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GRAND LAKE SEBOEIS is probably the most beautiful lake I have ever visited. We paddled the Wadleigh Deadwater against a strong headwind. A saw a moose grazing the bottom up to his neck. When he saw me, he grunted and took off into the scrubby cedars. All around me, it felt like I was on top of the watershed. It was pretty neat.
On the 18th, we had entered the lake against a real strong wind. The waves jostled my boat side to side as we crossed to a small hunting camp. We turned downwind and headed to the first campsite we came to. Don had described this campsite on an island in the narrows. A couple of sport's boats trolled by, but otherwise the lake was ours.
After cooking dinner over a cedarwood fire, we took one boat and paddled tandem up the lake. We flew. It was then that I realized how strong we seemed to be getting. Hefting portage packs and canoes was getting a lot easier.
I had been chafing for a solo overnight all along on this trip. I had dreamed up elaborate plans for safety checks on the rivers, but the right night never seemed to present itself. This evening, on a remote lake, and no obvious hazards, we finally hatched a plan for Matty's Solo. JS opted to hang out at the camp the next day while I got up and moseyed on down to a campsite near the outlet of the lake. The two sites were almost, but not quite, within sight of each other. He would catch up the following day around noon and we would continue.
I struck out on the 19th. Heading south, with a light breeze at my back, I set sail and cruised at a lazy clip. I hadn't ordered topo maps for this section, so was forced to rely on the Delorme Atlas for navigating. Their "campsite" symbol occupied the entire half-mile long peninsula that contained my destination. So I sailed along and covered the whole west shoreline before I ran out of peninsula and had to drop sail and paddle back. This section was full of huge boulders lurking just below the surface. I was glad to have a leeboard that could swivel up when I hit a rock. I was anxious to find the site and hoped dearly that it wasn't occupied. I found it soon enough, right at the tip of the peninsula, having passed within a few hundred yards of it the first time.
From the water, it was just a long narrow pile of rocks jutting out into the lake and a path into the woods. I was disappointed that I wouldn't be able to see the water from camp. I pulled in and began to unload. A fifty foot walk in led me to a sprawling site with a picnic table, huge stone fire ring, comfortable chairs hewn from trees and a supply of cut, split logs. There was also a trash barrel, it's contents spread across the whole camp by the local squirrels. Two folding chairs, one of which was destroyed.
Having carried all my gear in, I began setting up the tent. It was a hot, dry day and I soon found myself enjoying the camp chores in naught but my river shorts and sandals. I picked up the trash, paper goods by the fire, and put the rest back in the can. I took the smallest of logs and a few pieces of birch bark from the supply, but foraged my own for the rest, as most of that wood was too large for intended cowboy fire. I couldn't fathom why there were no bugs, but was grateful.
It was beautiful day for washing and swimming, so I gathered up all my dirty laundry and washed it in Doctor Bronner's. A few trips back from the lake with the bucket and they were clean and fresh. Now it was my turn. I started the stove and warmed up some wash water. I got out the medicated shampoo and started with my hair. I had given up trying to shave my face, but I managed to shave my neck and let the rest grow. Clean and rinsed, it was a good time to go for a swim, and wash my boat out too. I was a little wary of those sports in their boats, as they were pretty quiet with their trolling motors and I imagined a boat full of old ladies coming around the corner with me standing there buck naked.
I took the boat, sponge, and bailer and gave the old boat a good scrubbing inside and out. Rinsed off, I dragged it up on shore and left it to dry. Then I swam out into the lake. I floated on my back and watched the lazy clouds ripple in the afternoon sky. Just me and the universe.
I finished my swim and laughed at the cheap "camp towel" that I bought at Wal-Mart. I used a small cotton hand towel to dry off. I swept off the table with a fistful of branches, planned dinner, filtered water and assembled the kindling and tinder for the evening's fire. I looked at the paltry supply of booze and thought how I had to make it last all the way through the Seboeis Gorge and the East Branch of the Penobscot to Medway. "Hell with it!", I said, and declared it a holiday.
I set up the lawn chair, propped my leeboard across the arms, poured myself a generous drink and sat down to finish a sketch of good old Rudy Michalka before his image faded from my mind. In total comfort, I droned away in the afternoon sun, feeling good, clean, and at peace with the world. I made a mental note to myself: "Get out in the total wilderness, totally solo, a little more often."
I tried not to think about it, I wanted this afternoon to last, but finally my stomach won and insisted I do something about supper. When we parted, JS kept the grill and the coffee pot. I figured there would be some sort of grill at the site, and I was right. There was a variety to choose from. I picked a small one and set the rocks up so my little cooking fire was perched at the edge of the large bon-fire sized ring.
I picked freeze-dried wild rice and mushrooms for dinner, augmented with a few pieces of jerky. As the water heated, I found some pieces of dried inner bark from a birch tree, I broke them into small slabs and propped them against the sides of the fire. They concentrated the flames into a little blast furnace right against the center of the pot. The water boiled in no time and I was soon enjoying my meal down by the lake under the washed out afternoon light.
Still hungry, I remembered a friend named Rob Robertson made some pretty tasty stewed fruit from dried fare on one trip. I added dried apples, apricots and raisins to a little bit of water and heated it for a while. Then, to thicken the "broth", I added a couple of spoonfuls of lemonade mix and stirred. I dropped a handful of almonds at the last moment, just for kicks. Down at the lake again, I tried my concoction. Wow! Was that ever a taste sensation. That lemonade really made me pucker.
I sat and watched the last orange and purple ripples leave the clouds, listening to the loons and the silence. I marveled at the complete lack of bugs, as I was still in my skivvies. At last the cool invaded my being and my drink was empty so I walked the now-familiar path once again to the fireplace, where I dropped some kindling and a few big (two-inch) logs on the fire. I lit my candle lantern and set it on the table with all my white buckets and water bottles behind it to reflect the light. I discovered that one of the hewn chairs was positioned perfectly to sit and stare at the flames. What a day. Possibly the best I ever had.
I fed the nubs into the fire until the flames petered out. I nudged the coals into the fire ring. I blew out the flame from the candle lantern and was plunged immediately into black night. "I wonder where my flashlight is," I thought to myself. I rummaged around and found it, then crossed the twenty feet to my tent and crawled in. I fell asleep listening to the coyotes, wondering if I should be getting the willies.