Canoeing on Lake Umbagog
August 11th-12th, 2012

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The summer is fast winding down, and I am getting ready to step out of the Upper Valley for a year long sabbatical, but there is still time for one last scout outing. One last weekend where we can escape to the Northern Woods. Once again to dip our paddles, and bodies, in the cool waters, listen to loons and tell tales around a campfire.

Scouts: Chris (crew chief), Max, Noah, Nick, Jack, Davy
Adults: Tim Smith, Ted Simpson, Andy Harvard, Chris Soderquist, Jeff Low
Dog: Tina
(click on photos for full resolution)

Saturday, August 11th, 2012
Hanover, Errol, Lake Umbagog

Chris set a ambition schedule for us and we all rendezvoused at the community center at 7:00. Checked camping equipment, canoes and most importantly food. I am impressed with the way that Ted Simpson managed to get five canoes in the back of his pickup truck.

On the Androscoggin

Lake Umbagog

Nick cooking

Jack cutting firewood
It was a little under three hours to Errol, the town nearest Lake Umbagog. Jeff and I left the crew at the landing with equipment to pack into the canoes while we headed to the state park headquarters to collect our camping permit. By the time we returned the canoes were packed and we were ready to launch.

We were on the water a little after 11:00. It is about two mile up the Androscoggin River to the lake, but it had been a long morning, so our leaders were soon in search of a place for lunch. After checking out a duck blind and trying to land in a thicket of underbrush we found a place which was dry and accessibly. Nick was in charge of lunch and soon had the cold cuts and bread set out on a tarp for sandwiches. While the rest of us ate, Nick was preparing chocolate pudding, gummy worms and broken oreo cookies for a "mud" desert.

Sun setting over lake


Back in the canoes we continued upstream. Generally Chris Stocken and Jack were in the lead with the rest of us following. Davy was with Ted Simpson and Tina, Ted's dog. Then three father-son combinations; Noah with Chris Soderquist (yes we have two "Chris S.s" on this outing), Nick with Andy Harvard and Max with Jeff Low. I was the odd man out, soloing in my own canoe. Ted had found a small, thirteen foot canoe which fit me perfectly.

At last we reached the lake. There were a few big motor boats - cabin cruisers - coming out of the Magalloway river which surprised me. I had not seen boats of that size on Umbagog before.

We are keeping a weather eye out as we head south. The forecast calls for a 70% chance of showers. I don't want to be caught in the middle of the lake with rising winds and rain. We hugged the shore, passed Molls Rock, watched an osprey hunt for fish by diving and eventually steered east towards Tyler Point and site R23, our campsite for the night.

It is a nice site, a stubby peninsula with a sheltered cove and sandy beach. Chris, Davy and Jack have chosen to pitch their tent on the point, whereas the rest of us picked spots back in the trees. After setting up camp, including two rain tarps, we went in the lake.

We didn't really swim, mainly sat in the cool waters. Max, Noah and Nick sat on some rock, chest deep in water for an hour just talking.

Nick was in charge of supper, although most of the scouts pitched in in some way. Spaghetti, meat sauce, salad and bread. The large pot of water for the pasta was boiled over a wood fire -- which means that half of the labor of cooking was spent in collecting firewood. And what would be a campout without "somores".

It was getting dark by the time food and dishes were stored for the night. We all talked around the fire for while. Finally I told a "true history", about a canoe trip I had taken in Algonquin Provincial Park in Canada when I was a teenager. It involved scout friends, canoes, pirate-want-to-be, tree poachers and the Mounties.

And then to bed

Sunday, August 12th, 2012
Lake Umbagog, Androscoggin River, Errol Rapids, Hanover

Nick & Andy

Ted & Davy

Noah & Chris

Max & Jeff
As soon as I was up I brewed some coffee, I don't think it was on Max's menu for the day. The younger scouts were in motion and breakfast was soon to follow. As usual, the older scouts are a bit tougher to get up. But if anything would do it, I think Max's breakfast sandwiches would do the trick. Eggs with pre-cooked bacon, boiled in a bag. Then served inside of a bagel with cheese!

Without much comment guys fell to their duty and camp was struck and equipment stowed in canoes. We were back on the water by about 9:00. The lake is grey mirror this morning. The cloud hang lower over neighboring hills and mountains, obscuring most of their peaks.

Returning up the lake is event less until we are approaching the mouth of the Androscoggin, were there is a nosy loon. Once on the river we watch an eagle soar overhead. But now I am among horses headed towards the stables and by a little after 11:00 we have reached the launch site.

Here Max cooks us hot dogs and we discuss the Errol rapids. To get to them involves another half mile of paddling and then a portage about the Errol dam and then another quarter mile. Half the guys are hesitant about plunging down these rapids. I tell then that I think they are all capable, but that the rapids are serious. There are well aware of the fact that the cracks in my canoe were caused by these rapids three years ago.

So three canoes and six paddlers head down the river. The rest of us shuttle cars to below the rapids, then stood near the shore or on the bridge and watched the canoes pass by.

Jack & Chris

Jack & Chris
The water level is lower then three years ago. There maybe a few more rocks to contend with, but the river is not flowing with such force and no one swamped their canoe. After that first run of the rapids everyone was excited and we all took turns portaging the canoes upstream and shooting the rapids. Again and again.

But then it was time to head home. Our only real rain of the trip was a ten minute cloud burst nears St. Johnsbury. And then to Hanover.

If the purpose of this trip was to have a few hours of paddling and a night of camping -- then we succeed. But the trip went beyond that. It was an exceeding pleasant trip. The weather cooperated, the food was good, and the crew worked well together and enjoyed each others company.

It was a great trip!

On the Lake

A float


Errol Rapids