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June 15

Up the Aroostook to Masardis

Potato Country


John Robertson
John worked the last log drive down the St. John. It was 1969. His job was to blast the log jams. According to John, the huge pine logs floated low in the water and were the first to hang up. He would tape a stick of dynamite to an alder branch. He'd run up to the jam in a boat, stuff the dynamite in there, light the fuse, and get the hell out. Sounds like a good job.

Well, I woke up, though it was 6. Wanted to get an early start to beat the wind, but this south wind just blew all night and it probably won't make a plug of difference when we leave. Looking forward to about 30 miles of upstream on the Aroostook, before we go upstream some more to the Penobscot Watershed. We'll need to get our last share of provisions in Oxbow, before we dive into the woods.

Jumbo is not as enthusiastic about going upstream as I am. Amazing. As soon as I wrote that, JS came around the corner telling me he didn't like the idea of going 50 miles upstream. The river got much easier after we left town. Good for poling. Unfortunately, the wind turned to the west, keeps building and now it's 1:30 and we're wind bound on an island. Masardis is just around the bend.

The Aroostook gets smaller and meaner as you ascend it. So do the towns along the way. We didn't see much of Ashland, just the lodge where we camped in the yard. The guys we met were all mill workers and such. Sheldon Casey was interested enough to hang around while we set our tents up. We got to talking about local accents. I mentioned that each watershed divide brought a new local flavor. He said he could pick out what town a person was from, just hearing them talk. One time he was in the Chicago Airport on a layover when he saw a man in an armed forces uniform, back-to, at the airline counter. When he heard him talk, he came up behind him and said, "Now what the Heck is a Moosetowner doin' way out here?" (Moosetown is a local term for Allagash Village.) Sure enough, the guy turned around and was astounded that some one recognized him for that.

Sheldon Casey of Ashland bequeaths a pair of pigskin gloves to Matt.
Sheldon had fourteen days until he retired. After I blabbered about how great wet pigskin gloves are for poling, he went and fetched us each a new pair to finish our trip up the Aroostook. He said there's a big barrel of them at work, and every one could take as many as they wanted. What a nice fella.

We poled upstream from Ashland, and the current abated a bit, but the headwind was as strong as ever. Jumbo was Hell-bent on getting to Masardis for some reason, perhaps for a diner. After seven miles of slippery round rocks, strong current and ferocious headwind, we got out at Garfield Road and set up the portage carts. We wheeled three miles along the shoulder into town. We found no diner, a closed general store, and a ghost town. We parked the boats at a small put-in on St. Croix Stream and walked a couple more miles looking for the Ranger Station.


We were stumped as to where to camp. The only person who didn't run indoors and hide was a fellow named Don Whipple. He had canoe for sale out in the yard and we felt a sliver of kinship. At his suggestion, we camped a little further down from the put-in on the St. Croix Stream, next to a broken down picnic table, overgrown with grass. He said nobody would care.