Naturist trip to Pemadumcook Lake, the Debsconeag Lakes and Passamagamet Lake
By John Purbrick.
For a long time I've been doing an annual canoe trip with the same group of friends, but lately I've had the feeling that they aren't as adventurous as they used to be. Also, in the time we've been making our voyages, I've become a naturist and they haven't. So it occurred to me that I might be able to get lucky twice, and put together a naturist group to do some canoeing in locations that would be a bit more exciting than my old friends would care for.
On trips with my cautious friends, I'd become somewhat familiar with the lakes and streams in the region of Maine just south of Baxter State Park, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. Looking at the map, I noticed that there would be a possible trip to be made following a loop through Pemadumcook Lake, the Debsconeag Lakes (Third, Second and First) and part of the West branch of the Penobscot River, which would bring us back to Pemadumcook Lake.
As it turned out, there were exactly the minimum number of volunteers I thought the trip needed-a total of 4 of us, allowing us to take 2 boats with a crew of 2 each. There was Joe from New York State, and Bob, Dave and myself from the Boston area. Dave was the only one I knew at all well, from various naturist hikes and activities in the past. The trip took place in early August, with Bob, Dave and myself driving to Bangor in my car, and meeting Joe at the excellent Dysart's Truckstop there. We then proceeded to Abol Bridge, just outside Baxter Park, where we camped for the night.
We had to start with our longest stretch of lake paddling, 9 miles down Ambajejus and Pemadumcook Lakes, and we had to do it facing west, the most likely wind direction. We were lucky and the day turned out calm.
By good luck, I met the owner of Whitehouse Landing and asked about the location of the campsite on 3rd Debsconeag Lake, and was told that it was "On the right side as you paddle away from the dock, uphill in a grove of pine trees."
The thunderstorm arrived as we were doing the carry between Pemadumcook Lake and 3rd Debsconeag Lake, and was over by the time we launched again. Joe brought a boat cart, so he and Dave used it (this was the only time the carry trail was wide and flat enough to make it possible) and then Bob and I carried it back and repeated the journey with our boat. When we arrived at 3rd Debsconeag Lake again, Joe and Dave reported that one thunderclap had been "very loud and very close".
The campsite on 3rd Debsconeag Lake was indeed a little difficult to find, so the local knowledge was useful. Its atmosphere of "rustic charm" suggests that it doesn't get much use. Besides which, we arrived just as daylight was failing, so we had dinner by the romantic glow of flashlights! Fortunately there was firewood. This guy looks rather sleepy-maybe he's had a hard day.
Morning on 3rd Debsconeag Lake, where Joe is taking some time for reading. Not having a tent, he took less time to get moving than the rest of us.
Out on 3rd Debsconeag Lake, and by the time we were afloat the wind and waves were both up and dead against us. Nevertheless, we set our course for the landing where the trail for 4th Debsconeag Lake leaves the shore. In case anyone wonders, the Debsconeag Lakes are numbered up to 8, but the A.M.C. New England Canoeing Guide says that after 4th Lake "The carries become longer and the lakes smaller, so that farther travel is hardly recommended".
Eventually we reached the landing and became hikers.
The trail took us past this big rock balanced on little ones.
4th Debsconeag Lake is an attractive place with water lilies in the shallows.
We had a swim and then started back to 3rd Debsconeag Lake. We had lunch at the landing before heading out into the wind again.
It was pleasant to have some calm water in the inlet by the carry trail. We were able to paddle in relaxed style for a little while.
The correct spot to land wasn't immediately obvious, but someone had marked it with a piece of old chain, no doubt a relic of logging days.
Even a lightweight boat is easier to carry on a pack frame. It doesn't make it possible to "dance over the trail", but it helps.
2nd Debsconeag Lake is small, but even there we had trouble with the wind. Fortunately once we reached the lake it wasn't far to the campsite, a really nice place that I remembered from a previous trip as "must visit".
At the east end of 2nd Debsconeag Lake it gets shallow and rocky before you reach the carry trail.
Just as on 3rd Debsconeag Lake, there was nowhere to haul our boats out, so we resorted to using rocks as makeshift anchors.
From 1st Debsconeag Lake we paddled out to the Penobscot River, at a place called the Debsconeag Deadwater. This was where we made our closest approach to Mt Katahdin.
Just at the foot of Passamagamet Falls is Passamagamet Lake, which we entered with the idea of finding a quiet spot for lunch and a swim. We found a nice place, but after lunch the wind got up in a direction that blew us back to the river. More exploration of the lake would have meant fighting it, and everyone said we'd done enough of that.
The river led us back to Ambajejus Lake, and we followed the north shore back to Spencer Cove, with yet more wind and waves to contend with-this time a crosswind, to make life more interesting. Along the way we passed this bizarre object, a huge pile of sawdust. You'd think it would rot away quickly, but apparently a large mass of sawdust can last for decades.
And so the trip ended. Those of us heading for Boston got home that night.
Visit John's website by clicking here: http://www.sitemouse.com/users/swim_n_paddle/. He has more photos of this trip published there. Also if you're up for a similar naturists canoe trip then contact him via his email address: http://firstname.lastname@example.org
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