Friday, January 21, 2011
The Lower Bagaduce
Lately I’ve been watching the weather forecasts compulsively, but if someone asks me if it’s supposed to snow I’m likely to draw a blank. Pretty much what I get from it is the wind and temperature, which results in either yes or no: paddling or no paddling. The past week and a half has been a lot of “no” days, with some “maybes” thrown-in just to tantalize me and make me feel bad when I don’t go. Yesterday was one of those maybe days, but I thought I might find some semi-sheltered paddling in the upper Bagaduce River. The tide was even right to launch into the shallow waters off the Penobscot Town Landing.
Unfortunately, Winslow Cove was iced-in, so I drove down to the launch by Bagaduce Falls. The current squeezed beneath the bridge, frothing-up a formidable wave train, but at the next bend in the river, ice covered the entire surface. I sat in the car for awhile watching the standing waves. Occasionally a huge ice flow emerged, tossed about the crests of waves only to be abruptly pulled beneath. So maybe the upper Bagaduce is out of the picture for the next few months.
Fortunately, the road into Dodge Point was plowed (at middle right on the above chart) so I unloaded there at another of Brooksville’s town landings. I called Rebecca with a revised float plan and I was off.
I follwed the steep shoreline toward the head of Smith Cove, where pines clung to the tops of dark cliffs, dripping with icicles. The sun felt good on my face. It was a crisp, clear day- a bit cold, which meant I had to keep moving. I did- paddling around Smith Cove and out between Whites Head and Hospital Island. The current was picking-up, barely floating me over over the sandbar between islands. Across the river lay the Castine waterfront, dominated by Maine Maritime Academy’s training ship, the State of Maine.
As I approached the mouth of the river, a stiff breeze felt icy on my face, and a minor swell came rolling in from the northwest. I headed for Ram Island. The island is owned and managed by the Conservation Trust of Brooksville, Castine and Penobscot, and has a small campsite. I took a walk around the eastern island, but in the face of the northwest breeze, a chill quickly set-in. Good thing I’d worn an extra layer of long johns, but the feet and toes start to take on a chill that doesn’t go away. The best thing is to keep moving, keep the blood pumping.
I was going to head straight back to the launch, but after a few minutes of paddling I felt fine again, and I couldn’t resist crossing over to Castine to paddle alongside The State of Maine. By now, if I paused the current pulled me backwards. I paused for some photos of the ship, but there’s something intimidating about being next to- actually below- such a large vessel.
I crossed the river back to Smith Cove and paused at the remains of another large ship. The Gardiner G. Deering was a 251-foot, five-masted schooner. Abandoned in the 1930s and later burned, the ship is now reduced to a few skeletal, rockweed-draped timbers- just enough to give you some sense of her original proportions as you paddle through.
Back at the launch, I cranked the heat in the car and loaded-up as the sun set. I felt lucky to have squeezed a paddle into a rare window of good conditions. Well, "good" conditions when I lowered my standards because I could see it wasn't going to get much warmer... and when I sought-out a place with less wind. Good thing I got out; today looks much different.