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 15

27.0 miles
(inc. 18.9 shuttle)

Sunday 4th June

Stratton ME - Rangeley Lake State Park


Day 15 route on Google Earth imagery

Although awake at 5:00 am, as had now been my norm for some time, I dozed and stretched in bed until around 7:00 before taking another hot shower to ease some stiffness in my shoulders. The microwave was called into action to boil water for tea, tea and more tea. All my gear seemed to have dried, so I repacked, being interrupted briefly by housekeeping, who thought I had already left (probably informed by my early departure two mornings previously). Fortunately I was wearing enough clothing to be less than shocking.

I wouldn't be leaving before arranging for a shuttle to Rangeley. My experience on the North Branch of the Dead River told me that there would be far too little water in the South Branch to ascend. Five years previously I had valiantly attempted this ascent, and then bailed out to carry along the road, ultimately reaching Rangeley with only a few miles of paddling. That day I carried for over 17 miles, a feat that I felt no need to repeat now. For the first time ever on one of my solo trips I would accept a ride. Checking the weather forecast for today, I learned that the high temperature would be in the 40s, maybe 50s (F), and that I could expect some showers. Accordingly I donned my thermal paddling shirt, a fleece, and added rain protection over the top.

At 9:00 am I vacated my room and began a vigil outside the White Wolf, waiting until 10:00 am when Ecopelagicon in Rangeley would open. I filled the time with stretching and with buying another cinnamon loaf, the first had been so good. I also helped the owner of the White Wolf to load some furniture into her car. As the clock turned 10, I called Ecopelagicon, and was given a number to call. It happened to be Linda, the former owner of the outdoor centre. She got back to me some minutes later, having pulled a few strings, and let me know she would be along in a little over an hour. True to her word, she pulled up soon after 11:00 am, and we loaded my canoe in the back of her truck. On the road to Rangeley we caught sight of the South Branch in a few places. The lack of any water to float even an unladen canoe confirmed that this was the right decision.

We unloaded at Rangeley and, under complete cloud cover and misting rain, I paddled out into day 15 at about midday. My route took me to the southeast corner with slight wind assistance. On my previous passages through Rangeley Lake I had stayed on the north shore, so this was now my quest to see some new parts of the lake. Turning to come along the southern shore, the wind was now from the side and strengthening. Occasionally the rain got heavier, but was never torrential. The temperature, however, never rose above the mid-forties (F). This was a shock to the system; two days earlier the high temperature had been 90 (F) while I ascended the North Branch.

Rangeley Lake ...

... less than perfect for sightseeing

It was about now that I started asking myself if this was a valuable use of my time, whether I really was enjoying this. And the answer came back fairly easily: no. Sightseeing in conditions of reduced visibility is somewhat pointless, and the uncomfortable cold made it miserable. I was merely going through the motions in order to prolong the trip to something near the planned length. The decision came easily: I would push on to complete the circuit, forget the sightseeing. Tomorrow I would go as far as Lower Richardson. Tuesday I would reach Pontook or below. And Wednesday, three days earlier than planned, I would complete the trip.

More immediately I needed to reach the State Park on the southern shore in order to find shelter. The waves were growing ever larger, and I could even surf some of them, one so well that the bow buried, spilling water into the canoe. In miserable conditions I eventually pulled in behind the log boom, which breaks the waves, and took out at the boat launch of the State Park. A canoe rack nearby was put to its intended use and, with my pack sheltered under the canoe, I set off to find the office to check in. This first attempt failed, and now there was a more urgent need: I had to find shelter in order to change into dry clothes and get warm.

Just up from the canoe dock was a permanent canvas tent on a platform. After checking that no-one was at home, I made it a staging post as well as a changing room, piling on as much warm clothing as I could muster. There was a pair of double bunk beds which looked inviting, also a wood-stove with a chimney through the roof, but I was reluctant to make myself that much at home. With warm clothing on the outside and some food on the inside, my body temperature began to recover, so I went in search of the office once more, this time successfully. On asking about tent sites with trees for hanging hammocks, the receptionist told me that hammocks were not permitted – it was a ruling imposed from above. It was also a problem as I had no alternative. The problem, however, presented an opportunity. I mentioned that I had already made use of the tent for changing, and would it be possible to sleep there? Since the tent was owned by a private company, and I should have made a booking online well in advance, she consulted her manager, who, in a most humane gesture, agreed to bend the rules.

Home, sweet home ...

.. in a mercifully protective tent

Much relieved I paid the park fee, returned to the tent, collected some lake water to filter, and started to heat water for hot chocolate and a meal. Shortly after, Scott, the manager, came to see me. I suspect he thought I was some idiot who had just crossed the lake in a canoe with no clue about open water conditions, but my description of this trip set his mind at ease. A canoeist himself, he recognised a kindred spirit. He also mentioned the showers in the camping area away to the north, which was mighty fine to hear.

Dinner was at 4:30 pm, after which I was still cold, so I climbed, fully clothed, into my sleeping bag with underquilt on top, and fell asleep. When I awoke I knew true warmth and had to shed some layers. Around 7:30 I went for a hot shower, and then returned to heat more water for tea. Some Baltimore orioles had been singing beautifully, and a loon joined the chorus, yodelling in three registers. The wind was now less strong, but still blowing up waves which were crashing on the rocky shore.


Website design & Photography © Peter Macfarlane

Tomorrow Top of page