Adventure Through Maine's Allagash Wilderness

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2180miles

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Boston, MA
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I'm back again after a bit of silence with modifications to the Jeep and trip reports.

Needless to say, I finally got to work editing photos and beginning to write about our club's trip last summer through the remote wilderness of Northern Maine, so here I am to announce its documentation. Might take a little since I haven't written much yet, but I will follow through because this area of the country deserves to be seen.

Without further adieu, Adventure Through Maine's Allagash Wilderness...



Ledge Road Trail
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2180miles

Rank IV
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Advocate III

1,097
Boston, MA
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Trip Introduction

First off, I’m a year overdue in writing this; that said, better late than never, so here we go.

The North Maine Woods is an incredibly unique place consisting of more than 3.2 million acres of privately-owned land abundant with trees, rivers, and almost entirely undeveloped land, located 100 miles north of Bangor and some 6 hours north of Boston. Wikipedia describes it as“a thinly populated region is overseen by a combination of private individual and private industrial owners and state government agencies, divided into 155 unincorporated townships within the NMW area.” and almost enthusiastically notes, “There are no towns or paved roads.” As reference for anyone who followed along with my 2014 Appalachian Trail thru-hike, the southern end of the Woods borders the edges of Baxter State Park.

Last August our Jeep/overland club got together for a five-day trip through Maine’s Allagash Wilderness and the aforementioned North Woods as our annual summer trip. A lot of the group are recurring faces from our 2017 QB-5 Overland trip, including myself (Ryan) and Dani, Brendan, his dog Jackson, Bob, Jessica, their boys and dog Niko, and Shaun and Jenny. All together we had two JKU Wranglers and two WK2 Grand Cherokees, two roof top tents and two teardrop trailers. It’s a group that’s used to traveling together and this trip was no exception to our adventures in years past.



Brendan and I worked over the course of a few weeks drawing up a route, referencing data and maps from this group’s 2016 trip through some of the same regions. For those that have never heard of, visited, or planned a trip through this remote section of Maine, it’s unlike anywhere else in the US. With no established towns the areas are instead divided into a grid and labeled by location on a horizontal and vertical axis. For example, one of our campsites might be located in an area called T3R10, or further northeast at T12R15. Once we established where possible campsites were, we’d plot out exact GPS points and then begin stringing trails and roads together to create a route.

Having enough data compiled for a 5-day, 4-night adventure through one of the most remote places in America, we then turned to mapping gas stations, hospitals, and general “SHTF” waypoints in the event of an emergency. As far as the North Maine Woods goes, you’re basically on your own shy of a MedFlight chopper. Fuel, food, and first aid must all be carried on-board the vehicle, and redundant supplies for parts and troubleshooting are all on a bring-what-you-need basis. The route spanned a respectable 800 miles (including the drive to/from home) and gave us 3.5 days inside the Allagash Wilderness to explore, hike, swim, and relax.

With the maps digitized and the details detailed, it was just an inpatient waiting game to our date of departure.


 

2180miles

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Day 1 - En Route to Katahdin

Having packed the last of our gear into the Jeep the night before our departure, we had no reason to rush around the house the morning we left for Maine. With the temperatures climbing into the mid-80s and a good amount of humidity blanketed over Boston, we did a final inventory check and pulled out of the driveway around 09h30. The dash-mounted iPad had GPS coordinates put in for Millinocket, Maine, located some 290 miles north; from there we’d switch over to Gaia, our backcountry navigation app, and make our way off-pavement to our first night’s campsite just south of the North Maine Woods Telos Checkpoint.

The highway miles were easy, and the Jeep rolled along smoothly. We had just mounted our new Wildpeak AT3W tires a few weeks prior thanks to a partnership with Falken Tire from Rancho Cucamonga, CA, and I was interested to see how our gas mileage would compare to the factory tires. On top of the Jeep was our brand new hard-shell roof top tent, and freshly installed on the front end of the Jeep was Chief Products' Lower Front Guard, a skid plate that replaced the plastic bumper from the factory to add protection from rocks and trees as we adventure through the woods. The Grand Cherokee had all three of these products installed in the last month and here we were, headed into the woods, excited to see how they all performed.


I-95 Northbound in Maine
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Outside Millinocket, ME
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From Boston to Millinoket we averaged 21 miles per gallon, a number I was pleased with given the equipment load we were carrying. The town and roads were very familiar to me and brought a smile to my face and great deal of memories to my mind. As we slowed to the local speed limits I used every opportunity to point out to Dani places I remembered from the last days of my Appalachian Trail adventure four years prior. We drove through the sleepy town in search of a last snack from civilization before continuing down the final maintained road we’d see for days, our sights set way out of town far beyond where the pavement ended.

Our final stop was at an old service station/convenience store a few miles outside of town where a gas pump, antiquated by modern standards, rolled its analog dials counting out gallons of fuel at a glacial pace. Writing down the digits behind the pump’s glass, I carried the information inside and paid the attendant while Dani perused the store. Heading out again we traveled down Baxter State Park Road for another fifteen or so minutes before splitting from the dissipating pavement and breathing a sigh of relief as we rolled onto roads comprised entirely of dirt for the first time in the trip.

We passed the Abol Bridge Campground & Store, a place where I rested for an hour or two after exiting the Hundred Mile Wilderness during my 2014 Appalachian Trail thru-hike before heading on to Katahdin’s finish line, and continued on Golden Road for a long while. I stopped to fly the drone and capture some footage of Katahdin and the Nesowadnehunk Deadwater, a river flowing out from the Ripogenus Lake just west of where we stood.


Passing Familiar Mountains
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I Once Spent 114 Days Following These Signs
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Perimeter Road - Baxter State Park
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Turning onto Telos Road a few miles from Harrington Pond Camp where we’d spend the night, I was able to reach Bob on his handheld radio. Our 2m Ham radio setup in the Jeep has an incredible range but hearing back from lesser powered handheld units can be a little more difficult in thickly wooded areas. He reported back that the campsite we’d chosen was a perfect spot for the night and directed us to its exact location. An open clearing nestled up along Harrington Pond, the area would easily fit our group’s four vehicles and two trailers once everyone had arrived. Dani and I found a good spot for the WK2 and I got to work setting up the roof top tent while she set up our base camp gear.

The Sweeneys arrived shortly thereafter, and the group cooked meals while I got some drone footage over the lake as the sun set. We sat around a campfire until 21h00 when Brendan’s voice came through on the radio proclaiming he was just a few minutes away but would need help finding the nearly invisible turnoff from the main route to access the campsite. I met him on Telos Road with my radio and a flashlight and helped him squeeze his Jeep and trailer down the narrow road, the final vehicle and driver to join our North Maine Woods adventure.

With nine people sitting around a campfire and two dogs playing in the clearing around us, we discussed the days ahead. As the last logs burned down and only the glow of embers (and Bob’s multi-color rope lighting) remained, people retreated to their roof top tents and trailers for the night, excited for the trip that lay ahead of us past the Telos Checkpoint and deep into the North Maine Woods.



Night 1 - Setting Up Camp
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Bob's RTT Party
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Day 2 – Beyond Telos Checkpoint

I woke up early the next morning to a thick fog encompassing our campsite. Grabbing my drone in hopes of capturing some of the eerie surroundings (picture tall pine tree silhouettes standing in stark contrast against the sun-lit haze) I headed out down a walking path to Harrington Lake. The night before I’d been able to see Katahdin, but this morning I could barely see a hundred feet in front of me. Piloting the drone around for a little I headed back to camp to find a few more people milling around the camp picnic bench. Dani and I made a quick breakfast, cooking egg sandwiches she had pre-made and frozen for us, while Brendan pulled out his Skottle stove and others went about their morning routines.

As the fog burned off in the morning sun we packed up our vehicles and trailers, held a short driver’s meeting to review the plan for the day ahead, and turned north on the main dirt road to head up towards the Telos Checkpoint. Manned year round by employees of the North Maine Woods, the Telos Checkpoint requires each vehicle to fill out paperwork detailing their anticipated route and durations inside the boundaries of the immense private landscape. Entry fees are nominal, and I may or may not have purchased an ice cream sandwich to celebrate the beginning of our backwoods adventure.


Morning at Camp
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Cooking Breakfast
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Referencing Maps
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Leaving Harrington Pond
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Carrying on northward on Telos Road we eventually turned west on Umbazookus Road. We navigated at a comfortable pace through the woods, passing interconnected lakes both expansive and laughably small, enjoying the scenery, weather, and radio chatter amongst our group. The itinerary designed for the day included 46 miles of vehicular travel, about half that of our 2017 QB-5 adventure through Canada, intentionally shorter to allow for a more relaxed pace/atmosphere and to allow leisurely time to be spent at any of the points of interest we encountered throughout the day.

The further we got from Telos, the more the feeling of being alone sunk in. We passed by two individuals standing aside a small sedan on the side of the road and stopped to ensure they were okay, pulling out our paper maps and pointing them in the right direction to exit the North Maine woods. We continued on, taking occasional bathroom breaks and pausing shortly while I got the drone in the air to capture the expansive landscape we were winding our way through. We were held up to investigate crossing a small bridge that had collapsed on one side. Despite how silly the photo makes it look, ensuring that there wasn’t risk as we each navigated multiple thousands of pounds of vehicle overtop the remaining wood planks was worth the time taken to check it out first.


Setting Up for Drone Footage
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Broken Bridges
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Water Crossing in the Trailhawk
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Brendan Crosses the River
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Another hour or so leading us down the various roads and through some flooded areas of our planned route, I turned right down a narrow and less traveled trail where tall brush scraped against the underside of the Jeeps skid plates. Located a few miles down was our lunch stop, the Caucomgomoc Dam, nestled up alongside Caucomgomoc lake and actively limiting waterflow downstream. We found a shaded picnic bench at an established campsite along a narrow and rushing river called The Horserace, and enjoyed snacks and lunch while the two German Shepherds wrestled each other and ran around us. The group dissipated as Brendan, Bob, and I walked across the dam and explored the shores of the lake on the other side. The warmth of summer sun and expansive blue skies overhead made for an all-around gorgeous day, and made me glad we’d chosen to explore Maine this time around.

Heading out again after an hour or two of relaxation, we set our sights towards the Round Pond campsite located a few miles down the road. We were grateful to arrive there in the mid-afternoon, securing ourselves the entire site for our multiple vehicles and trailers. The arrival time proved even more important a half hour later when another group of well outfitted overland trucks rolled by slowly, scoping out the site for themselves. We waved and exchanged hellos before they took off in search of somewhere else to camp.


Crossing Caucomgomoc Dam
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Arriving at Round Pond
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Dani Reading at Round Pond
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With some clouds moving in but the air still warm, our group broke off from each other as every family got their camp set-ups together and enjoyed the surroundings. Dani and I sat down by the rocky shore of Round Pond, Bob’s youngest son found a small orange salamander to play with, and Brendan sat back watching the dogs roughhouse each other. Our dinners were cooked under pop-up tents shielding from a light rain later on, and we spent the evening around a fire Shaun built, talking about trips of the past and plans for future ones. With no cell service and just the company of those around us, the guys lingered around the campfire till nearly midnight before dousing it, returning to our respective tents and trailers just in time for the rain to pick up and drench the North Maine Woods overnight.


Round Pond Campsite
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Gathered Around
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