The Allagash River is at the very top of Maine and, in 1970, was designated a National Wildlife and Scenic River. It is necessary to register and pay a fee for the use of the river as there are only 80 designated camp sites on the 95 mile trip
For 10 years I watched campers and staff return from their 8 day Allagash river trip with their live lobsters and many stories. “Chief, we saw 12 moose!” “The weather was beautiful.” “The second day was clear, but windy so we tied two canoes together and, using a tent fly tied between 2 canoe paddles, sailed 6 hours, right into our camp site!” “That white water was crazy!” I will never forget watching the sun-set while listening to the loons call each other.”
With approval from the DL Board, and with Chief Ron agreeing to serve as Director for the third session, I asked Chief Nick if I could be his assistant on the Allagash River Trip. His response: “Do you mean that?” I responded “Yes Sir” He responded with “I understand.” Nick was 19 and attending Norwich University – a private military college.
Our first hurdle was that the state of Maine required that the leader be 21, a licensed Maine guide, with lifeguard, CPR and first aid certifications. Nick had the certifications – I had the age. I wrote a letter explaining our situation and asked for 2 copies temporary guide certification test. We both passed.
After spending a night at the Frost Pond Campsites, we were taken to the drop off point of “Chamberlain Bridge”. It was a beautiful, blue sky day, with very little wind. Chamberlain Lake, from the bridge north is about 12 miles. A calm day is important. We unloaded the DL van into our 6 canoes and pushed off. Each person had his life jacket, and a heavily loaded canoe – everything we would need for 8 days. I took one of the weaker paddlers and my canoe was very heavily loaded!
We began paddling and soon were heading across about 3 miles of open water. As we neared the mid-point, a storm hit! No warning!! The waves were so big that, even heading into the waves, water was spraying into our canoe with every wave! I looked to see how the others were doing – because of the waves, all I could see was paddlers from their waste up. I was paddling as hard as I could to keep headed into the waves while making very little progress toward shore. I quickly realized that if a camper’s canoe capsized, I could not get to them, much less take their canoe upside down over mine to empty it. I feared for the lives of our campers, I really did.
The storm broke just as we got to the other shore. Within a few minutes everyone arrived safely. Terror, then triumph!! I really was proud of each camper. They had kept their cool, canoed well! All agreed they were frightened, and exhausted. All agreed that they had never prayed so hard in their lives. Understatement: We thanked God for our safety! As we lifted our heads, a forest ranger’s very fast boat came full speed to our shore to be sure we were all accounted for.
I apologized for our lack of judgment. He laughed. “Quick storms like that are totally unpredictable up here. I drove my boat up on shore and hid out in an outhouse”!
We had first hand knowledge of how helpless Jonah must have felt when the storm hit and he was thrown overboard, and how helpless the disciples must have felt when in a fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee – and Jesus was asleep with his head on a pillow: “Jesus, don’t you care if we perish?” And we had some understanding of the storm that hit while Paul a prisoner on a ship in the Mediterranean Sea – the ship was smashed by waves.
The Scriptures came alive!