The portage around Presumpscot Falls on the Presumpscot River was among the most dangerous carries of the trip. It was short, well marked, and had solid footing, but I could smell salt water and my mind was wandering to other places.
The falls had been underwater for over 200 years, but with the removal of Smelt Hill Dam eight years ago, the falls came to light, and at their foot I loaded my canoe, Casco, and paddled out into the brackish water of the estuary. There, plunging my hands into salt water for the first time in eighteen months, I knew I was close. I had paddled from ocean to ocean, but I was still not home.
In the estuary I floated, enjoying the slack tide and solemnly snapping on Casco's party dress before I went into open water. I brushed my teeth, changed my shirt, and took a deep breath before putting paddle to water once more. The 4300th mile had begun.
I had grand plans of a triumphant finish, but as I rounded Martin's Point and saw the blinking lights of the harbor beacons, I could not wait. I had told my family I would come in at 2pm, but I coasted in a half hour early and they had to hurriedly get the ballons out of the car. It was a warm reception, and as I chatted with reporters and hugged family, I regularly took pulls off the champagne bottle of Allagash Stout my mother had brought me. I was home.
Last I wrote, I had paddled and portaged into the Adirondacks to connect with the Northern Forest Canoe Trail that I had completed previously. That accomplished, I met my brother and we did a leisurely two day, ten-mile trip in the St. Regis before driving south to meet my parents. I returned home for two days to be with close family friends as they celebrated the life of their grandfather, a great man I had know from my earliest memories. Then it was back to Maine, solo, to put in on the Androscoggin River towards the middle of the NFCT.
In Bethel, Maine I made the obligatory stop at the pizza shrine at Mallard Mart to consume the ambrosia I had partaken of so often in college. Thus fortified, I walked four miles to Songo Pond, but it's outlet was dry and that had me walking twenty-five miles and then paddling under the stars down to Long Lake and the route to Sebago Lake. In all, I traveled over 100 miles in two and a half days. Happy to be in Maine, and happy to be approaching the end, I moved well.
Some reflections and a summary of the trip will follow in the next few days.