Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wild Crow Motorcycle Tour by Stephen Vose

Wild Crow Motorcycle Tour by Stephen Vose (Part II)

Arriving in Presque Isle, I connected with friends and was presented with the fact that we had a “couple” of easy miles left to travel to make it to our intended camping location. There is something to be said for Aroostook natives and their estimation of distance is vastly different than most. About ½ an hour later, we completed the final stretch comprised of broken pavement and dirt roads . . . shaken but not stirred.

I was pleased to see that the festivities had already begun and over a dozen tents dotted the small campsite. A large bonfire had been started and the fragrant aroma of charred meat hung heavily in the damp air.

After setting up camp, I immediately launched into a conversation with a local on where one might find good fishing. I was informed that only a “couple” yards away ran the Aroostook river and that it was loaded with 10 and 12 inch brook trout. The next morning, I managed to hike the mile to mile and a half over blow downs and through fields of raspberry bushes down to the river but after several hours of dragging a dozen different lures through the clear waters I didn’t manage to temp even a single fish.

During the walk back to the campsite, I did manage to find a few photographic opportunities. Originally, I had made this trip with the express purpose of taking photos of either the potato or mustard fields in full bloom but overcast skies and the constant threat of rain showers made acceptable shot possibilities practically impossible.

A FULL all you can eat Aroostook breakfast of pancakes, sausage, eggs and bacon was served and the hungry masses quickly satisfied. After thoroughly stuffing myself, I jumped in my friend’s pick-up and we headed out to “camp”. According to my Aroostook county friend Camp was a “couple” of miles away and set on the shores of Squapan lake. After listening to the entire Led Zepplin IV CD on our trip over to Squpan, I was beginning to see a trend in regional estimations concerning distance.

We arrived at camp and joined in on the festivities and I was about ready to pick up a fishing pole when I saw one of the locals pull up a monster 3 ½ inch chub. When I inquired if I could expect better fishing he said no and I headed directly for the horseshoe pit. I finished the day with a 9 win 1 loss record and have to blame my good fortune on the fact that it was my birthday . . . Heavy rain showers finally put an end to the activities at around 4:00 PM and we all piled into our vehicles and headed back to our camp site.

Awaking the next morning, dark skies were once again threatening rain and I realized that it was a high possibility that my ride to Calais to visit family was going to be very wet. I packed up my gear, bid old and new friends farewell, swung my leg over the iron horse and sped off down the road toward Houlton, Danforth and finally Calais . . . story will continue shortly!

For the rest of the Wild Crows Motorcycle Adventure See:
Wild Crows Motorcycle Tour Part I
Wild Crows Motorcycle Tour Part II
Wild Crows Motorcycle Tour Part III
Wild Crows Motorcycle Tour Part IV
Wild Crows Motorcycle Tour - Podcast

Monday, July 28, 2008

Second Article PUBLISHED!

The Maine Sportsman - New England's Largest Outdoor Publication – Will be publishing my story below in their August 2008 edition. The article will be part of the magazines “special sections” (pg. 25-26) and will highlight how to properly care for your field retriever. For more information on the Maine Sportsman Magazine or to order a subscription click this link: The copy below is the unedited version.

Simple Steps to Protect Your Field Retriever by Steve Vose

As the dull morning light began to creep over the horizon, my black lab Onyx and I were sitting side by side in the duck blind quietly sharing a breakfast burrito and awaiting the first flights of the morning. Suddenly, distant shots rang out up-lake and to the north east of our position and following almost immediately after two green winged teal sailed over our blind like mini F16 fighter jets. I fired two quick successive shots at the lead duck and somehow managed to drop the back bird the number six heavy shot managing to magically find its unintended target. I looked back at Onyx to send her after the duck and she was already on her way swimming to the floating duck, hmmm I thought to myself going to need to work on that next Sunday. As she returned to the blind, I commanded her to “give” and upon inspection was impressed that she had managed to return the duck with very few bite marks. The drab and drizzly morning soon developed into one of those very rare occasions when the ducks were flying well and I was shooting fair and I could not have been happier with my little girl and her first time a field. As I looked over at my two-year-old retriever I could tell that she was having the time of her life. The energetic sixty-three pound black lab was completely at home in the duck blind and the apparent grin on her face seemed to indicate that she was absolutely loving every minute of it.

Unfortunately, things in the blind that particular morning did not continue as pleasantly as they had begun and this tale is not one of those hunting stories that ends happily with a satisfied limit or a beautiful on the wing double play. After a few short hours of hunting, I looked down at my feet and noticed several drops of blood on the floor of the blind. Trust me when I say the gravity of the situation hit me much more intensely than Onyx who was busy enthusiastically sniffing a recently expelled shotgun shell. After a through examination, I found that the cause was only a small slice in her right front paw but the situation could have been much worse and this fact got me seriously thinking about some of the possible accidents that could occur when hunting with a dog in the field. As any good sportsman knows, waterfowl hunting can be dangerous business; moving vehicles at the boat launch site, boat motor props, sharp sticks and rocks at entry points, decoy lines, improperly stowed firearms, ticks and even spicy breakfast
sandwiches can all pose possible hazards for your retriever. While it would be impossible to safeguard your canine against every dangerous scenario that could present itself, there are some simple steps that you can take to insure your dog returns home safely.

Before Season Preparations:
Every retriever possesses certain strengths and weaknesses, as a responsible dog owner you should be intimately familiar with these positive and negative traits. Having this basic understanding will help you to better design a training program that will work on weak areas before heading into the field where these issues could potentially lead to larger problems. My dog Onyx is anything but a polished field retriever, she is in fact a loving pet to my wife and infant son first and a hunting buddy second, but my understanding of her limits helps me to better insure her safety in the duck blind. Being conscientious about off-season conditioning is an easy no cost way to keep your dog in peak shape and it will help your retriever avoid physical injury during the hunting season. Other critical advanced preparations include making sure your dog is current on all required vaccinations as well as up to date on any additional medications suggested for your geographical area such as topical flea and tick preventatives, lyme disease vaccines and protection against heart worm and intestinal parasites. Also, an understanding of basic canine CPR and first aid may be helpful to know and could save your dogs life. The internet can easily direct you to the following printable guide: Canine First Aid and CPR - or take a trip to your local bookstore and ask for a copy of “Field Guide to Dog First Aid” – by Randy Acker, D.V.M.

During the hunt . . . the duck bag:
Before heading into the field with my black lab Onyx, I make sure that I have several items packed to insure that our adventures go smoothly. Among the items that take up permanent residence in my duck bag during hunting season and my backpack during the off season are food treats for a hungry dog that may be expending much more energy than normal, spare collar and leash, neoprene vest and doggie first aid kit. Though kits widely vary my basic kit is comprised of the following: small bandage scissors, alcohol wipes, tweezers, organic bug wipes, eye wash, medical tape, maxi pads (to stop bleeding), emergency space blanket, heavy gauze and several 1 gallon freezer bags all stored watertight within a recycled wide mouth plastic peanut butter jar. Other more advanced kits contain a wide variety of medications (ex. tablets for indigestion, anti-itch capsules, buffered aspirin and hydrogen peroxide) and more advanced equipment and supplies (ex. muzzle, hemostats, rectal thermometer, disposable gloves, neoprene foot covers, splints and ear syringe) that may be required for trips of longer duration, like a canoe trip on the Allagash or backpacking the Appalachian trail, when help my not necessarily be close at hand. A simple kit, however, will allow you to successfully weather most common injuries when help is a short distance away. Several commercial kits are also available and can be found online through various companies. Remember that a first aid kit is by no means a substitute for professional veterinary care and you should always consult with your dogs vet before giving any medications or providing upper level care.

During the hunt . . . what to watch out for:
Having an intimate knowledge of your intended hunting site including an understanding of tides and currents, weather and prepping water entry points so they are clear of debris and hazards will go a long way in assuring that a hunt progresses safely. Keeping animals under direct owner control near roads and at boat launch areas will also help protect your retriever. Lastly, having certain rules that all hunters are aware of before the start of the shoot will insure increased safety for example: firearms are off limits when the dog is in the water, only one person directs the dog with voice and hand signals, what each person’s role is should an emergency situation arise.

After the hunt:
After the hunt is completed a good owner should realize that a properly cared for dog still may require extra attention. Be sure your dog is properly hydrated, fed, ears dried with a cotton swab and/or flush with 50/50 white vinegar and water solution, dry and brush coat to remove burrs, check for ticks and be sure to examine pads for cuts and scrapes. If you encounter an injury, make sure to thoroughly flush it out, clean the area and apply antibacterial ointment. If your dog is a licker or a enthusiastic chewer a sanitary covering and a healthy dose of apple bitters may need to be topically applied to keep them from getting to the wound.

There are few things more rewarding to a Sportsman then hunting with a retriever that you have spent your own time and energy training. The pride that one feels watching their dog retrieve that first duck is hard to explain in words. Onyx and I have worked together as a team for several years, and I have taught her as much about hunting waterfowl as she has taught me much about loyalty, friendship and patience. It only makes sense to me that I would try and make sure that our limited time together is spent in situations where we are both safe and happy. While I would never profess to be a dog-training expert, I do take the steps necessary to make sure my dog is properly cared for while in the field. Onyx’s style may be far from polished and her manners frequently lacking. I don’t need her to be perfect for general hunting enjoyment, as long as in the end the overall experience is accomplished safely. By following these steps, you too will at least be able to protect your retriever against some of the basic issues that you may encounter while in the field and insure years of enjoyment with your four legged hunting friend.

Wild Crow Motorcycle Tour by Stephen Vose

Wild Crow Motorcycle Tour - Part I

As the week progressed, I continued to keep a careful eye on the weather. Predictions were that it was going to rain buckets all over the state for somewhere around an eternity. By Thursday evening, I began to feel my chances at starting a statewide bike tour were vaporizing before they had even begun. Friday morning, however, was another story and as I climbed out of bed skies were threatening but the predicted rains were not falling. I decided at that moment that Mother Nature be damned I was going North! Quickly packing a small backpack, I jumped on my Yamaha V-star and the beast roared to life. As I hit the throttle, my MP3 player shuffled to Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild” and I sped off toward Presque Isle.

Steely gray skies threatened, but I still managed to make it all the way to Lincoln before the heavens opened up and the thunder and lightening rained down upon me. God may be forgiving but Mother Nature is a vengeful bitch. Deciding against the repetitive nature of the interstate, I had opted for the more scenic and isolated route two but as my engine lost power a full 45 minutes from Houlton I began to wonder if this had in actuality been a good decision. I stopped at a small rest area (the only one) to assess the situation and after a through inspection decided that it was best to have a short breather and let the engine cool. Despite the fact that one tail pipe was stone cold, the bike had plenty of oil, only 10,000 miles and the idiot light had not yet come on . . . things were looking up!!

I rested about a ½ an hour as the rains pounded down and silently wished that I smoked cigarettes. Jumping back on the bike, I managed to limp along under ½ power until I reached a small engine repair business just on the outskirts of Houlton. Once out of the rain and in the garage the issue was immediately apparent. Water had worked its way in around my spark plug and arched out the cylinder. Apparently Yamaha Motorcycles are “water resistant” and not “water proof”! A little bit of WD40 and 30 minutes on repair work later I was back on my way to the North country.

My MP3 player droned on and the miles continued to melt away as I sped toward my destination. Heavy rain on a motorcycle has the unfortunate side effect of causing a rider to develop tunnel vision and I am certainly no exception. Somewhere on the other side of Mars Hill I narrowly missed being broadsided at 4:00 in the afternoon by a 320 lb black bear. A prayer was said and a bladder was almost emptied.

The final stretch into Presque Isle, however, is what motorcycle riders live to see. The rains let up, the clouds parted and for a moment I even saw a few glimmers of sunshine. A moment of calm washed over me as the first leg of the trip was completed and I let out a small sigh. Somehow experienced trip difficulties make the little things that much more enjoyable. Cruising into Presque Isle my confidence was soaring and I knew that the remainder of the trip would be awesome . . . remaining story to be posted shortly!
For the rest of the Wild Crows Motorcycle Adventure See:
Wild Crows Motorcycle Tour Part I
Wild Crows Motorcycle Tour Part II
Wild Crows Motorcycle Tour Part III
Wild Crows Motorcycle Tour Part IV
Wild Crows Motorcycle Tour - Podcast

Cabela's FIRST Maine Gear Tester

Gear Testing Guru - Well it's official, I am Maine's FIRST Cabela's Gear Tester! I received word from corporate a few weeks ago and had been holding back posting until I was able to get back from by statewide motorcycle tour (trip report soon!). I received note that my first test "item" should be arriving sometime next week. I could tell you what it is but according to the lawyers at Cabela's I would then have to kill you. :) I sent this picture to Cabela's corporate showing me "working" on top of Katahdin in January of 2005 . . . they loved it! LOL!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Making a Living Down East

Photo documentary of the Lobstering and Worming Industry in Down East, Maine by Steve Vose

I was recently fortunate enough to be able to spend a few days with the wonderful people of Jonesport, Maine. During my stay, I was invited to job shadow a couple of the local residents in their daily work on the waters and flats of this great state and in the process have gained new found respect for these incredible individuals.

Please click the following link to see the: Piscasa Web (Lobstering and Worming) Gallery of the complete trip.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Outdoor Treasure Hunt - Part I

Outdoor Treasure Hunt and Macro Photography Practice

In order to foster a love of the outdoors in my lil one, I have been introducing him to all living things big and small. Our new weekend adventure involves searching around the yard for interesting flowers, reptiles, amphibians, bugs, etc. and then taking photographs. These digital "treasurers" are taken back inside where they are loaded on the computer. We then work together to identify the flora and fauna and share with Momma what we have "virtually" captured. So far it has been a blast and he has really taken to the game. In addition, it is a great chance for me to practice my macro photography which I have always found challenging.

Here are a few of our favorite photos:

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Cabelas Review – The good, the bad and the just plain ugly

Cabelas Review – The good, the bad and the just plain ugly by Rabid & Duckman

I finally managed to get down to the new Cabela's store in Scarborough this past weekend and was seriously impressed. Though I outline a few “concerns” the overall experience was very enjoyable and it is certain that I will return again. Initially, I thought the store lacked a distinctly “Maine feel” but I understand it typically takes a new store 6 months or so to develop its own “character” . . . so how about making a taxidermy section that is all “Maine” animals or putting up a good sea ducking video on one of the dozen or so TV screens!?!?!

The attention to detail in their taxidermy selections, interactive stations (Play Station console, shooting gallery and video games) is impressive and makes the new L.L. Bean hunting and fishing expansion appear like a half assed effort. For comparison, let me use the fresh water aquariums as a prime example of the apparent differences in design aspects. L.L. Bean set-up their fishing display tank in a way that is impossible for my two year old son to view unless I pick him up. He is unable to roam freely on his own accord and watch fish of his choosing. In an attempt to present kids with a more “interactive” tank experience they created a poorly designed bubble within the tank that gives kids a 3rd view. The issue of course, is that only 1 or 2 kids at a time can access the space and if you want to go with your young children into the space you need to get down on your hands and knees and crawl across the dirty floor. Additionally, the space is an OSHA case waiting to happen with the limited head clearance. DUH, who though this was a good idea!??! Cabela's tank goes from the floor to ceiling giving both kids and adults the ability to easily watch the fish . . . it is a functional, simple and elegant design.

Having more available floor space I understand is critical but how about eliminating some of the “fluff” and making the 2nd hand firearms all available on one level like at the Kittery Trading Post and L.L. Bean. My first impression, “wow, their selection of 2nd guns is REALLY limited”. The current racking system makes what is a healthy selection “look” severely limited. Examining the guns, I found it impossible to look over the 2nd tier firearms without removing them from the rack. This proved to be a time consuming process and I finally gave up and only concentrated on the firearms in the bottom rack. By removing the top rack the additional lighting would make the bottom tier inspection process even easier.

Overall, the store is overwhelming and in the 2 hours I had available, I barely managed a cursory glance. The selection of high end hunting and fishing equipment had this gear junkies drooling and it took all of my will power to keep my credit card in my pocket. So, why did I keep from spending? Here is the story . . .

I had gone to Cabelas to pick out a new shotgun to “supplement” my current Franchi 612 semiauto. With my government economic stimulus check and a fist full of employee discount coupons, I was planned to buy the Benelli Super Black Eagle 12. Now, folks for you unfamiliar with this firearm this is $1,600.00 investment and when I spend this amount of money I expect EXCELLENT customer service. The elderly representative who assisted me was very unfamiliar with this shotgun and had significant trouble with the assembly and disassembly process. He even refused to completely take apart the shotgun saying that “it was greasy and he didn't want to make a mess”. Despite his limited experience, he still managed to talk down to my friend and I like we had NO experience with shotguns. Seeing that the display area held 3 SBEs in black, I inquired if they had the camouflaged version. The service representative checked the computer and said they had one in stock outback and he could go out and get it if I was REALLY interested. I replied that it was “ok” I would walk round the store and think about it. Think about it I did and decided to check around for other stores with better knowledge and customer service. Since I mentioned it, lets talk about pricing . . . second hand guns at Cabelas are over priced. I recently purchased a Browning BAR 30-06 manufactured in 1985 (mint condition) at L.L. Bean for $485.00 . . . the best I could determine Cabela's price was $625.00.

Being a “rabid” duck hunter, I had expected to see a gigantic waterfowl selection but only happened to find a few scattered decoys in the “Bargain Basement” section. I had expected to see every breed of duck and goose decoy ever made by a dozen different manufacturers, a wall of duck and goose calls, etc. Perhaps we missed the section when we were busy picking out neon deer head signs, mail boxes in the shape of giant bass plugs or large pink “unidentified” ornaments.

Lastly, I did end up spending and purchased a cast iron griddle, long hot dog fork for the little man (for when we go camping), collapsible saw and baseball cap clip on flashlight. My buddy also bought several items and I handed out the remaining “Employee Pricing” coupons to a family of four pushing a HUGE cart full of camping gear and a young kid and his Dad who were buying his first firearm and struggling with the price.

Final score Rabid gave the store a solid B+ while DuckMan’s graded a B-. See you next for the 6 month review!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Ducks on Merry Meeting Bay by Rabid

Ducks on Merry Meeting Bay
Well, it is still several months away but I know that you really dedicated duck hunters are already thinking about the approaching waterfowl season. I have already started painting decoys and scouting despite the fact that it has been in the 90s all week! Maine's duck hunting mecca is the tidal waters of Merry Meeting Bay. Rich with wild rice it serves as an abundant food source for a healthy duck population. However, while the ducks may be plentiful and the shooting opportunities numerous it is still highly possibly to hunt "The Bay" and come back duckless. To help you be more successful, here are a few suggestions concerning duck hunting on Merry Meeting. If anyone has any other please post a comment!

Here are a few quick suggestions . . .
1. Location, location, location. Get down to the bay in the off-season and scout out several good spots. Check these locations during both high and low tides and make sure you can easily access the spot during your intended hunting times. Be sure to lock in your GPS coordinates as I can almost guarantee if you don’t the day you decide to hunt will be so foggy you won’t be able to see your hand in front of your face.

2. Camouflage cannot be emphasized enough. These birds are quickly educated and out on the flats there is no real place to hide. Having pre-made grass skirts and covering that match the surroundings is key. I like to use plastic hardware cloth and zip tie to it a mixture of cattails and marsh grasses. Check out these photos of me hunting out of a 12 foot portaboat to get a good feel for what I am talking about, now you see me . . .
. . . now you don’t.
3. Avoid opening day it’s a circus . . . enough said. If you are REALLY adventurous it is worth going for the show just get there SUPER early and remember to keep your head down.

4. Check the tides and make sure you don’t accidentally get into an area where you run out of real estate and have to drag your boat home over miles of mudflats. Also realize that many areas are inaccessible during low tide so make sure you have hunting locations that anticipate the expected tides.

5. Decoy selection – Having teal decoys is a must early in the season. Mallards and Blacks of course should be added to the mix. Later in the season, it will help to have some white (golden eyes or buffleheads)on the outskirts of your spread. Use HEAVY weights as the tide can be unmerciful and when it is shooting time you DO NOT want to be chasing your decoys across the bay.

6. Mojo (spinning wing) ducks are great but realize that in certain locations you may need a sledge hammer to get the mounting pole in the ground.

7. Wait until the birds get close and don’t rush your shots. Sadly every year numerous unclaimed casualties are found floating around the bay by unconscientious hunters. REMEMBER don’t be a sky buster!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Penobscot River Striper Report by Rabid

Penobscot River Striper Report

Woke up at 3:30 on Monday to a damp and foggy morning and fairly hesitated before getting out of bed and stumbling downstairs. I was impressed that in about 10 minutes I managed to brew a cup of coffee, get out the door and be barreling down route 3 toward Belfast. About an hour later my cell phone rang, it was my brother “Were the hell are ya?” “About 15 minutes out”, I said “just passing Hamlin Marine”. “Ok, well I'll be fishing”, was the only reply. A quarter of an hour later, I pulled up next to my brother’s truck at Sandy Point. He had already untied his Predator kayak and it was sitting in the parking lot next to his fishing gear. Barely had I turned off the key in the ignition switch and noted the time (5:00) when an anxious figure appeared over the fogy dunes. “Lets go” it stated.

In a few minutes time, we loaded his kayak next to mine and were again on our way down route 3 toward Bucksport. We had a simple plan to put in the kayaks at the public launch on Verona Island and fish the stretch of the Penobscot down to Sandy Point. By leaving a vehicle at each point, we could play the outgoing tide and accomplish the 4 mile trip with minimal effort.

Paddling up and past the Bucksport mill almost to the power lines we then turned and crossed the river and fished the location where we had such good luck last season. Unfortunately, no fish. Picking our way through the fog we passed by Fort Knox and I snapped a few dreary photos and noted the time was 5:45. The old and new bridges soon stretched high over our heads and we continued down the river. We tried trolling, casting and a variety of lures (surface poppers, sinking pearl shads, floating pearl shads and assorted streamer flies) but no fish. As we made out way down the western shore I noted 3-4 Blue Herons busily feeding on bait fish but no schooling stripers were seen chasing this food source.

At 7:30 I beached the kayak and got out to stretch my legs and attempted some casting from shore. Minutes later I was back in the kayak and again heading again down the shoreline. We took our time casting to shore as well as away into the deeper waters and hitting all of the eddy pools and stream entry points with multiple casts. No fish.

At around 9:00 the thought of hot coffee (I was wearing my winter hat, long pants and two insulated tops!) and a couple Irving red hot dogs proved to much of a temptation and we paddled the remaining time to the beach with renewed vigor. Arriving at the beach 30 minutes later, I was impressed with the sight of the old 1970s fertilizer factory just off shore. Even in the heavy fog, the immensity of the ancient structure was hard to ignore.

We pulled the kayaks across the beach and loaded them in my brother’s vehicle and headed toward Irving in Searsport. After stocking up with supplies my brother said “Hey, I heard the mackerel are running off the pier in Searsport want to give it a couple hours?” At 10:00 we arrived at the town pier in Searsport and joined a group of about 10 other fishing individuals. Happily eating my red hot dog and sipping back on a hot coffee, I questioned if anything else could have compared to that moment. Fishless but relaxed and happy we both decided to call it quits around noontime.

Well, this is why the sport is called FISHING and not FINDING so stay tuned . . . maybe soon the stripers will be running and hopefully we will see you on the water next weekend! Take Care!

Hot and Spicy Baked Beans

Fireworks and Baked Beans
Seeing the GIANT outdoor chicken pit at the 4th of July celebrations got me charged up to do some more outdoor cooking. So, Saturday morning I was up bright and early and back out at the fire pit trying out a new tongue searing baked bean recipe. While it diverges slightly from the more traditional baked bean concoctions you typically find at church suppers in Downeast Maine, I am sure that for the adventurous among you this dish will be wildly popular.
Hot and Spicy Baked Beans
2 lbs of Great Northern Beans (Soaked over night)
1 lb of Salt Pork (Cut into small chunks)
3 Tablespoons of Dijon Mustard
3 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
3 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
1 Tablespoon of Soy Sauce
1 ½ Cups of “Sweet Baby Rays” Barbeque Sauce
6 Table Spoons of finely chopped chipotle chiles
1 Large Chopped Onion
4 cups of H20

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Maine’s Greatest Hits – (#7 of 10)

Rafting the Kennebec River by Stephen Vose

*The Kennebec River Gorge is a perfect rafting trip for all levels of rafting experience and children as young as 5 years old are welcome by the guide service to participate on some trips. The Lower Kennebec Gorge is the easier, more relaxing whitewater stretch with only small rapids. This is a great chance to relax, soak up the sun and beauty of the Maine outdoors!

A few years back, I was invited to attend a weekend excursion to the upper reaches of the Kennebec River to participate in a rafting adventure. Never one smart enough to pass up an opportunity where there is significant risk to life and limb I gladly accepted the offer. Upon arriving at our campground in “The Forks”, I began discussing the next day’s activities with my amigos and was informed that as a greenhorn I should be prepared for “quite” a ride. Apparently, they had miraculously linked our trip to coincide with one of the largest dam releases of the season and they exuberantly predicted that a set of rapids named “Big Momma” was going to have her way with me. Knowing that their taunts were only designed to prod for weaknesses in my emotional armor, I offered a thin smile and continued sipping on a local brew aptly named “Moose Piss”.

At around 7:00 AM my alarm sounded and I was relieved to see bright sunshine streaming in through the tent screen. The fickle nature of Maine’s weather had me half expecting to make this trip either in the pouring rain, a blinding blizzard or perhaps both. Current conditions aside, I still heeded the old outdoorsman’s motto “cotton kills” and pulled on my polyester long sleeved t-shirt and shorts. To protect my lily-white completion I wore a white baseball hat, sunglasses and a liberal coating of SPF 30 sunscreen. On the feet of many of the veteran paddlers, I noted Tevas but I instead opted for an old pair of tennis shoes. Lastly, accompanying me would be a small dry bag containing a lightweight fleece pullover, winter hat, extra sunscreen and a waterproof disposable camera.

By 8:00 the group was beginning to assemble and our rafting guides provided a brief lecture served with a side order of coffee and doughnuts. A clipboard was then circulated stating something to the effect, “Rafting is inherently DANGEROUS and if you were in fact to DIE it would be our own damn fault”, my life flashed before my eyes as I signed my name. At this point, we were divided up and provided with our assigned raft and guide. Seeing that my team was provided one of the more seasoned guides I silently prayed that older did in fact mean wiser. Grabbing all of the other required gear from the guide service life jacket, paddle and helmet I was then quickly herded onto the bus with all of the other hooting and hollering crazies and we started out for the designated launching point.

Arriving at the “Dam” I was surprised with the huge number of other rafting companies who were also scurrying around like ants at the launching point. Dozens of boats and people were crowded around the waters edge waiting their turn to launch their rubberized crafts and proceed to their doom. A number of young and fearless individuals were even attempting the 4-6 foot high rapids (2-4+ on a 1-6 scale) with nothing more than a lifejacket, swim fins and boogie board! I cringed to think what “White Washer” and infamous “Magic Falls” might do to an unprepared and/or unlucky individual.

Sooner than expected, it was our turn to launch and within seconds we were swept away in the fast moving waters of the Upper Kennebec Gorge and struggling through approximately 7 miles of non-stop thrilling whitewater action. My memory of those 7 miles is foggy to say the least. The incredible power of the rapids in the Upper Gorge with standing waves and large drops combine with the fast moving waters of the narrow canyon to create a powerful sensory experience. I strain to hear the guides commands over the roar of the rapids and with a supreme effort, I will my muscles to bite the paddle deep into the tormented waters. I quickly look around and see that there is a look of concentration on the faces of all of the rafters and as we roll I am surprised to see that our team begins to develop a rhythm. What in the first few minutes had seemed like garbled mayhem was now morphing into the workings of a well-oiled machine. As our small craft slams through Big Momma, White Washer and Magic Falls I can help smiling and letting out a couple of excited shrieks!

To soon, however, the upper rapids are behind us and we jump in and float with the current feeling the power of the river as we lazily float downstream. At the half way point, we stop to have a riverside lunch and are treated to an incredible selection featuring grilled chicken, hamburgers, hotdogs, potato salad, pasta salad, rolls and drinks. Filling myself beyond maximum capacity, I am relieved that the remainder of the trip is spent slowly paddling down the lower Kennebec Gorge watching bald eagles and ospreys, moose and other woodland creatures. The last 7 miles are spent taking photos, recounting all of the excitement of the morning and enjoying the stories from our guide.

On Newsstands NOW!

Well it is finally official I am a published author!  For those of you interested in seeing my "PUBLISHED" work it is now available in the July edition of The Maine Sportsman. My article is featured on pages 33 and 34.

For more information on The Maine Sportsman Magazine or to order a subscription click this link:
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