Saturday, December 15, 2012

Allagash Journeys

In early December of 2012 I joined my long-time friend Steve on a trip to the Allagash region of the North Maine Woods. Our destination was Round Pond in T7 R14, where we set out to do a little exploration and early winter camping.

Camping on Round Pond

The Allagash and especially Round Pond have a deep significance in my life, in part as I first visited the area about 30 years ago and have continued to venture there over the years. However, part of the bond that ties me to that area is because of the connection my Dad had to the area.

Starting in the 1950’s he and his closest friends, appropriately named the Allagash Travelers, would set off to the North Maine Woods on adventures. Back in the day, it was a significant journey for them to get there. From Lewiston-Auburn Richard Merriam, his brother Babe, Marsh Emery and my Dad would drive up to Greenville, have a pilot fly them and boxes of heavy gear into Caucomgomoc Lake. From there they would paddle up Ciss Stream, then the length of Round Pond, up Poland Stream, around the Poland Pond dam, and then make one last lengthy paddle through the long and sinuous Poland Pond before finally making camp on a little piece of land simply called “The Island”. After making a meal and setting up camp, which included cutting fir boughs for their "mattresses", they had little time before night fell. As Dad often said, "at the end of the day no one had to rock us to sleep.”

The Island, Poland Pond

For years he continued to go to the area with the Allagash Travelers. In the 1970’s when roads became more plentiful up there, he and his friends would make the long trip through a series of dirt roads shared with logging trucks. They eventually settled on Round Pond as their base, from which they explored and fished countless ponds and lakes in the area.

Dad (on the right) and his best friend Richard Merriam

Once his friends were no longer able to make the trip, he continued to go with family and other close friends, including Richard Merriam’s grandson Rick Aspinall whose love of the area led to him becoming a Registered Maine Guide.

Dad at Round Pond, late 1990's

No matter what, Dad would always want to go up to the Allagash. It held an almost spiritual place in his mind, a reverence which he passed onto me. Besides the wonderful times had there, and there were many, it always held a special allure to him, in part I think because of its remoteness and of the effort needed to get there. You had to want to get there.

Today, while a much easier trip than in years past, it still takes about 6 hours to drive to Round Pond from Lewiston on a series of dust-covered roads. As Steve and I rode throughout the area, my mind was alternating between wonderful memories of my Dad and already planning future trips. Indeed the Allagash is still a place worthy of a journey.

Sunrise at Round Pond