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2019 Umbagog Lake State Park, New Hampshire

Umbagog Lake State Park is located Cambridge, NH, over five hours from Greenfield, MA, if one is avoiding highways to get there. And we did avoid highways, since we had our two ultra-light Hornbeck boats atop our car, which significantly reduces the range of our EV.

Umbagog Lake State Park is a 1,360-acre park on the southern shore of Umbagog Lake adjacent the Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge.  The lake is 7,850 acres - 11 miles long, north to south. The name Umbagog is properly pronounced with the stress on the second syllable (um-BAY-gog) and is said to come from the Abenaki word for "shallow water".

Following are photos from our trip, along with transcribed entries from my journal, which are organized by day and shown in italics.

Day 1: We drove a rather circuitous route to get to Errol, NH, stopping at Sweet Lucy's in Bernardston for for cider donuts, the Sam's in Brattleboro for extra fuel and an ultra-light day bag for Mary. Another stop in Lyme, NH, at the beautiful town common - a true old-style common with a rectangular grassy area bordered by shade trees, where one could imagine bygone times when townspeople grazed their sheep or hitched their horses there.

We walked the pups and had lunch - sandwiches of left-over breakfast - mine, a wrap that contained fried tofu and green bean sautee. Yum!  I began imagining how good a variety of sauteed vegetables could be, tucked into a wrap with a schmeer of mayo and mustard. But...back to the trip, though if food were not a major element of the trip, then why even bother going??

We arrived at Lake Umbagog State Park, with its predictable scramble of too-close-together camp sites, all tumbling toward the water, and state-park-brown little cabins, one of which housed the office. Nothing moves quickly in that office, but eventually we made our way over to site 33, where Glen discovered there was only a 110 volt outlet to charge the car, instead of the 220 volt outlet we anticipated. At that rate, it would take 39 hours to fully charge the car - oy!

Glen called a place we had seen on the way up and, along with some other options on the PlugShare app, we determined we would stay and do a trickle charge overnight and then, after our several days out in the boats, we would charge on the way home.

I shifted our gear around in the car and voila! we had two beds in the back that accommodated two humans with space for two dogs. With some big rain forecast for overnight, we were glad not to have to pack up a drenched tent in the morning


Day 2: Site 33 to Site 11.

The day was grey and windy, the sky sporting bruise-colored storm clouds. We were the only ones heading out into the lake, with the exception of a solo kayaker who looked to be heading out for a long time, judging by the volume of gear he was preparing to load into his boat. All the other folks around were taking out boats, having just paddled back to shore after a night or more out on the lake.


We divvied up our neatly packed gear and slipped our boats and ourselves into the dark, choppy water. We opted to paddle over the west shore, making for a longer paddle but providing for less buffetting from the wind - and a better chance to get to shore should anyone fall overboard (think Twyla).


It became apparent that there is a mix of private and state park properties alongside one another along the shore. We paddled past a couple of campsites and a couple of private cottages, with an occasional light rain shower moistening us.


Glen successfully navigated us to Site 11, set at the south end of Thurston Bay. From our site, along with views of the surrounding ridges, we could ssee a substantial clearing containing a house and several out buildings. Not the "wild" setting decribed by the state park woman on the phone earlier in the week, but it would do. We pitched our tents on a wood platform and Glen added a tarp under the tent fly for extra warmth.


We ate a mid-afternoon "supper" of roasted pasta sauce, pasta spirals and oily, breaded summer squash. It was tasty!

An evening paddle up Thurston Bay revealed a couple more houses along the shore and brought us to what looked like some culverts under a dirt road. We could paddle no further on Thurston, so we turned back, seeing a couple of beaver lodges, one active with very recent sappling branches.

In the tent by 6:30 or so, we read for quite a long time sitting in our camp chairs. One last trip outside to pee and I stepped over to the edge of the water to rinse my hands. I was struck by the sheer beauty of the starry sky and half moon, illuminating the water's edge on the far shore and the ridgeline above it. This is the life to live.

Day 3: Second day at Site 11.

We slept about 13 or 14 hours, waking occasionally to night sounds - owls, loons, a beaver swimming - and Twyla nosing her way into the sleeping bag, wedging herself between us. When we finally crawled out of the tent, we found it was a cold, grey morning, with slender slices of blue sky showing and then retreating, leaving  only solid cloud cover.

After a lethargic start to the morning, we headed out for a paddle, hugging the coast all the way up to Site 30, which it turns out is on a charming little island. We all peed and stretched, enjoying the quiet little setting for a while. We saw loons, herons and kingfishers along the way. Very few humans were to be seen - we spotted one tent set up at a site and a couple of paddlers in the far distance.

It's a quiet evening now, after a tasty supper (see food note) below. Glen is washing the cook pot and utensils. I imagine we wil take a saunter into the woods a piece, and then retreat to the tent, given the voraciousness of the no-see-ems!

Day 4: Third day at Site 11.

We got about fourteen hours of sleep last night, very toasty in the heavier sleeping bags. It's about 45 degrees but, with hot beverages and double long johns, it's not bad sitting out on the tent platform in our little trekker chairs. (Glen confirms he has a patch kit with him should one of the mattresses blow a leak.) More later....

....We headed over to have a look at Site 33, since we would not end up camping there after all. Instead, we took a day trip paddle over to explore that part of the lake, stopping to lunch at Site 33. We made our way back around 4 pm or so, using the red roof on the house on the distant hill (which we referred to as Burger King, such was its ugliness in an otherwise beautiful landscape) with which to navigate.

Supper ended up being just snacks since we both had two bean burritos a piece at lunch. We listened to a long stretch of the book (Louise Penny's A Better Man) in the tent once it got dark, and swapped back rubs. It rained overnight, but all humans, dogs and gear stayed dry and toasty.

Day 5: Site 11 to Site 25.

The rain stopped early in the morning and the breeze and warmer temps dried off the tent exterior pretty well. After breakfast, we packed everything up, loaded our boats and shoved off from Site 11, heading on to Site 25, up the west coast of the lake. The skies and landscape were dramatic looking, with lots of clouds and mist, and the water was quite choppy. We did what we could to stay out of the wind and chop, but were cautious about getting too close to shore, given the dark water obscuring the dark, jagged rocks just below the water's surface.

We drew fairly close to our destination when it began raining hard enough that we opted to head for the rocky shore and to seek shelter under some overhanging trees. More later.....

...After waiting out the rain, we made a quick paddle to Site 25, situated up on a hill. Taking out was a bit treacherous on wet, slippery rocks. While I schlepped the gear up to the site, Glen paddled right back out to treat some water. We had a snacky lunch of tofu jerky, red hot blue corn chips and apples with peanut butter. Glen also had a wrap with peanut butter and plum jam.








We got busy setting up the tent, since the skies started to get dark again. No sooner had I transferred the gear to the picnic table and Glen had finished staking out the tent did it begin to rain again! We quickly moved the gear to the tent, where all four of us are currently lounging.

The waters were rough with white caps the rest of the afternoon. Finally, at 6 pm, we put in and paddled over into the Androscoggin River. The evening had turned calm and magical. And the sky, having been raked with wind and rain all afternoon, used the last of the sun's glow to put on a show of pinks and purples, with puffs and billows of clouds. 

We paddled back in the waning light with the nearly full moon revealing itself from behind the clouds, just having time to use the loo and head into the tent before dark. 

Day 6: Second day at Site 25.

We could hear the choppy water smashing against the rocky shore as soon as we woke this morning, and the chop and white caps continued through the morning and early afternoon. We read, played cards and took a walk up and over the wooded hill, where we enncountered two types of club moss, countless fern and mushrooms species, along with sugar maple (Acer saccharum), birch and other lovely trees. 

We spent some down time at the neighboring site on Molls Rock, where there were no campers but there was less wind and more sun on the empty tent platform.

I must say I am thoroughly enjoying re-reading The Antelope Wife by Louise Erdrich. She is an amazing, imaginative and brutal writer. I had to keep a list of who's who because, in her usual style, Louise has many characters, many of whom go by two or more names including Native names. Anyway, I love her writing.

Finally, we put in at about 2:30, the water having calmed somewhat. We paddled into the Androscoggin up to the Sweet Meadows, where we explored the bogs. We did not spy any pitcher plants but here were the pretty cotton grasses, their white heads swaying in the breeze. I caught an occasional whiff of that spicy bog smell. We paddled further northwest and off into other wetlands, finally turning back around 5:00 or so. 

The paddle back was quicker but, once out into the big lake, the waves and choppy waters were intense and we worked to stay far enough away from the shore so as to not slam into the rocks but not too far away. We ended up taking out down at Moll's Rock, where there was a little shelter from the wind. The phrase "a grim set to her mouth" came to mind as I realized how fearful I was of capsizing. Even so, as I landed my boat, I immediately noticed turtlehead (Chelone lyonii) in bloom and laughed to myself, thinking that Anne would appreciate noticing the flowers even in the grip of dangerous waters.

Now we are sitting at the picnic table, having just consumed some excellent pasta with homemade roasted tomato sauce. Life is good.

Day 7: Site 25 back to ranger station

I did not keep notes on this final day but Glen and I both remember the waves being particularly high and it being particularly challenging to get our little boats back to shore. Apparently we made it back because I am sitting here typing this now, so all must have ended well.

Do we have to go home, mom?

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