After a mostly sunny rest day in Bethel, ME spent re-stocking food, supplementing gear, writing about the trip, eating out and planning the next few days, we made an early departure on Day 7 October 12th. What began as a foggy morning quickly turned sunny as we made great time heading towards Mexico, ME. After 21 miles of paddling, we arrived at our 3-mile portage at 2:15pm, made easy work of organizing the cart and began our land journey through town. About 1/2 mile into the trip we stopped for a slight rest to consult the map and upon re-starting we realized our portage cart had a flat tire. Another flat tire! No! Luckily, we were in the parking lot of Tractor Supply and it appeared hopeful that they’d have parts. They did have parts, but no means to change the flat. Long story short, Matt ran around for over 2 hours trying to get this 4-inch tire repaired. Successful, yes. Timely, no. The good news, however, is that this small stoke of bad luck landed us a large stroke of good luck when Eric, a generous local, opened up his home to us for the night. We spent a few hours talking with him as he showed us his bees, his garden, explained his solar array to us, showed us some whitewater rafting photos and made us feel welcomed. He made a world of difference on our trip. The next morning we loaded up his pickup, viewed Rumford Falls for a bit and made our way to the put-in just below the dam. We made our goodbyes and that leg of the journey was over – quicker than we had wanted.
Our luck continued the next day with great weather, a beautiful stretch of river and some interaction with local paddlers Laurie and Mike, who lived right on the river in Canton. Turns out they’re canoe racers and participate in many of the MaCKRO (Maine Canoe and Kayak Racing Organization) races. We turned them on to the California 100 as they gave us some concord grapes for the journey. By 3:30 we pulled off the water at Riley Dam having paddled 19 miles. Content to camp there for the night, we discovered a wonderful campsite on high ground near the portage trail and setup tents as the rain moved in.
We completed the portage the next morning and began our day below the Riley Dam, just a few miles upriver from a few other dams that needed to be portaged. We’d made 40 miles the last two days and were set to make some more mileage. 23 miles later we pulled into Freeman’s Landing in the dark. We’d portaged Jay Dam, Otis Dam and Livermore Falls early and then lined Twin Bridges falls late in the afternoon. Mid-day we paddled one of the prettiest stretches of the entire trip, a long section of easy rapids among boulderfields while the light was perfect and the eagles circled. Our campsite was flat and spacious with amenities and was highly recommended by our contacts at the Androscoggin Land Trust.
The next morning we took our time getting packed as we were on river left, the shaded side of the river. The water was flat as glass as we were now above Gulf Island Dam, a ten-mile long lake that was created with the dam. Even though we had no flow to speak of, we did have more gorgeous scenery and foliage to keep us content. Within an hour we met up with Judy Marden of the Androscoggin Land Trust. She had paddled upriver from Center Bridge in her sea kayak to meet us and paddle with us. After a nice meet and greet on the water, we continued downriver back towards Center Bridge as we asked her questions about the land trust and she asked us questions about the trip. It was great having someone join us, even for a short stretch. By noon, Judy had departed, but we had plans to meet her downstream in Auburn later that evening. She was extremely accommodating and provided us with warm beds, hot showers and clean clothes. It was a pleasure to get to know her and to collaborate with another non-profit organization doing great work. We stayed up late telling stories and solving the non-profit worlds problems and went to sleep feeling grateful for her help. Her actions impacted our trip in a big way, setting us up for the next three days and for the finish of this journey.