I had a day and night to myself. No kids. Just my car, my idea of getting away, and I. So I bolted for the north country. I drove straight to Pittsburg, NH. I tried a couple of back logging roads that I wanted to check out but as I made my way on each, I was forced to turn around due to major washouts of the dirt roads. Soon enough I found myself at a place I had not been to before, Scott’s Bog. It’s a quiet spot, very calm, and there was no wind at all. I poked around for an hour or two, taking pictures and walking around to see what I could see.
After leaving Scott’s Bog it was getting dark and I wanted to get back towards Moose Alley to see what I could see. I saw one moose but it was dark, I was driving, and there were several other spectators in the area, so I continued on.
I headed over Dixville Notch and down through Errol. As I was driving I saw several moose in the dark. One huge moose crossed the road right in front of me on Route 145. It was a bull and he looked at me like, ‘What are you going to do about it?’ Nothing, I just wanted to avoid hitting one.
As I drove I contemplated just driving home as I hadn’t found a spot to set up my tent and wasn’t sure I wanted to sleep in the car. I kept seeing moose along the road on Route 16 following the Androscoggin River. Finally, after slowing to a crawl as to avoid a moose on the right shoulder of the road, I was almost hit by two moose. Literally, a mother and new-born moose crossed the road from the left as I was focused on not hitting the moose on my right. These two moose crisscrossed their path and momma moose crossed in front of my car, clearing my headlight by maybe a foot. The youngster passed behind me, barely. That was it. It was getting late and my car and I wanted no part of a moose collision.
I pulled into a gravel turnaround on the edge of the Androscoggin River that sits just north of the Pontook Reservoir. I called it a night. I reclined my seat and tried to get some sleep. I was interrupted by a couple of guys who were making passes up and down Route 16 spotlighting for moose. They lit me up with their spotlight a couple of times, nothing but lack of sleep resulted. At around 3:40am I was awoken quickly when I heard a logging truck laying on his horn and shaking the earth with the vibration of his engine brake. He slowed enough to miss a moose and kept on driving north. That was it for my night. I could hear the moose in the bog beside me but I couldn’t see them. I could hear their split-hooves making suction sounds in the thick mud as they fed. I could even hear and feel the thud of their weight on solid earth as they climbed from the bog. I was pretty sure, but I was still hoping they weren’t headed for me.
As the morning light improved I changed my position. I went across the road and squatted in the growth infested with leeches, mosquitoes, and ticks. I watched moose feed. I heard several moose behind me in the woods, but I didn’t see even one of those behind me. The crow scouting on high likely steered the moose clear of me. Thankfully.
I heard a moose across the road get spooked and go into a dead run. I could feel it, I could certainly hear it, but I could not see it. I heard the hooves hit the pavement, out of my sight, but I was glad there wasn’t a vehicle coming at the time. After the sun came up and the moose in this bog were back in the thick woods, I took off. I headed back to Pittsburg, knowing only that I was headed to Magalloway Road.
After turning on to Magalloway Road, I knew that roughly one mile in, I would hit the river. Sure enough, at 1.2 miles I crossed the single lane, wooden bridge. I pulled off into a little gravel lot just past the bridge where all the fishermen park. I greeted the only other soul I saw all morning, a Viet Nam Vet out fishing for trout or maybe even salmon.
I grabbed my camera, food I had with me, and my backpack which was loaded, and headed into the woods. There was no trail but I wanted to see if I could get down river a little ways. I did find a trail of sorts, a moose trail. There were more moose tracks than anything else. I saw lots of coyote, bear, and moose scat along the way too. It was very tight, very dense, muddy, and dark. I probably only went about two-tenths of a mile before I literally spilled from the thick woods onto the rocky shore. I wanted to go further but wasn’t sure where I was going. The spot I landed on was nice, sheltered from the sun, and far enough away from the bridge to ensure my privacy.
I decided to stay. I poked around as I always do. The more I saw, the more I liked it. I also noticed that further down stream the river opened into a large open area of water. This is where the Connecticut River (only 6 or 7 miles from its origin, and maybe 8 miles from Canada) dumps into First Connecticut Lake. In turn, the breeze funneling from the open water, up the river gorge was perfectly cool and refreshing.
I took pictures, and scouted all the other places I saw moose paths leading to the river on both sides. I noticed herons in the distance and was pretty sure I saw an eagle or two flying down river, about half a mile from me.
For the first thirty minutes or so that I was down there, a little squirrel scouted me from all angles. He started from my west and went way up the river along the rocky bank and brush, well to my east, and then back again. He chirped at me non-stop, reporting his findings, and sounding his warnings. I paid attention long enough to take a couple of pictures of him.
I found a large boulder that I laid back upon. I took in the breeze while clinging to the shade and closed my eyes. I contemplated much. I wished my wife was with me. Or my kids. Or any of the kids. I thought about the first humans ever to see this place and wondered if they liked it as much as I did. I noticed clouds piling high in the sky and wondered how long it would be before the first drops of rain fell. I guessed it would be at least four hours. I thought about a conversation I had on Sunday with a friend of mine about Ted Williams and Johnny Pesky. Now they’re both gone. I thought that we lost another of the few people qualified to talk about Ted Williams and comparisons. I remembered the day I met Pesky in Fort Myers, FL and he signed the underside of my hat brim. I pulled a book from my backpack. I read the preface and first chapter of The Physics of Baseball.
About that time I decided I would take a swim. I realized at the same time that I didn’t have a towel and was still dressed in heavy jeans, boots, and a long sleeve shirt. I figured it out. Next thing I knew I was sitting waist deep in the middle of the Connecticut River. The water was cool and equally as refreshing as was the breeze. Maybe more so. It was only 70 degrees in Pittsburg at that time but it sure felt good in the water. I found two large boulders, they were side-by-side, and almost completely submerged. Their size made for a large ripple on the rivers’ surface. The space on the down stream side made for a nice seat where the water ripped up and over my shoulders as I sat below the rocks. It was a nice cold whirlpool of sorts. I sat there, the sun now peaking down on me from above the tall spruce trees. My mind drifted and longed again for someone to be there with me, sharing in all of this natural beauty.
It was just then that I noticed an enormous bird fly from my right to my left, skimming along the water half a mile to my southwest. This was a bald eagle. The magnificent bird was no more than a foot above the water and then rose quickly and effortlessly to the top of a spruce tree. Suddenly I wasn’t alone, I was hanging out with a bald eagle. I watched the bird atop the tree for about 10 minutes before it swooped low, along the water, and back out of my sight. I wanted to get a picture if I could, but I was sitting in the middle of the river and had no intention of moving.
After a while, I decided to return to shore. I hung my wet clothes on a birch branch that I had selected earlier and I had propped it up with several stones so it would hold the wet weight against the breeze. The time in the water, with the breeze, the sun, and the beauty in every direction, was so very relaxing. I didn’t want to leave, the water, or this place. But I did both.
I ended up being gone for just 26 hours. I packed quite a bit into those hours without actually having a plan. I thought on more things than I can recall. I saw more than a dozen moose, three coyotes, a fox, several raccoon, three eagles, herons, hawks, crayfish, trout, squirrels, various birds, turkeys, ducks, and geese. I love it up there, even when I can only escape for a moment or two. Thankful for the chance to get there and so taken by the natural beauty all around me.