Canoe Adventures

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Up the Mattawamkeag
An early Poling Adventure
by: Matt Hopkinson

One day, a few years, ago, me and JS dreamed up a couple of characters, whom we named Scooter and Hal. It didn't take long before Scooter began to take on many characteristics of JS and Hal began to act more and more like Matt. Following is the on-going adventure:

Once upon a time, a wicked long time ago, and way far out in outer space, there was a shimmer and a spark from the Oort Cloud, that age-old birthplace of stars. From it's bowels emitted a rank and sulfurous spray of hot gases and burning liquid. No one believed at the time, that this chance occurrence would set off a curious and wholly unbelievable chain of circumstances that would lead to the formation of our solar system, our planet, and ultimately, Hal the Gullboy.

But there he was. Testament to happenstances beyond all odds. He stood in the fair breeze of a sunny spring afternoon, high upon a bluff, his paunch hiding the wasteband of his loincloth, so that it appeared as more of a bookmark than anything. Curious circumstances continued to unfold around him, as we shall see. Hal screwed up his face as he contemplated his ever-expanding bald spot as it crept forward to meet his high forehead, so that in between was formed a tuft of hair which he grew long and pasted down to the side, in semblance of a normal haircut (when viewed from the front).

The problem, he found, was that when he faced south, the fair west wind would lift this tuft into more of a tusk, a Peewee-esque rhino point jutting straight into the air. To alleviate this condition, he turned around and faced the other direction, where the wind could once again flatten his precious little lock. It was thus that Hal found himself facing north, contemplating his next encounter with the wilderness.

Many months and moons passed with Hal hunched over his guide book, maps from various sources hung from the walls with tape, poster-tack, and fridge magnets. Finally, he settled on a route: Start in Haynesville, Maine, go canoe-travelling for 4 days, and end in, well, Haynesville. Satisfied, he sat back, and he swore he heard harp music as the world around him shimmered and faded into a daydream....

It was Hal's turn at the wheel, and the wee hours of the morning found him pulling in to the boat launch in Haynesville Maine. "Hey, Scooter, wake up. We're here."

Scooter opened one eye, then cracked a wide grin. "I've been waiting for this moment!" By the last rays of the first quarter moon, they set up the tent and rolled out bags for a few hours of shut-eye. Before they turned in, though, they sauntered down to the put-in for a nightcap and a smoke. They peered up the East and West Branches of the Mattawamkeag River, and watched the oily black current pull past their feet. Too dark to start out this night. Not like other times, when the moon shone brightly, beckoning.

Their plan was to ascend the West Branch, with an easy 5 feet per mile rise, for 12 miles to Mattawamkeag Lake. Then they would cross that, Upper Mattawamkeag, and Portage over to Pleasant Lake. The portage would take them up another 100 feet in elevation, and the ride back down the East Branch would carry them through 18 miles of Class one and two water. All told, they planned to be out 4 days. A long weekend.

They dove into the tent, fairly certain that Saturday morning would bring out the fishermen to wake them somewhere around the 5:30 sunrise. Neither slept well, too much excitement in the air, combined with the cold, lumpy ground. Surprisingly, no one showed for first light. They rose, Scooter fired up the Almighty Coffee Pot, and Hal began to pack the tent away. Scattered horse tail clouds whipped by on a clearing wind that they hoped would last the trip.

While the coffee brewed, they pulled their canoes off the rack. "Coffee's ready!" noted Scooter, and they took a break from loading and sipped hot steaming mugfulls down by the river. "Man, oh man," said Scooter, "the river has got some current! You sure we can do this?"

"Well, we can give it one hell of a try!" said Hal, "And if we can't, we'll just float down to Skagrock and get lost in the swamps! Either way, It's gonna be fun." And with that, they turned back to the task of loading. In went the paddles, poles, bailers and sponges. Hal's bag was ready, tent packed and all. In went the food bucket and the portage cart. Scooter divvied the last of the coffee into the 2 mugs and put the pot away.

One smug look between them, and they pushed off, without a word.....


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