the evening, together with a quick call to Viveka, before traipsing up the hill to my arboreal abode.

From my camp-site

Living on the ledge

Swinging from the trees

The staff of life


Website design & Photography © Peter Macfarlane

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