Each July, the Penobscot Paddle & Chowder Society celebrates summer with a weekend of paddling adventures collectively called the Summer Picnic. For many years, the event has been held at West Forks in western Maine.
The base camp for club activities is Webb’s Campground located on the Dead River in West Forks, just before it merges with the Kennebec River. Both rivers provide whitewater paddling opportunities that vary from Class I to Class IV.
Again this year, the most popular scheduled trip on the first day was a Class III excursion on the Dead, while a few members paddled the Class IV Kennebec Gorge.
My wife, Nancy, and I decided to offer club members a flatwater option: a traverse of nearby Moxie Pond. Although Nancy had kayaked a portion of it, neither of us had paddled the entire length. Since we had hiked Moxie Bald and Mosquito Mountains, which border the pond on the east and west, we knew it was a very scenic body of water.
Viewed from the mountain summits, my impression was that it had the character of an inland fjord. That’s how I promoted the trip.
Three additional Chowderheads signed on for the excursion. We were a diverse paddling group. Gail Carter and Devon Carter navigated a tandem canoe, and Jonathan Ludlow piloted a solo canoe. Nancy and I paddled solo flatwater kayaks.
The direction of narrow Moxie Pond is north-south. Moxie Pond Road follows along the west shore. We needed to decide which way to travel. The forecast called for winds from the southwest for the entire day so our choice was south to north.
Elements of where we could launch on the southern end, Nancy and I explored the Moxie Pond Road in advance of meeting the group. We found a suitable location where vehicles could be parked next to the shore near the southernmost navigable sector of the pond.
The group met at Moxie Pond boat landing adjacent to the outlet dam near the northern terminus. From the dam, Moxie Stream flows west for about 5 miles before entering the Kennebec River. Just before joining the Kennebec, spectacular Moxie Falls, one of the highest waterfalls in Maine, tumbles vertically almost 100 feet.
The weather was beautiful with sunny skies. As predicted, there was a gentle southwest breeze. Participants transported their boats south after leaving two vehicles at the landing to facilitate a post-trip shuttle.
Paddling was superb as we began our eight-mile journey north. Proceeding through a narrow channel on the right, we entered a wider body of water where Moxie Bald Mountain was visible in the east and Mosquito Mountain west. That’s when I realized my observation that the pond resembled an inland fjord was an unintentional embellishment.
However, if you let your imagination soar, navigating through the pond between Mosquito and Moxie Bald Mountains looks something like a fjord.
Everything went effortlessly while enjoying a gentle tailwind and sunny weather until we started looking for a location to stop for lunch. After exploring several possibilities that were unacceptable, we found a small uninhabited island where landing was doable but challenging. A team effort was required to ascend the steep embankment before partaking of our delayed luncheon.
Easy paddling continued as we entered the northern sector of the pond that was cluttered with small islands and ragged peninsulas. In an open area about a mile from the landing, the wind gods betrayed us. Nasty broadsides rocked our boats until we gained shelter in the lee of a lofty peninsula.
Turning the bend toward the landing, we were confronted with a powerful headwind that persisted until we reached the western shore. By the time we arrived at the takeout, everyone had experienced an invigorating aerobic workout.
After only one day of our exciting weekend of adventures, more exhilarating exploits were anticipated. The day ended with a short club business meeting and a delicious potluck picnic dinner at Webb’s Campground. Nancy and I were scheduled to lead a Class III whitewater trip on the Kennebec from Carry Brook to West Forks the following morning.
Read about more Maine lake and pond expeditions and exciting whitewater trips on the Dead and Kennebec Rivers in my book, “Maine Al Fresco: The Fifty Finest Outdoor Adventures in Maine.” Upcoming book signings will be held Aug. 27, 1-3 pm, at Sherman’s Maine Coast Book Shops in Freeport and Sept. 3, 1-3 pm at Sherman’s in Portland.