Winter in the Allagash Wilderness Waterway affords rangers an opportunity to bring supplies and materials into locations that are very difficult to access in the summer. It is much easier to bring propane and gasoline into Allagash Lake with a snowmobile in the winter than walking it in on the one-mile carry trail during the summer.
Each fall, plans are made and lists compiled of materials that need to be hauled by snowmobile and tow sled into remote locations in the waterway. Last winter, waterway staff hauled cement pads and jacks into Allagash Lake for the camp-jacking project that was accomplished over the summer. Six tanks of propane and 100 gallons of gasoline completed the winter delivery into Allagash Lake. Then it was on to Eagle Lake, Camp Pleasant and Round Pond.
Timing is everything when it comes to toting supplies during the winter. As a general rule, March is the best month to haul materials by snowmobile. Usually, by the time March arrives, we have plenty of snow to cover rocks, stumps and other obstructions. The snow has settled, and if everything comes together, some rain has fallen and flattened the snow on the lakes. When the lakes refreeze, they can be as smooth and hard as the Maine Turnpike. This is the time to do your hauling.
Last winter, we needed to take a new outhouse and picnic table to the campsite at Cunliffe Island. This site is located about half a mile below Long Lake Dam. I had been there during the summer and scoped out a possible route into this old washed-out logging dam. I figured after we got enough snow we could get to the site without much trouble, but conditions would have to be just right to travel down the river.
The outhouses and tables had been prefabricated in the shop at Chamberlain Bridge. We waited for ideal hauling conditions, but they never really developed, so we decided to get the job done before spring conditions set in.
AWW Ranger Patrick Emery, AWW Chief Ranger Kevin Brown and I loaded up snowmobiles, tow sleds and materials the afternoon before the trip and we stayed overnight at Churchill Dam. We headed out first thing in the morning for the trail into McNally’s Camps on Ross Stream. Ross Stream and Long Lake were as flat as a pancake and frozen hard. We made our way from Long Lake up to the old California Road.
I had the waypoint for Long Lake Dam in my GPS unit, and I had been on the trail during the summer from the dam toward the road, but everything looked a little different with four feet of snow on the ground. As we got closer to our destination, the correct trail became harder to follow.
The snow was getting softer now that the sun was high in the sky, and traveling was getting more difficult by the minute. We decided that I should go scout out the route before we ended up down the wrong trail with the heavily loaded tow sled.
As I got closer to the dam, the trail became more obscured, and I took a wrong turn. I ended up burying my snowmobile when I tried to turn around. I can remember standing up to my crotch in the snow, and I wasn’t even touching the ground. After struggling with the snowmobile for a while, I decided to strap on my snowshoes and try to find the correct route to the dam. After snowshoeing a few hundred feet, I came to the trail I recognized as leading to Long Lake Dam, so I went back to my snowmobile.
Kevin had come to my rescue and was busy shoveling my buried snowmobile out of the soft snow.
Now that my sled was out, all we needed to do was pack the trail to our destination. We arrived at Long Lake Dam to find that the river was open, and there was no way we were going farther downstream.
We unloaded our cargo at the old dam site high enough on the bank so that the spring high-water wouldn’t wash our materials away. Steve Day would have to figure out how to get the materials the rest of the way by canoe in the spring.
We took a break at Long Lake Dam and admired the view. This is one of my favorite spots on the waterway. The remnants of the old dam are still visible, but the site has essentially returned to nature. I wonder how many trout are lurking under those old spillways.
The return trip to our vehicles was uneventful despite the fact that the day had warmed and it was sticky going. We stopped at McNally’s Camps on the way back for a visit and cup of tea. When we got back to our vehicles, it was 4 p.m. and I needed to be back in Greenville for a meeting the next day. It would be another long day in the Allagash, but I thoroughly enjoyed our hauling adventure.
For information on the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, visit www.maine.gov/doc/parks/ or call 941-4014, email firstname.lastname@example.org or write to the Bureau of Parks & Lands, 106 Hogan Road, Bangor 04401.
Matthew LaRoche is the superintendent of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway.