Four Day Allagash Canoe trip with Canoe the Wild guided by Maine Guides Paul Domigan and Tammi Matula. a great trip for the first timer and those looking for and shorter Allagash Canoe trip and camping experience.
Troop 76 of Holliston, MA on their 2nd canoe trip with Canoe the Wild. The scouts gained confidence with basic canoemanship on moving water, learned how to set up and take down camp, proper fire wood selection, knots and uses of, cooking over an open fire and much more. The St. Croix River is a great option for groups of all sizes with no previous experience with 4 or 5 days being the best duration.
Canoeing the Wild with Friends
by Tony Mason.
As we stood on the rocks at the side of the Cascapedia in Quebec, we viewed two sharp drops in the rapids. Our guide, Dave Conley pointed them out.
“You can avoid them by staying to the left. If you get into that top one broadside you may never get out!”
“You mean we could die?” I said.
Everyone laughed, somewhat nervously.
After paddling down the river for two days we had heard the load sound of the upcoming rapids so Dave had recommended that we walk down to the bend in the river to scout the obstacles. Our group consisted of four friends from Amherst College classes of 1964 and 1965, plus the son and son in law of Bob Krughoff, and Michael, a friend of Dave’s who was a teacher at Lawrence School attended by both my children years back, and Vance who was Dave’s assistant. Bob had proposed the trip after receiving strong urging from his children. When he arrived he was disappointed that Dave had planned starting further down the Bonaventure River instead of starting at the top of the gorge.
“The river is as high as I have seen it” Dave warned when we first arrived at our campsite on the coast of the Gaspe. “ I have gone down this river 14 times and I know the risks.”
He then repeated about six times that the river was near record high due to recent rains.
Bob had not arrived at that point because he had to wait for his luggage which had not made the transfer at the airport. The rest of us readily agreed with Dave who projected a sense of competence and wisdom. We then learned after starting to paddle that Bob had mastered only the J-stroke. This was not particularly helpful when trying to “eddy out” on the riverbank. Consequently in the early going Bob’s boat would come in without turning, ramming another canoe or the shore. Luckily he had his son-in-law Denjar in the bow who quickly learned how to control the canoe so their performance improved.
However, when we reached the class 3 rapids with the heavy drops Bob nervously tried practicing other techniques. After scouting the river we walked back to our canoes and began descending the river one at a time. Dave started first, as usual standing in the canoe controlling the direction with a pole. He made it look easy. This somewhat lifted the confidence for the rest of us. Next went Vance, a recent college grad on the way to Ohio State in chemical engineering, who Dave had hired to help with the trip. Vance extremely skilled in the canoe, assisted with every aspect of the trip. Those of us remaining watched from up the river as he rounded the bend, passed the high waves without difficulty. Next came Larry Dewitt using his strong strokes and darting technique characteristic of his winning style on the soccer field at Amherst. He also was successful. Then it was Bob and Denjar. We watched as they disappeared around the bend but then there was a long delay before Dave gave the signal for the next canoe, We learned that Denjar made a heroic effort while Bob was doing some variation of his J- stroke as they hit a rock, spun around backwards and then tipped over. Alex Krughoff, Bob’s son, was in the bow as he and I guided the “Nimrod” safely down the passage. Alex had coined the name for our canoe. Both of us weighed over 200 lbs causing less freeboard and the momentum of an aircraft carrier. Michael, who had brought is own canoe and plenty of experience looked like a pro as he threaded his way. Then Chuck using his calm deli berate technique passed through the waves with a resolute expression on his face.
After that excitement we pulled over to the side of the river to have lunch. Dave and Vance set up the usual table covered with assortments of cold cuts, peanut butter, lettuce, tomatoes, and a choice of bread or a pita wrap, as well as watermelon, grapes and cookies.. As always we ate well. Dave had supplied two coolers and several sealed barrels which each produced magical items such as fresh wild salmon, choice steaks, and pork loin which he would cook on a large iron frying pan over the fire. With each day we would all marvel about all the meticulous preparations for the trip.
One night sitting around the campfire Dave remarked how the woods gave him a spiritual sense. He respected the wild life and enjoyed taking photographs with his fine camera with a telescopic lens. Larry had a similar camera at home which lead to long discussions between them about the pros and cons of camera equipment.
Michael and I never won a cribbage game. Having played with my parents, Dave had given me a refresher on the rules and then soundly defeated me in a game. Then a round of team contests ensued. Michael and I first lost to the Krughoffs¸ then to Dave and Vance who again proved his competence in all things. He also knew many obscure facts about canoeing and chemicals. By the end of the trip when ever some question arose we would say “ask Vance”.
After Bob and Denjar had flipped their canoe the rest of us felt quite smug, until the next day when Alex and I hit some large standing waves. With the first one we took on water, with the second more water leaving only a few inches of freeboard. Then we began to tip. We both yelled simultaneously “The Nimrod is going down!”. We were able to get near the shore before submerging, but since the current was strong I was starting to float downstream. Suddenly Vance’s canoe appeared along side us for the rescue.
On the lower part of the river we saw two eagles-one sitting just above the large nest high in the tree. We did not see a moose but one night I pitched my tent just a few feet from some old moose tracks in the sand. I was awakened during the night by a loud “crack” sound. I peeked out of the tent, could it be a moose? Then it happened a few times more. I surmised it must have been fish jumping but next morning Dave told me it was a beaver telling us to keep our distance. The next day we paddled down to our final take out point near the mouth of the river. During the trip we had shared the woods with the wildlife as well as sharing many stories with each other. For more information about river trips in Maine and Canada with Dave Conley visit Canoe the Wild.com
Two trips in one! the lower Bonaventure and the Cascapedia Rivers of Quebec combined for the perfect whitewater canoe trip! Solid class I and some easy class IIs with lots of nice wave trains. For more information on canoe trips with Canoe the Wild, please visit the 2016 summer schedule. Note: those going it alone will want solid whitewater canoeing and camping skills. Being familiar with changing water levels and how that affects your trip is crucial.
Canoe camping with small children is a great way to introduce them to the great outdoors. Guided by Maine guides Paul Domigan and Tammi Matula. Children thrive in the outdoor environment with so many hands on things to do. Fish, swim, help with camp chores, catch a frog, get dirty, cook a marshmellow and spend quality time with family. Choose the St. Croix River, 3-5 days for a great Maine family vacation with children. Canoe the Wild can assist you and your family and all you will need is your extra clothes and sleeping bags.
June 3-10, 2016 Bonaventure River canoe trip. Canoe the Wild teamed up with Allagash Guide Inc for this one. Had high water, great people, and a great time! For more information about our trips, visit our website Canoethewild. For first timers, we recommend the St. Croix River 3-5 days and the Allagash River canoe trip, 4-8 days. we have room on several of our 2016 schedule trips this summer.