Into the Wilds of the Allagash, a meditation on the seasons

August 15th, 2016

Floating northwards on the Allagash in the North Maine Woods, the gluttony of late summer is everywhere. A moose cow perked her ears up as we trickled past, and then lazily dunked her head in the eddy in which she stood shoulder-deep, coming back up with aquatic plants spilling down her chin. Bald eagles, deliciously abundant along the river, played in the shifting winds, or just watched from a broken tree top, looking fed-up*. The brookies (brook trout) have their pick of succulent insects, as do the dragon flies who zip across the water gulping their fill. The beech trees reach gloriously towards the sun-splashed river, their chlorophyll greedily soaking in the sun. It’s hardly a tough time to be alive.

Soon though the shorter days will be felt, the nights will take on a chill, and the pre-winter scramble begins. Squirrels will scurry with nut-filled cheeks from hole to hole, storing, storing. The beavers will make last minute patches on their homes in preparation for the ice flows. Bears continue to pluck calories from the abundance of their surroundings, knowing that there will not be more until spring.

It’s a flow not shunned, it’s just a flow, one to be embraced, not outsmarted- too much. We should be thankful for the advances our large brains have afforded us: canning, drying, hybrid seeds, electric fencing, but not take advantage, for where does that leave the other creatures who continue to abide by the laws of nature? In the middle weeks of August, it’s easy to want for the life of these creatures, as they thrive off of what nature has created, doze in the sun and move in the breezes of the evening. Don’t be too envious though; winter is coming. Let this rediscovered connection let us relish in the comfort of our shelters and easy supply of shelf-stable foods when the winds are whipping through sub zero weather on the Allagash, and the soft green moss that easily grows on the river’s edge will not be in sight for months to come.

As the winter wares on, the layers of bear fat dwindle, the black fly larva hunker down and wait it out, and our fires continue to burn, perhaps we don’t have to join them, but keep them in mind as we grow our hybrid seeds and eat our stored food in sync with the natural flow of what’s beyond in the North Maine Woods.

*                                                *                                                *

 

Planning a trip on the Allagash? 

For more information about canoeing the Allagash, I recommend Gil Gilpatrick’s Guide to the Allagash. It has all the necessary information to go on a self-guided trip.

If you’re looking for a guided trip with good local food and really friendly knowledgable staff, we recommend Allagash Canoe Trips.

Food for a week long canoe trip on the Allagash

The benefit of canoe-camping is being rather gluttonous in your food packing. I brought a full-sized cooler with lots of fresh food. We used 15lbs of dry ice with a layer of regular ice over it. This kept our fresh food cold for 5 days. We brought al FreshCo Meal Kits for dinners, which was great for easy packing and portioning, but if they’re out of your geographical accessibility range, I recommend putting together kits like them, even pre-chopping vegetables to save of space and cooking time at the campsite. All the campsites on the Allagash are outfitted with a cooking fire, we used a combination of camp-stove cooking and camp fire-cooking.

Here’s what we had:

Dinner:

Pad Thai: Zucchini, corn, carrots and onion sauteed and served over buckwheat noodles with a maple/balsamic/soy sauce dressing. Cooking time 10 minutes

Grilled Zucchini, Eggplant, Peppers served with Harcha, a Moroccoan skillet bread. We made the dough in advance with corn meal, semolina, olive oil and some salt.

Kale Pancakes with Pickled Beets and Lentil SaladWe made the lentil salad in advance, and cooked the kale on the first night, as this is quick to spoil. Pickled vegetables are a great thing to take- they last a long time under no refrigeration

Dragon Bowl with Brown Rice and Black Beans. We cooked and pickled the black beans beforehand, and had zucchini, carrots, and peppers. Cook the rice after soaking it for the day in a bag while paddling, and it only takes 10 minutes to cook. The vegetables saute quickly, and you can have the curry sauce pre-made.

Mac & Cheese with Zucchini and Peppers. This was for the last night, we got a box of mac and cheese, knowing our refrigeration wouldn’t last until then, and brought whole peppers and zucchini. Add some hot sauce, and even some river fish if you catch any. 

Snacks:

Hard-boiled eggs. I like to do this in advance of the trip. Put all the eggs in a pan with cold water about 1/2″ above the biggest egg. Bring to a boil. Once it starts to boil, remove from heat and cover. Let sit for 12 minutes, then cool under running cold water. Refrigerate. These will last for the week.

Trail Mix: Candied ginger, chocolate covered almonds, corn nuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds. Ration some for each day.

Hummus and Cucumber

Lunch:

PB&J

Cheese, Avocado and tomato sandwiches

Breakfast:

Oatmeal: sweet or savory. Sweet: maple syrup, banana, jam. Savory: Nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, paprika, olive oil, herbs

*Fed up is a term originating from the sport of falconry, a hunting technique in which humans use falcons to hunt for small game. The birds are fed according to a carefully measured weight: if they are fed too little, they will not have any incentive to come back to their humans, and will go in search of their own food; fed too much, and they cannot fly and will sit in a tree refusing to budge until they have digested their food, feeling “fed up”.