Sunday, August 06, 2006

Fire me up a Lobster

H and I headed north for a week of communing with nature. Our first stop was the Beal Island camp just outside of Bath, ME. Beal Island is a small island owned by the AMC and is associated with the AMC's Knubble Bay hut. Sandwiched between the Lowers Hell Gate and the Little Hell Gate, the island has wilderness camp sites for 30+, a four stall bif, a fire ring, and tables for a kitchen. At extreme high tides the fire ring and kayak parking can be under water, so there are also places to tie up kayaks.
The weekend started with the drive up on Friday. To break up the doldrums of a long highway drive we made a few stops.
The first stop was a Kittery Trading Post to return the evidence of an ill fated tent quest and acquire a brain box to safeguard my knoggin from being knocked around by rocks. We figured it would take a 1/2 hour. Two, or so, hours later we walked out of there with the brain box, two pairs of matching paddling shoes, a seat for H to use on the beach, and a camp coffee maker. The place is worse than REI for gear heads in a hurry.
The next stop was a rest stop for some healthy food. Popeye's and Cinnabon make for a great lunch. Just don't order naked chicken and expect it in a hurry. I could have eaten twice before H got her naked wings.
We also made a very quick stop at L.L. Bean to pick up a solar powered Nalgene ( To ensure a speedy stop, H forbad me to enter the main Bean building. I was only allowed a quick relief trip.
When we finally arrived at the Knubble Bay hut, we had to pack up our boats for the short trip over to the island. I've packed up my Seaward several times, but never the Q-Boat. H was in a similar situation. Fortunately, everything fit in the boats. Oddly the 16' Capella carried more than the 18' Valley. The Valley was close to being submerged and it only had the tent and my clothes for the weekend...
Mike K. was on hand to provide a good lesson in over packing. When we arrived, he was working on packing his stuff into his P&H Quest. When we shipped out, he was still figuring out where everything was going to fit. Rumor has it he had to leave the kitchen sink in his car:)
Saturday started off bright and early with a fantastic breakfast spread: sausages, fruit, and pancakes. After we were fully fueled, the leaders laid out the paddle plans. Due to the size and diversity of the group, we split into three groups: "advanced", "intermediate", and "beginner". There was an attempt to form a breakaway group, but the leaders deftly squelched it. The AMC is very much about group cohesion and plans. It is a little foreign to RICKA paddlers, but the leaders on this trip were very good about not allowing this to make things feel controlled.
H and I set out with the advanced group and figured that if things got too rough we could fall back to the intermediate group. The group was heading down to Reid State Park which is a seven mile trip in pretty sheltered waters. The current and the winds were with us the whole way and we flew. It was almost too easy.
Reid State Park is excellent. It has a rocky beach along the Sheepscott, a long stretch of sandy beach along the Atlantic, and Ice Cream.
We took a quick lunch break on the rocks--the bugs ruled the picnic area--and basked in the sun before setting out for a pleasant return voyage. The tides were supposed to turn and wash us back to the camp where we would be treated to lovely lobster bake.
To make the return trip a little more interesting, the advanced group decided to cross the Sheepscott and check out a lighthouse. It would add a scant few miles to our trip and provide some varied conditions.
The crossing was the first sign that things were not going to go as advertised. There was a fair bit of wind and some chop. Also, there was a contingent of slow paddlers drawing things out. Once across the river, we regrouped and took a brief and undignified bathroom stop.
The return trip was picturesque, but long. Sadly, the tide never turned in our favor. The tides in the area are difficult to predict. The combination of rivers and complicated ocean bottoms make the tides do interesting things.
I'm not a lobster eater, but H reported that the lobster was "to die for". The leaders provide me a delicious piece of tuna as a substitute. Throughout the evening, we had the opportunity to meet and chat with new folks along with catchin' up with some RICKA folks we had not seen in awhile (Barbara, Beverly, Bill R.). The night ended with the usual singing around the campfire, led by Anna who corraled the small few still awake.
On Sunday, we had a breakfast of eggs and bacon and then packed up. The plan was to get all the gear back to Knubble Bay and then do a short paddle.
After getting all of the gear and the canoes back up to the hut, most of the group paddled around the back side of Beal. The paddle provided some great opportunities to test the Q-boat in currents and waves. The Lower Hell Gate was running at a good clip and there was a fair amount of boat traffic. The combination produced some standing waves and fun conditions. For me it was fun, for some of the other paddlers it was a trying experience. They all made it through without a hitch, but there were a few white faces.
The area behind Beal was serene. There were some opsrey nests and several small islands.
We returned through Little Hell Gate on the other side of Beal.
Once back at Knubble Bay, we hauled the kayaks up the stairs, loaded up, and hit the road.
The leaders put on quite a spread and did a fantastic job.

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