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June 12

Campsite on the Upper Fish River

"It was a soothing sound, the gentle pitter-pat of thousands of blackflies on the tent"



After crossing the rest of St. Froid against a slight headwind, we entered what we thought was the thorofare to Portage Lake. Instantly on entering, I knew this was rich in wildlife. Snipes chased crows across the marsh, pecking and calling their "loo-loo-loo". A deer faded into the brush. A muskrat glided past and dove. Four little ducklings peeped away in confusion as their mother flew off and acted hurt.

Herein lies one of the social dynamics that prevents me from viewing wildlife that I so desire. First I had to switch lenses on my camera if I was going to get any photos at all. So, I stopped for that and let JS cruise on ahead. Of course that means I'll have the camera all ready, and he'll see all the wildlife. Which is exactly how it happened. JS managed to take a snapshot of a cow moose with his compact camera. I took the lead at that point, with him close on my heels. I stopped, and he stopped. We had some lunch, and I started to write in my journal. Jumbo moved on, I wrote for a half hour to give the wildlife a chance to settle. I packed up and started upstream. There was Jumbo about 500 yards ahead, waiting for me. He had seen another moose. So giving him a large lead didn't seem to work. Determined to see a moose, I poled like a demon to get ahead. JS took up the challenge and poled for all he was worth to keep up. After poling furiously for about two hours, I managed a decent lead, but was poling so hard and clanking the aluminum pole so much that there was really scant chance of seeing anything. And JS, the poor bastard, tried like hell to keep the pace too, ending up pulling a muscle in his back. So in the end, it didn't work and I still don't see how to get some serious wilderness time while teamed up with other people. It just doesn't work.

Next day, JS says to me: "Why don't you go on ahead for a while and see if you can see a moose." What a jerk I'd been. I should have just said something. Anyway, it worked and soon enough I had a photo of a cow and her calf.


On the ride up the Fish, I saw many big grassy fields along Rte 11 and the banks of the river. According to Lee, these are old potato fields, where the farmers have sold their rights to grow crops to the government. What would happen to them was that they'd get deeper in debt every year until they couldn't afford to hang on to the land any more. The only option was to sell the rights to pay their debts. Lee said there used to be forty five potato farmers living along Rte 11 between Eagle Lake and Fort Kent when he was a kid. Now there are none. So who does grow potatoes? Big business.


After a grueling 5 miles, up the Fish River from St. Froid Lake, we arrived at a halfway point campsite. As is the way with maintained, grassy fields, the blackflies were horrible. Worst I've ever seen them. We set up the tents in a hurry and dove in. Like a wind day, it gives me time to write.