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 12

11.9 miles

Thursday 1st June

Hurricane Island, Flagstaff Lake - Stratton ME


Day 12 route on Google Earth imagery

The mosquito trapped in my underquilt was a significant irritation all night, whining a very short distance from my ears. I also had to exterminate those which entered my hammock as I went to bed, together with another as I rinsed my toothbrush, having forgotten to clean my teeth before going to bed. I was up soon after 5:30 am, keeping quiet so as not to disturb Bobby in the neighbouring camp-site, but he, too, was shortly up and about. Breakfast was accompanied by mosquitoes.

Camp on Hurricane Island

Calm Flagstaff Lake and the Bigelow Range

I was beginning to rue my gentle start to the day; the wind, forecast to be 3 mph from the east-southeast was in fact a 5-10 mph westerly. Bobby would have a flying start to his day, heading for Long Falls Dam and the Dead River beyond. It was 7:00 am when I bid farewell to Bobby and headed west under another cloudless sky, the sun already strong. The wind kept up its annoyance, not strong, but enough to kill some of the glide of the canoe. It was about now that I realised the enormity of Flagstaff Lake, picking out the headlands along the southern shore which served as waypoints. There were some long expanses to cross. Last time I was here I was so focussed on riding the oncoming waves and battling the ferocious headwind that I did not appreciate this perspective.

Headwind becoming apparent

The Bigelow Range

At long last the Bigelow mountains were behind me, and I could round a corner to head west then southwest. I was feeling weak from yesterday's exertions on the Great Carry, unable to generate the flow in the canoe's movement that I so enjoy, and that was without the effect of the wind. At least now I was occasionally risking bending my legs, even kneeling some of the time, without immediate thigh cramp, but remained alert for the slightest hint which would require straightening of the legs. Closing on Stratton I noted the way into the North Branch of the Dead River, my route for tomorrow. I also attempted to rescue a dragonfly from the surface of the water, my only request in return being that, if it survived, it should eat many mosquitoes. But one wing and the abdomen were damaged. I later deposited it on a log in the sun, but held out little hope.

First (and only) moose sighting

Western Flagstaff Lake

It was now truly hot, and I was wilting as I pulled into the landing just ahead of 11:00 am. I summoned the energy to carry up to the motel, only to see a sign: ‘Closed for renovations’. Next door at the White Wolf Inn, the sign merely said ‘Closed’. Someone working at the motel assured me that it was operational and provided a phone number. I opted, though to call the White Wolf, and established that they would open at midday, about half an hour from now. It would be good to return here after 10 years, my previous visit being during my first NFCT through-paddle. Now confident that I would be able to charge up my phone, I opened it up, connected to data and let through the stream of pent up Gaia waypoints, as well as culling a few days' email, keeping the relevant for later perusal.

When the White Wolf opened I walked in to the strains of bagpipe music – a good omen – and was soon ensconced in my room with air-conditioning and a hot shower. For a while I lazed and stretched on the bed, but then went out to seek food: some sweet cinnamon bread, some salty snacks and a very disappointing apple (I should have known that Granny Smiths do not normally grow to that size). Then I returned to assess my trip options.

Natanis Campground, at the head of the North Branch of the Dead River and Chain of Ponds which feeds it, lay about 26 miles distant, so one long day might get me there. Otherwise camping near there and finishing on Sunday, together with the return trip to the border, might work. I also phoned Ecopelagicon, the outfitter in Rangeley, to check that they would be able to arrange for a shuttle from Stratton to Rangeley if the South Branch of the Dead River should prove to have too little water. A gentle walk a little later along Route 27 brought me to the Dead River Area Historical Society building. In front of this was a reconstruction of a bateau of the type used by Arnold's expedition, and of a type that I was glad not to have to carry. The figure of the person poling seemed rather small, causing me to question whether the whole reconstruction was scaled down, but nothing in the information would confirm this. I could not imagine fitting ten men in such a boat, especially with barrels of food, gunpowder, shot, axes, muskets and more.

Beside the Stratton Motel

Bateau reconstruction

A shower sprinkled, and the clouds suggested more to come, so I retreated to my room and caught up with email while charging camera batteries, phone and Waka Waka. If the sun was deserting me, my means of charging up the phone might soon disappear. There again, I suspected I would have no mobile signal up the North Branch, so would have little need for the phone. I enjoyed the luxury of dinner in the White Wolf's dining room. As I was finishing, Russ, a former manager of various hydro-electric projects, including some of the dams on the Kennebec that I had passed by, came over to chat – my earlier conversation with some of the staff had intrigued him. At the one table we had two very different perspectives of the dams, one who was invested in their utility, and was obliged to provide alternative pathways for travellers, and one who found the dams an inconvenience, and was glad of the provisions for travellers (or would be if they truly existed).

By 9:00 pm my body clock was turning down the lights in preparation for snuffing them out. It was still muggy, so I left the AC running into the night, a luxury that a hammock does not afford.


Website design & Photography © Peter Macfarlane

Tomorrow Top of page