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June 26


"By 8AM, I was looking for shade."


After a short night's sleep on rough ground, we put in again, no coffee or breakfast. We began paddling by 6AM. An hour brought us to Cummings Island, where we had permission to camp from Ruth Jewell, one of the Penobscot Indians we met in April. A couple more miles brought us to Sugar Island, where Thoreau stopped on one of his journeys into the Maine woods. By 8AM, I was looking for shade. It was windless and the temperature rose to 94 degrees. The dead glossy calm reflected the gray haze. Muggy.

Still, there were eagles everywhere. Not much else moved that day, except maybe deerflies. We made our way between all the river islands, remarkably isolated for a place we expected to be heavily built.

We made it to the first dam in Old Town. In full view of the Old Town Canoe Works, there was no place to take out. Steep, slimy banks and vertical brick mill walls. Old tires and rotted trash. We paddled up the right bank, under the Indian Island bridge and pulled out in some one's private yard. JS asked if we could pass through on our long trip. A teenage girl and her boyfriend were swimming in the pool and said OK. In the time it took for us to load our gear onto our boat carts, we had John Paul, the Dad, helping us out. John had been known by his family as a kook for all the home-made gear he wanted to make for his canoe. John wanted to make a rudder for the front of his eighteen foot canoe so he could steer it while paddling solo. I felt obliged to assemble my sailing rig for him.

I can't remember exactly, but I think his daughter's name was Stephanie. She told us he'd be in the shop that afternoon working on a rig like ours. She was totally incredulous when JS told her we just pulled over along the river and camped where we pleased. She also asked "How do you eat? Do you, like, shoot things?" Too cute, she obviously never heard of such a thing as canoe tripping, living there in the shade of the Old Town factory.

Like so many folks we met on the trip, John offered to truck us around both dams and put us in a side stream. Of course we accepted. Shawn, the boyfriend, took our gear and John loaded the boats onto his roofrack. He dropped us at a sidestream on the east bank below the second dam. Oh, Gross! The paltry flow was warm, brown, and smelled of manure. We thanked him an pretended we were used to that.

Ever since Medway, we'd been buying jugs of water, but I would still dip my hat in the river to cool off. Not anymore. Below Old Town, I was afraid to let my paddle drip inside my boat. Honestly, the whole river below this point was quite skanky and industrialized. No more eagles. The only "wildlife" we saw was pigeons, grackles and rats.

That night we camped in Veazie (actually Eddington), at Greenwood Acres, a crappy, dirty, little campground. It was a mile or so to the nearest store. I got blisters from walking to the store in my Tevas, that didn't peel until August. I hate those things. We showered for a quarter, camped in a field and made our phone calls. Jumbo called Chris Wentworth ("Canoebuildah") and we settled on Hampden as a pickup point to end our trip. Not quite salt water, but it was tidal and the weather called for fog, haze, thundershowers and a small craft warning. To me that translated to "nothing to worry about except that God damned headwind", so we decided to keep our distance down to 15 miles.