Nothing makes you want to get out of town more than cabin fever. I’m not talking about cabin fever where you’re stuffed inside a 1 room cabin with 6′ of snow outside either; you can have cabin fever here in the South just as easily. As I’m writing this, it has rained for the past 5 days straight, and it’s going to be too muddy to do anything outside for another 3 days at least. The temperatures have been in the 40’s as a high, with lows near freezing; not fun weather to go out and play in, so instead of flipping through my Netflix que while sitting on the couch, I decide to go ahead and start planning ahead for an epic trip for the coming spring.
Without fail, the first trip that comes to mind is usually something epic, amazing, and makes my mother break out into a fit of prayer. My idea for this year was a backpacking/Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training trip for 2 months in South America. Reality makes the idea fizzle out fairly quickly because of time, money, and fear of being snatched by drug lords in Columbia. So that piece of paper was balled up and thrown towards the trash can, and a new piece of paper with the title of “Allagash River, Maine” gets started.
Maine is the state that seems to have it all: moose, mountain lakes, rugged sea shores, lumberjacks in red flannel shirts, wolves, dense fir forests, and lobster hot dogs. Maine holds a special place in my heart because of all the books I read as a child about trappers exploring the wilderness, and also because of all the stories my Aunt Bonna told me about her trip there 2 years ago. Amazingly enough, the place and activity was dropped in my lap by a good friend who asked if I wanted to go on a 7 day canoe trip down the Allagash River in Maine with him and 3 other college students.
Since cabin fever was still in full swing (which is what prompted the idea of this canoe trip with my buddy in the first place) I started obsessively researching the trip. I’m not sure how I went this long without knowing about the Allagash River, but it’s THE seminal introductory wilderness canoing trip. 92 miles long and sitting north of Mount Katahdin, the Allagash passes through a road-less tract of wilderness that has remained mostly unchanged through the years. One of the most appealing reasons to go on the Allagash, is that there is only one section of the 92 miles that has any rapids. So if you’re not an experienced canoer, you won’t be in any danger while paddling the river, and don’t have to worry as much about the possibility of tipping over with all your gear.
Fitting to the natural scenery, the history of the Allagash matches it’s amazing surroundiings. In the 1850’s Henry David Thoreau paddled the river twice and later wrote about his experiences in his book “The Maine Woods”. In 1966, the citizens of Maine passed a 1.5 million dollar bond to “protect the river for it’s wilderness properties”, and was later listed on the National Scenic and Wild Rivers register which assures it’s protection for years to come.
Now comes the serious part of “epic trip” planning: the gear and food list. First comes the fun part of looking at the average highs and lows for an early May trip to Maine; highs in the 60’s and the lows in the 30s with the record low sitting right at 20 degrees. From there, I start planning on what sleeping bag to take and what clothes will keep me warm yet look rugged and fashionable in the pictures afterwards. Canoes, backpacks, drybags, tents, axes, GPS units and all the other fun gadgets that are taken on an epic trip are listed. Finally comes the most expensive and tedious part of planning this trip; you’re going to have 4 athletic college guys in the woods for 7 days which requires approximately 4000lbs of food. Since it’s all men, none of the food should require cleanup afterwards, be high in protein, and add to the overall ambiance of the rugged scenery around us. The only food that fits this requirement is beef jerky; a lot of beef jerky. I’ve sent letters to Slim Jim Beef Jerky about sponsor ship opportunities, but I have yet to receive a reply.
There’s still several more months of winter left before spring properly arrives, so you still have time to plan your epic trip. Just remember that epic doesn’t necessarily mean dangerous or daunting; it just means a totally immersive experience that you’ll always be able to look back on fondly; even with the gastrointestinal effects of eating nothing but beef jerky for 7 days straight.