Umbagog Lake is a special place. Darin and I first came here in 2011 to camp on Big Island for one night. As I watched the sunset and listened to loons call, I felt like I had stepped into a dream. It was the first time I’d explored forests where spruces grow tall and narrow to shed heavy snowfall. It was the first time I packed up gear on a canoe and paddled to get to a campsite. It was perfectly imperfect. We forgot some of our food on the mainland and Darin paddled back to get it while I set up our camp. I remember waking up to loon calls in the night and waiting for the fog to lift in the morning to paddle back.
After our brief trip years ago, I was hooked. Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to explore other northern lakes. In 2012, I lead a conservation crew at Isle Royale National Park on Lake Superior, where we camped in the backcountry and even canoed to our worksite a few times. 5 years ago, we camped 6 miles in the remote wilds of Maine on Grand Lake Matagamon in Baxter State Park. 2 years ago, we slept next to a misty Elbow Pond in the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire.
Canoe camping isn’t always dreamy or without risk. Before our Elbow Pond trip a couple years ago, we capsized our canoe trying to get to a campsite on Mooselookmeguntic Lake in Rangeley, Maine. It was our first time canoe camping with our GIANT golden retriever, Solstice, and we miscalculated the weight of our load combined with the choppy waters on the big lake. Fortunately, Solstice is a strong swimmer and most of our gear floated in dry bags (and somehow a large LL Bean boat and tote loaded down with a cast-iron pan and other gear proved sea-worthy!). I called 911 (for the first time ever!) from a cellphone that I strapped to the canoe and we were rescued within 15 minutes by a local inn-owner and the fire department. I think we also met a Maine Game Warden I had seen on TV before. It was shocking and humbling.
Fast forward to our return to Umbagog this year. We paid a little more for the State Park to shuttle us, our giant dog, and our gear to our campsite. It was the best. decision. ever. After a 10 minute boat ride we found ourselves alone at a massive campsite with 180 degree views of the lake and surrounding mountains. This time, we stayed for two nights and I spent most of my time stoking the fire, taking pictures, reading in my hammock, and watching the loons. It was completely peaceful and just what I needed.
Keep scrolling for many photos from our trip! Until next time, Umbagog.