St. Croix River Trip
June 23-30, 2012
Troop 19 - Nashua, NH
(click on pics to magnify)

Every few years, Troop 19 of Nashua, NH takes a High Adventure trip. After taking a two week trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National parks in 2011, the summer of 2012 was slated as an off year. The weeklong adventure they took in June 2012, however, was an exhilarating trip that they will not soon forget.
Their first stop was the beautiful seacoast town of Booth Bay, Maine. After spending a night at a local campground, the troop was off for a morning at sea. They took a Windjammer cruise on an immaculate sailing ship called the Eastwind. For several hours they enjoyed sailing around the vast harbor, enjoying the picturesque New England coast complete with seals, lighthouses and other sailing ships. Several scouts got to help out with raising and lowering the sails, while others managed to fit in a quick game of cards.

After lunch at a nearby park, the troop headed inland to spend the night just outside Bangor at Camp Roosevelt. Camp Roosevelt is a BSA camp in the Maine Katahdin Area Council. Unfortunately, the troop had no time to take full advantage of this fine facility, for on this trip, it was only a stopover on their way to the planned adventure.

  With breakfast and cleanup behind them, they continued to drive northeast toward Lake Spednick, which is on the border of Maine and Canada's eastern province of New Brunswick. Shortly before arriving at the lake, they ran into a local river guide who was taking a group of kids on essentially the same canoe trip. Our Scoutmaster and the guide compared trip plans, anticipated camping sites and bits of knowledge about the river itself. The meeting would prove to be invaluable later on.
The logging roads to get to the lake were long and bumpy, but shortly after noon they were unloading canoes, having lunch and getting out on the water. Little did they know it at the time, but the sunshine they enjoyed in Booth Bay would be the last they would see for awhile. The forecast called for a day or so of scatter showers, but no one predicted that the storm would stall over Maine for days. As if on cue, the rain began minutes after the troop got situated on the water. A steady rain and a slight headwind were not ideal conditions, but within a few hours they made it to their first camping spot.

  The river camp sites were generally primitive, but did include a picnic table, fire ring and a plastic toilet over a hole in the ground as a restroom. Although lacking in amenities, the camp was a welcome site. As unforgiving as the weather would be while the troop was in their canoes, the rain generally let up long enough for them to set up and breakdown camp every day. After a hot meal and a chance to dry out by the fire, the scouts played some card games and chatted about their first day on the lake before heading to bed. Overnight rain had subsided, and after a good breakfast and cleanup, they were back in the canoes. The showers soon returned, the Small Mouth Bass were biting, and the boys were still having fun. That day was particularly wet, and after hours of paddling on the stormy lake and bailing out the canoes, the troop came upon their next campsite.
This was truly a sight for sore eyes, their spirits were not dampened, but everything else was. Finding dry wood seemed impossible, but after several attempts, they did get a fire going. They were able to keep it rolling thanks to an abundant supply of driftwood which was surprisingly dry on the inside. With clotheslines by the fire, a hot meal and desert in their bellies, a cheerful night around the fire ensued. Overnight rain gave way long enough for breakfast and packing up. As they started out, a few canoes stopped at a rock in the middle of the lake to look at an International Boundary Marker. They joked about how they crossed the border without Passports; little did they know that this would not be their only trip to Canada.

  The wind and the rain began again in earnest, and they kept close to the shore to avoid the 2 foot swells in the middle of the lake. They noticed a group of canoes up ahead, as they approached, they realized it was the guide they met a few days earlier. He was giving his group some lessons and practice time for the river portion that lay ahead later in the day. After a lengthy stretch of choppy open water, the troop pulled ashore for a quick lunch. The guide and his group said hello as they passed by. The canoes got bailed out and the group was ready for the final leg of the lake portion of the trip.
  An hour or so passed and the cheers arose as the dam came into view. They pulled the canoes out of the water and began to unload their gear so they could carry the canoes around the dam. What was supposed to be a difficult 100 yard portage of carrying canoes and gear, had now become an impossible one mile portage. The lower side of the dam where the canoes are normally put in was now a raging torrent of water. The Lake Spednick area had received over nine (9) inches of rain over the previous two weeks. The dam was now letting out three times the normal amount of water: over 12,000 cfs (cubic feet per second)! The troop needed to find some way to get their gear a mile downstream to put-in, or be forced to turn around and canoe back to the beginning.

  Our Scoutmaster had gone up to the Border Patrol Station to check their options while the other waited in the rain not sure which direction they would be heading. Twenty minutes later he returned, with a pickup truck and the owner of a local canoe outfitter who was going to help them continue downstream! The Scoutmaster had run across the river guide who they had met earlier, the guide knew the canoe outfitter and introduced them. Soon all the scouts, canoes and gear were transported a mile or so downstream to a spot along the river owned by the outfitter. They were back on the water, the heavy rains had subsided and the real fun was about to begin.
   The river was a welcome change from the lake. The Scouts had kept a good attitude through the long windswept rainy days on the lake, but you could feel their excitement rise as they maneuvered between rocks in the swift current. With only a few minor hang ups on rocks, the troop proceeded down river to their next campsite. That night they camped at Little Falls, a short stretch of Class III rapids that is passable under normal circumstances, but with the tremendous flow of the river, a short portage was the wise move.
  A raucous fire was in order that night. They had battled through the rough days on the lake, enjoyed the heart pounding of some swift water, and now the clouds were breaking and stars could be seen for the first time in days! The next morning was a beauty, sunny skies greeted the troop as they set off on their final day on the river.
Once again they found themselves challenged by the fast current and rocky sets of Class II rapids. There had only been minor hang ups for the first few miles, but then came a more costly encounter. One of the canoes had gotten caught sideways against a rock and began to take on water. The other canoes were able to pull over in an adjacent eddy while several leaders battled the current to save the fiberglass canoe. They were able to get it free, but it had hit a rock underwater and the left side sustained some damage. The welcome sunshine dried the canoe and with the help of a generous amount of duct tape, they were back on their way. The river offered a number of challenging rapids, but the troop was up to the task and making good time. The day would take a dramatic turn however when they reached the Rocky Rips rapids. It was a long rocky stretch of river, and the unusually swift water made navigating difficult. Most of the canoes made it through with only minor scrapes, but one got caught
broadside against a large rock. Unfortunately it was the previously damaged canoe, and the duct tape side was now beginning to wrap around the boulder. The sweeper canoe was able to pull up alongside and helped unload people and gear safely up on top of the boulder. They were given one end of a rope that was tied to the sweeper canoe. After it was unloaded, they would be able to pull the canoe back to the boulder and paddle to shore. The plan however hit a snag as the sweeper canoe got caught sideways against rocks just downstream and began taking on water! To make sure the lifeline out to the boulder was not at risk; it was untied from the canoe and brought to shore. In the midst of all the turmoil, they didn't realize that the rope had also been used to secure gear in the canoe. In addition to the paddles and clothes bag, a waterproof box containing cell phones, GPS and truck keys floated quickly downriver. This was not good, but getting everyone back to shore was more important.
  The lifeline was tied off to a tree and the other end around one of the boulders. One at a time, the two canoeists clipped their lifejackets on to the rope and stepped into the river. The rocky bottom was loose, making their footing difficult. That, combined with the force of the river, they were forced to pull themselves hand over hand as they relied completely on the rope and the knots at both ends. Everything held up and they made it safely ashore. One of the leaders then made his way back out to the boulder, tied on the remaining gear, a quick bowline around himself and went for a rump-bump ride down river and to shore.

  The troop had pulled all the canoes to shore at the campsite a short walk downstream. While most of the adults had been upriver helping to get everyone off the boulder, the scouts prepared some hot soup for everyone once they got back to shore. They were approximately five miles from the intended end of the river trip, but short a canoe and having a few people who were not quite ready to get back on the river, they needed to modify the trip plan.
  It was decided that three canoes would continue down river, look for the lost items, (especially the box with the keys to one of the trucks that was hauling a canoe trailer) get to the drop-off vehicle, and make their way back to the campsite to pick everyone up. Fortunately the campsite was one of the few that had vehicle access, but unfortunately, it happened to be on the Canadian side of the river! As the three canoes embarked on the last leg of the river trip, the rest of the group unloaded their gear and set up tents for the night. They made dinner, had a nice fire and caught some of the largest fire flies they have ever seen.
The first mile or so for those in the canoes was spent on a fruitless search of the river bank, but soon their luck changed. First it was a bag with snacks, then a paddle and a dry bag with clothes; they began to find their lost items. The box with the keys however was still out there. Another mile down river they spotted something behind a large rock along the river bank. It was the box! The search and recovery mission was complete, now they could head for the takeout spot.
   After a slight detour on bumpy logging roads, they made their way to the border crossing they portaged around the day before. It was nighttime when they got there, and fortunately the border agents understood the extenuating circumstances. Although none of the scouts had passports, they all had copies of their birth certificates. The Canadian agent even made a phone call to the St. Croix River Commissioner, who was willing to not only guide them to the campsite where the rest of the group was, but he would also transport scouts and gear back across the border. Sometime after 2:00 am, they were safely back on U.S. soil, and they set up camp again for the rest of the night at the canoe outfitters property. The next morning they headed for Acadia National Park for the final leg of the journey.

They reached the park almost a full day behind schedule, and had to make a change in their itinerary. The planned full day of mountain biking on Acadia's beautiful carriage roads was replaced with a sunny afternoon at Sand Beach. The beach time was just what the doctor ordered, and so was the dinner that followed. Back at the campsite they prepared a surf & turf New England clambake. Lobsters, steamed clams, corn on the cob and two inch thick steaks; it was a rewarding feast after a long week in the canoes. The distant sound of thunder could be heard as they began to clean up after the meal. With all of the rain the troop endured, they were fortunate to not have to deal with any lightning, but that was to change.
The sky grew dark and the rain began as thunder and lightning got closer. Some scouts sought shelter in cars; others went to the bathhouse, while others huddled under a tarp or went in their tents. It was a short but violent storm; 30 minutes of heavy rain, hail, loud thunder & lightning strikes within the park. The troop safely weathered the storm, but they found out later that lightning had hit a car in the park, traveled underground to a nearby tent and struck two people who were sleeping. They were taken to a nearby hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
  Saturday was beautiful and sunny, a perfect day for packing up and heading home after a long week. Half dozen scouts and a few adults were not quite ready to go however. How could they leave this beautiful park without at least taking a short hike? Acadia National Park is loaded with hiking trails on a number of mountains for a wide range of ability levels. They wanted to get the best hike they could with the limited time they had. The park has several steep trails that require climbing up iron rungs, the Beehive and the Precipice are two popular climbs that could provide some thrills.
With time being a factor, they chose the shorter Beehive trail and did not disappoint. The trail is less than a mile in length, but parts of it are straight up. The narrow ledges and iron rungs lead to the top where spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and the Atlantic Ocean. Their trail choice turned out to be a good decision, there was an accident on the Precipice Trail that day in which a hiker fell from a ledge.

From beginning to end, it was a tremendous week full of adventure. For a year without a planned High Adventure Trip, Troop 19 went home with plenty to talk about.

Mr. Paul Guertin
Assistant Scoutmaster
BSA Troop 19
with pictures by
Mr. Rich Wiik
Assistant Scoutmaster
BSA Troop 19
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