April 21, 2013

Canoeing: Medomak, and a beautiful ride

By MICHAEL PERRY

Medomak is an Abenaki word for place of many Alewives. It is also a place of many wildlife sightings and much beauty. We had paddled our canoe only a few yards from the launch site and already spied a giant beaver lodge near the opening into the pond, and a mature bald eagle sitting atop a tall pine across Medomak Pond. At 237 acres, Medomak Pond is small and does have a number of cottages scattered along its shoreline. A circuit of the pond is pleasant, with low ridges and mown fields dotting the landscape.

click image to enlarge

The grassy banks along the Medomak River lead to a flurry of wildlife and trees showing just how much new life April brings to the outdoors.

Michael Perry Photo

But for complete wilderness solitude, explore up the Medomak River from the northwestern corner of the pond. The winding channel is lined with red maples gradually mixing with hemlock, spruce and the occasional white pine. We explored three miles up the river before being turned back by a series of snags and fallen trees. Red-breasted, common and hooded mergansers catapulted up from the water ahead of us at nearly every turn.

A brown furry object caught our attention as it scampered along the shoreline. As we fumbled for our binoculars, it scooted into a hole in the bottom of a an old hemlock. A minute later it dashed out and sprinted upstream 20 yards only to enter into another hole at the base of a cluster of maples. We got our Audubon Field Guide to New England out of our dry bag; our new friend -- a mink.

We were hoping for a sunny day but a persistent cloud cover provided us an unexpected gift. The ambient light filtering through the leafless hardwood forest provided spectacular reflections in the water. Every gnarled tree, curved bank of sun-dried golden grasses and toppled treetop had an exact double in the calm water.

We stopped to admire the oval reflection of a downed maple tree poking out into the river when my wife noticed that it had been toppled by beavers. We got out to inspect their handiwork and found the most beautiful beaver work site we had ever seen. The wide tapered base had been artistically chewed right down to the ground. We excitedly counted the tree rings through the maze of tiny chew marks. The wet wood pulsated a rich golden yellow hue. It was hard to leave. We hope you find it on river left, a mile up the river.

We contemplated portaging around the snags to try and see how far we could go up toward Route 17 in Washington, but instead decided to turn around and enjoy the effortless paddle with the current back out to the pond. We had no sooner arced back around the first sharp bend when a rush of wings followed by the unmistakable shrill call of an osprey dropped out of a tree right above us. We instinctively ducked, noting sheepishly and happily our first osprey sighting of the spring. That is the magic of April paddling -- everything is returning, springing back to life, blossoming, emerging. Maybe you will see the loons or blue herons just arriving, or pick those first fiddleheads poking out that we were too early for.

Consult the Delorme Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (map No. 13) for help in getting to Medomak Pond. The carry-in launch site is on the east side of Route 220, adjacent to the bridge over the outlet of Medomak Pond, approximately six miles north of Moody's Diner in Waldoboro. Start your day at Moody's with a hearty breakfast and end it with lunch at Morse's German Deli a half-mile north of Medomak Pond. Morse's is known for its delicious sauerkraut. Check out the clever poem on the wall extolling the virtues of Morse-grown cabbage.

For more information on this special area, check out the Medomak Valley Land Trust website. It has been working closely with landowners and various stakeholders since 1991 to preserve the health of the Medomak River watershed.

It also sponsors numerous fun events and outings meant to introduce paddlers and nature lovers to the area.

Michael Perry is the former director of the L.L.Bean Outdoor Discovery Schools, and founder of Dreams Unlimited, specializing in inspiring outdoor slide programs for civic groups, businesses, and schools. Contact:

michaelj_perry@comcast.net

 

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